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The Companion Border Collie - by Debbie Berriman

Those of us that know dogs well would probably discourage pet ownership of the Border Collie but there is little doubt that when placed with suitable owners they can make excellent and loyal companions. 

Over the years I have lived with a number of Border Collies.  I have also handled many others in my work as a pet behaviour counsellor and of course, in my training classes.  
As I write, my own Collie, Frankie lays quietly by my feet and scattered around the room are my other two dogs, Susie a 13 year old mongrel, Bertie, a two year old Border Terrier and my Devon Rex cat, Merlin. 
 

It has often been stated that the Border Collie is suited only to a “working home.”  The “working home” could be described as a farm home where the collie is used for work with sheep or cattle. 

The description of “working home” might also include the working trials or competitive obedience enthusiast or any other of the many dog related sports and activities.

Frankie enjoying the seaside

Whilst the companion collie is unlikely to be used to herd cattle or sheep in the accepted “working” sense he will benefit from learning many other skills and activities which can be taught by any dedicated owner. 

Note also that the companion collie does not have to actually compete in any way. 

What is really important is that the companion collie owner is prepared to give time and thought to giving not only the correct amount of exercise but also adequate mental stimulation.  
Skills which competitive or working dogs are taught can be modified and used to enhance the companion collie and owner relationship.
This in turn, will help produce a sensible companion and reduce the risk of behavioural problems occurring. 
The other side of the coin is, however, that for collies in particular, this dog and owner interaction is an absolute necessity.  
Other breeds will of course benefit from interaction and mental stimulation, after all most of our favourite breeds were bred to do something.   Dependent upon each individual character, other breeds will need less intensive mental stimulation than the companion collie. 
For the collie, dog and owner interactive skills are a must !
It is unlikely that the Border Collie will settle well in a pet home where he might be expected to say, live with lively toddlers or cope whilst his owners are out at work all day.  
There are many other breeds that might fit in with this way of life but as in all cases the dog’s needs should be considered primarily, not the owner’s!  
Don’t consider a Border Collie as a pet if you are only attracted by his handsome appearance, medium size or apparent ease of training.  
Training takes time, patience, repetition and dedication.
Before we take a look at what to teach and how to teach it, here’s just some of the things that Frankie can do:

 

Frankie can:

 

  • Settle down quietly at home whether his owner is there or not

  •         Greet other dogs sensibly

  • Get on well with cats

  •  Stay under control whilst passing other dogs and people when off-lead

  •  Make friends with people of all kinds

  • Go in his crate when asked

  • Find a “lost” toy at home and in the garden

  •  Find a “lost” owner hiding in long grass

  • Find and retrieve to hand a number of toys and objects

  • Down Stay

  • Sit Stay

  • Stand Stay

  • Sit, Stand and Down at a distance from his owner on hand signal commands

  • Jump a hurdle on command as in working trials

  • Go through an agility tunnel on command (try stopping him!)

  • Make a decent attempt at weaving poles

  •  Do a “send away"

  •   “Heelwork” off lead

     

Frankie coming out of the agility Tunnel

 

If the companion collie learns just a few of these things it will be more than helpful for his own physical and mental well being, not to mention his owner’s mental state! 

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