Pepper - came in from Port Glasgow with a real “wit are ye lukin at, diya wint a smack in the mooth” attitude. It was no surprise to find that head butting was one of his past pleasures.
Bought from a farm as a pup to be a pet and 2.5 years old when he came in he was disobedient, moody, aggressive to strangers, children and other dogs.
His previous owner, Mr. B., had tried everything.
Dog trainers, behaviourists, veterinary examination and advice - he had spent a fortune to no avail.
The vet eventually suggested trying tranquillisers and if that failed, euthanasia.
But Mr. B. did not begrudge the expense and respected the dog, so called us first. We agreed to take Pepper but the waiting list was at around six months at the time. Mr. B. followed some advice and coped until we had space.
Once Pepper came into our care we had a chance to closely study
his behaviour. His stance, movements and reactions were all
indicative of a dog getting stimulated by movement and attentive to
His initial sheep assessment was positive but his reactions suggested he was likely to do harm than good if allowed off the leash.
He was a fairly large dog and his appearance and demeanor gave Nicki the idea that somewhere in his background there had been ancestors who had regularly worked cattle.
Nicki got back to Mr. B. to enquire about the background of Peppers breeding and was given the telephone number of the farmer they had bought him from. Nicki phoned and spoke to the farmers wife and, sure enough, it was a cattle farm and Pepper's background was from an ISDS registered line of working dogs, mainly used as cattle workers.
Nicki phoned again that evening and
spoke to the farmer for more detailed information.
The farmer and his wife were both curious to know how Pepper had got on as a pet so we told them of his problems, how we had become involved and what we had done to assess him which led to revealing his interest in herding.
We explained how his frustration at being trapped in a domestic environment and not being able to fulfill an increasing drive to herd had influenced his behaviour and turned him into a bad tempered, belligerent and disobedient companion and how close he had come to being put down.
Armed with this new information, Nicki took Pepper to be assessed around some Holsteins and his interest was
apparent. He suddenly awakened.
Pepper reacted to the cattle in a way that showed he had an interest, respect and instinctive capability to herd when around them, even though this was the first time he had been near any since leaving the farm as a puppy.
In a matter of days he was shedding his frustration and getting a focus on life.
In less than a couple of weeks he knew what he had to do but it took a couple of months of training to get a good stop command and recall in place.
One common problem with strong, keen herding dogs is
getting them to stop working and return to the handler and Pepper was no exception.
It took a little longer to get him socialised well enough to accept the presence of strangers, but the more he was able to work the more relaxed he became with people and the more his temperament improved.
He needed time to get fit, gain muscle and increase stamina which was achieved by a good diet and daily exercise.
He stayed for 4 months then went to work on a cattle farm.
He had his own herd, was content. He seemed proud.
His new owners were very proud of him He settled well.
Everyone was happy - particularly Mr. B. who was so pleased that Pepper had found a place in life, lost his frustrations and become a well balanced and happy dog.
All he had wanted for Pepper was to help him by finding a solution to his problems, but no-one he had consulted had looked in the right direction . He became a regular supporter of our work
- Even a very busy man will find time to stop and talk about a good dog!
We got a call from a young lady from Glasgow, desperate to find a home for her 5.5 month old bitch with attitude. Because she worked full time. we sent a vehicle up to Moffat and met halfway - Ginty came in.
Put around sheep she showed wonderful natural instinct to herd with style and a lot of strong eye - this was not the result of an accidental mating!
In this instance - like magic - all the aggression and dominant behaviour simply evaporated as Ginty became focused on the stock.
Her previous owner passed on the mobile telephone number of the breeder and, as it is our wish to get as much background information on dogs as we can.
Nicki gave it a call.
She found herself talking to a very busy shepherd on his quad bike in the middle of a field near Stranraer on the extreme west coast of Scotland.
He was very surprised to get a call from BCR
He told Nicki that he had bred from ISDS registered trials lines - his best working dogs,
Normally he sells the pups locally as sheepdogs.
In the case of Ginty's litter, one pup had too much white on it to be of interest to local stockmen or trials men. This was Ginty.
In order to find a decent home for her he advertised it in the newspaper and let he go as a pet to a lady who phoned the following day.
The breeder was actually quite upset to find out that the pup had ended up in a flat in Glasgow and had become a bit of a madam and aggressive with it.
His lines had good temperament and had never shown any form of aggressive behaviour.
Nicki spoke at length about Ginty and the sheep assessments and gained greater insight into the lines she had come from.
With this knowledge on board and coupled with what she was seeing in the assessment paddock, Nicki looked for a home with an experienced dog trainer and a reasonable sized flock.
One turned up to be just right on the North York Moors.
A farm with 500 ewes + followers with some open fell work as well as working in bye in the fields immediately surrounding the farm. It was remote and peaceful and the farmer was an experienced dog trainer
There was no prejudice about Ginty having a bit too much white from her potential new owner (or his sheep).
The farming family that took Ginty on could not believe their luck.
The original breeder was very pleased to hear that Ginty had found a good working home and was a natural sheepdog and has put a few people in touch with us since.
Fly - The most irritating dog in the world?
A lady shepherdess had contacted us with an ISDS registered non-worker that she couldn’t get started.
She expressed doubts that she would even make a good pet as she wouldn’t housetrain, but hoped that we would be able to find the dog a more fulfilling life.br/>
It didn’t take us long to find out why she had contacted us.
ISDS maybe, but at four years old anyone would have hoped that she would have calmed down a bit at least!
OnOn the first assessment Fly drove our sheep at high speed across the paddock and although she seemed to be wanting to help in some way, she gave utterly no indication of knowing how to do so!
She certainly had some instinct but very little ability.
Nicki rapidly reached the conclusion that, if allowed, this could go on for a very long time and also said that she seemed to find this particular dog unusually muddle brained and irritating.
This was a sentiment shared by everyone in BCR that handled Fly - there was just something about her that rubbed you up the wrong way and left you feeling mildly irritated - yet she was a willing dog and you could not help liking her.
Getting back to the previous owner revealed that Fly, two years before, had been sent off to a professional sheepdog trainer for some tuition. Armed with the number of the trainer, Nicki contacted him, hoping to glean some insight into the dogs faults - but would the man remember this one dog from so many he would have handled, and two years ago?
No problems there - although he could not remember the dogs name he did remember that she had been one of the most irritating dogs he had ever taken on and strongly advised Nicki not to waste too much time on her.
Nicki took his advice and passed on the sheep but was still aware that this dog had an overflowing instinct to work and would therefore not be that happy as a pet.
She decided to try Fly with cattle and found that she became quieter, more controllable and obviously more respectful to the larger animals she was confronted with.
Although we would not normally want to pass a potential sheepdog on to work cattle, a herding home to a herding dog is better than none at all and Nicki sought a compromise for Fly.
The sought after compromise came in the form of an application from a cattle farm where they wanted a dog to be a companion and to help around the stock.
Perhaps Fly would be the companion the gentleman was looking for?
Fly went out after the usual home visit on the normal 4 week trial we give to all working dogs, with the standard stipulation that the gentleman taking her on would keep BCR informed of her progress by means of a weekly report.
It seemed that she settled down well from day one. The gentleman was a good dog man with experience of many working breeds and had taken to Fly straight away.
She, in turn, had responded well to him.
Each weekly report was very positive. Fly had shown herself useful around the cattle and very loyal to him. She was training well and was responsive. At the end of the trial he reported that he had gradually broken all his lifelong rules.
He told us - “She started off sleeping in my porch way and would not come through to the house, but after a few days, tentatively followed me through to the kitchen one evening before going back to the porch to sleep.
Eventually she gathered up the courage to come through to the sitting room and proved so quiet and clean in the house that one night I decided to leave her inside to sleep.
I moved her bed in, left her downstairs and retired.
About 30 minutes after I had switched my bedroom lights out I heard stealthy movements on the stairs and something very dark, low and quiet crept into my bedroom and lay down on the rug at my bedside.
I I was amused by this and kept quiet with one eye open to see what she did.
She didn’t move for about ½ an hour but then very slowly and tentatively she got up and approached my trousers which were hanging from their braces on the wardrobe. Stretching out as far and thin as she could go, she sniffed the bottoms of the legs and gave a small wag of her tail before very quietly creeping back to the rug and curling up.
She didn’t move again all night and sleeps there all the time now.
She has made the most affectionate companion I have ever had and I would hate her to leave now.
She also loves to help me around the cattle and is getting better every day and I am so pleased you found her for me. Thank you so much.”
Sooty, Sweep and Chip were two sisters and a brother from the same ISDS registered litter that had been sold, as pups, to a Hotel owner as pets for their three young children.
As the pups developed and the children lost their initial enthusiasm, the care of the pups fell on their parents who already had their hands full running a 24 hr business.
After working their way up the waiting list, these three came in to our care and we started to do some research into their background - which included getting back to the breeder, who was understandably upset that they had ended up in rescue.
The sale of these pups as pets was a series of unfortunate events but to cut a long story short, the transaction was completed in the absence of the breeder by a member of his family, much to his chagrin when he returned.
The line was a good one and all the dogs has shown well during initial assessments but there were a few things to overcome before they could be properly assessed and re-homed.
Their experiences as pets and the formal obedience training had left them rather dependent on continuous instruction and uncertain of their own ability to make decisions based on instinctive reactions.
One of the bitches, Chip, had become rather dependent and shy but Sooty and Sweep were both very well socialised so perhaps it was her
unique temperament that was affecting Chip.
None of these problems were insurmountable.
It just takes time and patience, and we have plenty of patience in Border Collie Rescue, although time is a bit precious.
As usual, the lure of the sheep and the quiet of the environment played its part in de-stressing and
focusing these dogs.
Although litter mates they each had their individual characters which had to be considered when re-habilitating them so a different approach was needed for each.
A different sort of home was also required for each, to suit their ability.
Sooty, the dog, was strong and biddable and went to Hampshire to work as part of a team on an estate with over 1000 ewes.
He rapidly became lead dog as his training progressed.
Sweep, the stronger of the two bitches went to a hill farm with over 1000 ewes as part of a working team.
Chip, the shy one, went to a local farm with just over 200 ewes where she is the only working dog on the farm.
She is apparently the best dog the farmer has ever had.
Ted - Came from a pet shop in London.
Enquiries Nicki made with the shop owner revealed that he had been bought from a breeder in Wales that supplied all the shops needs for Border Collie pups.
The people who bought him from the shop had no garden, worked full time and he was alone all day and had become hyperactive and destructive.
He came to us at Christmas - 16 weeks old.
He was initially rather shy and withdrawn but came out of his shell around the sheep and started to show his working background, gaining confidence as every day passed.
It took some work to undo his bad habits and stress related problems and also to improve his socialising.
He had been bred for money on a welsh puppy farm.
As a consequence, socialisation had been rather neglected in his
upbringing due to the urgency of the breeder and pet shop owner to sell him
while he was still a pup in
order to get their money.
He missed out on a lot of basic socialising by being taken away from his mother and litter mates at around six weeks of age,
In rescue he developed into a confident and outgoing character that loved people, loved working and got on really well with any dog he came across.
A home was chosen for him where he was to run with an older working dog that was on the edge of retirement.
This would help him gain confidence and by following the experienced dog
it was hoped he would pick up the ropes!
There was also a retired greyhound as a companion in the house so he would not lack for canine company.
He fitted in well and gave a new lease of life to the old boy, however - a year or so on - the old boy has stepped back and allowed Ted to take on the role of lead dog to the 400 + ewes on the farm.
Dumbo was a pup that came to us from an army home on Catterick Garrison.
A rather desperate phone call to our office from an exasperated lady left us with the feeling that we should check this one out on our way home that evening. We arrived at a typical military semi to a scene of chaos.
Mum, on her own while her husband was away on manoeuvres, was trying to cope with three hyperactive children and this monster in her kitchen.
The list of charges against this dog was a long one.
He had been relegated to the kitchen because of his behaviour but to him the kitchen was a playpen.
While the three kids sat on the work surface, dangling their legs and Dumbo made a good effort to nip at their swinging feet, Mum read the riot act. He had caused around £2000 worth of damage.
Amongst his victims were two mobile phones, a hair dryer, two remote controls, a tumble dryer (he had got onto the work surface and pushed the machine off), the freezer (he had chewed the cable and ruined all the food), plus an endless list of toys, clothes, ornaments and chewed furniture.
To top it all he had chewed into walls, skirting board and floor coverings which, under army rules, was to be repaired at the expense of the occupiers. He was 15 weeks old.
Although we had a lot of dogs waiting to come in, it was obvious when looking at this jovial and clumsy lump enthusiastically rushing around the room with three noisy children egging him on, that real disaster was just a short way down the road.
If he stayed there any longer he was a lost cause. When we left he came with us.
The next day we got back in touch with his previous owners to find out about his background.
We discovered his ISDS ancestry.
Dumbo turned out to be one of those rare and valuable assets - a good all rounder that could herd anything.
Sensitive enough for sheep, strong enough for cattle - nothing fazed this dog.
He was eventually re-homed to a mixed farm with sheep and cattle where he is a good all rounder and dads best mate.
Sadly, somehow we have sadly lost all our photo's of this dog.
Ziggy came in from a ground floor flat in Telford, his second home.
The lady that had him had ‘rescued’ him from another lady in a first floor flat who couldn‘t cope.
He was hyperactive and destructive but had turned most of his frustration inwards and had developed an obsession with chasing his tail.
This he had chewed to the point that all the fur on it was gone and a number of sores and infections had started.
The vet prescribed antibiotics and docking or re-homing.
This was another desperate situation where the dog needed to be out of the environment as soon as possible or serious problems would soon set in.
Nicki got back to his breeder who claimed to be using ISDS registered trialing lines, but not registering the pups.
He was able to fill in a lot about Ziggy’s background, confirming what Nicki had thought about the dog from the descriptions of his behaviour gleaned from telephone conversations with his desperate owner.
The best foster space we had for him was on a holding in Devon with a shepherdess who is also experienced in training sheepdogs.
This seemed ideal, and her husband was willing to drive her all the way up to Shropshire to collect him.
After 5 days with her he was beginning to forget he had a tail and was turning his attention to the sheep.
The reports we have had back stated that “Ziggy works on his feet and is a natural sheepdog”.
After just a couple of weeks we received a DVD showing him gathering around 80 ewes, flanking naturally and balancing the flock.
His future as a sheepdog seems assured and the foster home have decided to keep him permanently - sadly we lose a foster home but Ziggy gains a home for life.
As for that tail - well it was still there at the end, although at one point the vets thought it may have to be docked.
He has other things to occupy him now!