Fulfil the needs of herding breeds

Do you own a herding breed? They are not all built the same - some have inconsequential herding needs and others need to herd like they need air to breathe.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 2:16 pm
Yvonne Myers from Daisy Dog Academy
Yvonne Myers from Daisy Dog Academy

In recent months, when out and about I have seen several collies that have been struggling with movement of children, dogs, bicycles, and cars.

This can lead to our herding dogs building up frustration.

It doesn’t matter if you bought the dog from a farmer or a breeder, you need to be fully aware that this breed has spent generations being bred for a specific job, where they would work for up to 12 hours a day.

When they cannot perform this natural behaviour, that is very difficult for the dog. After all we bred them to do it and now, we want them to just not do it.

When we buy a puppy that was bred to herd and they are living in a home with no job they can choose something in their environment that they can ‘herd’. As I said above, that is often cars, bikes, runners and more.

Some herding dogs love a ball, but it is important to understand that if you own a herding breed and you are throwing the ball for them, that can be very stressful for a collie having a ball thrown if they need to ‘herd’ it and it can build up frustration in the dog.

Does your dog get the ball a couple of times and then refuse to bring it to you? It may be that they don’t want you to throw the ball, they just want to gather them to fulfil the herding instinct.

Collies are complicated dogs, and some have quite different needs to other non-herding breeds.

In fact, I have heard it said that other dogs speak a very different language to those that herd. It is like they are from a foreign land.

It is important to point out that all dogs are individuals. There will always be dogs that do not have the ‘breed specific’ behaviours. Not all Collies could herd sheep. They might have the instinct to herd but not necessarily the aptitude to do the work with living, breathing sheep.

If you have a herding breed that has shown a need to practice these natural behaviours, you need to provide them with an outlet.

We have instilled these instincts through generations of breeding. If you try and stop this behaviour, you will get other unwanted behaviours as the dog struggles with life being unable to find a natural outlet for their perfectly natural need.

Unfortunately, blocking these natural behaviours and genetic predisposition can lead to OCD behaviours, which is extremely bad for our dog’s mental health.

Tail chasing, spinning, floor/wall licking, light/shadow chasing and unfortunately sometimes self-mutilation.

These behaviours are intrinsically reinforcing for our dog.

This means they get reinforcement internally for practicing these behaviours.

If your dog does any of these and you laugh at them, that can also be reinforcing for the dog and lead to them doing it more.

This is a very serious condition and should not be encouraged or reinforced.

Collies, like some other breeds are more susceptible to these unwanted conditions.

If your dog is demonstrating any of these you should contact a positive reinforcement trainer in your area who can help you with the assistance of your veterinarian.

So, for those herding breeds, what can you do?

Well, there is a great game that is a fantastic outlet for those dogs called Sheep Ball.

Five or 10 minutes of this game can help your dog feel less stressed, more relaxed, and happier in their day-to-day life.

It gives them a fantastic outlet for the two aspects of herding that they need to release, the stalk and the flank.

Collies don’t chase a ball like other dogs if you kick it for them, they will move sideways in a flank, just like they would if they were herding a flock of sheep.

The Collie ‘eye stalk’ can be incredibly intimidating for other dogs, we have all seen the Collie in the park, head lowered, slinking across the path whilst staring at their ‘prey’.

Sheep Ball gives the dogs an outlet for both these behaviours and when learned you get a wonderful balance of both which is needed to give these dogs the release they need.

If you have a dog that is herding, don’t waste time. Get in a Sheep Ball instructor and start giving your dog the outlet they need.

This will help reduce the need to herd all the unacceptable prey, such as cyclists and children, and lead to a dog that is happier, calmer and more fulfilled.

We offer Sheep Ball 121’s at the Daisy Dog Academy, so if you are struggling with this unwanted, but natural behaviour, then let us help you help your dog.