Lara, our oldest daughter, worked her border collie tonight. Mo is about 1-1/2 years old, and Lara has been working him for about a year now. Our friend Ellen Skillings bred Mo, and she's been helping Lara with his training.
For several years, we tried getting free border collies to help us with our sheep. In every case, the dog didn't have the instinct for herding. Mo is the exact opposite - he was sired by a top level working dog, and his mother (Ellen's Emmer) is also a top-flight dog. Mo's genetic foundation shows in his intelligence, his work ethic and his ability.
Ellen has taught us to start a pup by encouraging him to go around sheep. The commands come later. A border collie has to know how to do five basic things - go left, go right, walk up on stock, stop and remain focused on the stock, and come off stock. As with horses, it's important to shape the motion of the dog to the commands - a dog that won't go around stock can't be trained easily.
Mo has tremendous instinct - he's wanted to go around sheep since he was very young. Tonight, Lara added the flank commands (come bye for going left and away to me for right). Mo picked them up immediately.
Instinct is an interesting trait. In many ways, humans have lost the ability to trust our instincts - we think too much. Watching Mo (and Lara) reminds me to trust my own instinct - my "gut feelings" are usually correct if I'll just pay attention!
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