Not all dogs have the same herding ability; some are born to do it, while others prefer a quieter lifestyle (Border Collies can be trained “geese” dogs, as well, and they are often used in search and rescue missions). Good herders can keenly use “the eye” and work independently. They also learn quickly from their master and stock, so work is done with relative ease over time.
Following are some of the terms most commonly used in herding circles (these definitions are in beginner’s terms—more advanced information is available through herding texts and Web sites):
- Gather-This is when the dog brings the sheep to the handler.
- Outrun– This is Step One in the Gather. The Border Collie will outrun its sheep to get behind them. Then, it will crouch in to get the flock to move.
- Lift– This is when the sheep and the BC truly connect. There is an understood communication of where the sheep must go, and they take the Border Collie’s lead in moving.
- Fetch-This is the final step in the Gather. The BC brings the sheep to his master.
- Flank– A Border Collie’s movement around the sheep, at the master’s command.
- Covered– When the BC has made itself known to all the sheep.
- Balance-Keeping sheep in line.
- Eye-Intimidating stare Border Collies use to keep sheep headed in the proper direction.
If you are looking for a Border Collie for its herding ability, you are best off to attend a few sheepdog trials, which are held regularly. This way, you can observe the best of the best in action and perhaps even get recommendations from the handlers on reputable breeders.
Of course, if you are new to herding with Border Collies, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced handler; he/she can point you in the right direction about getting started.
Remember, though, a good Border Collie should never be judged exclusively on appearance. A Border Collie is so much more than looks! A high-quality working Border Collie will demonstrate herding abilities when shown a flock.