Building blocks








I did a review of Core awhile back (

… so thought I would do one about Cove (his sister). Both pups are sired by Kevin Evan’s Jimmy out of a bitch that Carol Campion imported named Sue. They are a year old (January 2015). My two are as different as night and day EXCEPT for the fact they both are driven to work and both have talent.

I did not *click* with Cove when we started working – even to the point I thought about selling her, feeling she might *fit* someone else better. Then, decided she was too young for me to make that decision. For some reason, we just couldn’t seem to get on the “same page”. She wasn’t trying to be willful – she was just young and exuberant.  I always liked how she handled sheep – I just couldn’t find the right way to communicate what I wanted to her.

She was similar to Core in that she was “weak” on her come-bye side. I solved his issue by pushing him out further and following him with a “get out of that”. He was totally fine with that “correction” (Go figure! He can hardly take any correction off sheep while Cove takes it all “in stride”).

Our (notice I said OUR – assigning blame will not fix a problem) issue was more complex than Core’s. Not only wouldn’t she cover on her come-bye side … she would reverse and go behind me rather than try and catch the head. This isn’t one of my favorite “traits” as I like a quick heading dog. I can control how far they go but can’t be pushing them over if they won’t go. She was *point on* for the away side … It was only the come-bye. If I tried to push her over (which worked with Core) she worried so much she started “trotting”  (another one of my “least” favorite things :@) So, we seemed to be at a stalemate – both frustrated.

I decided I needed to examine our communication breakdown from a different perspective, so I could figure out why things weren’t going according to my “plan”.  I started experimenting with things. I started downing her when she wouldn’t cover. This isn’t the way I like to work dogs – but since “my” way wasn’t working – I was willing to try something that wasn’t my *style* if it helped her. This “move” stopped the trying to go behind me and the trotting but still didn’t make her cover.

I finally decided – OK, you think that’s how to work sheep … I’m going to show you it DOESN’T work :@). We went for a walk up and down the pasture with her flanking behind me … the minute she would try and get past me I would switch my position and she had to go the other way (again behind me like she was always trying to do on her come-bye side). So, at NO time did she ever really get in contact and actually get to work her sheep. Then when I could *feel* she was determined to go to the head (on the come-bye side) … I let her pass me (running NOT trotting) and then I followed her. She covered (actually overran) … went back to balance and we fetched. We quit on that “note”. I hoped we had stopped “fighting” long enough for her to see I was trying to help her to get to a place she could control her sheep. Hopefully, this will allow her to see the purpose of what I’m asking her to do. She covers fine on the fetch when she’s opposite of me and is good at pacing and fetching.  I will repeat the *lesson* if she tries to flank behind me (on the come-bye) instead of heading them. “Time will tell” if this made enough of an impression on her that she retains this information in order for us to move forward.

One of the most frustrating “types” to me is what I call “Groundhog” dogs. Meaning every time you go out it’s like day one all over again. I want a dog to build on the previous lesson. I want to increase knowledge “day by day”. I don’t want to repeat lesson one so I can go to lesson two … only to go back out and have to give lesson one and two in order to progress to three. My experience with these dogs is that have to be “programmed” – not what I think of as the “ideal” Border Collie.


So, her “next” big test — retaining and building on what she has learned or will she turn into a “Groundhog” dog :@)



6 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Lott says:

    Thank you Candy,

    I appreciate have glimpses into possible solutions or “carry-on” in the training of my dogs.

    I don’t seek the ‘normal path’ for my dogs (surrounded by course oriented folks etc)… I want my dogs (and me) to learn stock first, skills second, and the rest will come. i’ve had some excellent coaching and totally acknowledge same… The highest praise I have gotten was “that is one useful dog”… we are weekend warriors and sometimes over reach …and yet… tryin to break out of winter doldrums here… your article was perfect timing. Mary Lott >

  2. Hope it helps. They DO keep us “on our toes” :@)

  3. Ginny Dains says:

    I’ve started three puppy’s in the last two years and they all started out short on the comeby side..I wondered if it’s becuase I carry a stick in my right hand?

    1. Could be … but I switch back and forth (with a stick/crook) when I’m pushing them over. So, don’t think that was her issue.

  4. Lora says:

    Candy, do you wonder if she might need a little more time to mature? How old is “too old” for you and late bloomers?? Lastly, what about letting sheep pull up a fence into a draw so the only open way for her to cover is come-bye? I love thinking about these things…finding ways to help the dog understand….thanks for sharing what you have been trying. Good to have those ideas in my idea card box….some day I might need them! XO

  5. Actually I had put her up a couple of times … but she ended up trying to work the sheep (through the fence) that she could see in the back pasture. Decided that was even worse. Yes, I could put the sheep up against the fence and push her around and she would cover. But, the minute we went back to the open field she went back to her “old ways”. So far, this seems to working (she says with fingers crossed :@).

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