Hi! After answering a load of questions on a post yesterday, I was suggested to do an IAmA by a couple users.

I train working Border Collies to help on my sheep farm in central Iowa and compete in sheepdog trials. I grew up with Border Collies as pet farm dogs but started training them to work sheep when I got my first one as an adult twelve years ago. Twelve years, five dogs, ten acres, a couple dozen sheep, and thousands of miles traveled, it is truly my passion and drives nearly everything I do. I've given numerous demos and competed in USBCHA sheepdog trials all over the midwest, as far east as Kentucky and west as Wyoming.

Ask me anything!

Edit: this took off more than I expected! Working on getting stuff ready for Super Bowl but I will get everyone answered. These are great questions!!

Proof: https://i.imgur.com/ZhZQyGi.jpg




Comments: 387 • Responses: 85  • Date: 

Sunny-gal91145 karma

What’s the first thing you train your herding dogs?

JaderBug12257 karma

Away from stock, I don't do much other than teach them respect, teach them manners, and teach them how to handle pressure/corrections because those are really important once sheep training starts. I used to do quite a bit of obedience training with my older dogs before I had sheep at home, my youngest dogs just kind of learn things as we go.

Stock training doesn't start until they are both physically and mentally mature enough to handle training- they have to be physically able to outrun a sheep and mentally mature enough to deal with the pressure put on them for training. Typically they start some training somewhere around 9-12 months old. The first thing we work on is finding balance, which means the dog finding the point on the sheep's "bubble" to where the sheep will come back to the handler and not go right or left. This short clip shows my young dog Polly going on a short outrun (going out around to get the sheep), finding balance (which is where she stops flanking around and walks in) and bringing them back to me.

freedomfilm52 karma

What corrections do you use?

How would you respond to people that say dogs shiuld not be corrected, only Rewarded?

JaderBug12285 karma

A correction is anything that conveys the dog is wrong- a lot of the time it's a "hey!" or an "aaght!" noise, blocking their access to sheep, something that stops them and makes them think "oh this isn't right." The key is to make the wrong thing difficult, and the right thing easy. I basically tell them, "no, that's not right. Find a different answer." It's an approach my mentor has been having me use and I am amazed at the difference it makes. You want to make your corrections as soft as possible, but as firm as necessary.

I've seen people try to do "positive only" stock dog training and I think it gives you really false results, the dogs are never really engaged like they should be. The stock should be the reward- the dog should want to work stock more than receiving praise or treats or clicks or anything. My dogs won't even accept pets from me if they're wanting to work, they just want access to the sheep.

equestrian12312360 karma

Love how you describe it! I feel much the same with horses working a herd.

JaderBug1254 karma

It's amazing how much crossover there is between stock dog work and horse training! We have a lot of handlers who came to the dogs from horses, they definitely have a leg up in understanding horses and other livestock first

bynL55 karma

What an excellent response - I wished more people trained dogs like you do. I love the concept of 'make the wrong thing difficult and make the right thing easy' - it just makes so much sense, and I'll certainly remember it.

I train my dogs (I have non-working border collies) by remembering that no matter how many 'words' I teach my dogs, I still know zero words in 'dog'. It's up to ME to figure out how we can best communicate. Knowing that the onus is on me to communicate really makes it difficult to be angry or impatient.

But I like your way of thinking and I appreciate you sharing!

JaderBug1269 karma

I still know zero words in 'dog'. It's up to ME to figure out how we can best communicate.

YES!!!!!! I say this ALL the time. I work with pigs too and when I hear people say that pigs or sheep or cattle are stupid, it makes me so mad. They're not stupid, we just speak different languages and it's our job to help them understand what we're asking. Getting frustrated with an animal happens of course but blaming the animal shows how much you're at fault.

GorillaOnChest21 karma

Obviously they haven't watched the documentary "Babe" if they are saying pigs are stupid.

JaderBug125 karma


Snatch_Pastry3 karma

Do you ever stop and think about how literally crazy it is that humans have bred an animal to be an instinctive herder of other animals, while also being completely receptive to human guidance? Dogs like this are why I'm somewhat against "adopt, don't shop", because working dogs are one of the greatest human achievements ever created. Losing the bloodlines of the various herding/guarding/hunting/tracking dogs would be losing a significant piece of what made us human in the first place.

JaderBug1211 karma

I've gotten into this argument with a number of diehard "adopt don't shop," "all breeders are greeders" people, it's exhausting. I've explained until I'm blue in the face that you cannot happen upon the traits needed for these dogs in a shelter or a rescue. There's plenty of place for both responsible breeders and adoption, no sense in vilifying good breeders.

princessoatmeal108 karma

It's a beautiful thing to watch sheepdogs work with their people, thank you for sharing!

I am the owner of an incredibly smart border collie with very obvious tendencies to herd anything. Sucks for her, we don't have sheep. Do you have any tips/insight to keep her brain busy, without investing in livestock?

JaderBug1278 karma

Trick training and classes! When I had more time for it I really loved doing obedience/training classes with my dogs. If there are any kennel clubs in your area, most of them offer classes. There are a lot of trick training resources out there too, think I shared a book I really liked earlier in this post (on mobile). r/dogs would be a good resource for suggestions too!

princessoatmeal31 karma

Thank you for your response! I saw your post with book recs, I am investing in Herding Dogs: Progressive Training. Thank you so much! I almost feel guilty having this magnificent beast as a pet when she would be awesome with a herd. She's looking at me with the most loving eyes right now, so I guess she doesn't care. *EDIT* Before anyone concludes that my dog leads a dismal life in a kennel - she doesn't. We get out for runs, bike rides, fetch, etc. almost daily, for at least an hour at a time. Additionally, I have an Aussie and they are BFFs, who get to play in my giant yard. Don't. Worry! She is happy here, I promise. I just want to exercise her ~brain~.

Another question: Where do your dogs sleep? Are they allowed in your home or do they have separate lodging? How far do you travel with your sheep on foot (not in trailers, etc.)? Do you camp with your herd? If so, do your dogs work throughout the night?

JaderBug1235 karma

Where do your dogs sleep? Are they allowed in your home or do they have separate lodging?

My dogs are all in the house with me. I would like to have a kennel but right now that's just not an option. But, everyone gets along and everyone stays pretty clean so it hasn't been an issue. Two of them sleep in bed with me from time to time. There are different schools of thought regarding housing- some people are adamant that dogs do better as working dogs if they're not around you all the time, which is true if you're continuously letting them get away with bad habits in the house.

How far do you travel with your sheep on foot (not in trailers, etc.)? Do you camp with your herd? If so, do your dogs work throughout the night?

What you're describing is the sheep camps out west with huge flocks- I would love to do something like that but alas I'm on ten acres with only a couple dozen sheep. Those operations are amazing to me, it would be an incredible opportunity to learn working a shepherd job like that!

dkougl62 karma

How do you handle negative behavior, specifically running away and not being able to be called back or chasing cars? Would a vibrate collar be too much? I know Border Collies can be very sensitive.

Also, do you know the Carmichael's?

JaderBug12134 karma

Depends on the behavior. If it's willful disobedience, and they absolutely know what was asked, they're in big trouble with me. If a dog blows off my recall, I will run their ass down and bring them back by the collar. Usually doesn't take much of that before they learn they can't blow off a recall. I do my best to be fair with corrections, being fair is the only way corrections work. Chasing cars however is one thing though where any means justifies the ends to stop the behavior is fine with me, it's too dangerous to mess with. I haven't had a dog that chases cars before thankfully but I have suggested using a long line to jerk them back when they take off after a car.

I don't have any experience with vibrating collars but I have seen the aftermath of using e-collars on working Border Collies many times. IMO e-collars are lazy training for these dogs, they can be great tools for many breeds like gun dogs but they're just bad for herding breeds. They're just too sensitive and almost no one has timing good enough to use on stock training. The dogs don't understand why they're being zapped, often the right moment is a nanosecond and if you're wrong it's completely counterproductive. It really hits their confidence too.

I'm not sure I know the Carmichaels, whereabouts are they?

Joshimitsu9141 karma

I'm confused - they can't correlate being zapped with what they did wrong, but if they disobey you and you chase them and drag them back by the collar, they can associate that? I would've thought the sooner the consequence was to the event, the more likely it would be to correlate in their mind.

JaderBug1210 karma

Posted this below but it's important so I'm copying it back up here:

It's because they don't understand exactly where it came from or what the cause or reasoning is. If we use pressure from ourselves and pressure from the stock as our primary training tools, this third entity is coming in and it doesn't make sense where it's coming from or why. Timing is key even without a shock, most people don't have the timing correct enough themselves without adding a button to push too. Things happen so quickly with stock dog training, being right or wrong can change in a fraction of a second. If you zap at the wrong moment, you're punishing the dog for being right. That does nothing but confuse the dog.

E-collars are great tools for many training types and different dogs, just not for stock dogs. Let me put it this way- there's not a single top sheepdog trainer who doesn't vehemently detest using e-collars on stock dogs, they know how detrimental they are to the minds of these dogs.

bob_mcbob14 karma

Have you worked with herding breeds other than border collies much? I notice you mention in another comment they can be sensitive, but having done years of herding training with my WL GSD, he is absolutely nothing like a border collie. My trainer's border collies will move off a withering gaze like you practically booted them up the arse, but my GSD thinks being bonked on the head with a foam covered stick is great fun.

JaderBug129 karma

Have you worked with herding breeds other than border collies much?

Personally no but I've been to numerous clinics, lessons, and trials where other people have dogs of other breeds there and working stock. You're absolutely right about the sensitivity of Border Collies, they're quite a bit different in that regard from most other breeds. One of mine never looks like you haven't spent every day beating the life out of her for the last eight years (I assure you that isn't the case lol)

TheGreatNinjaYuffie4 karma

I have a "failed" Australian Cattle Dog as my wonderful house pet. They told us he was "failed" out of a cattle farm for biting the cows too hard. That might be possible... but from the first I suspected he was just too sensitive for the owner.

We hadn't had him a week and he did something - we gently corrected him. I swear we looked at him and said sternly "No, bad dog" THAT WAS IT!!! And then just went about out life - like 10 minutes later he HAD NOT MOVED from the correction site and then puked took a step puked again and took a step and dry heaved. He had his head down and wouldn't look at us.

That was the day we learned if you have to correct him, 1 minute later you better followup with what a good wonderful dog he is. I just have never had a dog who took corrections so personally.

JaderBug123 karma

That's really odd to find a heeler who is that sensitive! Poor guy. Glad he's found a good home with you and you understand what he needs :-)

SavioVegaGuy47 karma

Have you ever been in a submarine?

JaderBug1245 karma

I have not lol

wex5234 karma

How much did you love the Guinness sheepdog commercial ?

JaderBug1213 karma

SO, SO much!!

FishInferno28 karma

What's your opinion on the movie Babe?

JaderBug1268 karma

It is my FAVORITE movie!! I work with pigs in my day job so it is, like, literally the defining movie of my life lol. I still get excited when I watch the scene of Fly and Rex gathering the flock for shearing.

I do take issue with the judging in Babe's competition run though ;-)

BunnyLurksInShadow48 karma

My cousin worked on the movie, one of his jobs was looking after Ben and Jessie the Border Collies, they came home with him every night. After filming wrapped, my cousin was given Ben to keep, he lived to the age of 14 when he died in his sleep. Cute fact about Ben, he actually did have a blaze so they would dye his face black to cover it up. Also, if you've ever wondered how they got the sheep to walk in two neat lines at the end, the answer is they tied them together with fishing line.

JaderBug1226 karma

You have no idea how many times I've watched this and tried to analyze it. I was sure they were tied together but couldn't see any lines in the wool that would suggest there was a rope, guess the fishing line makes sense! Thank you for sharing this! If you have any more tidbits I'd love to hear! :-)

Automatic-Occasion22 karma

First of all, I actually have a Border Collie, I think they're really cute and smart dogs. So, what made you become one? In other words, what caused you're passion to become a Border Collie Trainer? Also, what is the hardest trick to teach a Border Collie? And how do you teach it to them? What is the best kind of temperature that they should live? I live in Alaska, and my dog always seems to whine a lot when it goes below 30°F. Sorry for all the questions.

JaderBug1221 karma

what made you become one?

It's hard to say, really! Honestly it's like a drug... the highs you get from working with your dog to accomplish something like moving and working stock around the farm or around a trial course is really like poetry. I am honestly not sure there is a better bond than between a dog and their shepherd, it's so much more than even doing agility or obedience or sports like that together. You have to trust each other so much more when there's a third entity (the stock) involved.

By tricks I'm not sure if you mean on or off stock- I guess the hardest thing I'm finding to teach is a shed (which means the dog comes into the group of sheep to split some away from the rest) or "look back" (which is asking your dog to leave the sheep they have, look for another group back behind them, and leave these sheep to go get the other group), both are really difficult because they go against what is ingrained in them, which is keep the sheep gathered and don't leave them behind.

Off stock... that's a good question. I haven't really done any trick training in a long time but I really loved the 101 Dog Tricks book when I did!

Great questions!

deepforestpine17 karma

Do you have a favorite dog you've had/worked with? If so, what made them your favorite? If not, could you share a fun story of something that sticks out from your time as a trainer?

JaderBug1291 karma

My six year old Kess is probably my favorite dog to work- she's very natural, she feels her sheep very well, she has a very strong presence with the sheep so they usually respect her. When she's right in what she's doing, it's beautiful and so much fun to work her.

Pepper is my heart dog, she was my first working bred dog (I have one who is older). She'll be nine in April. She's not very confident and she's not very natural, I've had to fight for every skill she has because it doesn't come easy to her. She doesn't read her sheep very well and because of that the sheep don't really like her, but she LOVES working. But, she gives me absolutely everything she has and she would do anything in the world I asked of her if she could

Probably my favorite story... my first/oldest dog Jade (12) is the dog that got me started with herding. She's from bad breeding (most of us start that way, ignorance) and she worked sheep but poorly. We were at one of our first trials one day, we had a ewe and her lamb get 'stuck' in the corner of the arena, neither Jade nor I had the skills at that time to get ourselves out of that situation, looking back what we did was all wrong. But, the ewe was feeling threatened, was stomping her feet at Jade who kept pushing into her space, and at one point the ewe dropped her head and head-butted at Jade, never touched her. Jade took of SCREAMING in a huge circle allllll the way across the entire arena, I just stood there like "What are you doing?!" as she ran away scared to death (she was fine). Everyone watching was like, "Did she get hurt?!!" I just shook my head and said that the ewe didn't touch her lol. She was fine, just got spooked.

micrographia18 karma

Great stories! The photos for Kess and Pepper link to the same image btw.

JaderBug1210 karma

Oh shoot, I'll fix that when I get home. Thanks for the heads up!

JaderBug123 karma


micrographia2 karma

Hmm you say the sheep don't really like Pepper.. what does that mean/ how can you tell? I thought sheep viewed dogs as predators which is why herding is possible, so would sheep ever like any dog?

JaderBug1217 karma

Think of a bubble, like the soap bubbles you blow with a wand. If you poke a bubble quickly with something, you'll pop it. If you attempt to catch it by carefully touching the wand back to it, you can "grab" the bubble and move it without disturbing it. Pepper is like something poking the bubble- the sheep have a bubble around them (just like your personal space), Pepper comes into their space quickly and alarmingly. The sheep don't like it, it causes them to go into a fight or flight mode. They're not comfortable with it. So they either run away or confront her. My other dog Kess, on the other hand, is very gentle with the way she comes into her sheep- she approaches them much more respectfully and instead of fighting or running, the sheep usually quietly lift and and go in whatever direction is being asked of them without any running or fighting.

Sheep are constantly evaluating whatever dog is working or about to work them, from the moment they see them come into the field. They are gauging the dog, how they move, if they can fight, if they can beat the dog, etc etc etc. They always respond in a predator/prey relationship but if sheep are accustomed to being worked with a dog, it's less stressful, especially if the dog is respectful.

Belostoma16 karma

Are there any books you'd recommend for herding training specifically? We're about to get a Tervuren puppy, not as a serious working dog, but it would be fun to teach her how to direct our pet ducks into their coop at night.

JaderBug1220 karma

Yes there are lots of great books out there for herding! I got my start with an all-breed trainer who has Aussies and Tervuren, I'm very familiar with Tervs on stock and I'll actually be photographing the Terv Nationals trial in May.

Might be a couple more books I can suggest, I'll check my library when I get home.

Sheep for Sheepdogs is a new book written expressly for teaching sheepdog enthusiasts how to raise, care for, and understand sheep for herding purposes

A Way Of Life is probably one of the "classic" sheepdog training books, it's a pretty good foundation for anyone getting started or interested in it.

"S" Is For Sheepdog is a newer book that is also excellent, it's formatted as a giant glossary but it's really phenomenal at breaking things down so they're easy for newbies to understand

Herding Dogs: Progressive Training is a pretty good general herding book and covers breeds and working styles other than Border Collies (this one would probably be ideal for you if you had to pick one)

Facebook groups are another great resource, especially for asking questions and finding local help: Herding Dogs, To Novice And Beyond, Stock Dog Training Group, several others but those are probably good ones to start out with.

Belostoma3 karma

Thanks! I bought the top book you recommended and joined a couple of the Facebook groups.

JaderBug123 karma

Great! Good luck!!

XeroAnarian15 karma

This is a question about working dogs in general, I guess... But is there an "off" mode for them, where they can be petted and relax? Or are they just always "on"? I also wonder this about seeing eye dogs, etc.

JaderBug1235 karma

Seeing eye dogs from what I understand are very mellow, they don't have the same level of drive/energy as working breeds like Border Collies, working German Shepherds, working Malinois, etc. where high energy and high stimulation is important. My dogs all have great off switches, except for one who is a young dumb boy lol. They're all pretty great about chilling out when needed and they're all ready to go when it's time to do something. Good breeding is key for having a tolerable dog like this. In my experience, the poorly bred dogs, especially Border Collies bred specifically for sports or backyard bred Border Collies have really poor off switches and really poor temperaments. Breeding for work is what keeps these dogs level and sane- this breed is REALLY quirky and breeding for working ability is what keeps those quirks in check.

gwdope12 karma

Ever been to Meeker Co?

JaderBug1215 karma

I haven't but it's on my someday list!! Not brave enough to try tackling Meeker just yet but we'll get there. Feel like I've been in this forever and at the same time still feel like a total newbie. Excited to get there though, might try it next year! It's a really challenging trial!

tjamos869412 karma

How can I get my jack Russell to stop barking at literally every single dog he sees?

JaderBug1274 karma

It's a JRT... I think you might be stuck XD

lewknukem9 karma

Have you read the book or know about Chaser the Border Collie that knows over a thousand words? I thought it was a fascinating book about the level of intelligence dogs can have.

How do sheep dogs compare to border collies, is there a reason you would choose one over the other for herding?

JaderBug1221 karma

I haven't read Chaser's book but I'm aware of his intelligence, not surprising at all as these dogs are incredibly smart. They really are fascinating with what they pick up and how they learn!

In my vocabulary I guess sheepdog and Border Collie are synonymous, or perhaps that sheepdog is a more 'distinguished' title. I train sheepdogs vs cattle dogs for instance because I don't have cattle and I'm not versed in cattle dog training, there can be a big difference in Border Collies used for sheep or cattle, or both, and there are definitely "sheep lines" and "cattle lines" within the breed. I prefer working Border Collies over other breeds like Australian Shepherds or Australian Cattle Dogs because I like their style, I understand the "eye" that they use to work stock with. I don't understand some of the breeds that work with a more "loose-eyed" or "upright" style. It is also easier to find quality working Border Collies than it is to find quality working dogs of most any other breed- dogs that aren't specifically bred to work and read stock well are really frustrating to work with.

elusive_15 karma

I think border collies are used frequently for shows because they work so well in optimal conditions. The reality is that day-to-day shepherding varies a lot depending upon region, for which other dogs are better-suited. Border collies work excellently when the sheep are on flat, grassy terrain with fair weather.

JaderBug1212 karma

Border collies work excellently when the sheep are on flat, grassy terrain with fair weather.

This is quite inaccurate... Border Collies were developed specifically to work on extremely rugged hills and cliffs in Scotland and England in wet, inclement weather. Their variations in size, coat, etc make them easily adaptable to numerous conditions around the world but they were developed for challenging terrain.

I keep hearing people talking about how the corgi's short legs or the Collie or OES's rough, heavy coats are developed for certain environments, yet almost none of them can work anymore. What they were built for or not doesn't really matter if they're not actually doing those things anymore and proving they need those specific physical attributes.

QTMorgana9 karma

What’s the best part about your job?

JaderBug1220 karma

Watching the wheels start turning in these dogs, watching them figure out what they were born to do. It's really exciting when things start clicking for them and they 'get it'

VelmasHaircut7 karma

Are different breeds of dogs naturally better at sheep herding then others? Sorry if it’s a dumb question it was the first thing I heard of

JaderBug1214 karma

That's a great question and yes there are a lot of differences in breeds. I am admittedly a Border Collie elitist but I have seen capable dogs of many other breeds. It is by far easiest to find working Border Collies, then Australian Kelpies (depending on where you are) and then working Australian Shepherds are not too difficult to find either. Working heelers can be found. After that IMO it gets really tricky to find good working dogs. It really depends on your farm, your experience, what kind of chores and jobs your dog needs to complete to determine what breed would best suit you. Unfortunately there are a lot of dogs being "proven" to have herding ability through the use of titles like in AKC trials- I've seen a lot of dogs earn titles and scores they don't deserve.

Border Collies and Kelpies are about the only two breeds that use "eye" to move stock- they stare at the stock and move in a crouching fashion. Most other breeds work in an upright manner with a "loose eye." The most important factor in finding a working dog is to make sure the parents actually work, don't just buy something "from working lines."

vykeengene6 karma

Do the dogs learn from each other? Like for instance do the younger dogs look up to the older more experienced dogs as role models in a way?

JaderBug127 karma

There are some people who believe young dogs learn from older dogs but I don't find that to be accurate. Older dogs are useful while you're training younger dogs as they can help control the situation, but they don't learn from each other in regards to stock work. Adults can definitely teach manners to younger dogs!

wonder_wolfie6 karma

What’s one thing that you would change about Border Collies if you had to pick one? Which other breed would you own besides BCs (again if you had to choose)?

JaderBug1224 karma

Something I'd change about the Border Collie... I would've never allowed them to be accepted by the kennel clubs and conformation shows. Those dogs are just a shadow of what the breed was created to be, they're "Border Collies" in name only. They can't work at all. This breed is really fickle if they're not being bred for the right reasons (work), and the breed suffers because of it. Thankfully there are many people still breeding for the work, it's not hard to find a well bred working dog if you do your homework and know what to look for.

For other breeds, if I wanted another working sheepdog breed I would probably get an Australian Kelpie. I've always wanted one, hope to be able to try one out someday. They are the next closest thing to working Border Collies in style. Another breed outside of herding? Probably a Scottish Terrier or a Jagdterrier :-)

Barbecow6 karma

Seen some videos of border collie herding, and mostly they lie down or stay down close to the earth. After googling it says that it mimicks predatory instinct reaction from the sheep. Is there any other benefit of that technique, and why isnt your dogs dont do that?

JaderBug1215 karma

The crouching aids in agility and being able to move and respond quickly, as well as avoiding kicks from cattle for instance. It's absolutely meant to mimic predatory behavior, we've just (hopefully!) removed the instinct to kill the prey at the end of it.

OutsideYourWorld5 karma

Maybe i'm late to this, but how do you see your relationship with your dogs? Are they like children, brothers/sisters, best friends, work buddies, coworkers, all of the above?

I'm the type who sees myself as an equal to the dogs I come across. I'll roll around with 'em, playfight, and just generally be a big dumb softy with the dogs I meet. I feel like you can't really be like that in your profession.. So just curious how you see yourself?

JaderBug128 karma

I am undoubtedly partners with my dogs, however I do expect respect from them. Goes both ways though. I set expectations for behavior from them and I'm fair about what I ask and how I correct when needed. I play and roll around with them as well but at the end of the day what I say goes. Can't work dogs who know they can walk all over you, never ends well.

fruitsnack_willy4 karma

What did Farmer Hoggett see in Babe that made him go rogue at the sheep herding competition, and do you think other sheep herding dog trainers followed suit, much like when a new way of analysation invades other sports (ie: sabermetrics)?

JaderBug125 karma

Some trainers just have an innate ability to tell if an animal has "it" or not, Mr. Hoggett is just one of those people gifted with that foresight, and an amazing talent to coax every ounce of talent out of them through training and perseverance. He had such great success with the Large White breed, I think he branched out to some of the other heritage breeds like Gloucestershires with mixed results. Of course there are always copycats and I think another trainer recently attempted the same thing with a Boer goat but unfortunately it hasn't panned out.

WackyJackal4 karma

Have you ever had a dog resource guard? If so what did you do to stop it?

JaderBug1212 karma

Fortunately I have not had any issues with resource guarding- one of my girls can be a bit bitchy about guarding food and toys but she a) won't ever actually fight over something and b) will knock it off if I tell her to. I know resource guarding can be a big issue but since I don't have any experience with it, I won't try to give advice on it. I would suggest asking on r/dogs for help if you're looking for advice!

alexinthis3 karma

What are some of the words you use to signal the dog?

JaderBug1216 karma

The flank commands, which mean to travel around the stock, are "come bye" which means to go clockwise, and "away to me" which means to go counter-clockwise. "There" means to stop on that circle somewhere and turn into the stock, "walk up" means to start walking towards the stock and push them away. "Lie down" or "stand" mean to stop- some dogs will lie down flat on their bellies and some remain on their feet. Some trainers absolutely insist on a belly-down "lie down" but many will accept a full stop. "In here" might mean to come in for a shed (which means to split the sheep apart and take some of them away) or it could mean that the dog is flanking too wide and losing contact with the sheep so you're asking them to come back in closer. "Keep" "Out" or "Get" often mean the dog is too close and they need to get out farther away from the stock.

I think that's most of the ones that I/we use... each of those have whistle commands that go along with them, though the whistles usually vary from handler to handler.

alexinthis2 karma

Thank you for that reply. If you have multiple dogs you have to say their names before the command? I can imagine it becoming very confusing

JaderBug125 karma

I only work one at a time- my two who are fully trained work drastically differently from one another so by the time one has executed a command, the other has already moved the sheep somewhere else so the first one is already incorrect. Doesn't work very well. I do sometimes bring one of the older ones out to help keep control of the situation while I'm training a younger dog, she is pretty good about staying put when I don't need her and acting when she sees sheep getting away.

avocadorable3 karma

This is awesome, I'm enjoying reading all of the answers!

I'm currently trying to train my shetland sheepdog in tracking, as he seems to have no interest in herding. Mostly we started by accident (playing hide & seek with his toys) and he loves it more than going to the dog park or walks.

Do you have any tips on ways to step it up a notch? I don't know how to go about scent tracking. I know it's not your purview but thought yoy might have some ideas!

JaderBug123 karma

Love that you've found something you enjoy doing with your dog!! I know absolutely nothing about scent tracking though, best advice I can give is find a local group you can get involved with that does it if you haven't already. Would suggest posting on /r/dogs for some more specific/relevant advice as well! Good luck!!

DoggoTheGreat3 karma

How do you train them to do a complicated task like sheep herding?

JaderBug1216 karma

I've copy/pasted this a number of times in the past but it's a pretty pre-packaged response to "how do you train a sheepdog":

Short answer, you work with their instinct.

Longer answer, Border Collies are gathering dogs, which means their "base function" is to run out around the stock, go to the head, stop or change their direction, and bring them back to you. The working bred dogs read stock really well, which means they can sense that "bubble" around stock (just like your personal space) and know how to use that bubble to influence and move them.

We train them by using pressure and corrections- pressure on, pressure off. Pressure comes from a lot of places- the trainer, the stock, the fences, the field, etc. If they are correct in the way they are influencing the stock, pressure is removed and they're allowed to "have" their stock, which means they're allowed to have contact with that bubble. If they are incorrect with what they're doing, we put pressure on them to show them they're wrong, which means we use our pressure on them to take their stock away and they can't have them. They want that contact with the stock, more than anything. It's like a drug to them. There is no place for treats, clickers, or praise as rewards for training- they literally just want that contact with the sheep and that's their reward. We ask them the question and if they offer the wrong answer, we ask them to find a different answer.

After they get started going around and learning how to be appropriate with the sheep, we start putting commands to the directions or "flanks," clockwise around the sheep is "come bye" and counter-clockwise is "away to me." There's also stop/stand, lie down, walk up, that'll do, etc. A flank is always going around the stock and should not move them, it's used to get to the point where they walk in and begin to "drive" the sheep which means walking into their bubble and pushing them in a certain direction.

Border Collies are one of the few working breeds where there are still a LOT of dogs bred for the work and only for the work. A well bred working Border Collie will show you these instincts quite readily and are better at understanding how to use them. Your average pet, sports, or show Border Collie (dogs who have not been bred specifically for herding) are usually pretty bad. They will show some level of instinct, but whether or not it is usable or functional is a completely different story. The better the breeding, the better the dog should be able to "read" the stock, i.e. feel where they need to be in order to influence the stock, to be able to "push"/move them without frightening them, and be able to read and predict where they are wanting to go and where they need to be in order to "cover" them.

sam_50013 karma

What are the names of the adorable pups in the first photo?

JaderBug128 karma

From left to right: York (18 months), Kess (6 years), Pepper (8 years), Polly (18 months). York and Polly littermates out of Kess.

TheOneEyedPussy3 karma

Do you train the sheep to train the dogs?

JaderBug127 karma

In a way, yes. We use older dogs to "break" sheep so they will respect young dogs who don't have the tools to know how to handle tough sheep yet. Sometimes we help teach sheep to not fight or run unnecessarily in order to train dogs

demoneyesturbo3 karma

Is it true that young dogs' first real hearding experience will be with ducks? Because ducks like to kinda stick together and are small enough to be moved about by a smallboi.

Also just want to say that I love your craft. My fiance and I go to the national sheepdog champs whenever it's in my part of the country. It's seriously entertaining, and I barely understand the basics.

To anyone reading my comment, I encourage you to go spectate such a thing of you get the chance. It's legit.

JaderBug123 karma

I've seen really young puppies put on ducks just to get them curious but I think most young dogs ready for training are usually going to be too tough on ducks. You've gotta have good brakes on a dog to respectfully work ducks, it's tough on a young dog to get them stopped before they've really started going. That being said I know someone who has done most of her training with ducks from the start and has done extremely well with them, but she has the right dog to handle it. I love working ducks though, they're a lot of fun and they can be valuable in your training program.

Glad you support the finals!! If you ever have questions while you're there grab someone with a whistle and ask away :-)

Simmo51503 karma

Which do you prefer? Sheep, or dogs?

JaderBug1210 karma

Ohh that's tough. The dogs came first for this whole endeavor, but the bottom line for all of this is it's about the stock. Sadly there are too many people losing sight of that, and the quality of the work in the dogs is suffering because of that. My sheep make me very happy too, I like hanging out with them lol

The_Collector43 karma

Could you teach a pig to herd sheep?

JaderBug127 karma

I would be skeptical lol

pundemic3 karma

How much do you love your job?

JaderBug127 karma

I can't recommend it enough ♡

Petal_Pusher_3 karma

My 1 year old border collie has OCD and can get really intense. How can I stop her from going after my cats?

JaderBug1212 karma

My oldest has always been obsessed with cats, stare at her for hours every day. Always swore I'd never have another cat watcher... I now have a second cat watcher that I can't stop either. Haven't found a good way to stop it, have tried distraction and reward for ignoring the cat but it's not been something I've been able to stop. The cat doesn't care, it doesn't stress her out so I've let it go.

secretaudience2 karma

That's so cute, although I'm sure it annoys you to hell! At least the dogs don't try to herd cats?

JaderBug125 karma

I think it might be an attempt to herd her but the cat couldn't care less, doesn't work very well lol

Dafishhh173 karma

What tips do you have for any kind of basic training?

JaderBug123 karma

Basic training on or off stock?

CamQueQues3 karma

Have you ever used any tricks from training sheepdogs on people?

JaderBug127 karma

Not on purpose 😂

But I have carried it over to my job working pigs quite regularly. It transfers over both ways

Pharm_Drugs3 karma

What do you feed your dogs?

JaderBug124 karma

Purina ProPlan

nrith3 karma

Do you, by any chance, train teenagers?

Asking for a friend.

JaderBug125 karma

I avoid them as much as possible lol

TakeToTheSkyNya3 karma

Hello! I actually want to make a comic about sheep dogs. The main character is a Shiba inu while his other friends are a Great Pyrenees and Australian Shepherd.

What would be difficult about training a dog that's not a sheepdog breed? Could it be done?

JaderBug122 karma

Do you mean a breed that isn't a Border Collie sheepdog or a dog that isn't a herding breed?

chasitysweet3 karma

Do you whistle while you work?

JaderBug122 karma

I do! Took me a long time to get sound of mine, I still can't whistle with my fingers either lol

the_C-E-O_of_racism2 karma

Have you ever experienced one of your dogs with an injured leg, one that gets worse by jumping or running, and what did you do to make their leg heal?

I have an 8yo border collie named badger and was wondering if this is a common injury among other collies?

JaderBug122 karma

Thankfully I haven't experienced any injuries with my dogs yet but if you haven't gone to a vet yet you probably should, especially if it's a persistent and recurring injury. If you're exercising your dog too much that could be causing it, can you explain what you're seeing a little more? Could it be hip dysplasia?

osu8ball2 karma

Have you worked with Bouviers ?

JaderBug122 karma

I have not... I'm not sure if I've seen any at any of the AKC herding events I've been to. They are droving dogs, they work very differently from Border Collies

Jtt79872 karma


JaderBug122 karma

Oof, that's frustrating. What happens if you continue to insist on the commands, ignore that he's stopped to look at you? How long has it been an issue, and has the fetching been stopped?

Spyritdragon2 karma

I've seen you say a lot that training relies heavily on the instincts of dogs. But I can't help but be curious - suppose you had an obedient dog, but that had no history of being bred as a sheepdog yet. Do you have any idea on how you'd start making it into a sheepdog, and do you see it being even remotely succesfull?

JaderBug123 karma

Training a dog that isn't very natural ends up being what we call "mechanical". They'll respond to your directions but without that ability to really read the stock, you don't have much to work with. It takes a lot more time and effort to achieve the same things with a really capable dog. Also a mechanical dog will always let you down when you really need them- they don't have the tools they need to think independently if something goes awry and they need to handle the situation (like a sheep breaking away or trying to fight them)

AntiquePangolin2 karma

How do you select a pup that will be good for stock?

JaderBug123 karma

Pick the parents. Find dogs that work well and whose style you like, and get on a list. Puppies are a crap shoot, you have no idea how or if a puppy will turn into a quality working dog, so you pick the bloodlines, pick the parents, and pick the pup that suits you personality-wise. You can breed the best to the best and still end up with dogs who don't turn out.

Ready-Caterpillar2 karma

I am a counselor and I want to train a therapy dog to work with children. Do you think border collies would be successful in this type of work?

JaderBug126 karma

I don't know much about service/therapy dog work, I've talked to people who do who regularly say that BCs don't make very good service dogs for a number of reasons, just that they're mismatched for that purpose. Some might be well suited for therapy though, I'm not as familiar with those requirements

Jane98122 karma

Do you happen to know much about the Caucasian Shepherd breed and what kind of working dogs are they are?. I come from an area with lots of them and I assumed their main function is to protect the herd because they're so huge, but at the same time I know that annual sheep migration across mountains with these shepherd dogs has been happening here for centuries. Do you think these dogs could serve a double function, to protect but also to move the sheep?

Thanks in advance!!

JaderBug123 karma

Caucasians are LGDs... I don't know much about them but I understand they're pretty fierce. LGDs really can't be used as herding dogs- the traits that a guard dog and herding dog use directly contradict each other. Most LGDs are fine with herding dogs moving their flock, you do hear the odd story now and then of an LGD killing a herding dog but it is fairly rare. They know if a canid is out to hurt their animals or not

ps2cho2 karma

What if my sheepdog is afraid of sheep?

JaderBug123 karma

I don't think they're going to make it as a sheepdog lol

Nixplosion2 karma

Obviously BCs are different but if you have ever done so, which is easier to train BCs or other herding dogs? Such as Corgis or other types?

JaderBug126 karma

I can't really answer this in an unbiased manner as I have personally only trained Border Collies, but I have been around many other breeds and have seen how they work. Really it comes down to breeding and if the dog you're training has any natural ability to read stock- so many breeds any more are so far removed from actual stock work and the owners/trainers don't care to REALLY learn that this is all about the stock, so if their dog is chasing sheep around an arena they proclaim that as working ability. I've seen a few dogs of other breeds that I have been surprised by, a Sheltie I saw at an AHBA trial once always sticks with me. I wrote it off before it even went in the ring and when it was one I was in awe. Didn't work the same as a Border Collie of course but you could clearly see this little dog was reading its sheep appropriately. They're out there, you just have to look!

_Schwing2 karma

In your opinion, since herding dogs already have a lot of this built into them:

a) how much of this training is correcting their natural instincts to your purposes? Like nature vs nurture.

b) do you notice a significant difference in potential for a good sheep dog in one dog to another, based on their parentage?

JaderBug123 karma

A) With a talented, natural dog, it is almost all a process of correcting and shaping behavior. A talented dog will be pretty easy to catch on and be like "yep got it" where a less talented dog you have to manage quite a bit and constantly keep correct. My eight year old is like the second one, she's taught me a lot but it's quite exhausting running her.

B) Breeding makes all the difference in the world, even between "working line" and "working bred." My oldest has working lines behind her but her parents nor grandparents were worked, she's by far my least talented dog. That's why it's important to work the parents, otherwise you don't have any idea what you're going to end up with. Breeding the best to the best is still a crapshoot, breeding totally blind is unlikely to end up with anything of working value.

Gamecock4482 karma

My roommate has a border collie that’s a ranch dog, and today she is particularly filthy. Is there any way to teach her to clean herself off or take a shower?

JaderBug122 karma

Unfortunately I don't think so! Sounds like a great marketing opportunity:-)

Lol_A_Gernade2 karma

Would the BC be a good breed as a comfort pet? I have a little girl who is scared of loud and jumpy dogs but absolutely loves petting dogs that can remain calm and show her affection.

I really want to get a dog for the fam as I always grew up around them but just trying to find the right breed for my little one.

JaderBug122 karma

Border Collies can be quite excitable, but I'm sure you could find something to suit your family. If you're trying to figure out what would fit your needs, you should fill out the breed questionnaire over on r/dogs !

auxilary2 karma

What do you do with the dogs who just aren’t cut out for sheep herding and how can I adopt one?

JaderBug123 karma

There are a lot of networks within the sheepdog community, dogs needing homes usually get shared by word of mouth. Get to know your local handlers and breeders, let them know you'd be interested in a herding wash out and they can keep their ears open. Can help you figure out who/where those people might be if you'd like!

Mai15642 karma

Hi, such a fun AMA, thanks!

I saw you mention in replies to others that the temperament (not sure if right word) of border collies bred for work are better/more pleasant to work with than of those who aren't. Would you also recommend a dog bred for work if you weren't planning to participate in competitions or train for herding specifically?

JaderBug123 karma

I absolutely always recommend working lines, as long as you can handle the mental and physical needs. The way I look at it... the work is what made everything we love about this breed, why not go to the source? I have sold a couple puppies to good active homes though I do prefer working homes so I can see what I'm producing. Herding washouts aren't uncommon, there are a lot of working bred dogs who won't cut it as working dogs but will make excellent active pets

AundaRag2 karma

Sheep dogs, trainings, my mind goes to LeBarr Ranch outside Douglas, Wyoming. Are you familiar?

JaderBug123 karma

I can't say I am but I'm not well versed in the big farms out west, a lot of great handlers out there though. Wyoming has a great stock dog association

perrin682 karma

Border collies are super assume dogs. I dont have a collie but we have a Shetland Sheepdog, often known as the Sheltie. I walk in large field behind my house and let him run off a distance and call him and he always comes straight back. When just walking off leash he will walk in a zigzag pattern about 6 feet ahead of me. I always wondered if that was herding instinct at work. I was wondering your opinion on Sheltie's being working herding dogs? I see online that border collies and sheltie's have alot of common traits. Thank you

JaderBug122 karma

I've honestly never thought much of Shelties as herding dogs, I've rarely seen any I thought were actually engaged with the sheep. Most of them just seem to follow the sheep around without working them.

However, I was at an AHBA trial once. There were some Shelties there that I completely wrote off before they even went in and I tell you what... I still think about how wonderfully they worked. They were engaged and on contact with their sheep, they worked very thoughtfully, read and rated them extremely well. I was amazed. I am always happy to be proven wrong about dogs being able to work... they're out there but they can be difficult to find.

zerocoke2 karma

Do you recommend people get sheep dogs as pets?

JaderBug124 karma

If they're prepared to meet the dog's mental and physical needs, they make excellent active pets!

9yroldupvotegiver2 karma

What are their names?

JaderBug123 karma

From left to right in the first pic- York, Kess, Pepper, and Polly. I have a fifth, Jade, who didn't want to participate lol

IZZI22332 karma

How do dogs know the direction you want your flock to go?

JaderBug125 karma

Border Collies by default want to bring stock back to their handler, so if you just send your dog out without any other directions, a BC will bring them back to you. Otherwise we direct them around the stock by telling them to go clockwise ("come bye") or counterclockwise ("away to me") around the stock, then ask them to stop at a certain point and begin to walk into them to drive them in the opposite direction.

GreenePony2 karma

Do you only compete in USBCHA trials or do you do AKC (I know, I know) or ABHA too?

I saw in the other comment you don't really work cattle, have you ever done ducks? Which kind of stock do you think is the most humbling to work with (it was a topic of conversation at the ASSA national specialty trial the other year)?

JaderBug125 karma

I don't do AKC but I do run in AHBA when I am able to, I find AHBA trials to be really relaxed and a lot of fun and more closely mimic actual farm work than say AKC or ASCA courses (especially farm class and large flock class!) I really enjoy AHBA trials and I hope to host one either this year or next.

Yes other than sheep I've worked goats, ducks, and geese, and I guess you could include chickens. Ducks are a LOT of fun to work, they definitely show you where the holes in your training are. I think the most humbling (and fun) stock to work are range ewes... they'll chew you up and spit you out if you don't have a good handle on your dog! (not in a bad or harmful way, but in a "you suck" way lol)

aminebu2 karma

Are there any online sources you would recommend for training collies?

JaderBug125 karma

Facebook groups are actually a pretty great resource, especially for asking questions and finding local help: Herding Dogs, To Novice And Beyond, Stock Dog Training Group, several others but those are probably good ones to start out with.

9yroldupvotegiver2 karma

What are some hearing "strategies", by that I mean methods you use to keep the sheep together and moving together??

JaderBug122 karma

I place that responsibility on the dog. If the dog is doing their job, they should cover the sheep and tuck in any stragglers or any trying to break away. If they're breaking too much, the dog is probably pushing too much and causing the problem.

Dade__Murphy2 karma

I had a border collie growing up, his markings on his eyes were one white and one black.. never seen another like that since.. usually the eyes are always the same as each other You ever seen this or was my childhood best friend as rare as I like to believe?

JaderBug122 karma

Border Collies come in a HUGE variety of aesthetics because no one cares what they look like as long as they can work. I've seen lots of markings, eye colors, coat colors, ear sets, coat types, sizes, etc, and any combination of them. They're not rare but at the same time not necessarily common either :-)

Communism432 karma

Do the dogs get lots of head pats?

JaderBug122 karma

Yes. They're my shadows.

kiwi_reader1 karma

In a way, even though your life is all about dogs, do you think the people at r/dogfree have a good point at all?

JaderBug123 karma

I don't go over there very much because I find them senselessly toxic like r/childfree is. I don't have kids, not sure I want them but I don't fault anyone who does. Same applies to r/dogfree

ThurmanatorOmega1 karma

what ia the meaning of life?

JaderBug121 karma

Find something you're truly passionate about and chase it until the end ♡

CheezusChrist1 karma

I have a big interest in dog training, although I don’t like training people, so I don’t care to do it professionally. I do work in a vet hospital so I have to give advice from time to time. I feel so bad for people who get a BC and then it develops obsessive behaviors like chasing lights. Do you think encouraging them to find an outlet like herding stock is a potential option to help curb obsessive behaviors? Or is it just bad breeding?

JaderBug122 karma

I think dogs with poor breeding are much more prone to OCD tendencies, and clueless owners don't help anything. Watching pet videos of people encouraging fixating behaviors is just infuriating, and you can't tell them anything either. I don't like the idea of people using stock work solely as an energy outlet for their dogs because it isn't fair to the stock. It's stress on them no matter how well trained the dog is so if you're not actively training to improve your dog's herding ability, it isn't fair to the stock.

ACheshireCats1 karma

Differences between males & females?

JaderBug127 karma

None that I've really noticed as it relates to stock work. I have a young male now who is my first boy I've had, I tend to prefer bitches because they're normally a little faster maturing. Which is proving true with this male lol