A Herding Primer
Border Collies are often called the “world’ s premier sheepdog.” The presence of a Border Collie on a farm or ranch is often invaluable, but just what is herding and why are Border Collies so good at it?
Herding is not chasing, it is the controlled movement of livestock. It involves shaping the predator/prey instinct. The sheep are the prey and the dog is the predator. The sheep feel pressure from the dog to move in a particular direction. For many Border Collies, this is a natural instinct, they will try to herd almost anything that moves. It is the job of the trainer to direct the instinct properly.
Border Collies have been selectively bred for hundreds of years for hallmark traits such as keenness, alertness, intelligence, independence and biddability. These are all beneficial to the Border Collie when asked to perform its job in the field. However, the same traits often make Border Collies difficult to live with in the absence of livestock or another job to perform. Many Border Collies kept as pets find themselves frustrated if not given enough mental and physical exercise.
Several organizations hold trials that simulate everyday farm work or that test a dog’s ability to perform specific tasks with the sheep on a standard course.
There are two types of trials: arena and field. The various sanctioning bodies are the American Kennel Club (AKC), the American Herding Breeds Association (AHBA), the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and the United States Border Collie Handlers Association (USBCHA). A dog must be registered with AKC, ASCA or AHBA to compete in their trials. Any dog that is registered with another registry (AKC, UKC, ABCA, NASS) may compete in AHBA and ASCA trials as long as they belong to one of the recognized herding breeds. Dogs must be purebred (with papers) or apply for an ILP (indefinite listing privelege) to compete in events sanctioned by AKC. Dogs requesting ILP numbers must be neutered or spayed. Any dog, including those of mixed or unknown parentage, may compete through AHBA.