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WHY THE COLLIE?
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March 8, 2014
ITALIANO
 
 
 

The work of the shepherd, is it not too hard for a woman?

No, it’s a lot of heavy lifting, but it’s absolutely not harder for a woman than for a man. You get very strong when working on a farm.

What is the typical day of a modern shepherd?

A typical day is caring for the animals a huge part of the day, early up, feeding, checking that everyone is healthy, and feeding in the afternoon. Less to do when they are outside, but has to be checked then too. Very busy time when there are lambing in early spring, then it’s watching night and day.

Why did you choose the collie to have more help in your job?

It’s not very strange – a herder can do 10-mens job. As working on a farm that made my job extremely easier when I could send Samantha out to fetch the cows, the calves or sheep. It was kind of a coincidence that I started with Rough Collie, when thinking about it it’s strange that I didn’t choose Border Collie.

But when I was younger I read a lot about different kind of breeds, and from what I read Rough Collies was originally a great herder, I also found this breed very beautiful and perfect in size. I started to search for rough Collie puppies and found one breeder not very far from me, the mother of this litter was also used for herding chicken/hens.

At that time I didn’t knew very much about different lines etc, but I was lucky. When I saw the litter and particular one lady, it was no doubt in my mind that I would take her, she had a look that just said “here I am” you could see the rascal in her eyes, she stood out.

Of course she was the one that was coming home with me, and was called Samantha. She was an extremely good specimen and I used her for herding cows, calves and sheep. She also worked sheep together with a Border Collie, they were an excellent team.

In effect there were many dogs best suited to your country and your climate. Why did you choose the collie?

After what I read about the breed all these years ago I found it very suitable for me. Rough Collies have no problems with our climate. I also have a type of coat on my Collies that are very water-resistant and branches etc don’t get stuck in their coats, they have a smooth, straight rough coat (a correct one).

How do you choose your collie?

I want a Collie that are outgoing, independent, fast, natural fetcher, social, have courage, willing to do work, nosy with a spirit, I will see the “flame inside”. When I have many of these traits that is the puppy I want to work with. I would never have chosen a puppy I see is a very tender one, sitting in a corner not interesting in anything with anxiety. In my house I want a Collie that have a meaning of its own, a little hotheaded one, that’s the kind I like and find easy to work with.

For what we have seen some of them come from show lines. How can you be sure they will be good workers?

I have a hunch (a gut feeling) and so far I have been very lucky. My first Collie, Samantha, was out of a mother that herd. When I bought her I didn’t know very much about different lines, and – perhaps a little naive – thought that since she was a herding breed she would herd. She didn’t disappoint me at all. After she sadly died I bought another Collie, Sammie, (she should in time be Norway’s most all-round meritated rough Collie, to this day she is still the only rough Collie here in Norway with a double championship obedience Elite and conformation, and she is the brood-bitch in my breeding).

She was an excellent herder too, she started already 12 weeks young with our hens and as I have my fourth generation herder here I know much about what’s behind what I have now. And with what I have learnt all these years I know exactly what I want.

I have also bought a female from Finland, Villemo, just a couple of years ago, she also shows talent. Mind I am not competing in herding and I would not consider it as that take too much time, but to round up and do a good job, whether it’s to move a flock or round them up, that’s what count. I think with the correct training and patience many Collies can be used for this type of work.

As I mentioned I am looking for traits that I want, like independence, stamina, hunting-instinct etc etc, I do like a “hotheaded” Collie, as I feel they are easier to work with, it’s always easier to have an individual that show too much of everything then an individual that lacks a lot (a slow heavy type). My fourth generation herder TengelMan is a bit hotheaded, he is starting to “calm down” now as he is 6 years of age.

This breed has always worked in cold climates, but Norway is the most cold imaginable. Did you never have any problems with your low temperatures? We think about some of our collie who live in heated homes and shove coats and gloves before going outdoors!

No, never any problems with cold when working. We have had sheep outside in the wintertime, the problem that can occur is if it gets too much snow, and problems working – but then the sheep are moved inside.

How do you train a collie to work with sheep?

Herding instinct is derived from the Collie's instinct to hunt - the prey drive.

When we are herding, my Collie controls the flock, but I have to be in control of my Collie. Herding is teamwork between my Collie and me and the relationship between us is very important.

Their work with sheep/hens/cows demands that they are obedient.

Herding is a controlled activity, absolutely not a wild frenzy of activity, the dog is not allowed to chase, even if it can get a bit fast sometimes, especially in the beginning.

It is important that they know and are responsive to certain commands before they are taken to train with the flock. They have to know, as a minimum, stay (stand, sit or lay down) stop and recall. They also have to know left from right, and here I use my arms. I train this moment with a help from a fence, my Collie is on one side and I am on the other, tell them and show them which direction is what and that way I learn them the difference between right and left. I also use voice in the work. It’s important to read the dog.

I praise them when they is doing the right thing, that’s very important, and to be consistent. Build up a confidence with them. I am training short period of times, and the training shall always be fun.

The first I have to do is learn them at 8 – 10 weeks young to walk with a leash, teach them how to stop – say command. Teach lay down and sit. Be consistent, but I always train with positivity and short short sequences.

As I wrote earlier I introduce my Collies early to sheep/hens. Sammie was an extraordinary Collie and she herd the hens in at night when she was only 3 1/ 2 months young. In the sheep field I have them in a long leash, about 15 meters when I let them in for the first times. Here I can see if they show any interest, and see how they behave around sheep. That we are doing several months. Dogs that don’t show any interest at first – wait – and then introduce them to sheep a bit later – some dogs are “late bloomers”.

Then I start with a few sheep in a pen, get the sheep moving and let the pups/young Collie loose. My Collies have then ran in front of them and stop them, this is something that they are born with, if they do this it is a good subject to work with.

It’s also exciting to now see that the previous training has been successful and that they remembers the commands. Should he be too eager, then use a long leash and give a little jerk and praise when he stops. Never forget to praise, all kind of work should be positive.

The most important is to have a Collie that can stop the sheep. Collies, is not as low in the body as the BC when they herd, and don’t use their eyes like the BC, but I have had both “eye-herder” and “body-herder” in my Collies, so in my experience it’s very individual when it comes to Collies. My Sammie was also very vocal when she herd. This is not very strange as breeders a hundred years ago wanted Collies that had a strong voice to be able to alarm other herders when they drove their flocks, not all think about that and see it as a negative trait.

I learn them to stand in front of the sheep so they don’t run away. We are two persons, I send her/him and say stop. Should she/he not stop then comes a little jerk in the leash. They don’t connect the jerk with me as the helper does the jerk. At the beginnings just a short distance. When she/he stops the sheep we have come a long way. There shall also be a distant between them and the sheep, extreme important if there are lambs in the flock.

Then he/she should be able to bring the flock towards me, I send them out to stop the sheep and then I go towards the flock. He/she is on the opposite of me (12 o’clock from me). I have taught them the difference between left and right and as I move left or right he/she does the opposite.

If she/he is too close to the flock I go between the flock and her/him to “push” her/him further out. Here I also let her/him circle around the flock when I all the time is between her/him and the flock. After a round then I am changing directions Samantha herd bull calves and as we don’t approve of the dog going in and “bite/nip” sometimes they have to. It’s not easy to work with bull calves and Samantha was allowed to nip them in their legs to move them. She never did that on the sheep or on the cows and of course never draw blood.

At what age did you begin to teach them?

I have started as early as 12 weeks with hens. And about 4-6 months with sheep, just letting them watch and get interested. If they shouldn’t be interested at once, then wait a couple of weeks and try again. I find many people giving up too easy.

We see, however, that your collie not only works with the sheep. Obedience, Search and Rescue, Agility, Tracking, Backpacking, Carting, Hunting, Skijoring, Fun in the Water, Biking, not to mention the Exhibition. But where do you find time and strength to do all that?

Well, to be honest, all my free-time evolves around my Collies in some way, working or training. And none of my Collies have asked to come to me, so it’s my duty to make their lives as active and interesting as I possibly can with different kind of activities. And it’s also very fulfilling for me to work along with them.

About hunting, that is one of my brilliant puppy-buyers, Lena, doing that, she has also gained a double blood-tracking-champion-title on Casper – he is the first and so far the only rough Collie gained that double-title in Norway (he is also a certified cadaver-dog).

I do not show very much as I don’t find it very fun and it sometimes seem as it’s kind of a lottery about who wins and not, I often feel that it can be the “wrong end of the leash” that wins. Occasionally I have attended some shows, and I am extremely proud of the results my Collies have gotten. Agility is only play and some I do because they find it amusing running through and over hurdles. But I have a couple of competitions in agility years ago with Samantha. Search is one of the activities I especially love, and in addition to herding is a task where I really see my Collies working.

As my Collie-crew are working it’s important to get muscles on them and stamina – to wade in water, swim and hiking with back-packing is some that can help with that. Biking and skijoring I find very fun, especially when they are pulling me. I also think it’s important to do versatile things with them. New things will always stimulate them and make them better problem-solvers.

And the collie can really manage in all these activities?

For me a Collie can do it all, I find the breed a “total package” (that is of course if it’s not an individual that are nervous and anxious and slow).

This is breeder’s responsibility to only breed dogs that are mentally strong. It’s both bad by the dog and of course by the puppy-buyers to breed dogs with anxieties. Unfortunately I also find many Collie-owners giving up too easy. Many owners of today it seems they don’t realize it take times (and sometimes lots of it) and hard work to train the dog to do a special work.

I find much of the degrading that also some “preach” extremely negative, which is also coming from people that have problems gaining good results. They have a tendency to “lower the bar” for everyone else since they can’t make it themselves. I see this here in Norway and it’s sad.

Looking at the dogs that you have now, we note that they are all tricolors. Is it a case or is there a reason?

I simply love that color and find it the absolute most beautiful. Now, I can’t think of another color then tricolor, it’s also standing out color-wise when herding, easy to spot Sometimes my parents are watching my Collie-crew and as my mother says the tricolor is the best, although she can tolerate a shaded sable.

You have clear ideas about what is a breeder. For example you say that there are breeders, and then, there are BREEDERS. Do you think regarding the latter are there still many in the world?

I am extremely fond of my breed, I want us breeders/owners of Collies to have high standards. When I see breeders using individuals in their breeding that are anxious and “slow” it make me sad. The mentality and working abilities is the number one in my eyes. And of course the health has to be good in the breeding material. But it doesn’t matter how beautiful and healthy a Collie is if it can’t cope with the day-to-day life because of anxiety and anxiousness, Collies that can’t walk on floors etc. I find that kind of specimen bad and should not be bred from.

I find it important to not only breed for looks, but also take the mentality and working capacity in consideration. I mean that before breeding a Collie he/she should have proven that he/she can work.

And it’s a disgrace when people use individuals for breeding when they are nervous and anxious. The chances of getting nervous dogs after that kind of parents are very high. Anxiety and fear are highly hereditary.

Not saying that I, as a breeder, can’t get a puppy that is not like I want it to be, of course I can, but by using only dogs that are confident and don’t have anxieties in different grades, the chance is so much higher to get stable and good puppies, that can bring joy to their new owners.

Of course there are – luckily - some breeders out there that also consider the “whole animal” and not only that it has “correct eyes/ears/tail and some conformation-titles” when breeding.

You have gained an exceptional experience in dealing with the collie about the job for which the breed was created. No more than you can answer this question. But is the collie morphologically and characterially yet what the shepherds have selected some centuries ago?

This question is difficult to answer.

The exterior of a Collie has in some ways changed a lot in some lines. But when seeing pictures from a century ago and today it’s not difficult to see that it is a Collie.

Unfortunately I see many breeders today that don’t considerate the “inside” of the individual, but if it has a sweet face and some conformation-titles it’s enough to breed. It’s also strange that I see lots of males looking like females.

I also see that for many breeders it’s important to DNA test for different things, I am not against it, but what I react on is that some think that is the only way. To take an example, a Collie is certified free of CEA (DNA), but has a lousy temperament (anxious etc). That one is used for breeding because of the eyes, sad.

On the mentally-side I see Collies that has no stamina, are slow and heavy. Not my type at all. I have seen some heavy-boned Collies with no speed and guts at all and this is bred from. And at least here in Norway we have breeders that want that kind of Collies.

We have Collies that are extremely afraid of gun-shots and thunder. I can’t imagine Collies from the past that were used as a herder was afraid of things like that. A herder can’t “flip-out” when he/she is working and a thunderstorm should arrive. I have myself Collies that don’t react at all on firework and thunderstorms.

A Collie is a ”light” breed that should be able to turn on a dime, but some I see – I call them ”draw-up-collies” – are so heavy-boned that they look like Berner Sennen breed, but for some breeder that is correct. For me it’s ugly and so incorrect.

On the positive side it’s absolutely possible to find what you want, a good working prospect if just looking. Always check out the parents (and also what’s behind them) before buying a pup – then you can get an idea of what to expect. It’s easier to get a working-prospect pup when parents have shown that they can work.

Thank you Elisabeth, and HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY!