Flygility and the Amazing Border Collie

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Remember when I wrote those posts about how amazing mutts are? I completely stick by it, and I couldn’t reiterate those points enough.

Having said that, I think most dog people have that breed. You know what I’m talking about – the one that you love above all others. It’s the breed that you will run across a busy highway to pat, and it’s probably the breed of that beloved canine you grew up with, the one that tore your world apart when it went to doggie heaven (RIP Rexy boy).

For me, that breed is indisputably the Border Collie – and I can’t be the only one.

After all, the Border Collie is widely recognised as the most intelligent breed in the world. The smartest Border Collies are said to have the intelligence of a two-and-a-half year-old human child and can potentially understand over a thousand words. Last year it was discovered that the Border Collie was amoung a handful of dog breeds that are able to distinguish between human facial expressions and associate them with negative or positive emotions (dogs are the only non-human animal that has been found to possess this talent – probably a result of their unique co-evolution alongside humans for so many years).

It is no wonder that when I arrived at Forrester Park for the Otago Canine Training Club’s Flygility tournament, almost all the competing canines had the distinctive, bicolour coat and the focused eyes of a Border Collie. Flygility is a sport that involves two dogs racing side-by-side along an obstacle course – usually including a series of jumps and tubes – at the end of which they have to retrieve a ball and bring it back to their owner, running through the course a second time.

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Border Collies are working dogs, and then tend to want to work all the time. This can drive some owners up the wall, because they always want you to tell them what to do next, and they find it difficult to entertain themselves. If enough time is not given to these intelligent creatures, their need for a job can lead them to destructive behaviours like digging and destroying furniture. This thirst for work makes them extremely easy to train so long as you earn their respect, especially since these quick-witted canines are not driven by food like other breeds are – simply saying ‘good dog’ to a Border Collie is enough to make their day. Training can sometimes become frustrating though. The Border Collie is so eager to please its human that it often tries to predict instructions, reading everything from body language to spoken language. This means it is extremely important to remain consistent for every instruction, otherwise they may well get confused.

The Border Collie’s hardworking drive comes from hundreds of years of herding livestock, during which the hardiest, healthiest, most agile and most attentive dogs have been selectively bred to be unbelievably successful sheepdogs. This is what they love to do most, and when Border Collies don’t have livestock to herd, you will often see them trying to round up various other moving objects like other dogs and pets, balls, people, and (in the more dangerous cases) cars. Apart from the routine running around the object in circles and barking, they will also usually deliver ‘the eye’ – a hypnotic tactic they use to startle sheep by staring at them with terrifying, unblinking eyes.

If you catch your pup doing this to you, it’s a pretty clear sign that they don’t see you as the leader of the pack, meaning you need to practice your tough voice and give them some good old fashioned discipline. The best thing to do to keep your beautiful Border Collie as happy as can be is give them a job that they can focus all their energy on, like ‘flygility’. You never know, they might earn you some ribbons!

 

 

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