How to Amplify Instincts in Your Working Dogs

As Denice described in Success With Stockdogs, instinct is an important part of working with your dog. Here she gives examples of how, as trainers, we can work with, and amplify, those instincts. Ivy crawled through the squares of woven wire fence to begin working livestock at 13 weeks old.  This was her first step toward becoming a working Border Collie. She and her litter mates had been crawling through to play in the pasture that bordered the yard for weeks, previously showing only a passing interest in the sheep. This day was different, a light had come on. I stepped out of the house to find her inside the pasture, in perfect Border Collie form gathering the flock moving them toward the house. Ivy was as serious as a heart attack in the chilly April rain. In this unauthorized working session, every move she makes is due to instinct. Both her parents work in my sheep operation.  Ivy is an unusual marked registered tri-colored, smooth coat Border Collie but her movements show the traditional style of the breed. Border Collies naturally go the head of livestock to control their movement, are capable of large sweeping gathers and want to bring stock to their handler.  You can see Ivy goes around this entire group of sheep keeping them together, working them as a whole.  She is serious, not playing, indicated by her posture; head and tail down.  When she is worried, concerned, uncertain you see her tail and head come up.  Both lower when she is again moving conf

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