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The Border Collie: A Double

Article by Haley Howard,
Pets and Animals Home Study Course Student,
Spirit-in-Nature Essences Practitioner, Animal Shelter Worker,
Alturas, CA

DogThe Border Collie, with a double theme of Avocado and Corn, is an outstandingly agile and intellingent canine:

I am very familiar with the Border Collie because my parents have had Border collies since before I was born, and I have been around them every day of my life. Ever since I was 8 years old (I’m now 20), I have worked with and trained Border Collies, studying their working ability, instincts and characteristics. My constant goal is understanding them as thoroughly as possible so that I can train and handle them to the best of my ability, bringing out their natural talent with the most ease, for the dogs and for myself.

The black, rough-coated dog with a white collar, white chest and tail tip, who would eventually be known as the Border Collie, was developed over 200 years ago to a creature known as Miacis, which was the forerunner of several forms from which the true dog evolved. By the Pleistocene era, about 1 million years ago, the canis family was developing into the forms of coyotes, jackals and wolves.

It is to the wolf that credit must go for the biological balance, constitution, intelligence and social behavior of our modern dog. I believe the main characteristics of the modern dog is his loyalty, intelligence, protectiveness and very strong family bond-either to his natural canine family or his human family.

The dog is very pack-oriented. He is either submissive to the pack leader or dominant, viewing himself as the pack leader. Many traits and instincts of our modern dog can be directly attributed to his wolf ancestry. For example, the dog’s loyalty to his owner in domesticated life originated from the wolf’s instinct of faithfulness toward his mate and fellow pack members. Also, the dog’s nature to obey and follow his human master results from the fact that, in the world, wolf pack members obey and are disciplined by the pack leader. The dog’s instinct to protect his master and property in domesticated life originated from the wolves who live and hunt in a fixed territory, which they fiercely protected from predators.

Many traits of today’s Border collies can be directly linked to their wolf ancestry. In watching a Border Collie work livestock, a person can easily see the roots of their instincts, which came from the wolf. While working livestock, the Border Collie will circle around behind the stock to the side opposite his handler. This process of circling around behind the heard is called the “outrun.” Ideally, the outrun path should be wide ad pear-shaped to prevent disturbing he livestock. The Border Collie’s instinct is to stay on the other side of the livestock from the person while gathering and bringing livestock back to the handler.

A unique asset possessed by Border Collies, that sets them apart from most other breeds, is the power of their “eye”-the ability to control the livestock by staring at them in a fixed and steady manner, constantly keeping eye contact throughout their working maneuvers. Dogs with the right amount of ‘eye” can keep their stock well bunched together as they bring the stock to their handler. The wolves use a similar technique when hunting their prey; the wolves will circle wide around the prey (outrun) so the prey cannot escape. The wolf then considers the best angle of approach and creeps up on the prey with a fixed stare (eye), forcing the prey back to the awaiting dominant pack member (the handler). It is from the wolves’ expertise in capturing game that the herding dog was developed.

Developed by shepherds in the border country between Scotland and England, the Border Collie is characterized by his ability to move large or small numbers of livestock in a silent, controlled manner in complete cooperation with the handler. Without the Border Collie, it could never have been possible to herd and control sheep in the Scottish/English border country, with its vast, hilly headlands, intersected by valleys and streams.

The shepherds would breed from the most efficient dogs who were trainable, ready to obey commands and who collected and moved the sheep with the least stress and damage to the flocks, yet who would stand up to obstinate and difficult stock. Border Collies have a tremendous desire to work and please their handler. Their intelligence and versatility is exceptional. They are unlike some other breeds, which are bred for conformation (such as the shape of their head, the carriage of their ears, the coat color and length, etc.). Border Collies have been selectively bred for their working ability on livestock, along with intelligence, trainability, stamina and “heart” (the quality of never giving up or quitting, no matter how mentally or physically difficult a job is).

avocadoI think the Border Collie as a breed has a double flower essence theme, as described in your book, Flower Essences For Animals. The 2 theme essences are Avocado and Corn. I cannot pick one essence over the other to describe the Border Collie’s predominant positive qualities. I have read and reread the theme essences and even copied the “How to Determine Your Pet’s Theme Essence” off your website and still came up with all 3 answers checked for both Avocado and Corn. I cannot find that one of these 2 theme essences is stronger than the other in describing the Border Collie breed.

The Avocado theme fits the Border Collie well because as a breed, they are always alert and very responsive to verbal commands, as well as nonverbal commands. I often marvel at their ability to read my mind; there are times while we are working sheep, that they often react to a command I’m thinking just before I actually say it.

Border collies are very easy to train and have a constant desire to learn and please their person. A 1972 test in England, involving more than 80 different dog breeds, rated the Border collie most intelligent, actually possessing the problem-solving ability of a 12-year-old child. The English study tested the dogs in many different areas, including reasoning ability, thought patterns, decision making, abstract thinking and more. In a more recent similar test on dog breeds, the Border Collie was rated the most trainable dog breed, with the tested Border Collie understanding and reacting correctly to more than 200 commands. These tests show that the Border Collie is exceptionally intelligent and trainable.

Also, in general, Border collies are quick-maturing; they will show instinct to heard sheep as young as 10 weeks. (I wouldn’t believe this if I hadn’t actually seen it!). They are mentally and physically mature enough to start training on sheep by around 8 months of age. In comparison to a breed such as a Labrador Retriever, the Border Collie’s early maturity is very apparent.

cornThe Corn theme essence also fits the Border Collie well because this is a very active and high-energy breed; their activity level barely diminishes with age. Being selectively bred for centuries for their working ability, which includes stamina, they have tremendous endurance and seem tireless. I often hear people say, “My Border Collie has enough energy for 10 dogs!” They often have to work livestock for long periods of time-sometimes all day long and for many days in a row-and they must have the energy and stamina to stand up to that kind of physical exertion.

If Border Collies are not worked and exercised enough, they can easily become neurotic; this is the reason that they generally do not make good pets. Their work drive is so strong that in a non-working home, they will find any way possible to channel their instincts: “herding” children, cars, other dogs-basically anything that moves! This will get them into endless trouble. It often puts them in life-threatening situations.

Border Collies do everything from working livestock to going for a walk with tremendous enthusiasm and seem to enjoy every activity in which the are involved. I have never seen a healthy Border Collie who is lethargic. They remain this way throughout their entire life; even when they get older, they still remain energetic and ready to do a day’s work.

Many of my friend’s Border Collies are still competitively competing in sheepdog trials when they are 10 or more years old. It always amazes me to see 10 year old dogs beating 5-year-old dogs on the trial field.

In 1998, a 9-year-old Border Collie, by the name of Sweep, won the International Supreme Sheepdog Championship in Great Britain, the most prestigious and difficult trial in the world! The course for this trial is very demanding on the dogs, having an 800-yard “outrun” and many other difficult obstacles to negotiate while the handler has to stand at a fixed “post” to direct their dog. This dog, Sweep, had to compete against dogs less than half his age, and still he was unbeatable! This goes to show how much Border Collies love their work and still have the energy-physically and mentally-to be competitive at the highest level even when they get older.

I hope I have adequately explained why I believe that the Border Collie exhibits a double theme essence. I believe that the Avocado theme qualities are equally as strong as the Corn theme qualities. Border Collies are always alert, eager to learn, responsive and very trainable, as well as being full of energy and very active, with endless enthusiasm and joy as long as they live. I felt in leaving out one of these 2 themes, I would not be fully describing the Border Collie’s positive breed qualities.

“I am a Complementary Healthcare Practitioner and very much want Spirit-in-Nature Essences to become a large part of my practice. Plus, I love the course so much that I wouldn’t be able to stop after just one level!”

– Rebecca Hill, England