One of the hardest lessons to teach a truly talented Beardie is to work off balance. Using the clock face analogy, asking a loose-eyed dog to move in on the sheep from any angle except 12 to 6 (pure fetch) or 6 to 12 (pure drive) is so foreign a concept to the dog that the training must initially be by rote.
Start with small circle flanks and stops (Away-Stop-Away-Stop, etc.) as you move around your part of the circle on balance. From time to time, have the dog “walk up” on balance as you move away to lead the sheep. Once the dog will do asharge right-angle turn into the sheep every time, give the stop and “walk up” at the 3 o’clock position. He will probably only go a few steps properly, then try to move to the balance point. Stop him. Set up the scenario again, perhaps calling him to “walk up” at 7 o’clock.
With rare exceptions, assume it will take many, many lessons for your Beardie to absorb and accept the concept. On that day, let him take the sheep on for a ways past you, then command him to flank to the fetch position (12 o’clock) and bring the sheep to you. With practice, he will learn to understand his part in the Maypole Dance.
© 1999 by Ann Witte.
This article originally appeared in “Bagpipes”, the Bearded Collie Club of America’s monthly newsletter. Reprinted with permission of the author.