To a working Beardie, the ability to crowd in against a fence to bring stock out is critically important. How easily trained the skill is depends on the intrinsic temperment of the individual dog. Beardies tend to be naturally claustrophobic. Some Beardies are always willing to dive right in and force stock off a fence or wall, but most will show some degree of hesitation.
Be aware of the dog’s point of view. Generally he is expected to move into a trap behind a group of animals twice his height and three to four times his weight — and to do it alone! You would hesitate too!
Once the sheep are in a corner, go with your dog. Keeping the dog against the fence next to you, walk through while giving a command such as “Go Through” or “Get In”. Your job is to actually force the sheep ou while protecting the dog. Repeat the action going both directions.
When the dog is relatively relaxed (which may be many lessons later), have him sit-stay on one side of the sheep, go to the balance point, out from the fence and send the dog in. As the dog moves, you must “lead” the sheep out into the field. Practice the “Go In” both directions up close; and gradually remove yourself from proximity to the stock.
Once your Beardie’s confidence is established, he will be able to take any stock out of a corner or off a fence.
© 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.