I cannot praise my Border Collies enough. As a small farmer, a single woman in the country and a keeper of sheep over the past decadeâ€”I credit these dogs with making every aspect of farm life easier.
They are amazing and clever companions, as well as expert problem solvers and hard workers. They are vigilant guard dogs, always ready to announce a person at the door or a stray animal in the pasture.
And above all, they make managing a shepherdâ€™s flock, regardless of size, easier.
A Starter Dog
When I started raising sheep a decade ago, I did so with a Border Collie pup by my side.
Gibson came from an Idaho sheepdog trainer and trial competitor. This trainer’s dogs were bred for their ability to herd. That is what I wanted above any other trait in a dog.
Being new to all aspects of farming, I looked to the wisdom of the sheep and sheepdog training community. When I had my pup, we took regular herding lessons and learned the basics. Itâ€™s something I suggest to every shepherd with a herding dog on their payroll.
That summer of driving teo hours (one way) to learn from a qualified herding instructor changed my entire life with my farm dog. Turning him from a sometimes-useful pet to a key part that supports everyday work.
An Excellent Shepherd
My dog learned to gather and return stray sheep back to me from acres away. He was able to hold sheep back when I was serving grain. He helped me find lambs born in a cold winter field.
If a sheep was down or sick, he let me know instantly. I know that a Border Collie isnâ€™t a necessity for everyone out there raising sheep, but I can not imagine homesteading without them.
Easy to train, happy to please, and willing to put in the kind of effort most human farmers could only dream of, they are a joy and a gift.
A Quick Caveat
That said, they are not the best dogs for every farm, even ones that raise sheep. Border Collies do need a job to remain stimulated and content. But in my opinion they need their farmer even more.
I suspect that a Border Collie would be happier in a one-room studio apartment with a freelancer that is home all day beside them and takes them on a 5k run every morning than a farmer that leaves for work for 10 hours a day and keeps them locked indoors.
In the latter scenario (or similar situations), a less-intense breed of herding dog or an outdoor livestock guardian may be a better choice.
Read more: Not a dog person? Try a guard peacock!
Satisfying Moments Ahead
But if you are a person ready for a partnership, an intense bond and a commitment to this breed, then you are in for so many satisfying moments on your farm.
And the community of people that breed, raise and train these dogs is amazing! I have never come across a sheep dog trial that wasnâ€™t a place of warm camaraderie.
Even if competing is the last thing you want to do, a well-trained and hardworking collie is a reward in itself. Farming is easier, the livestock is better managed, and youâ€”the small farmerâ€”get to take part in a special bit of agricultural history.
Enjoy every moment of it together!