the truth about living with a high drive working border collies, or: 50 shades of black & white

So, before Loki, I had some idea about what having a BC might be like. I worried that they wouldn’t be as easy to live with as an Aussie is meant to be (Lumen excepted), they’d be obsessive and constantly dropping tennis balls at your feet to throw. I’ve been quite surprised about my experiences with Loki, though I know that every dog is different and I suspect that if you got a BC and didn’t train it or do anything with it, you’d have trouble. What I find most interesting, I think, are the different “modes” of my BC.

1st gear:

Sleepy, sweet, cuddly Ro-ro. One of my favourite versions of the Loki. This is the tired pup at the end of the day who literally collapses on your chest in bed for cuddles. Who sits on the couch next to you and creeps forward in his sit until he sort of leans forward and topples over onto your lap. This is the Ro whose ears go back when you want to give him pats, and whose little tail wags gently, and who will sit and adore the pats for as long as you’re willing to give them. The nicest Ro-ro. Sometimes annoying because it’s 40 degrees and not the best weather for cuddling, or you were trying to do something important on the computer, or watch TV and now all you can see is curly border-collie.

2nd gear:

Up and awake Ro-ro. A nice BC who could shift down to 1st gear if you want. Usually wrestling with Lu or chewing something appropriate like a hoof or a stick. Goes about his business and doesn’t bother about what the cats are doing, sometimes barks at things especially if the other dogs are barking. Usually doesn’t take long to lay down somewhere comfortable (couch, floor, doormat, dog bed) to have a nap.

3rd gear:

Out and about Ro-ro. This is a nice BC, too. Usually seen when out for a walk at the beach. Alternates between trying to body-slam Lumen, asking you politely to play fetch (characterised by him trotting in front of you and looking wistfully at you every 5 steps or so, or trying to grab the lead that you have in your hands (take a hint, stupid humans)). Not overly obsessive, happy to sniff about and do his own thing. Usually happy to come in for a quick pat but not inclined to hang around.

4th gear: Out and about Ro-ro with a stick, ball, or other toy.

A little more like what I thought a BC would be. Verging on annoying at times, the toy is dropped about 4 meters from your feet as you walk, on your plotted path as mathematically calculated by too-smart border collie. Gaze goes from the toy, to you, and then stares at the toy, as if that will help you get the hint (stupid humans). Extra stares are required when the tennis ball mysteriously rolls down the hill of its own accord, but the BC probably shouldn’t go get it incase the human decides to take the hint. If the toy is not picked up or kicked, it will be retrieved by the BC, carried 4 meters ahead, and placed on the ground again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If the toy is picked up, BC should run blindly in expected direction of throw (if on beach, calculations state that there is a 98% chance that this will be the water, so best to run straight to the water so as to have maximum head start on toy throwing and on other dogs, if in bush, just run in direction it was thrown last time and hope for the best). Does not want pats or other attention. If you’re not picking up or throwing the toy, you’re of no use.

5th gear: Working Ro-ro.

This is the one I’ve had the most trouble getting my head around because there is such a difference between 1st and 5th gear in how my dog acts that I worried I was doing something wrong. Working Ro-ro is intense, focused, and not in the mood for any of this floury, lovey-dovey bullshit. It is all about the work. ALL OF IT. And if it’s reward time, great, that’s great, and fine, but don’t expect him to look like he’s enjoying it, it’s still part of work. No pats required, no soothing words. A bit of excitement of voice is good, but don’t expect much reciprocation. 100% of attention is on either the job at hand (going very very fast), or on the reward at hand (do not take eye off ball/grass/tug) or on calculating what exercise/activity/job we are going to do next (finished reward, more RC? Ok! Let me go get myself in position ready for the next rep). This BC does not need your love and will look at you puzzled if you try and offer it. I think this is ok. This is working BC, he does not love you any less at this point. If you hide the toy and call him over, you will have sweet ears-back and tail wags, but then he will be wondering where his toy has gone 5 seconds later.

What has surprised me most are the 1st and 2nd gears of Loki. I absolutely did not expect to get such a sweet and cuddly dog, nor a dog who could settle down SO easily. Every morning as I have a shower and get ready for work, he hops on the bed and falls asleep, whether we’ve gone for a walk or done tricks, or done nothing at all.

He’s a very excellent little border collie, and he got desexed yesterday. His snout is very long and pointy so the vets had to give him a very large cone of shame so he didn’t lick his wounds. Poor guy.

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2 thoughts on “the truth about living with a high drive working border collies, or: 50 shades of black & white

  1. Penny says:

    Great way of putting it 🙂 I’m with you on still being surprised about gear 1 and 2 as well!

    I just realized I’m kinda disappointed I never checked out his nuts, now that they are gone… i’ll never see these things that shocked the vet 😉

    • Em says:

      Yeah I can’t believe you didn’t! I offered you heaps of opportunities to, as well!
      It was the little knobby bit at the end of his nuts that I thought were lumps but were just unusually large bits, I guess kind of like veins… sort of… thing.. Ew

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