OLD DOGS NEVER DIE YOUNG

by Dr. Leroy Boyd

(editor’s note: although this data was elicited from Border Collies, Aussies might very possibly come up with similar responses.)

We have no detailed records of the trials and tribulations experienced by those responsible for domesticating the dog. For centuries we have credited the human with making all the final decisions. For several thousand years humans have spoken and written often and at length, and even filmed their interpretation of what was required to successfully communicate with a dog. Recently a few researchers attempted to identify a more scientific way for stockdogs to communicate with their handlers.

The voice-activated computer which translates one language to another was the research instrument of choice. Our simulated research was made possible by developing the computer program, “Ask Dog”. The objective of this simulated research project was to translate Border Collie communication into English. Time and expense prohibited program modifications which would make translations available for dogs raised in Wales.

Because of the simulated experimental nature of this undertaking, questions directed to the dogs sought only to determine how dogs categorize humans on their ability as handlers. For legal and scientific reasons, names of individual handlers were never obtained from the dogs.

(Reader’s note: To experience the computer voice, grasp your nose firmly and breathe through your mouth while reading out loud those words which were thought to have been translated.)

Based on the best interpretation of the simulated data generated, the Border Collie has classed handlers and made comments as follows:

Shy – They are looking for a pet but it is fine if you do some work. They do not desire to have you impress their friend.

Hard-Headed – These are not biddable, have little natural instinct, and will never admit they made a mistake. These have not yet learned what they must do to be successful. Take time. Be patient.

Strong-eyed – This type tends to stand in one spot, locks up, and are near impossible to move unless you run stock over them. Larger animals get better results. For short periods of time they appear to be brain dead; only they will tell you they were thinking, or allowing you to work naturally.

Loose-eyed – This type is difficult to read and it is nearly impossible to determine the spot where they want the stock placed. Perhaps they are a bit short on confidence. They are hard to keep working on line. They tend to run off the road frequently when they are driving and gawking. When traveling, take the medicine which prevents motion sickness and ride low in the truck.

Start working early – Many fail to develop to Open Class potential. They have short interest spans, expect instant satisfaction and buy terrible dog food. Many attend clinics for wrong reasons. They fail to realize most clinics are for handlers.

Laid back – Requires more time and effort before they work seriously. These operate at low pressure but expect dogs to work seriously and naturally. They stop at interesting places and occasionally might slip you a mini-burger (plain). They make good pets.

Strong – These are in your way and work too close to stock which makes it nearly impossible to move the stock. To back them out, insist they carry a longer stick, pole or pipe. Work them for longer periods of time. Requires much positive work time and near overdoses of patience.

Natural – Never available in very large numbers. The real concern is whether, this occurs because of poor genetics or not enough stock work to test and develop their potential. Age does not seem to be a limiting factor. These accept the blame when things go wrong. They are the thinkers, are sensitive to the slightest changes, and immediately respond by making the necessary adjustments. Each has developed a system which yields the desired results in their working dogs. They do have good and bad days. They feed the finest dog food.

In general – Size, sex, color, hair length, and national origin does not make a difference in the dog handling ability of humans. When picking a young handler, insist on seeing the parents work. Determine their genetic potential for livestock savvy. When you are not sure of the working history, select for structural correctness, eye appeal and temperament.

(Readers, you may now release the grip on your nose and breath normally.) Because of time and financial restraints, this simulated research project was terminated. Remember the operative word in this report is simulated.

this article was first published in The Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine October/November 1995