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Herding Dogs in Modern Life
Today’s Border Collies herd rented sheep and compete at herding trials

In the past couple months, I’ve been doing a lot of research about Border Collie breeders in preparation for adding a new dog to our family.  I’m always in awe of a good herding dog‘s instinct.  While technology has replaced animals in many jobs (think horse drawn carriages), Border Collies remain the best way to manage livestock. 

In my puppy search, I recently discovered the world of competitive herding trials. While many people who enter these trials live on working farms, many more do not.  In recent years, pets have become important family members and people are willing to do anything for their wellbeing. That includes providing mental stimulation and activities that they can enjoy with their dogs together. 

The intelligence and athleticism that has made the Border Collie a popular pet can lead to boredom and destructive behaviors if they’re not given a job. So it probably comes as no surprise that many people eventually get into herding with their Border Collies as a hobby.

Since most people don’t live on a farm, many herding enthusiasts end up renting sheep or buying a few of their own. At Fido’s Farm in Olympia, Wash., people can pay $15 per dog to practice herding with their flock of 200 sheep.  Herding revenue has been up 60% over the past five years. Many people come from urban cities, such as Seattle, to practice on the farm. Along with demand for sheep, herding competitions have gone up astronomically in the last 10 years and there are now hundreds of trials to choose from each year.

I’ve always thought that it would be fun to try a bit of herding with my Shetland Sheepdogs, though I’m sure the instinct will be much stronger in my new puppy! Have you tried herding with your dog?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by agiledogs/flickr.

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