How I Chose a Border Collie as a Working Dog Breed, Part 4: Accounting for Training

Reader Contribution by Mary Powell and Barnyard Weed Warriors
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ReadPart 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5in this series.

Having a working dog requires constant training and daily working sessions, even if it is in the form of a walk. The key to this is time.

All dogs, regardless of breed or lack of breed, need time with their owner. Dogs are wired to please their human, so any time you spend with the dog is a reward to them and if you add some type of work or lesson for them, you are icing on the cake, to your dog.

As my border collie, Allie, and my relationship grew into a wonderful working partnership, people started taking notice of my freckled-faced dog.

“How did you get her trained so well?” they asked. When I replied that she came by her abilities naturally, they were amazed and wanted a puppy out of her. I refused these requests for a while — I will update you with the decision making in a future post.

Allie continued to amaze me with how she was able to communicate with me. We moved a herd of wild cows by ourselves, and she managed to keep up to get the cows into the next pasture. On our way back to the trailer, I looked down from my horse to see a very tired dog.

“Do you want to ride with me?” I asked. Allie lay down on her side and I took it as, Yes! Please! Before we had ridden a quarter of a mile, she was asleep in the saddle, with me holding her, to keep from slipping off.

 We moved to Oregon for a while, and I found some people who used Border Collies, to move sheep and cattle. When I watched what their dogs could do with real training, I realized just how little Allie and I knew about the real world of Border Collies.

I started to read up about training Border Collies and we tried to work on little commands, and I failed Allie. She was better with me giving her hand signals. All I had to do was point and she did what she needed to do — the verbal commands only confused her.  Once again, she taught me what was best for her.

When we returned to Kansas, Allie was getting more attention from other people and my refusal to breed her was slowly waning as I realized that I would one day need another dog, to take up where Allie would eventually begin to slow down.

For the time being, we continued to work and play together. It all takes time.

Mary Powell is a goat rental-business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at

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