If your border collie is a total control freak and has even tried to herd you around the house but you don't have four legs and wool, don't feel "sheepish" about the whole issue. Most likely what looks like dominance and stubbornness are plain old cherished qualities of this breed.
Determine exactly what behaviors are causing you to portray your border collie as dominant and headstrong. Contrary to popular belief, what may appear as dominant behaviors are in reality behaviors that occur because they have a history of being inadvertently rewarded and the owners have failed to teach acceptable alternate behaviors, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior notes.
Remove the rewards that are fueling the unwanted behavior and train an alternate acceptable behavior. For instance, should your border collie jump on you repeatedly, he's most likely not doing so to assert dominance on you, but is behaving in such a way because you give him attention. In this case, try turning your back to him when he jumps and teach him that he only gets attention when his four paws are glued to the floor.
Exercise your dog with strenuous ball games or agility trials and provide him with mental stimulation such as chew toys and obedience work. This fanatical workaholic fellow has been selectively bred for countless hours of sprinting and relentless stop-and-go action. Fail to meet his needs, and you may end up with destructive, compulsive behaviors as he works on creating his own outlets for pent-up energy. A tired border collie is ultimately a good border collie.
Discourage stalking and chasing behaviors. Border collies are herding machines that used to work on farms gathering sheep for a good part of the day. If you have no flocks of sheep to herd, he may start stalking and chasing just about anything that moves. That means children, joggers, bicycles, cars, cats, birds you name it. While this is normal, instinctive behavior, you must redirect it to more appropriate activities such as chasing a ball or chewing on a chew toy.
Enroll in classes. Upon training your border collie, you may wonder if this dude is trying to outsmart you. Keep in mind that this is a very intelligent breed that tends to anticipate every move you make. If you think about it, border collies were bred to follow their shepherd's commands from a distance and were sensitive to the slightest sound or movement. A reputable professional dog trainer may help you overcome some of these issues and help you appropriately channel this breed's needs.
- American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior: Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals [PDF]
- Association of Pet Dog Trainers: Dominance Myths and Dog Training Realities
- Your Purebred Puppy: Border Collie Temperament What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
- Keep in mind that border collies were never meant to be simply household pets. Chasing, nipping, stalking and barking are hardwired behaviors in this breed.
- Teach your border collie from an early age not to herd children, cars and people. That independent, headstrong streak you notice in your border collie derives from this working breed's need to think for himself.
- Avoid harsh training methods as this can be quite a sensitive breed. Getting mad and frustrated may cause a border collie to freeze and "shut down."
- If your border collie is aggressive in any way, consult with a professional.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.