Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #24

January 24, 2014: Dog Trainingo—Ryder’s First Year: Inside the Border Collie Mind

I’ve decided that the above is going to be the title of my next book. I will write about Ryder’s first year and what I think she’s thinking, and why I think she’s behaving the way she’s behaving.

I’ve now figured out that I’m dealing here with a dog that’s different than most. I’m rather mystified by the way she perceives things. I have in the five months that I’ve been in her company finally determined that while I previously considered myself to be an expert on the subject of border collie behavior, that I know next to nothing. I say next to nothing because I know I know nothing, and this means that I know something.

What brings all this to mind is obedience training past and present. Previously, Ryder would do what was asked, in a manner Pete would say was lacking spark. As we both noted, all the other dogs have been energetic and leaping about. However, Ryder has spent the majority of her time lying down and watching her cohorts. She’s always been the quietest of the lot.

Last night was no exception. Ryder did the sit, heel, stay exercise, ho hum. Then we have to have our dogs step on a taped up phone book, rewarding them when they put a foot or two on the cover. Ryder, after being having given a few treats for having sniffed it, just stood in place. It was like someone hung a sign around her neck that ead “On vacation,” with no following explanation.

I called Claudia over as she was moving on to the next assignment – and said perhaps a trifle too loudly “The dog is acting like we’re beating her or something!” Claudia, who has seen many of our kind come and go, went and got some other treats (I’ve been using popcorn, Yummy Chummy’s, cheese, biscuit bits, and kibbles. Ryder appeared to like what Claudia had in hand, hot dog bits, and she responded well to being rewarded more frequently. So I learned something here. But as for Ryder, I’m not sure that if she could talk, that she’d say the same.

Here’s what I’m now thinking. In the house, much of the time now Ryder lies on her WOOF mat when we are in the kitchen and lies on the bed when Pete’s crashed (a lot lately, since he’s still sick). She often plays, but tends to be most lively outdoors. Ryder is also most active when we’re outdoors – it gives me great joy to watch her race about.

Perhaps she’s the kind of dog who is most active when in the presence of movement – most notably, external stimulus such as people, sheep, horses, dogs, cars -- things that get up and go. It’s like Ryder, her plume of a tail up in the air, says “I’m on to it!”

Now if this is so, there must be some genetically-related reason for this, such as the fact that for centuries, this is what border collies have been doing. If so, indoor obedience might not be her forte. Maybe she’ll take to agility or flyball.

We’ll see what transpires. I’d say right now that the jury is out on exactly what she’ll excel at. I think she’s going to take to search and rescue, because it involves sniffing and being outside. Tomorrow we’re doing helicopter training. I don’t think that she’s going to be gung ho about this.

A Postscript. Tonight I looked at the photos Pete and I took last night in obedience class. In all the pictures she looks curious, happy, inquisitive, just not energetic. So maybe, just maybe, something is wrong with how I am perceiving how she’s perceiving things.

Next: 25. 1/25/14: Ryder and Helicopter Training