Book review: Collie Psychology by Carol Price

Review by: Ellen Sellers

Inside The Border Collie Mind
It has often been said that the Border Collie is the breed that has it all – brains and beauty. Initially bred to herd sheep, over time the Border Collie has developed into one of the most varied and versatile of all breeds, proving to be an expert in a huge number of fields including agility, obedience and working trials.

However, despite their many obvious talents, the strong instinct, drive and sensitivity of this breed has meant that the Border Collie is certainly not the most straightforward of dogs.

In this book, Carol Price, canine behaviour specialist and Border Collie expert, helps us to understand the intricate workings of this special breed’s brain. Covering a wide range of topics from the history of the breed, to understanding herding instincts, the reason behind obsessive and manic behaviour and providing the recipe for raising a problem free dog, this book is enlightening for even the most experienced Collie owner.

Chapter one begins by looking at the origins and history of the breed, studying how the earliest sheepdogs evolved into the modern day Border Collie. Price discusses factors such as why the Border Collie ended up predominately black and white, as well as the development of the International Sheep Dog Society.

Chapter two looks at the mind and instincts of the Border Collie. Price helps us to understand typical breed behaviours such as eyeing, sustained focus, stalking, chasing and the circular herd. She also examines varying levels of instinct and drive, as well as some classic personality and character traits found in many collies. These include obsessive and manic behaviour, sensitivity and reactivity, misdirected working instinct, ankle nipping, shadow chasing and anti-social behaviour.

Chapter three moves on to getting a Border Collie puppy, discussing what to look out for and what to avoid. Price looks at the influence of genetics, genetic priorities and faults, health factors, pedigree and non-pedigree Collies as well as introducing us to the different governing bodies. She also gives advice on finding the right breeder, discussing both farm and pedigree breeders, and what to look for when visiting potential puppies, in terms of the puppies themselves and the mother and father.

In chapter four Price discusses early rearing. She gives tips on understanding the mind of your puppy as well as how to manage fear and more manic behaviour. Price continues by looking at initial education, providing us with 10 critical lessons that all puppies should know. She also focuses on limits and boundaries, sleeping quarters, children and other dogs, down time, bonding and toilet training.
Chapter five looks at early training. Price explains how to establish the right relationship with our dog, as well as introducing us to steps to prevent problem behaviour. She shows how to establish basic house manners and gives advice on controlling the working instincts, providing us with techniques for focus training as well as more basic exercises such as recalls, retrieve, waits, etc. Price also includes a word about Collies and toys and the use of hand signals and body language in training.

Chapter six studies ongoing social training. Price shows us how, with the right training and handling, you can stretch your puppy’s social flexibility and tolerance. She covers visitors to the home, less familiar objects, meeting other dogs and introduces us to the ‘Go See’ command. Price also looks at the outside world and how to teach your puppy coping strategies.

Chapter seven moves on to analysing and adapting your training. In this chapter Price looks specifically at what to do when training goes wrong, and how we need to adapt our training to meet our dog’s individual personality. She takes us through common Collie related training problems such as active and passive resistance to commands, and shows us how to remedy these.

Chapter eight focuses on more advanced training. Prices first emphasises the importance of mastering the basics before moving on to more advanced exercises. She then takes us through some of these exercises which include anti-chase training, down on the move, distance control, training the ‘leave’ , scent  and searchwork and finding objects. Price explains how these exercises are relevant to Collies and also looks at the use of clickers, toys and treats.

Chapter nine looks at the adolescent Collie. Price examines common challenges and changes in teenage dogs and explains how to deal with these. She also comments on neutering, debating the pros and cons of this.

Chapter ten examines the rescue Collie. Price discusses acquiring a rescue dog, looking at specialist rescue organisations, how to know if you are the right person to handle one, what challenges you will commonly face and how to overcome these.

Chapter eleven moves on to the competitive Collie, and Price looks at both the positives and negatives of competing. She explains in detail what is involved in showing, obedience, agility, flyball, working trials and sheep work, and how each of these activities are suited to the Collie. Price also considers the influence of stress and excitement on the dog in some of the more high-adrenalin sports.

Chapter twelve considers Border Collie health and provides details and explanations on breed specific disorders such as eye conditions, trapped neutrophil syndrome, epilepsy, overactivity, Border Collie collapse and shadow chasing, as well as advice on how to manage these conditions. Price also considers diet and exercise as well as common health emergencies.

In chapter thirteen Price looks at the older Collie helping us to understand the ageing process. She discusses brain function, senile behaviour, weight and diet as well as other relevant factors such as deafness and blindness.

Finally, there is a detailed and elaborative advice section which includes an A-Z of Collie-related behaviour problems with straightforward, practical guidelines on how to deal with these.
Also included is advice on where to seek help, a detailed index and a list of useful addresses.
Most definitely a book for every Border Collie lover’s bookshelf. Clarissa Baldwin, OBE and chief executive of the Dog’s Trust, describes it as; “The most comprehensive insight into the life and mind of the beautiful Border Collie. Every Border Collie owner should be compelled to read this intelligent and minutely detailed encyclopaedia of this outstanding breed. A thoroughly good read and so well researched.”
Collie Psychology is published on November 15 by First Stone Publishing, price £29.95.
It is available post free in the UK from www.dogbooksonline.co.uk
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