Kelpie v Collie (1) Sheepdog Training Comparison

Herding sheepdog trainees, Mossie and Kelpie Red

Page 1 of 14

Which will prove easier to train, and which will make the better sheepdog in the end, Australian Kelpie Red or Border Collie Mossie?

Working Kelpie sheepdogs are now in common use throughout the UK and there’s a healthy debate over which makes the best sheepdog. To shed some light on the matter for ourselves, we decided to train a Kelpie along with a Border Collie

Before we could start our informal (and somewhat haphazard) training comparison between a Kelpie and a Border Collie, we wanted to find a Kelpie puppy with a similar high work drive to our home bred pup Mossie.

Working Kelpie – Red

Closeup of a young Kelpie's face

We chose Red because he’s from excellent working parents. Red was born on a farm in Brecon (South Wales, UK) in mid April 2010. Both his parents work daily on the farm. One of ten puppies in the litter, Red was the last pup to leave the farm after being kept back as a possible replacement sheepdog.

Border Collie – Mossie

Backlit shot of Mossie sitting with trees behind her

Mossie was born on the 29th January 2010 here at Kings Green Farm. Her parents are our own working sheepdogs, Jill and Eli – two of our favourite dogs with wonderful temperaments and a tremendous work drive. Eli in particular is extremely kind to other dogs and puppies.

Red’s character

Red has an extremely high drive. He travelled home perfectly during the 100 minute journey, sleeping most of the time. Obviously, when he arrived, he was a little cautious but still playful and with good appetite.

When introduced to the other (17) dogs, he was keen to play but a little worried when another dog rushed towards him. He quickly learned to climb onto the picnic table and use it as a refuge.

When the dogs were put away for the night, Red was not happy. He barked constantly, knocked his feed and water bowls over and attempted to climb over the retaining mesh in his pen.

Eventually the din stopped, so we went to check that he was OK before leaving him for the night. As soon as his pen door opened a tiny bit, Red tried repeatedly to barge out and became noisy again. He was obviously perfectly alright (if a little upset) so we left him overnight. There was some barking for a while but Red soon settled down and we were surprised to be able to enjoy a peaceful first night.

Red is nice dog, we like him. He’s very determined to get his way, especially when it comes to sheep but he’s showing signs of being a quick learner.

Mossie’s character.

Mossie’s a survivor of a dreadful accident. For some reason, her mother (Jill) loves to carry heavy objects around so with safety in mind, when her last litter was born we put a very heavy concrete water bowl in her pen. Lactating bitches need plenty of clean water but unfortunately, the bowl wasn’t heavy enough. The day after the puppies were born, Jill somehow carried the bowl into the bedding area and dropped it on her puppies.

Only two of the eight pups survived. One was promised to a conservationist in the south of England. The other is Mossie.

Mossie’s parents Jill and Eli, are all there when it comes to being tough. Eli’s only a youngster himself but he’s been hard to train because of his determination. Even from a young puppy, Eli would get in amongst the sheep at the slightest opportunity. Now, he’s developing into a superb sheepdog.

From the day she started to crawl around, Mossie convinced us she was not just your ordinary pup. Very tough in all respects but likeable and eager to please. She’s always determined to be where the action is.

Mossie’s a lovely pup. We’re very fond of her. Despite being strong willed and quite often noisy (like her dad) she’s a quick learner and should make an excellent, powerful sheepdog.

Wonder Dog Kay!

Kay was just amazing during our sheepdog training course yesterday

Border Collie Sheepdog Kay
Kay has amazed me recently. She was wonderful on our sheepdog training course.

I’ve trained quite a number of sheepdogs over the years, and sometimes, I think I’ve seen just about everything but Kay was just amazing during our sheepdog training course yesterday.

Not only did she work all day with just an hour for lunch but for much of the time, she was one step ahead of me.

Recently Kay has become skilled at retrieving runaway sheep when the trainee dogs lose control. She’s learned to keep out of the way (often relaxing under the shade of an apple tree) while the trainee handler and dog are at work. In fact, she’s perfected this to the extent that if I take over from the trainee’s handler to demonstrate some point or other, Kay seems to know that my commands are not directed at her. (How can she possibly tell)?

The little dog is so relaxed, she’ll just lay down under one of the trees, apparently taking very little notice of the proceedings. That is, until the sheep part company with the trainee dog and head for cover.

On several occasions yesterday, when the woolies got far enough away and I was thinking it was time to look around for my little helper to go and fetch them, I was stunned to see that Kay was already ‘on the case’. She’d taken it upon herself to speed off and bring the errant sheep back to the rest of the packet, then all I needed to do was tell her ‘that’ll do’ and she’d simply trot back to her shady tree and wait patiently for the next breakout.

On one occasion, I was looking around for Kay when one of the spectators called out ‘she’s already gone again’. Don’t ever doubt the intelligence of a border collie!

Phew! It’s So Hot!

Was May supposed to be this hot?

jackdaws drinking at a water tank
Hot weather brings the jackdaws to the water trough for a wash and brush-up as well as a drink

We just ‘enjoyed’ a few days of exceptionally hot weather for the time of year. May is normally one of my favourite months but the past week has been seriously hot and I have to admit, I’m not good in hot weather. The dogs and sheep don’t relish it either, so training has been limited to the cooler times of the day over the hot spell.

It makes you wonder how dogs and sheep cope in hot climates. I can only assume they get used to it.

Today seems to be much cooler (more like the normal May weather) and it’s very welcome too!

Sheep Shearing By Numbers.

Last week I had my first attempt at shearing sheep. I’ve watched sheep being sheared many times before but never actually had a go.

Recently sheared sheep with unsheared sheep in the background
One of the first sheep I ever sheared – she seems to have survived OK!

I invested in some good quality Hauptner electric shears last year, with the intention of doing our own shearing in 2010. As you can imagine, sheep which are kept primarily to be chased by dogs need to be looked after well and they will certainly be more comfortable in warmer weather if they don’t have those massive woollen coats so I wanted to be able to shear the sheep when I wanted, rather than when a contractor was available.

Dogs that are untrained can be quite aggressive with sheep, and in this case, it’s advisable to have a reasonable covering of wool to protect them from bites, so I decided to shear a few sheep at a time to enable me to bring out the woolliest coated sheep to use with the occasional wayward dog, but using the shortest coated sheep in hot weather!

It’s not shearing time in the UK, so there was no chance of watching an expert but I wanted to see some actual shearing to remind me of the proceedure. I knew I should start with the underside of the sheep but wanted to know where to go from there and in what sort of order to shear the various parts of the sheep.

I did some research on the internet and was surprised to see there are some useful shearing videos on YouTube. I also downloaded the New Zealand Wool Board Shearing Pattern (would you believe). Having studied this carefully, I was ready to begin.

I thought I’d shear just one sheep to see how it went and then take it from there. We got the sheep in using Kay (below) and I selected the first ‘victim’.

Kay walking up on sheep
Kay’s the ‘star’ of our DVD – First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training

My first concern was to avoid damage to the sheep’s skin and I’m glad to say that any cuts were very minor indeed.

The secret is to keep the skin smooth – don’t allow it to wrinkle. The first sheep seemed to take forever to shear and I’m sure the sheep would agree too. She struggled, and I struggled, but eventually, the sheep got up and the fleece was there on the floor. I was delighted.

Spurred on by my success, I sheared another two sheep that evening but I was exhausted by the time I’d finished them. The following day I sheared another six before I was too tired to carry on. Pathetic I know. Professional sheep shearers can clip up to three hundred sheep in a day and I was out of it after six – but I’d bet they don’t shear their first sheep at the age of sixty one!

Do I detect a hint of spring?

Yesterday was such a lovely day!

Closeup of a border collie puppy in the sunshine
One of our puppies enjoying the sunshine

There are snowdrops in the garden and some of the buds on the shrubs are just beginning to grow. It’s still very early, of course (there was heavy snow in the south east yesterday) and things can still get very cold indeed, but every day the days get longer and before we know it, it will be spring again.

I can’t wait. Spring and autumn are my two favourite seasons. I don’t much care for the cold in winter, and I’m hopeless when it’s really hot.

Just before christmas, Gillian bought a Niger Seed feeder. I’d never heard of niger seed but according to the sales blurb, it would attract goldfinches. That can only be a good thing, so when the feeder (and bag of seed) arrived, I quickly found a site for it and put it up.

For a few weeks, it attracted mostly blue and great tits but sure enough, one morning, I noticed a goldfinch busily prising the seeds out of the tiny holes.

Now we have a group of around six goldfinches on the feeder every day. It’s a pure delight.

We did have a slight problem with a squirrel which managed to get the feeder onto the floor but I relocated it much nearer to the house and so far, the squirrel has not done any more harm. If it does, I will see what I can do to deter it. I want to encourage goldfinches if I can.

My father used to call the goldfinch a “seven coloured linnet”. I’ve never actually counted the colours on them, but there are quite a few.