Border Collie Sheepdogs Come in Assorted Colours!

We love coloured dogs and we've had a few over the years!

Yesterday's post about so-called mis-marked puppies sparked a lot of response, mostly on Facebook and Twitter.

One of the questions we were asked was whether we train Merle or Red and White dogs. Yes, we've trained quite a number over the years, but (and this may not go down too well in some quarters) we honestly feel that some (but not all) of them seem to be significantly harder to train than an average black and white or tri-colour collie.

Close up photo of a rough coated red and white ISDS registered working sheepdog, Buff
Buff was a very hard dog but once trained, he worked cattle and sheep.

For that reason, and remember, this is just our personal experience, we don't breed red and white or merle dogs. Also, these days we don't have as much time for training dogs as we did in the past, so we don't buy-in dogs any more. Because of this, we have not had a coloured or merle collie for several years.

The tricolour merle at the head of the page is Molly. Believe it or not, Molly was dumped on us after the owner dubbed her (at one year old) "the dog from hell". The man persuaded me to "have her for a few days" and we never saw or heard from him again! It was our gain. Molly was spayed before she came here and was very easy to train. I have no idea whether the spaying had any effect on her training but she had plenty of confidence and went to a farm as their number one sheepdog. We were very fond of Molly.

Buff, the big fella above, was very hard on his sheep, but we got the better of him eventually and he went to a farm not far from here to work cattle and sheep. We were very fond of Buff, but I didn't look forward to training him until he started to respect the sheep more.

Closeup photo of Audrey. A rough coated red and white ISDS registered border collie sheepdog
Audrey was difficult to train, but had great potential as a sheepdog

Audrey (left) was another difficult dog. In fact, she's the main subject of our sheepdog training tutorial video - Calm But Firm. Audrey was horrible to the sheep, but the moment you corrected her, she'd run back to the yard. How do you train a dog like that? Well, you'll need to watch the tutorial to see how I did it, but the title's a clue. Perhaps it should have been called Calm but Firm and VERY Patient. As with Buff, we were very fond of Audrey, but not when she was around sheep.

Our opinion hasn't simply been formed by the dogs mentioned on this page, our experience goes much wider than that. There are a good number of other coloured dogs we've trained, as well as quite a lot which came here over the years when we ran sheepdog training courses.

Lastly, I should mention that some black and white or tricolour collies can be pretty horrible with stock too. A great example is Scylla. If you watch the Bronwen and Scylla training videos, you'll see a comparison between Scylla (who is really aggressive with the sheep, and her litter sister Bronwen who was one of the easiest dog's I've ever trained.

As I said earlier, this is just my personal experience. "Yer pays your money - and yer takes yer choice!"

3 Replies to “Border Collie Sheepdogs Come in Assorted Colours!”

  1. Hi Andy. I was wondering if you’ve ever noticed that sheep react to different colored dogs in a different way than they would classically marked dogs. I was at a trial this weekend and after my runs was helping in the pens when some of the set out crew told me that my dog was hard to set for because the sheep would take off as soon as I’d sent him. He is a light colored dog, but has learned to outrun nice and wide so I’m confident it wasn’t running too narrow that was the problem. Just wondering what your experience has been as I’ve never been told that my dog was hard to set for before. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hmmm… That sounds like an excuse to me, Brianna! In my experience, if the sheep are going to react to a light-coloured dog, they’re likely to ignore it at first, and then panic when it gets close enough for them to realise it’s a dog!
      In my opinion (and remember, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the exact circumstances) it’s more likely to be your dog’s “presence” which the sheep reacted to. Is the dog generally dominant with sheep? I don’t mean is it aggressive. What I mean is, do the sheep normally show your dog respect, or do they often “stand up” to it, and refuse to move.
      It’s very frustrating at a trial when the sheep move off the peg, and of course the “set out crew” (or “letters out” as they’re often known over here) should keep them in place – but it’s not always possible – and the people at the top of the course are volunteers.
      If you find that the sheep move off as soon as you send the dog on its run at a lot of other trials, it may well be something to do with the dog, but I’d be very surprised if it’s the dog’s colour.
      Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to let us know how you get on at other trials?

  2. i have a blue merle she came from a farm who’s parents worked pigs. at four months she broke her hind leg which took twelve weeks to get sorted. As such she is proving a bit hard to train as i’m a novice myself using books and your videos for advice but she is showing promise i was told that the merle gene makes them harder. if we succeed it will be worth it. Thanks for some great videos

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