The Collie is a highly trainable and versatile dog breed, and the many Lassies are a testament to that. Monika L. Hole of Lawrenceburg, Ky., has successfully performed in obedience, agility, tracking, herding, many areas of draft work, scenting (search and rescue) and lurecoursing with her Collies. Two of her Collies even hunt, and all of them are highly accomplished.
“Koi has learned to let us know when raccoons are in the henhouse. Then he trails them and trees them for us,” Hole says. “Our foster dog, Rusty, points turkeys, and I will be working on quail hunting with him at some time in the future. Cooper was taught to recognize gas smells while training for SAR work. When I developed a gas leak at the connection to my dryer, he was able to show me the problem and probably saved us from a disaster,” Hole says.
Michelle Tennis of Bit O’ Heaven Collies in Brandon, Wis., owner of 10 rough and smooth Collies, obedience trains all her dogs. One day, they were all running in the yard when two of her female Collies got into a tiff. “I grabbed them both and told each to sit, then said ‘stay’ to one and ‘stay’ to the other,” Tennis says.
“I stood in front of them with my arms crossed,” Tennis adds. “It suddenly seemed very quiet. I looked around the yard, and all of my obedience-trained dogs were in a sit-stay and the pups were just standing still. I wish someone had been there to take a video. I then said ‘OK,’ which is their key word to go back to whatever they were doing, and all at once they just started playing again.”
Though training a Collie is easy if you know what you’re doing, they are not like some dogs who will follow cues without thinking. Collies are too brainy and creative to follow the leader, especially if they think the leader is condescending. “Collies will often work for no more than a, ‘That’s my good girl!’ or a hug,” Schmidt says. “They enjoy consistency but not constant repetitions. They can become bored easily if not challenged. Consistency with training doesn’t mean that you have to do the same routine in the same order each time. Mix it up!”
Darlene Kerr of Kerhaven Collies in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, says Collies are logical and smart enough to understand when they’ve done their assigned tasks well. “Constant repetition will lead to ‘improvising’ on behalf of the Collie,” Kerr says.
“Collies are not servile by nature. These dogs do not work for you but with you in partnership,” Kerr adds. “The hardest part about training a Collie is not the initial training but maintaining interest once the dog has learned his lessons. If you want a dog who will fetch an object 20 times in a row with the same enthusiasm he displayed the first time you threw it, get a retriever!”
Because Collies pick up tasks easily, housetraining is generally a breeze. “Wyatt came home when he was 16 weeks old and never had an accident in the house. It was as if he just knew,” says Melissa Susko of Shepherdstown, W.V. “He picks up new cues immediately and does best with short, frequent training sessions. He likes training to be fun and positive and rewarding. I hardly ever use treats when training him because he likes to do it just for the verbal and physical praise,” Susko says.
Quite the Character
There’s no denying that, above all, Collies have personality. They wouldn’t be one of America’s most beloved dog breeds if they didn’t. Big personality can lead to some pretty funny moments. “I once bought some Garfield slippers, and Spiffin’ decided they were his,” Dunlap says. “If I put them on, he would follow me around trying to pull them off my feet. When I took them off, he would carry them around in his mouth. I finally gave them to him. I could tell him to go find ‘Garfie’ and he would bring me one of the slippers.”
Caren Salisbury, an obedience instructor from Warner Robins, Ga., also has a Collie with a penchant for human objects. “Ticket has a habit of moving things,” Salisbury says. “He had been with us about two weeks when I bought a new vacuum. After spending 20 minutes putting it together, I plugged it in and went back to try it out. I pushed the button and it wouldn’t start. I grumbled a bit and tried to figure out what the problem was, until it occurred to me that Ticket may have had something to do with it. Sure enough, he had unplugged the cord and dropped it in the kitchen,” Salisbury says.
Collies aren’t generally hunters, but heaven help the animal that gets on the bad side of a Collie. Debbie Jones of Fort Worth, Texas, says that her Collie, Tuffy, got in a tussle with a raccoon one night when he was sleeping beneath the house. “Tuffy was yelping, we were yelling, and the raccoon ran away. Tuffy wasn’t badly hurt, but he never forgot that raccoon,” Jones says. “He was gentle with all other animals, but he was death on raccoons. Local hunters would stop by our house to ask if Tuffy could go with them and their pack of Redbone Coonhounds. He had quite a reputation as a ’coon hunter,” she says.
People often wonder if dogs understand what they’re really doing at a dog show and why they’re there in front of the crowd. Well, Carol P. Minden of Jenks, Okla., knows that her Collies are well aware of why they’re on display. “Pepper gets jealous because he thinks showing should be about him,” Minden says.
“At one show, I took another dog and spent time with her on the grooming table, making a general fuss. The next morning, Pepper had an obedience trial. I guess he was still mad at me for ignoring him the day before, because when it came time for the heel off-lead exercise, he stayed put when I gave the cue. He was going to let me do the entire pattern by myself while he sat at the beginning with a big smirk on his face. That day, I fussed over him while I was grooming him, and later, at the final obedience trial, he did just great,” Minden says.
Excerpt from the Popular Dogs Series magabook Collies with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Collies here.