The Border Collie breed was developed by shepherds in Britian who were attempting to find the perfect sheepdog. Starting with the best dogs then available, they began selecting breeding stock that had the qualities they wanted. The dog had to have a natural ability to work, but be biddable and easily trained. It also had to be fast enough to catch and turn a running sheep and have the stamina to cover a hundred miles a day on the hill farms of Britian in summer and winter. The shepherds didn't particularly care how this perfect dog looked.
Today's Border Collie is the product of this selective breeding program. These dogs are intelligent, obedient, eager to please, easily trained, and have a strong natural instinct to herd. There remains however no standard of appearance for the breed. Border Collies vary in color from black, or black and white, or black and tan, to red merle, blue merle and red. Dogs vary in size from less than thirty pounds to more than sixty with the average weight of around forty pounds.
A Border Collie's coat may be long and heavy or short and smooth or anything in between. The breeders of Border Collies today, as a hundred years ago, still examine each dog for its working ability and style, intelligence, temperment and physical stamina, knowing a good Border Collie by its work and not by its appearance.
Border Collies are used to herd all types of livestock and poultry. The Border Collie is instinctively a "header", its instinct tells the dog to gather and hold the livestock, "heading off" any animal that attempts to leave the group. Most will demonstrate this instinctive desire to work anywhere from 8 weeks to one year of age.
p>The dog trainer works with this natural tendency of the dog, encouraging it to gather stock into a group and keep them together while fetching them to the trainer. This is the point at which the dog's natural ability to "balance" on the sheep is revealed. The dog instinctively positions itself in such a way that the stock move in a straight line to the handler. This is also when the dog is taught the commands:
For stopping (down)
Moving toward the stock (walk up)
Slowing down (steady or take time)
Moving clockwise around the stock (go bye or come bye)
Move counterclockwise around the stock (away to me)
And finally stop working (that'll do).
When these lessons have been learned the dog is taught to drive the stock away from the handler instead of fetching them. The distance between the dog and the handler is continually increased until the dog can work out of sight of its handler who may be half a mile or more away. Most dogs are introduced to the whistle commands at some point in their training, which carries farther and is easier for the dog to understand at a distance.