Herding and Hierarchy


What, exactly, should the older kids do when the dog starts to herd them and nip their ankles? What age do the kids need to be to get respect from the dog? If the dog ignores the kid's commands, is it okay for the parent to enforce them? Would it be prudent to "teach" the dog to herd appropriately, that is, to stop on command and not to nip?


The kids need to learn to stop dead in their tracks. After a minute or so, the dog's instinct clicks off and it goes about its own way.

In my opinion, every kid should command respect from the dog. It often depends on the kid as to what age they will command respect. If the child is not old enough to do so, then they shouldn't be left alone with the dog. Gaining respect from a pushy dog can be a dangerous thing though. Some soft dogs can probably be put in their place with a stern "No!" and nasty look from the child. Others may need scruff shakes and the like - something not to be entertained lightly for most smaller children.

The dominance hierarchy in every family should be :

1) Adults
2) Kid 1
3) Kid 2
4) Kid ....
5) Dog
6) Cat

Numbers 2-4 may be shuffled occassionally in your particular household. Numbers 5 and 6 may be debated by the cat. But the dog should always be below every human in the household. Babies and younger children should not be part of the hierarchy at all and should be kept from the scuffles that can ensue in establishing those hierarchies.

Is it okay for the parent to enforce them? - only if you do not expect to leave the kid and the dog alone together, without your supervision. Enforced artificial hierarchies are good only for those times that they can be enforced. Given a shot at establishing their hierarchy, out of sight of the enforcing "Alpha", is when the dog and child can get into trouble. And believe me, the dog will test the dominance hierarchy with the kid when given the chance.

As far as teaching the dog to stop on command and not to nip - Prudent, yes. Failsafe, no. Don't rely on a "That'll Do" command to prevent accidents from happening. Even the best trial dogs fail to listen to the command from time to time - slow in their response to turn off.

Some kids learn how to play and be herded by their Border Collies quite successfully. I know a lot of little ones that have a ball with their dogs doing this. Unfortunately, not every kid on the block may be quite as good at this or quite as reasonable in their responses to being herded.

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