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Increasing drive in an 8mo Border Collie with seemingly none

Drive Border collie puppy Training Agility Obedience Herding Low-drive High-drive Energy Border collie

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#1 Ripleybc


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Posted 20 April 2017 - 11:26 PM

Hi there! I'm new to the forums so please excuse me if I say something that is incorrect.

I have an 8 month old male entire Border Collie.

I purchased him from proven champion working stock with lines behind them of the same. The dogs have lure coursing, herding, disk, dive, agility and obedience titles.

I sought after a BC as a performance dog and of course, a companion for myself and my other dog.

Despite his heratige my border collie has almost no drive at all, for toys, balls or prey. He is fairly driven for food but just seems lazy in general. He is a very fit boy, has been health checked and is in top health and is fed raw so it's not something health related. All his brothers and sisters, mother and father, and relatives have high prey and toy drive.

However there is a few strange things about him. He is a tiny border collie, he is only 11kgs (just) at 8 months. All his siblings and parents are large big boned borders. He has large floppy ears that do not perk at all, his siblings have erect ears with tipped tops and so does both lines he comes from. He has a very long "show" coat and look which is abnormal considering he is from medium coated working lines. He also used to have bad fear aggression towards other dogs, with a lot of training he is now friendly and shy. None of his lines have had early fear aggression. He was also bread from dogs that were clear of all hereditary diseases.

Everyday I have been working to increase his non-existence drive. I have used flirt poles, tug toys, rewards for fetching and games of chase to try to improve it. It has hasn't worked. When I play with him he just goes through the motions, he will lazily grab at the toy or ball and then tug until I free him. When fetching he will just walk slowly over and pick up the ball before dropping it at my feet and wait for a reward. We occasionally have successes but it's fairly infrequent.

So what I'm asking is, have you any idea how I could improve this? I love him to bits but I really want to be able to do performance sports with him. Should I maybe introduce him to sheep? I have heard a few success stories from that. Also, the reason why he is not desexed is to try to help him to grow more confident in hopes to achieve better drive, I have no desire to breed him.

Thank you so much! Sorry this is so long but I think it's better to explain everything.

#2 Smalahundur


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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:12 AM

. Should I maybe introduce him to sheep?

No. Whatever you do don't introduce him to sheep.
If you wanted to work stock you should have purchased a stockdog, from proven stockworking parents.
Whatever people have told you, sheep are not a panacea for any and all bordercollie behavioral problems. They aren't training tools, or worse, dog toys either.

"Milli manns og hests og hunds hangir leyniþráður"

#3 Heartful



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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:46 AM

In the health checks were his shoulders radiographed? Have you checked to be sure he is clear genetically?  IGS, TNS? 

Tell me and I forget, teach me an I remember, involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

#4 Sue R

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:15 AM



You may simply have a dog that does not have drive. Each animal has its own personality and it is often said of many domesticated species/breeds that there is more variability within a species/breed than there is between species/breeds. I see very noticeable differences in temperament between my dogs, all purebred Border Collies, but certainly from different breeders and lines. 


I am confused by your statement, "I purchased him from proven champion working stock with lines behind them of the same. The dogs have lure coursing, herding, disk, dive, agility and obedience titles." The word "titles" is normally associated with organizations like the AKC or other groups that are involved more with pet/performance dogs and not with dogs truly bred for work. And "proven champion working stock..." also puzzles me as in the working Border Collie world, a dog may be the National Champion (or Reserve, or Nursery, or Nursery Reserve) or the Champion (or Reserve) of a particular trial, but the word "champion" is not attached to a dog's name otherwise as it is in the AKC or Kennel Club world. 

So, while I am not being critical of you or your dog at all, these descriptions are not very meaningful. Have you read the "Read this first" that is at the top of the home page? That will explain what I am trying to say better than I can say it, I hope. 


That said, I wonder if he's just one of those dogs who takes a little more time to "turn on" to the activities that you are interested in pursuing versus a dog that might just not have the temperament to be suited to the things you'd like to do. We see this in sheepdogs all the time - while some pups are showing eye, style, and instinct by the time they are two months old, other youngsters don't "turn on" to livestock until they are much older, even a year or so. 


As Smalahundur said, taking a dog to sheep is not a cure for anything. If he did turn on to the sheep and being a sheepdog was not going to be his life, why subject him to that? Why subject the sheep to that? 


My thought is that you work with the dog you have, giving him time to mature a bit and maybe backing off a bit on trying to get him "turned on". Sometimes encouragement and "cheerleading" can have an opposite effect - it can put too much pressure on a dog and instead of helping him move forward, it can cause him to retreat from the activity. You did a great job working through his fear stages so far, using patience, I am sure, so I hope you can find that patience in this matter helps you both out. 


Very best wishes! 

Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#5 GentleLake


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Posted 21 April 2017 - 09:17 AM

Welcome to the Boards.


I agree entirely with the above posters.


It doesn't sound to me like your dog is what we here would consider a working bred dog. I'm guessing you're not American, but I believe what Sue said about working border collies not generally having the tag of "champion" attached to them is pretty universal, with perhaps a few exceptions of specific highly competitive trials like our US Nationals and the various National and International trials in Great Britain.


That said, most so-called performance bred dogs are bred with the goal of being high drive dogs for non-working sports. But in any breeding program for any kind of animals no matter how well bred they are there can be offspring who just don't make the grade. It's true in working border collies, in sporter collies and in Barbie collies, just as it is in any other breed. It sounds like you may have gotten one of those dogs.


He could be a dog who takes more time to turn on, but a delay in to play-type sports activities (as opposed to his working instincts kicking in) seems odd to me. This may just be the dog you have, though I would suggest getting your vet's opinion as to whether there could be some underlying cause, especially as he seems not to be physically consistent with what might have been expected from his breeding (though it sounds like you may have already done that). That, too, isn't terribly uncommon in the breed, though, since historically they weren't bred for a consistent conformation.


Have you discussed this with his breeder? If you purchased him with a specific purpose in mind, I'm just wondering if there is any contract you may have had between you.


Lastly, should it end up being that this is the dog you have and you don't plan to return or rehome him, it might make sense to look for things you can do together that are more to his liking. It seems that trying to mold him into something he's not could end up being quite frustrating for you and also for him. Rather than risk straining your relationship with him, might it not be better to look for something you can do together that you'll both enjoy? If he's not shy with people, therapy work can be very rewarding and doesn't take a lot of energy from the dog. Maybe nosework, or puzzles?


Wishing you both well.

#6 urge to herd

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:56 AM

Agreeing with all the above, and most particularly getting his health checked.


If he checks out healthy, I repeat what has been said - he may be feeling too much pressure from you. Border collies tend to be highly sensitive to pressure of any kind, including social pressure. If you are constantly offering things for him to do, taking him places, trying to teach him tricks, etc, he might well be feeling pressured.


Stop all of that. Do enough with him that both he and you are safe, so leashed when walked, etc. Feed him, walk him, and let him be.


If he starts to approach you, offer a pat or rub, just one. If he keeps that up, then slowly increase the amount of attention and stimulation you offer. If he turns away, respect that.


Give him a chance to be himself and see what you've got. Please let us know how you get on.


Ruth and Gibbs

#7 Ripleybc


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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:43 PM

Hi again everyone, thank you all so much for replying. Apologies if things weren't too clear, I'm not from America so some things are done different here. What I meant by the champion part is that his parents have competed in kennel club trials as well as outside trials (for herding). They have won herding champion titles, not confirmation titles.

And I have absolutely no plan to ever re home him as I really do love him. I only had interest in your responses if you have heard of BCS like this. I'm considering doing something like nose work and just rally o or obedience.

Yes I have read the "read first" area, I was not aware of this organisation before now and did not know to buy a puppy from a non KC breeder. Yes he has been health checked for shoulders, hips, eyes, and joints and is all fine as his parents & grandparents are. He has also been checked over by a vet and is absolutely fine. The vet said similar to you, some dogs are just different. I'm perfectly happy if this is what he is even though I sought after a higher drive BC. I'll try what you suggested thank you for all the help. Sorry if I was unclear before I wrote it in a hurry.

Originally if I had a higher drive dog I was going to consider herding if the dog had good potential for it. I had only heard success stories about dogs like mine who have suddenly turned on after an introduction to herding sheep, cattle or birds. Thanks again for the help

#8 Maja


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Posted 22 April 2017 - 01:00 AM

I don't know where you are form, but for friends in the US - the FCI herding trials in Europe are a completely different cup of tea than the KC arena trials in the USA.


I respectfully differ from the opinions here regarding the sheep.  I think that if you have access to a very good trainer - and I really mean a very good one, and if you are ready to pursue herding if the dog  finds this is it, then it may be a very good idea to try it.


Sheep herding is not playing or dog therapy or "having fun with the sheep", but if you go to a good trainer it may really pin-point the problem.  The situation strips off the external elements in the relationship with the dog and leaves the core visible to the trainer.  But you need a good trainer to do that.   And concerning the sheep's welfare, in general, a low drive dog is less of a problem on sheep than a high drive dog, in whom the instinct is burning white. 

#9 Riika


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Posted Today, 12:51 PM

AKC and KC herding dog trials are as distantly related to real working dogs as night and dark. 


Getting his health checked would be a good place to start. I don't know what your budget is, but you may need to do more than having a vet check him over. Blood work for thyroid problems, for example.


Anyway, you may just have a low drive dog. I had one who's Mom was a very, very high drive working Border Collie. Nothing was known about his dad, though the pups looked like they had Lab in them. He was a lot like you are describing your dog. He was very smart and willing to work for food, but he didn't like active tricks, and preferred lazy tricks like sitting pretty, etc. 

~Kailey~My blog. http://annesalpinesd...ts.blogspot.com<p> 


Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Drive, Border collie puppy, Training, Agility, Obedience, Herding, Low-drive, High-drive, Energy, Border collie

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