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Since this is about different breeds and how they work, could someone tell me the difference in working styles between border collies, Shetland sheepdogs, and Australian shepherds? This came up in a conversation last night and no one knew, as none of us work stock with our dogs.


Would appreciate it if anyone has the time to tell me.



I can only speak from my personal observations in my corner of the world and from my arena/ranch trial days, but here goes.


Border collies are sweeping, athletic and stylish in their movements and affect their sheep by their presence, their physical movement and their "eye," the latter of which can be kind of a veiled threat or projection of their presence. Working border collies carry generations of instinct and natural ability, though of course it varies by breeding and individuals.


Shetland sheepdogs of today tend to be upright, bouncy, fast and often barky on livestock, and often don't have a strong sense of how to handle livestock. They've been bred for generations as pets and for show, which has diluted whatever original style they may have had. They are small, also, so they can't do the big outruns and long distance work of the larger dogs. I wonder if perhaps they may have been droving dogs who worked at pushing flocks or herds along country lanes, rather than gathering hills and fields?


Australian shepherds are a much younger breed, created the US around the late 1800s or early 1900s. There's a lot of mythology around their origins, but despite the name, Australian shepherds are not one of Australia's breeds: they are a purely American creation. Aussies can have some variation in type and working style, although they all seem to work a lot closer to their livestock than border collies. The show types are full-coated and bigger boned, and in my observation have an upright, bouncy, flouncy style of work with occasional barking and hit-or-miss natural talent. They can be enthusiastic, but may lack focus and long-term attention to work. These would probably not be suitable for everyday farm work.


Aussies from more truly working lines can be somewhat lighter and leaner, with less coat. They also have a more upright working style and work close, but I've seen a very few that almost work like border collies, showing eye, clean flanks, a decent outrun and hints of a crouching style. These dogs rarely bark and can be quite keen, although they may require a firm hand to handle them, as they can be quite independent. The thing with Aussies, though, is that if one wants an actual working dog, they need to research and learn about what families or bloodlines they come from, as the show types are diluted in natural ability and even the working lines can be iffy.


That's my take, anyhow! Others' mileage may vary. :)



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Very interesting video. Thank you for posting.


I can not speak to the work of the Sheltie, but I found all the old buildings very interesting. Do you know what their original intent was?

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