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Border Collies A Breed Apart: Secrets of the Working Mind

Border Collies A Breed Apart: Secrets of the Working Mind
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Border Collies A Breed Apart: Secrets of the Working Mind

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In the first of a new three part series, Collie Psychology author, Carol Price, helps us to achieve a greater understanding of the highly complex yet hugely intelligent Border Collie. She takes us back to the origins of the Collie, looking at how genetic make-up and the founding dogs of the breed have influenced its character, mannerisms and behaviour today. She analyses why these traits were sought after and how they present themselves in the modern day version of the breed, as well as the best way to manage them in order to create a happy and relaxed dog.

 

 She also discovers many similarities between how the mind of the Collie works with the autistic human, leading her to pose the question: does an autistic spectrum exist in the breed?

 

In Chapter One, Price looks at how the Collie evolved, something she believes is paramount to understanding why they behave as they do. She goes all the way back to the founding dogs of the breed, and takes us through the four basic types in the Border Collie ancestry, explaining how these have shaped our dogs today. These being;

   1.   Northumbrian Type

          2.      Herdman’s Tommy Type

          3.      The Nap Type

          4.      The Wiston Cap Type

 

Chapter Two, Working Instinct, explores the origins of the working instinct in the Collie, and the impact it has on their behaviour. Price discusses the following components of working behaviour:

      Eyeing

                Stalking

                The Chase

                Herding

She also looks at how to distinguish how much working instinct your dog has got, as well as adapting and controlling working instincts.

 

Chapter Three explains the Border Collie personality further. Price examines typically found personality traits in the Collie, such as, focused, obsessive, reactive, restless, controlling, manipulative and resistant to change, explaining why this traits were needed in the dog’s working heritage and, interestingly, how they also mirror common personality traits found in autistic humans, something she continues to discuss in more detail.

 

Chapter Four, Different and Stranger ways of Behaving considers why Collies can vary so much as individuals. Price considers how no dog is born a blank canvas due to genetic pre-wiring, discussing both its impact, and the origins of Collie variety. She goes on to explain that strange behaviours often displayed in Border Collies occur as a result of their brains being structured differently, in a more autistic kind of way.

 

Chapter Five, Living with a Super-sensory Animal, focuses on the Border Collie’s senses, and how this impacts their perception of the world. Price looks at sight, including visual and mental distinction, interpreting visual information, sensory detail and visual fixation impulse. She then moves on to hearing, including sound sensitivity, noise and fear, before continuing with touch, smell and scent and taste.

 

Chapter Six, ‘Sixth’ Senses attempts to find out why it seems that Collies can feel and know things that we cannot. Price discusses telepathy, sense of direction and premonition. She looks at why dogs are able to sense things that we cannot, including how our energy and emotion affects them. She also considers particular sensitivities to hot and cold perception, as well as the effects of pain on behaviour.

 

Chapter Seven, The Mental Thermometer, moves on to explore why Collies are so vulnerable to stress. Price cites the causes as sensory overload, under arousal and burnout ,and over arousal. She introduces us to the ‘mental thermometer’ in order to demonstrate how a dog is affected by these states.

 

In Chapter Eight, Suspicious Minds, Price concentrates on fear of the new and change intolerance in the Border Collie. She argues why Collies don’t cope well with change, as well as how they take comfort from repetition, also looking at this affects training and social behaviour.

 

Chapter Nine, Living with a Control freak, considers control obsessions and neuroses in the Border Collie. Price explains control patterns and how Collies can use psychological pressure in the form of whining, nudging, barking etc. in order to get you to do what they want. She also covers the more dangerous aspects of control, manifested as aggression. Price then explores space and space control, including individual space needs, space deprivation and mental damage as well coping mechanisms for dealing with loss of control.

 

Finally, in Chapter 10, The Unique Border Collie, Price concludes that nothing a Border Collie does happens by accident, the vast majority of their behaviour stems from their ancestry as a working breed. She also shares what material will be covered in the next two books of the series. 

 

Gill Shaw, editor of Dogs Monthly says, ‘ If you have a Border Collie you need to read this. If you don’t have a Border Collie you need to read it too, because it gives such an insight into what makes a particular dog tick: potentially producing Crufts obedience and agility champions galore on the one hand; deeply stressed, obsessive and unhappy dogs on the other.”

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