An insight into pack behaviour

Find out how pack behaviour affects dogs, to get a better understanding of your dog.

Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).



Close-up photo of a group of Border Collie sheepdogs close together

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Learning about the dogs – from the dogs!
All dogs are descended from hunting dogs.
Possibly the earliest form of dog training.
The dog group behaviour we see at home.
The moody interval!
Pack behaviour, and the pack leader.
The big “fight”.
Digging and “dens”.
We learn so much from our dogs.
“Stay close”.

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How pack behaviour affects sheepdogs

This tutorial’s a little different from usual. We’re looking at dog behaviour, rather than training. “An Insight into Pack Behaviour” was originally a chapter on our “Still Off Duty” DVD. It’s 33 minutes of our thoughts about what we see when we’re out and about with our dogs.

We’re not suggesting that it’s the definitive guide to dog behaviour, but it illustrates much that we’ve seen and found useful when training a sheepdog. We’re hoping you’ll find it entertaining, as well as interesting, and we’re also hoping it will stimulate some debate about what we see. All of us are learning, and none of us knows all the answers (except, perhaps our dogs).

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19 responses to “An insight into pack behaviour”

  1. Wonderful video … really astonishing to see this behavior together, with each other ….
    and to stay cool when the nearly kill each other ( at least it looks like) …
    I have a young male BC, 9 1/2 month old, just starting a little bit working with sheeps ….so I am happy to see your videos ..Thank you

  2. John Wheaton avatar
    John Wheaton

    My 3 1/2 year old BC Bet and I have spent entirely too much time watching TV today, initially just trials on YouTube and then a handful of your tutorials on Trialing and ending up with “Sheepdogs Time Out“ and “Insights into Pack Behaviour”. Normally Bet just hyperventilates when watching but with the last two she was positively trembling with excitement.
    You may have figured out that Bet is a house pet as well as a very capable herding dog. She’s typically very “busy” and when she lines up in pack she’s often near the back and often moving about. I haven’t found however that her lineup status, the fact that she’s a pet or that we indulge her TV watching habit has negatively affected her ability to get into serious working mode when around sheep. I haven’t put this to the serious test of competition since all our trials are cancelled due to the COVID timeout and maybe I ‘m just rationalizing but I sure am grateful to have this brilliant, complicated little dog who is brimming with personality. I make sure she knows I’m alpha but am so glad to have a companion during this isolating time.
    Have you ever felt that you spoiled one of your dogs by being overly indulgent ?

  3. Janine Newby avatar
    Janine Newby

    Hi again, Andy! Sorry for all of the questions! We went to herding practice today and the instructor told me that I really need to correct my dog anytime she curls her lip towards another dog. She can be reactive towards other dogs and certain people. She curled her lip towards one of the instructors dogs (which, in the past, usually ended up with my dog lunging at the other dog and me pulling her away)…the instructor quickly corrected her with a touch to her side and my dog proceeded to react towards the instructor (I thought she was going to bite her)…once again, the instructor quickly and unemotionally corrected her…this time by pinning her to the ground and waited patiently until she softened. Once she softened, she released her and my dog was very much changed. The rest of the morning she got along well with the 6-8 other dogs (something that never usually happens) and she not only respected the instructor but tried to seek her out for affection. I was amazed. Our two borders are in the house quite a bit of the time and play well together but the one tends to hoard toys and will curl her lip at the other in attempt to intimidate her to give something up. I was told not to allow that to happen as well. Do you have any thoughts on this situation? I’m mixed because they seem to sort it out on their own without problems but that might be because the other border is more submissive naturally. If she were to stand up to the assertive one, it could get ugly.

  4. Janine Newby avatar
    Janine Newby

    Hi and thank you for these wonderful resource videos! I would love to be able to have our dogs loose without fear that they will go chase/work stock on their own. We have cattle and horses and I don’t want the dogs out working them at will for fear of all animal safety. We also have ground squirrels on the property which are a huge temptation for them to chase. I currently keep the two dogs in dog runs when we are not home and one very strong bitch must be on a tie out if not being directly watched as no amount of fencing will keep her in. I’ve had the two borders for about a year and they are both about a year and a half right now. I’ve just started working the strong bitch on sheep but we are not very far along yet. Is there any hope to be able to have them in the yard without wandering off to work stock when I’m not looking?? Also….can you explain how you teach them to stay close when you’re out walking? or is that in a video I haven’t seen yet? Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the feedback on the videos, Janine!
      Being able to have the dogs loose all the time is something that needs a lot of time put into it. You have to have the dogs around you for a large part of the day, and as long as they properly respect you, they’ll gradually become conditioned to not wandering off. It’s all about having a really strong bond with the dog. By “bond” I don’t mean the dog wags its tail when you stroke it, I mean that the dog REALLY respects you.
      If you have the full respect of your dogs, and they know you don’t want them to wander off (or chase stock) at will, then they’ll learn to stay around quite quickly – but you need to introduce it in stages. Leave the dogs for a few moments while you go out of their sight. If they run off immediately, you have a long steep hill to climb, but if they stay there for just a minute or so, you can build on this gradually, until eventually, they’ll just stay around the back door or the yard all day if required.
      We can leave some of our dogs out all day like this, but others (mostly youngsters) have to be kept in their pens, but then we have at least a dozen dogs here at the moment.

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