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    This question was originally from www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php

    Do We Get A Dog Or Not?

    Question:
    We live on about 20 acres in south central Wisconsin, in the country, with fields, gardens, plenty of space. My husband has always wanted a Border Collie. We have 3 kids ages 6, 4 and 18 months. Way back when, I agreed that having a dog would be a great plan, but all of the kids had to be old enough to help in the dog's care. This requirement was two-fold in the way that yes, kids need to learn responsibility etc., but also, that they would be old enough where they didn't also need constant attention. We are not there yet, but my husband feels they would all enjoy a dog NOW. They are good around others' dogs and I agree with him in that aspect.

    My dilemma is the timing. I feel neither emotionally nor physically ready to take on a puppy. My 18 month old just began to sleep though the night! My husband is a professional (and volunteer) firefighter/paramedic and he works 24 hour shifts about 45 minutes from home. At least 11 days of the month he is there - at work. I am an RN and work 2 days a week. He feels I should just sacrifice and get over myself to get a puppy. I grew up with dogs and could envision one here with us, but in 2-3 years. If a Border Collie, maybe even more time would be needed.

    Now, here is my other situation. I have began researching the breed on the internet. I have been to lots of different sites, from general information to Border Collie Rescue sites to veterinary sites and the overall agreement is that this is not the best breed to have around small children. He strongly feels that it has everything to do with training. From what I've been reading, the instinct to herd is not easily erased and comes in varying degrees. Every rescue site seems to have a special note on biting when kids don't know how to respond when the dog is trying to herd them. My son who is 6 would get it and I have a really strong 4 year old daughter who could stop if a dog was barking at her, but when my 18 month old tries to run to the swingset and doesn't understand that the dog/puppy will not relent until she goes back to the "herd," we might have problem. My niece and nephew are our neighbors and both afraid of dogs - scream and run the opposite way.

    My husband plays basketball with someone who knows "a great breeder" who is hard to get puppies from and will have some in a few weeks. I have made myself very clear and he feels I am being unreasonable/selfish. My response was that "unreasonable" would be to say I never want a dog. I have printed up several articles for him to read on children and Border Collies and he feels I got them from sensationalized web sites. Every once in a while my husband is offered overtime, and that puts him into a 48 or 72 hour shift. All he feels he is asking of me is to feed and let the dog out while he is gone. Our neighbor has sheep and my husband thinks we can borrow some of them to use with the dog. He watches less TV in a month than most people do in a day and I believe if a dog could be trained, he could do it.

    That being said, I don't want/can't deal with a puppy right now. What little time we do have together as a family, I do not want to give up to him training a dog for at least an hour a day. When all of the kids are old enough and can help in the care and training of a puppy I am open to the idea. I would appreciate any time you spend on this.

    Could you give me your advice? He has talked to some Border Collie owners who had said "No problem with kids" or are not athletic so couldn't be spending all that much time exercising their dog. Even a firefighter colleague who owns her own pet care business emailed me trying to convince me a puppy's breath is the best thing in the world and having a pet would teach responsibility - she has no kids.

    Help and thank you in advance.

    JK

    Answer:
    JK,

    I just want to tell you that I can't give you a yes, a dog is right for you now answer or a you should wait for a dog answer. It really does depend on you, your husband, the kids, the dog, the timing in your life and many other things.

    I can give you some advice and share my story as a mom myself and dog owner with you. I do have 2 kids, 7 Border Collies and 1 mixed breed. The dogs all live in the house and 4 of them are crated when we are not home. But when we are home, they are all out most of the time. I live on a 400 acre farm with 150 ewes and 8 cow/calf pairs. We also graze 70 steers in the summer time. I work about 30 hours a week off the farm. Most of my Border Collies work for a living, but they are all family pets.

    First of all, getting a pet should be a joint decision if you're married. Especially if you've already expressed some reluctance to get one at this time. Otherwise you end up resenting the dog for the time that you have to spend with it. I think that you and your husband will know this already.

    Next I don't know if you were contacting a rescue because you were thinking of getting a rescue or you were looking for information. But I think that getting an older dog (more than a year old, not a geriatric one) would be better. You would not have to go thru most of the normal puppy housebreaking, crate training, chewing, whining in the middle of the night, finding out if they get along with kids...sort of stuff. I know that most rescues say they don't want to adopt out to families with small children, but it may be a decision that can be made on a case by case basis. It doesn't hurt to ask. You can also check out shelters, petfinder.com, or ask at your local vet's office. Unfortunately, there are plenty of dogs around.

    I got my first dog, Cricket (a Scottie) several years before I had kids. When I was pregnant, I heard the same stuff about Scotties being not the right dog for small kids. But I was determined to make it work. It did, but not without some training on the dog's part and a lot of training on the kids' part. I got my first Border Collie, Hope as a 4 month old puppy when my kids were 5 and 6. I heard all the same stuff about Border Collies and kids too. But since we were doing ok with the Scottie, I thought we would be ok.

    Yes, when the kids would run around she would run around and nip at them. All puppies may do this because it is how puppies play. (Herding behaviors are shown on livestock, not on kids, other dogs or cats.) I would tell the kids that they couldn't run around like that when Hope was out. When Hope got to be a bit older, we worked on correcting her when she would nip at the kids, I thought that running with them was fine though.

    Both of my kids were nipped by Cricket when he got older and they were too rough with him, but it didn't break the skin on either of them and they learned to leave him alone when he was sleeping. With Hope, my son used to lay on the floor and look into her eyes which is not a good thing to do with any dog. He would have to sit in a timeout if I caught him doing it. I also always told him that if Hope bit him for that, I would spank him because it would be his fault. Hope has always had very good inhibition and has never bit him. (She would growl and then get up and walk away. By the way, my kids are now 15 and 17 and Hope is going to be 12 and she has never bit anyone.)

    A dog crate is a must for a household with kids. It doesn't matter if the dog is a puppy or a full grown adult. Not only is a place that a dog can feel safe, but it's a good place for them to eat, and have quiet time of their own. Most of my dogs will go into a crate if the door is left open and sleep in there.

    A dog of any kind needs to have exercise and not just being let out into a yard for an hours' worth of self entertainment. That can lead to all kinds of trouble. On their own bad habits like barking, running fence lines to "chase" cars or people on bikes, roller blades, skateboards, digging, jumping fences...you name it. These are much easier to prevent rather than have to break the dog of them. Dogs also need some kind of mental stimulation, playing catch, frisbee, learning tricks, obedience, flyball, agility...there are all kinds of things. But they should be done with a partner whether it's you, your husband or the kids.

    If you are looking to have a pet that would teach responsibility to your kids I would start out with something like some goldfish. For the age that your kids are, they are much easier and still enjoyable to watch. When they get a little older a hamster or guinea pig is good. But for right now, your kids are too young to be responsible for a dog on their own. As parents, the majority of the work would be up to you and your husband. It would be fun for the kids for a week or two and then it's a chore. So make sure that you both want to have a dog.

    If you're thinking of training a Border Collie to work sheep, there's a lot more time & money to be invested in it. As someone who has a large flock of sheep, I host clinics, fun days and sheep dog trials for the Wisconsin Working Stock Dog Assoc. (wwsda.org). But I don't encourage people to just bring their young, untrained dog over to just have some fun. I'm pasting in a portion of an article that is going to run in current newsletter. It's answered by the association's president, Pearse Ward. He sums it up pretty well, those of us who's livelihood is farming don't look at our sheep and cattle as "dog toys".

    "Of greater concern is whether or not introducing your dog to stock work is fair to the stock if one doesn't intend to stick with it and train one's dog to be a competent stock dog. Young untrained dogs are hard on stock. They tend to chase rather than work the stock and can be rough in doing so. We accept this as part of a necessary learning curve on the road to their becoming good stock dogs with appropriate skill and respect for the livestock they are working. However, this takes time, money, and dedication.

    Border Collies do not need to work livestock to be happy, healthydogs. They can be happy, well-behaved, companions without participating in stock work or any other dog sport. Stockwork is not "therapy" for ill-behaved dogs. It's serious business.

    My advice would be that there is no harm in introducing a dog to stock work as it will not have any negative effect on the dog, but that there is no point in doing it unless you intend to stick with it and train the dog to a competent level. Otherwise, it may not do the dog any harm but it may be placing unnecessary stress on someone's sheep or cattle. Stockwork should not be viewed as a "fun" activity for dogs. It should be viewed, as the name implies, as work and as such the dog should be expected to work calmly and efficiently - and getting a dog to that point is not always easy.

    I would recommend taking advantage of some of the clinics the WWSDA offers or seeking the advice and assistance of an experienced handler/trainer if you decide this is something you are interested in pursing with your dog. It can develop into a most rewarding and exciting partnership between you and your dog but the needs of, and respect for, the stock should be foremost in the minds of all of us as we train our dogs."

    Besides checking out wwsda.org for training opportunities, there's a good forum, the Border Collie Boards that is a good place to ask questions. You don't have to join though if you just want to read thru the information that's already there. There are over 9000 members, people who go to sheep and cattle trials with their dogs, people who do agility or flyball or search and rescue or who just have them as pets. Everyone is welcome and it is a good source of information www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php

    I've seen both sides of wanting a dog & getting one and not wanting a dog & still getting one. It can work either way, it just depends on how much you're willing to invest in it and whether the timing and the dog, are right.

    Good luck and please let me know if you have any other questions,
    Laura W.

    Second Chance Border Collie Rescue

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