The question is: can this dog be your pet AND your tool/partner in the field of herding.
The answer is “Yes” but there ARE limitations.
My first trial dog “Blaze”, was a freaking handful! He lived in the house ( I lived at the beach in a duplex), slept where he wanted, babysat my kids (infant & 2 yr old) and went everywhere w/ me. I was actively herding and he DQ’d every trial. He blatantly disregarded what I told him and merrily tore into sheep at Mach 9. I took him up to the gentleman who bred him to get some lessons and he told me two things:
1. These dogs can’t be pets
2. Women can’t train these dogs, they don’t have doggy voices.
HMMM, since my living situation was such, he HAD to be a pet and I wasn’t up for sex change operation, so it just needed to worked around. So I took to heart the lesson on training, came home and worked on the dog. However, I was starting to observe w/ a jaundice eye how Blaze liked to dictate some terms. That had to stop. He started being kicked outside MUCH more and allowed to join up w/ the pack on MY terms.
A short time later, I took him to a Ralph Pulfer clinic (this gentleman became my mentor) and he introduced me to rubber hoses. Now, don’t let your deviant little minds run to the gutter, but these articles can FLY briskly through the air and nail a dog about misbehave on sheep.
Suddenly, I was WINNING trials!!
Also, Blaze and I started San Pasqual Stockdog Training Facility, so he was worked almost daily. Cattle, sheep, ducks, goats, all stock needed to make this endeavor succeed.
The ability to live with the pet dog and achieve success as a herder depends on the keenness of the dog and the authority of the handler. If the dog is not interested in herding to the degree necessary to accept the training, then the dog will prefer the life of a pet. If the dog is keen to work, then home life isn’t as fun as herding and the dog will therefore prefer herding.
I’ve only seen one dog ruined by its home environment. A Border Collie w/ tremendous talent just up and quit herding after less than a year of training. She had NO restrictions or rules at home. The only time she was disciplined (i.e. corrected) was while herding. I could see her just looking at her mom and saying “screw you! I’m going home to play” .
The importance of herding to a dog is reflected in how important it is to the handler! Again, another anecdote…
A young man brought an Aus Shepherd to me for lessons years ago. This dog was WORTHLESS!! I suggested this guy give up and do something else. He wanted to herd. Not the dog. The adventure went on for an eternity (it seemed to me) but they were making progress. One day, it dawned on me this dog was working to PLEASE his owner. They eventually progressed to the point that he could enter a trial.
Another individual started raising sheep on a large property in Nor. Calif and wanted to use her Rottie. I love Rotties as herders but this dog was NOT keen. She informed me she was NOT getting a BC so he just had to do it. EVERYDAY this dog did chores and became one of the first Herding Champions in the USA.
The importance of teamwork is not to be underestimated. Dogs are PACK animals and want the approval of the Alpha. Be the Alpha, make herding important, don’t spoil them too much at home, and you can have a herding PET!