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Although the Border Collie is an intelligent dog, we'll have to use commands to drive him and the sheep and thus get them to where we want them to be. The set of commands is limited (every inexperienced handler and dog only need four commands) and the commands can of course be freely chosen. The most used commands are described below.

Experienced handlers mostly use whistle commands, because the sound can be heard from further away than that of the voice. A whistle command is also not easily influenced by emotions, when things happen to go extremely well or very badly. If a shepherd has more than one dog then he will use a different set of commands for each dog. In practice (the English situation) one often works with more dogs (the Brace in trials). One can imagine what would happen when every dog listened to the same commands.

After many commands you will find a musical note, that links to a *.WAV file. In this way an example of each command can be played.

The sounds are not available yet!

Come ByePlay sound

The dog is send to the left (clockwise) around the flock.

AwayPlay sound

The opposite of Come Bye: to the right (anti-clockwise).

Lie downPlay sound

The emergency brake of the Border Collie. They are well known for the unique way of lying down: within a split second they lie flat on the ground.

Walk onPlay sound

Encouragement to walk straight to the sheep. This command is used in the fetch as well as the drive. An experienced Border Collie will correct himself to the left and right if necessary in order to drive the flock in a straight line.


Sometimes a BC walks in quite a pace and needs to slow down. This command also comes handy in short-range work. The command is often whistled as a shortened version of the corresponding directional command (so "steady-walk on" sounds like a short version of "walk on"). Steady is not a different whistle sound (although it is a separate voice command).

That'll doPlay sound

A combination of 'here' and 'the work is done'. At the end of an exercise the dog is called to the shepherd. Some use it as a pure 'here' command.

Other commando's

Besides the basic set of commands, there are also a few that are used less often.

Look back

If a Border is working a part of the flock and his attention needs to be directed to the rest, you can use Look Back. In championship trials this often part of the course. The first outrun requires the dog to bring twenty sheep. With the Look Back command the dog is send to fetch another twenty sheep. This exercise is difficult, since the dog prefers to work the sheep that are nearby over the sheep that are still far away. It's also useful when one sheep is left behind.

On your feet

Get on your feet, but don't start walking. Used for short-range work. A lying dog puts the least pressure on sheep, a standing dog a bit more and a walking dog is the most threatening to the sheep. In this way the pressure on the sheep can be accurately applied.

Out, Off, etc.

A variety of commands are used for the Outrun. Some use Come Bye and Away, while others use commands like Out or Off. In trials it is a rule that the dog should run to the side the handler directed him: if the dog stands/sits to the right of the shepherd he should run to the right. The dog should never cross the line between the shepherd and the flock.

Pen and shed?

For the shed and the pen you only use the voice commands like Come Bye, Away, Steady, Walk on, Lie Down, etc. The handler is so close to the dog that whistling would be overkill.

Copyright © 1998-2013 Jigal van Hemert & Danielle Boshouwers
This page last modified: Wednesday, 30-Jul-2008 16:39:36 CEST
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