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Welfare Issues - Accommodation of The Working B.C.

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The Border Collie is a hardy breed of dog and has no need for heated accommodation, which can prove detrimental to its long term health.

However, to get the very best out of your BC - whether it be a working dog or a pet, you will need to provide a comfortable, dry, draught free den where the dog can retire and feel secure and where it can sleep without undue disturbance.

Adequate amounts of clean and suitable bedding material needs to be supplied to enable the dog to keep itself warm. The quantity should be adjusted to suit the climatic conditions that apply at different times and changed regularly or whenever soiled.

Border Collies, being pack animals and given to social interaction, fare best in groups. On farms they are often kept in numbers so accommodation can be communal if dogs are compatible and fertile bitches separated from males.

In a pet home different criteria apply. The pack is substituted for by the human family group and sleeping accommodation is usually, and best, solo. If living in a house, Border Collies do better in unheated rooms. For some, central heating is inescapable torture.

Whether working, pet, solo or living in a pack, each individual dog - if kept inside a building - should have its own personal sleeping area provided. This could be either a sturdy high sided bed with a built in plinth or a sleeping platform.

Both will raise the dog above ground level and prevent chill from draughts. Raised plinth, base ventilated, high sided plastic dog beds are widely available for a few pounds. They are economical and will last for years if the dog does not become bored, frustrated or over excited and chew them up - if this occurs, don’t blame the dog, it obviously needs more to do.

Dogs living outside a building should have a purpose built kennel or igloo with sheltered porch or tunnel entrance at a 90% angle to the sleeping area, raised well off the ground, suitably weather proof and located in a sheltered position, out of high winds and with the entrance facing away from inclement weather.

On a busy farm or in the pet home there are many advantages in providing a suitable sized, secure outdoor pen, run or compound, big enough for self exercise, attached to the accommodation unit with the dog or dogs having access at all times of the day and night.

Fencing should be high enough to prevent the dog jumping out and of materials that will not cause injury to the inmates. It should also be secured at ground level to stop ‘diggers’.

The sleeping accommodation and attached compound is best placed in a quiet corner of the premises where there is little visual or noise disturbance and the dog/s are not excited to constant frustration and barking by being able to see activities they cannot take part in.

There should be a quiet open aspect to the run facing away from the yard and any other dog runs. If such a run and access is provided, the sleeping area needs no windows.

If the sleeping area has no run it should be large enough for the dog/s to walk freely around in and defecate/urinate away from their bed/s.

Natural light should be available but the windows set high so there is no visual distraction or danger of a dog breaking glass to get out. Dogs should not be kept shut up in such an environment for any length of time so a secure attached compound is better

On the farm there is some advantage of knowing where the dog is at all times, especially at night and during lambing, but also when the dog is not working and is not wanted underfoot.

The use of a secure compound will offer an additional advantages in reducing the chances of accidents involving farm machinery and sheepdogs that can occur if the dog has free access to the yard and also will stop dogs from straying onto neighbouring property and roads if unattended or distracted.

Compounds and sleeping areas need mucking out and washing down daily.

A compound will also alleviate the need for a dog to be long term chained, a practice that is frowned at in animal welfare as it is known to lead to frustration, aggression and other behavioural problems and may be the cause of many a young dog losing concentration during training.

A chained dog will know that its movement is restricted and that, if threatened, it cannot escape. It is therefore more wary, stressed and on edge and more likely to act in self defence. Prolonged chaining may cause permanent aggression.

Chaining also prevents the dog from exercising itself adequately as it will only be able to walk in circles. Long term chaining may cause permanent damage with the dog on auto circle for all its life - even when off the chain - and can lead to wasting of leg muscles.

Fixed chains without swivel links can wind up and tighten - sometimes causing injury or asphyxiation. A dog kept like this is not likely to be at its best for any purpose.

A running line with chain attached is better, at least the dog can exercise in a straight line - but should only be used for short periods to ‘park’ the dog. Most farms will have a corner where a secure compound can be erected with adequate shade, shelter and access to water.

A working sheepdog is a valuable asset to a stock farm - often an investment in hard earned cash and valuable time training.

Protect this investment by providing for the dogs physical and psychological needs and your dog is likely to train up better and perform better - for longer.



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