How Master and Dog Co-operate

Ralph Fleesh, 1910

Excerpt from collection of stories of the Shepherds of Britain, from which English Shepherds were developed. The ability to work independently, carrying out routines, and the close bond between a dog and his family, were hallmarks of those ancestral dogs as they are of dogs today.

“To the sagacity of the thoroughly trained collie there is indeed no limit. It has been our privilege to be closely associated with the greatest sheep-dog trainer Scotland ever produced, and we have heard him repeatedly say of his favourite dogs that their intelligence was always more than equal to any emergency… We know a dog, the property of a shepherd already referred to, which took charge every morning of a certain “cut” of sheep and had them directed through gates and over hedges to a lowland pasture some three miles away. He needed no bidding or exhorting; he had learned the art of dignifying service.

“Our “born” shepherds — the true sons of the calling — do not forget their old canine colleagues. Travelling in the sheep districts of Scotland, an old corpulent collie, long retired from the stern duties of the “hill”, lying on the green sward in front of the shepherd’s cot, is quite a common sight. If the day is warm you may find the shepherd’s child sleeping in his bosom. The mother has no hesitation in leaving the infant so watched and protected; for the old retainer, having been the first object of the child’s curiosity and love, gallantly responds with an instinctive gratitude by assuming responsibility for the safety of his youthful charge when the pressure of circumstance demands. And when the old and faithful friend comes to die, deep and sincere is the lamentation of the whole family. We have seen a shepherd with the dauntless courage of a lion kneel by the side of his dead companion, and bewail his loss like a grief-stricken boy.”