Collies can make their own games

This girl just wants to have fun – and will organise anyone willing to join in!

It started so well, with the sight of our first local primroses and snowdrops on Monday, but by Wednesday the weather seemed worse than ever and we lost our favourite, bravest damson tree (and the roof off the wood shed).

New snowdrops in Worcestershire February 2014
It started so well – snowdrops braved the elements on Monday

Despite the wild night (weather-wise, I hasten to add) Thursday dawned still, dry and sunny. So mild, in fact, that I sat in the yard with the dogs while I drank my second coffee of the morning, and enjoyed the novelty of seeing them with the sun on their backs.

One of the many drawbacks of a long spell of bad weather is that the dogs don’t have the opportunity to just socialise and “hang out” together.

They love to go out for their runs, of course, but relationships are developed and confirmed when they have the chance to relate to each other, and play games. They’re mostly housed with other dogs, and those with bachelor apartments can see their neighbours, but that’s not the same as being able to mingle.

Primroses in a Worcestershire wood February 2014
Primroses, gamely fighting their way out of the mud

Border collies are very good at making their own entertainment – there’s many a kitchen cupboard or pair of school shoes that would give evidence of that. It doesn’t have to be destructive but, left to their own devices, sooner or later something will happen.

On Thursday I watched Audrey take over as pack leader for a while, and she worked very hard at getting some games going. Initially it was a simple “catch me if you can” chasing game, but after a while she took advantage of the slope on the yard and tried something else.

Many of the dogs and puppies use the sloping yard when playing on their own, but Audrey was taking a ball to the top and releasing it for all the other dogs to chase after and retrieve. None of the dogs would take it back to her, so Audrey collected it herself from the winning dog and returned it to the top of the slope before releasing it again.

Red and white and tricolour border collie sheepdogs
Audrey’s always enjoyed being collie-king of any castle

There’s a pile of firewood in our yard, bought in July to “give us plenty of time to cut it, stash it and dry it in time for winter”. Such a good plan! But it’s still there, and has become part of the dogs’ furniture. Audrey’s evening game was more complicated than the morning, and I was roped in for it almost without noticing.

I’d rolled a big ball (that I know Audrey loves) up the slope away from the gate (I was shutting it, and the ball was in the way). A delighted Audrey caught up with it, and demonstrated some excellent ball control before carrying it to the top of the wood pile. She danced around for a bit, teasing the other dogs, but dropped the ball and then looked at me. I assumed she wanted it back, but instead of handing it to her, I rolled the ball back up the slope and she jumped down to retrieve it.

After the fifth or sixth time I realised that Audrey wasn’t just dropping or losing the ball, she was choosing the appropriate plank on the pile to roll the ball so that it dropped at my feet. Admittedly I didn’t move far away, but when I moved to either side the ball would still land at my feet, not where it had landed last time.

Young sheepdog Smudge holds a ball against the sunlight
Smudge, Audrey’s daughter from her first litter, was another great football manager

I can only conclude that the game was deliberate, and had rules. Like so many things that dogs, and especially collies, do, Audrey was making a situation work for her; she’ll probably never do it again, but I feel privileged that I was included!

I hope Audrey’s daughters, Bo, Fay and Dill, will have their mum’s dexterity. All dogs, like handlers, have their strengths, and Audrey’s especially good with her paws. Faced with an awkward and almost inaccessible toy, Audrey’s the dog who’ll figure out how to reach it and manipulate it through the kennel bars or under the hedge. A calculating mind and manual skills…I’d best keep Audrey on my side!



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3 responses to “Collies can make their own games”

  1. Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak avatar
    Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak

    Sorry, I was not complaining. Just curious about the little chap.
    He is one of my favourites.
    I did read about the terrible weather, damage and training cancellations.
    Hopefully, the weather situation will continue to improve and you
    can get settled again.
    Kate and Choco.

  2. Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak avatar
    Francois and Yvonne De Brucker-Hollyoak

    I have not found any news about Jack.

    Yvonne Hollyoak

    1. Sorry about that, Yvonne – we’re very busy dealing with fallen trees, damaged roofs and deep mud at the moment!
      Jack’s fine and we’ll post news and photos when we can.

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