From All The Dogs to Herding Dog…

My name is Suzanne, and I am a dog nerd. More specifically I am the Herding Dog Nerd. Self-proclaimed but true nonetheless. So, what exactly do I mean by that? And how on earth did I get here?

Once upon a time, I was in academia. A statistics professor if you can believe it. Sometimes I can’t. In what would be my last year in academia, I started shadowing a dog trainer at a local facility, and then they started paying me. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. About dogs, training dogs, dog behavior. All of it. It was interesting, satisfying, and fulfilling. So when my husband started looking for a new job, I decided that I would be making some big changes of my own. We moved halfway across the country, and I left academia behind and plunged myself into the dog world full-time.

But here’s the thing. I’ve never been comfortable calling myself a dog trainer. Yes, I know a lot about dog training. Yes, I spend a fair bit of time training my own dogs. Professionally, however, I work more with people than with dogs. My focus has been, and will continue to be, helping people live good lives with their dogs, whatever that may mean to them. Maybe that’s helping people deal with their dog’s reactivity or fearfulness. It could mean teaching people how to train a solid recall so they can take their dogs on off-leash hikes. Sometimes I feel a bit like an interpreter and a mediator. I am the person that will help you understand your dog and and teach you to communicate with your dog so they understand you.

Specializing in Herding Dogs

So what about this herding dog business? About 3.5 years ago, I got a border collie puppy. Why I got a border collie after saying I’d never get one is a story for a different day. Up to that point, several of my friends and clients had border collies or other herding breed dogs. I knew the good and the not so good. At least to some degree. But raising a working-line border collie in a suburban environment poses many challenges. And we had to deal with a fair number of them: barking and lunging at runners, cyclists, and skateboarders; losing his shit (technical term) in puppy class because there was so much going on; trying to control the movements of our elderly cat; and more. So, I set out to learn why my border collie was compelled to behave in this way and what I could do to help him better adapt to the world I put him in.

That’s when I started to learning as much as I could about herding dogs. At first for my own sake and that of my own herding dog. But reading books and attending webinars only gets you so far. I started seeking clients with herding breeds. And I just kept digging deeper. My husband and I have this saying: don’t half-ass it, either whole-ass it or no-ass it. So, I whole-assed it. And that’s how I got to be the Herding Dog Nerd.

Here’s what you need to know for now. We have bred many generations of herding dogs for an agrarian life. Then society changed. The industrial revolution happened. The world became more urban and suburban. And we kept breeding herding dogs. Dogs that are great at lots of things. Fitting into this more urban world isn’t always one of them. My goal, and the purpose of this blog and my business, is to be a resource for herding dog owners so they can understand their dogs’ needs and teach their dogs how to thrive in the modern world.

That’ll do for now!