How would you describe your relationship with your herding dog? More importantly, when decisions need to be made, who’s making them? When you need to decide right or left, who’s driving the bus?

Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not asking who the “alpha” is. This isn’t a question of whether your herding dog is trying to dominate you. Dominance (“alpha”) theory has been debunked many times over. I won’t rehash that. This is not about you controlling your dog or your dog making decisions for you. I am, however, asking you who has control of the situation.

Control & Order

Your herding dog has a type A personality. They run a tight ship to the point of being quite rigid in their expectations. They need the situation to be under control. They are compelled to create order, and relief comes when order is achieved. Sound like anyone you know?

If your herding dog doesn’t perceive that the world around them is in order, they will take matters into their own paws. They will organize and control the environment to their exacting standards. This is, after all, what we bred them to do. Only we wanted them to apply their skills to sheep and cows, not kids, cats, visitors, and bicycles. It’s all the same to them though.

For example, who here with a herding dog has ever tried to have a gathering or party of any sort? When guests are arriving, your herding dog can’t seem to settle. They are excited, even hyperactive. Constant movement, maybe even some barking. But then everyone settles into a comfy chair in the living room or at the dining room table. And you swear you can see your herding dog breath a heavy sigh of relief as they finally lie down… only to jump up immediately as soon as someone needs to use the restroom.

Competent Manager

But here’s the thing. It’s not that they need to control the guests, but they do need to feel that the guests are under control. And if you’re not doing it, they will step up to the plate without hesitation. And I’m willing to be that your guests won’t always appreciate how your herding dog tries to control them.

This is where you come in. You need to sell yourself as a competent manager. When your herding dog says “holy fuck, this situation is out of control,” you need to be the one to step in and say “stand down: I’ve got this!” It’s not about controlling your herding. It is about controlling the situation so that your herding dog doesn’t have to.

How do you do that? I’m glad you asked! I have a handout called “Off-Duty Time” that details how you can show your herding dog that you’ve got control of those pesky sheep… I mean, guests. Click here to get a copy!