To Keep or not to Keep



To keep or not to keep.

That is the question. It’s a hard one.

You raised her from a pup, got attached to her, she looked like being great.

But now she has a problem you cannot fix, such as a turn tail, or she is constantly fighting with one of your other dogs, or she is simply not turning out to be as good as you thought.

No one likes to move a dog on, especially one we have put a lot of time into or one we have become attached to.


All dogs go through stages, good and bad. If we like the dog enough often things will straighten out by themselves. So your lovely quiet calm dog which has suddenly turned into a revhead will probably calm down as he gets older. Or he may be going through a stage where he is fearful, but once he matures his confidence will return.


Sometimes we just get a real bond with a dog and decide to keep them no matter what.

I bought Driftz when she was two and a half and instantly bonded with her. However she was so feral on the trial ground there were some people who thought I would never get control. Now at 6 years old she is at last settling down a bit, and starting to listen to me. (Sometimes anyway)

She will never be a top trial dog as she has such a mind of her own.

She is good on the farm however, and I love her nature and her attitude to work.


However if you have no work for the dog, and it is becoming bored, is that fair on the dog?

For most sheepdogs, work is their life, without it they may become bored and unhappy or start to get up to mischief and chase other things. It is not just physical work they need but mental challenges and if we cannot provide that, than we need to re-think what we are doing to our best friend. This is not to say the dog always need sheepwork, perhaps another dog sport, a life on the beach or simply having an active understanding family can often be enough.


I have friends who have kept a dog no-one else wanted and just given them time and they have turned out very well.

Even some of the top dogs we see on the trial ground today, the owners will tell you they almost gave up on them when they were younger.

This is not always the case though, and we must make a decision at some point.

Although we love the dog to bits, we cannot keep them all and if they are causing problems in the pack or you are constantly arguing with them, then perhaps it is time to move them on.


My kelpie Mango had been working well after a slow start. However she did not get on with Angel and after a couple of nasty fights I had to move her on.

I was lucky that a good friend took her and loves and will make good use of her. But just as importantly she is happy away from Angel.

And I have no more problems in my pack, and am not having to constantly watch the two of them.


We worry about re-homing our dogs, and we feel bad about it, but in reality the dog doesn’t care that much. Dogs only live in the moment and don’t think about the person they left behind. They may fret about a change in routine but will soon settle.


Jake was nearly six when he came here. He certainly did not fret, although his previous family miss him. He remained happy and got straight to work without any problems at all.


Lara too, was a great little dog, and I really liked her. But she wasn’t happy in a pack situation and she didn’t like travelling so I found her a wonderful home with no other dogs where she has fitted in well. She is a lot happier now than she would have been if I had kept her.


It is hard to know when to quit though. When you see glimpses of greatness you think, I’ll just go on for another month or so and see what happens. In the meantime though you could be putting in valuable time on a much better dog.

It takes such a long time to get a dog to the trial ground, and if it doesn’t work out then you have to start all over again.

Most of us have a few young ones coming up all the time so we can move on to the next dog.

It does sound heartless, to just move on a dog because it is ‘not good enough to trial’ or some such thing.


The dog may also lack stamina, and this is something not fixable either. These sorts of problems, as well as dogs that are short heading, turn tail a lot or have hereditary or health problems are not the sort of dog we want to breed from anyway so are best removed from our breeding program.

Some dogs however, even if not suitable for trialing or with genetic problems can be kept for farm use and perhaps sterilized so they cannot be bred from.


There is no harm in moving the dog to a pet home as long as those people understand the needs of a work bred dog.

Zinc’s brother Tonka went to a pet home and although they had a few problems early on, they persevered with him and he is now a valued member of the family.

In the sheepdog world, dogs are often passed around and seem not to suffer from it.

It makes sense not to keep a dog that doesn’t suit you.  

You’ll become frustrated with the dog so it won’t receive the best training and will probably never reach its full potential.


Leena had three owners before she came here and has fitted in well. She tried me out a few times and I had to get firm with her but once we had a sort out she was fine.

People often make the mistake of molly codling a new dog and making a fuss of them. This can reinforce their insecurity so they try to take charge as they feel there is no pack leader.

It is important to be a strong leader for new dogs so they can feel safe and know you will protect them.


I also believe each dog needs to be content in the pack and it is not bullied by the other dogs. Although when you run multiple bitches and dogs together there may be scuffles when bitches come in season but that is normal as long as it is minor.

Some dogs are just not happy in a pack situation, or there may be another dog that constantly intimidates them. This can result in an unhappy dog that will not give his best and could be injured if a fight develops.

So as hard as it is, it is best to find them a home where they will be happy and can work to their full capacity.

Of course we get very attached to these dogs, it’s only natural, but it is usually not too hard to find the right place for the dogs if we are careful. I always tell people to bring the dog back if it doesn’t suit them so it doesn’t get passed on down the line to goodness knows where.


People have different methods of assessing dogs. Some people decide when they are really young, some will move the dog on the first time it shows a movement or attitude they don’t like.

Others will just keep the dog if they like its temperament.

But a dog with serious faults will only break our hearts further down the track.

Sometimes it is better to move them on before we put too much into them or before we get too attached to them.

The dog wont mind, he will be happier in the long run, and we just try not to feel guilty.


But to me, at the end of it all, no matter how many faults the dog has or no matter how many people tell you to move the dog on, the dog is yours and if you genuinely like him enough then keep him. Don’t let anybody make up your mind for you. But you must still consider the best for him.

Some people will take a dog on face value, not understanding the partnership you have with him, or the fact that he gives you his all on the farm, so turn the other cheek and just smile, he is yours and you love him, even if he will never win a trial, does it really matter?