Border collies put on a show
Lou Ann Coulter's dogs can do a lot more than sit and stay, and
if her sheep could talk, they might have a thing or two to say about the herding instincts of her
Coulter, along with Henry Kuykendall, has been raising border collies in Blowing Rock since 1963 and this summer, she's leashed in a High Country audience to show off what the dogs can do.
"Every weekend, we will be doing herding shows to illustrate how we use border collies on the farm," she said.
While her full grown dogs are expertly trained, with border collies, it's all about instinct, a fact she demonstrates with puppy shows.
"We'll start with a puppy and show you how they are born with the herding instinct," she said.
The puppies work the same way trained dogs work, just "not totally in control," she said.
The fully trained dogs can sort sheep and demonstrate their agility through chutes, hoops and various other activities some full-grown humans can't master.
The shows have crowd appeal, evidenced by the fact that Kuykendall's performed these shows successfully across the country. "He was the first to do them at Grandfather Mountain," Coulter said.
So, what is it about these dogs that keeps audiences captivated? Part of it stems from hundreds of years of careful breeding.
"It was selected ... strictly for its ability to work with livestock," she said, even thought the dogs can do much more, and are even used in earthquake rescues, able to venture where other dogs can't.
Part of it is the intelligence of the breed. "It's one of the most intelligent breeds of dog ... they had to work in tandem with people, so they're extremely smart," she said.
Experts say the dogs can understand up to 200 words of human vocabulary, she said.
And perhaps the biggest part? It's the energy and addictive playfulness of the dogs.
"Border collies make wonderful pets for the right people," Coulter said. "They're very smart and they're very energetic, so someone who gets a border collie as a pet needs to be able to see that the dog's energy levels are met."
A common mistake is letting the border collies run, free to agitate livestock without the proper instruction.
"Especially when you start training, it's important to keep them tied, kenneled or in the house," she said. "We don't turn them loose without supervision."
The weekend shows aren't just about the dogs. They're also about the history of shepherding. Attendees will learn about shepherd's crooks and how sheep are sorted.
"Your dog and your crook are all you need with you to administer any aid," she said.
Coulter will also be on hand to answer questions and point families looking for border collies in the right direction.
Coulter's farm is located on U.S. 321 south, a quarter of a mile beyond Mystery Hill on the left near "a big sign with a border collie picture." Shows happen Fridays at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. this summer. Shows consist of four or five of the 16 dogs on the farm.
For more information, visit http://www.kuykendallcoulterbordercollies.com.