Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
One thing border collie owners soon come to realize is how much their border collie stares.
And in most cases, it’s not just casual a gaze, it’s an intense, penetrating stare. This article will explain why collies stare so much, and when it might be necessary to address it.
Why Do Border Collies Stare?
Border collies stare so much because they concentrate at a very high level. Staring is used by collies to control flocks of sheep, to notice quick and sudden changes, and be aware of when the owner is signaling or giving a new command.
And it’s not just sheep that collies fix their gaze on… Collies will often stare at their owners with a similar intensity. And in some cases, you might find your collie staring intently at random objects, shadows, and even flies or bugs in the yard.
Your Collie Is “Reading” You With Her Stare
Of course, your border collie can’t exactly read your mind. But she can pick up a great deal about how you are feeling just by staring intently at you.
It’s actually true that dogs learn to sense your emotions and feelings through not only your actions but even facial expressions.
Combine this with the fact that collies are highly attentive and ready for action at all times, she’s going to watch your every move, so she knows what to do next.
The ability to hold this level of concentration is how the border collie became not just the world’s best herder but also the world’s most intelligent breed.
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How Collies Use Staring To Control Sheep
Staring and eye contact in general is a potent non-verbal communication tool.
All animals, including us, have deeply ingrained survival instincts (fight or flight) and can recognize threats with eye contact alone.
In most cases, if two strangers hold a stare at each other for as little as 2 seconds, it’s automatically taken by both as a threat.
When your collie stares intensely at the sheep without breaking a gaze, it quickly intimidates them and essentially gives the collie the upper hand, allowing her to round up and control the sheep easily.
Of course, she does this with her movement and physical location as well, but eye contact is crucial in gaining authority over the sheep.
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When The Staring Could Indicate a Problem
Although staring is mostly “normal” behavior, there are definitely times when it should raise alarm bells.
If your collie is staring intently at other pets in the house, or in particular young children. Then this is something that should be monitored closely.
Unless your collie is sufficiently stimulated elsewhere, well-trained, or has an established relationship with the pets or kids, the intense staring could lead to your collie trying to herd the children which may or may not include nipping.
In addition to this, the staring *could potentially* trigger some kind of aggressive response when other pets or the kids try moving away or to another place.
Disclaimer: I am not saying this will be the case all the time. But it should definitely raise some alarm bells and prompt you to monitor the situation closely. And depending on your collie, you might want to start training against this behavior asap.
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Stopping Your Border Collie From Staring
If the staring is very unsettling for you personally, or inappropriate when around other pets or children, then you’ll likely want to know how to stop it.
First off, it’s necessary to know that as this is a natural and instinctual behavior, it’s going to be quite challenging to stop it. But there are ways to discourage it.
One of the better ways to handle this will be to discourage and redirect the staring whenever it happens.
So when you notice your collie staring intently at yourself or the children, you’ll first need to break the stare by addressing her and redirecting her to a puzzle toy or some other form of entertainment. Once your collie remains focused elsewhere, reward her for the change of attention. Eventually, she’ll learn that she’s a “good girl” for being focused on her toy or elsewhere, rather than when she’s staring.
Admittedly, this is so much easier said than done. And it’s not a perfect system. But it is based on positive reinforcement and will eventually work after sufficient practice.
In addition to actively discouraging it, providing your collie with A LOT of physical exercise, training, and mental stimulation throughout the rest of the day should definitely help. A collie that has spent more of her energy, and is feeling more satisfied in general, will be more inclined to rest and lay down, rather than stare intently waiting for something to do.
Do you have any more questions on this topic? Please let me know!
Thanks for reading!
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