Yarrow Valley’s Viv’s last collie DVD out next month

Author and retired shepherdess Viv Billingham with her sheep dogs at the statue of The Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg.
Author and retired shepherdess Viv Billingham with her sheep dogs at the statue of The Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg.

Author and retired shepherdess Viv Billingham will launch the third of her trilogy of DVDs celebrating the Border collie next month.

The first of the trilogy, Frae The Cradle, focusing on Viv’s litter of collie puppies, went on sale last September.

Viv said: “Border collies are very important ambassadors for Britain all over the world and I feel it’s vital that people in other countries understand them and their history, and that they respect them and don’t train them severely. Also, I want to promote the Borders as the nearest place to heaven I have ever lived.”

Frae The Cradle follows the pups from birth to four months, showing when they first meet sheep, and also including footage and information on sheep and the Yarrow and Tweed Valleys.

In the second DVD, In Dog We Trust, Viv continues to advocate patience and compassion for collies and sheep. It combines training tips and demonstrations of Viv working with the young dogs up to 11 months, as well as more footage of the local countryside and Arabella, Viv’s Welsh-cross Arab shepherding pony, who is vital for transport now because of the retired shepherdess’ arthritis.

Viv told us: “The DVDs are selling steadily world-wide. There is a thirst for this kind of information.

“People are amazed how easy it is to train if you go with a dog’s natural instincts rather than against them, freedom being the key word.”

She hopes the final DVD, A Dog For A’ Seasons, will be out by mid-November in time for Christmas. It will show pups Quest, Queenie, Kemp and Megg being introduced to hill work and gaining the final polish needed for nursery trials.

Determined to be a shepherdess from the age of four, Viv, a Black Bob fan, left home aged 15, working in Yorkshire, Wales and County Durham. She shepherded in the Cheviot hills, near Yetholm, with her late husband and their son, both Geoff, before the family moved to Tweedhopefoot, Tweedsmuir, where she also staged demonstrations. Viv then moved to Moffat, before migrating to the Yarrow Valley by St Mary’s Loch, more than 14 years ago.

Successes included appearances on TV’s One Man and his Dog with collie Garry, who she had in the 1980s. She was selected for the Scottish International team in both brace and singles and, more recently, in 2009, she and Tweedhope Fae won the Scottish Nursery. Viv has also judged and given clinics in Europe and America.

She told us: “The breed is greatly misunderstood by some people. There is a lot of history behind the shepherd’s dog, which has been greatly improved by Border shepherds.

“How pups are bred, the way they are started on sheep – given the freedom they require so their natural instincts emerge unimpeded – is most important. Voice and whistle commands should be fitted in with what a youngster is doing with the sheep. Above all, these dogs teach one patience, without which little will be achieved.”

The DVDs, produced by Viv’s friend, Edinburgh-based Fi Limbrick, are available through Amazon or by emailing Viv at v.billingham793@btinternet.com