Friday, September 10, 2010

More on Sheep Herding

Even though they can't see the dog, they know where he is

The sheep are facing away from the dog

Dog is in the rear of the herd

Note where the dog is located

Leah, our trainer, in the larger herd of sheep
I am lousy at sheepherding. My little Gracie is a born herder, but she has to take her direction from me until she knows what to do.  Sigh. I need some work, guys.

Gracie is extremely fast. She can make those short legs pump like you wouldn't believe, and take off like a shot. Rule number one is that the dog stays to the rear of the herd, and never gets in front of you. Before I could give a command or use the paddle for direction, my dog was not only ahead of us, she was running like the wind. Plus, look at the photo of Leah above. You are surrounded by the sheep. I'm getting better at keeping my balance with these animals, but it is so easy to get knocked down. If the sheep are spooked by a hyperactive dog, they are going to run. So what if the two legged crazy lady happens to be standing in their midst.

Let me clarify that yes, that is a light weight whip in Leah's hand. No, it does not touch an animal. It is used for direction. If she wants to get the dog's attention, she snaps the whip on the ground, not on the dog. I could not be involved in anything where a whip is used on an animal. I hold a rubber paddle. When I want Gracie to stop, I hit the ground with the paddle. When I want her to move in a direction, I point the paddle towards her rump or shoulder, not her head.

This is more difficult than it looks, and like I said, I need a lot of work. It is so beneficial to watch the other women who know what to do work with their dogs. They have told me that the sheep always know where the dog is at, even though they are not looking at the dog directly. Again, look at the first few photos of Walker, the border collie, directing the sheep from the rear. The sheep are looking straight ahead.

After we finished with my dogs on Wednesday, Leah asked if I had a few extra minutes to watch Pete, another border collie, drive a herd. So we entered the larger fenced area behind where we were training. This was an amazing experience. We stood in the center while Leah gave verbal instructions to Pete. He drove the sheep down the fence line, through 2 different gates, turned the herd, and brought them back to us. When a dog "drives" the sheep, he is pushing the herd in the direction you intend with your commands, not necessarily to you.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful weekend. Tomorrow is doggie day at the local outdoor waterpark. This is an annual event to raise money for the county shelter. My dogs won't go in the water, but some of their buddies will. I plan on taking lots of pictures.

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