I took the dogs herding today at Lumen’s breeder’s place, who also does herding lessons.
After last time Loki herded and got very, very, VERY stuck, I was curious to see how he would go. It’s so weird, the first and second times he herded, he was BRILLIANT. Kept great distance from the sheep, was so easy and natural… then we did this ‘competition’ and he was doing fine until we turned around and then he couldn’t do clockwise circles, he just got stuck on their heads… so I took him in today and almost instantly the pressure was too much. He ran at them and got all frenzied and then just wanted to stare at their heads. When I tried to wait him out, he went to the corner, sat down and stressed… so I tried to encourage him, moved around, talked to him, called him to me… lots of things… and a couple of times he got behind me, found balance, made them walk up, and then he would stress out and go back to their heads – his safe place. If he can make them stop, he’s happy. It didn’t help that Lu’s breeder was outside the paddock telling off another dog, so of course Loki was worried about that, too…. But… well, maybe herding isn’t for him.
And then I got Lu. Lu, my dog who cares less even when the most exciting dogs are running agility… who doesn’t show much interest in dinner, and none in car rides… who had been yipping and trying to climb the fence to get to go play with the sheep… DRAGS me down to the paddock, comes in with me, sits at my side and stays, solid, ready. I send her around, she’s a little crazy but not bad… and then she’s doing it, beautifully. She’s learnt from last time – when was that? 6 months ago? She’s not coming in as close, she’s not weaving back and forth, she’s keeping her eye out and working beautifully. Her stops … well, they need a bit of work, but she was happy enough to call off the sheep and come out with me after her turn, and then DRAGGED me to the water trough. This girl knows what she wants.
And then Mal had a go!!!! 12 year old Mal! Who has a herding title but was never very good because he just wanted to sniff their butts. Omg he was so good! He’s ‘old school’ herding style, before they taught them to kick out and give more space, but he cantered around and around and around and had the best time. THE BEST. He was so stoked. He proved he could hear me before we started, turning when I called him to me but then became conveniently deaf when I tried to stop him once he was working. He was lovely. He didn’t bite them, even if he cut one out to chase it. And he was happy. And so good for 12. I’m so glad I took him with me, I wasn’t going to give him a go but we decided why not?
THEN, Lu got to go out in the big paddock! There were 3 sheep out there and they were flighty as… running like CRAZY when we got in, even with Lu on lead. So we had to walk back and forth trying to calm them (which was actually a good exercise for Lu too – YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO OBSESSIVELY STARE AT THEM)… and when they calmed a bit, we released her and um… sheep everywhere… She had the best time, getting to do these BIG FAST runs to fetch them. And they were being NAUGHTY, and she wasn’t having any of it! She was bumping them with her shoulder, barking at them. Kate (the breeder) was really impressed that she didn’t give up – I think her litter sister had a habit of giving up, but not Lu! Finally we got them to me and they calmed down a bit and Lu worked on doing big circles, and then we put them through the Y-chute which was a new skill, and she did really well for her first time.
So hey… my girl is a herding dog, that’s for sure. She can do agility, whatever, but herding is her thing. So… I have to try and find time to do it with her, cos it was pretty fun today, and she loved it so much. She was a different dog when herding… especially compared to my, “sigh, do I have to? FINE..” agility dog… I wouldn’t say she was necessarily more attentive, as such… but hmm… different. More present. Yes, that’s what I’d say. More present and more purposeful. I liked that. I really want to try her on cattle, too. Apparently her litter sister looooves working cows… I reckon Lu would too, to get all cocky and angry at them, and not back down even when they put pressure on her.
Now to find some free weekends from agility… HA.