Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Tonight we had a really great opportunity. I've been curious about herding with Vegas for most of a year or so now. It started when she began getting more active at the dog park on the rare occasion we'd go. But her idea of getting active was to gauge where the dogs were going and then head them off, cut them off, or start chasing and then bend them. I started wondering how much of that was her realizing she couldn't keep up and she was naturally guiding them instead. So began this idea....

I started looking for information on herding including where to go. It's not like you can just pop into your local pet store and take a herding class since they don't have sheep, ducks, or cattle. I can't remember now if someone referred me to Brigand's or I found it, but either way, it is the place to go. After many times of inquiring into lessons/classes and not being able to make what was available, Vegas and I finally headed up there this evening! Nothing was stopping us and I even had my sister come down after work to pick up my son after football practice.

We arrived at about 10 to seven and I headed into the barn to find out what the instructions were. After filling out and signing a waiver and picking up a packet of information, I met Nancy in person. Shortly thereafter she made contact from the others that were supposed to attend only to learn that one could not make it (a firefighter who had to work) and traffic was holding up the others. I had experienced significant delays on my way north, too. It turns out there had been a car fire late this afternoon that caused 25 mile plus slow downs. So, we started very late and, in the meantime, Vegas was super excited by the sounds and smells.
Here are the sheep that were in the upper field right by the barns and where we parked. Can you tell who they're watching?

Here they were less concerned about Vegas because Nancy had taken a bucket of feed or something into their pen for them. However, shortly thereafter they bunched up and headed for the far side of the field. As I read the packet of information, it appears there are many sheep who are sensitive to some color dogs, particularly really dark dogs. Not to mention Vegas is huge tall compared to the majority of what they are used to. In fact, when we got out to the pen we worked in, the sheep Nancy identified as heavy sheep. She said that meant they are the type to go with  the person who does not have a dog. In that case, it was Nancy. Well, when we came into the pen, they went far from Nancy instead of immediately clustering around her. They went to the opposite side of the pen and stared at Vegas like she was their worst enemy. 

Of course when Nancy said to let Vegas go, she might very well have appeared to be! So here's where things get interesting. Nancy went into the pen and when it was our turn, we were to come in. She didn't tell me exactly what to do, or not to do. So, when she said to let Vegas go and she immediately charged the sheep, I did what comes naturally. I corrected her. I can't remember now what I said, if it was "No" or just a sound, but Vegas got the picture. From that step forward, Vegas was back with me more often than not and very uncertain. I feel bad in retrospect and know I have work to do to make her a more independent thinker and less reliant on me. Of course some of that reliance on me telling her what to do is agility training, which we still need. 

Anyway, nothing was overly remarkable about what Vegas did. She wanted to hang back with me instead of work toward the sheep and Nancy, so I ended up trying to track with Nancy amidst the sheep so that when Nancy gave commands to Vegas, Vegas had to try to go with the new "us," en masse. She did fine...occasionally getting distracted with sniffing and probably sheep poo, knowing all of this is new. She did get an opportunity once or twice to really race after a sheep as they broke up and that was fun to see. 

I have more to say on this but I'll do the follow-up in another posting later on as I review the literature I was given and map out a plan for our future herding experiences. 

1 comment:

  1. We defintely need more herding photos!
    I also wanted to let you know we love following your blog and we have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award . See our post today for details and thank you for posting such wonderful blog entries.