Last night, Bear and I spent about 5 hours driving for the opportunity to get about 30-40 minutes of sheep herding in. If you think I am insane – you might be correct.
After our very first experience herding in April I knew this was something I had to do. Of course, Bear’s iliopsoas injury kind of put the kibosh on just about everything but now that he’s back to normal, and that I’ve taken some weight off of him, I figured it was time.
I wasn’t sure how the second meeting with sheep would go. I was a bit concerned that having seen sheep once, he might think he ‘knew’ the game and be overly enthusiastic.
I couldn’t have been more supervised when I walked into the arena and he spent the first 5-10 minutes sniffing around while I walked around with the sheep and the young lady that was teaching us. Once he caught on to following the sheep around, he would dive in, sniff at sheep bums and back away as if he were, afraid of the sheep. Then, about 15 minutes into our first session, a switched flipped and 100% of his attention was on the sheep. This ‘attention”’ included barking at the sheep and running in to nip at their heels.
It was very interesting. I think all the sniffing at the beginning was partly a ‘city dog’ finding all sorts of interesting smells in a barn. I also believe, given the initial sheep fear that maybe he was using the only language he knows and was offering calming signals.
Apparently he is ready for a Herding Tested at the upcoming trial at the end of September. I, however, need to figure some things out. Like staying with the sheep and letting Bear walk behind me for a start.
I have the option of having someone more knowledgeable handle him but, to be honest I want to be the one to do it. For me, this whole herding thing is about letting Bear do something fun that comes to him naturally. After completing the Herding Instinct Test – it occurred to me that Rally is not something he loves but something that he does with me and for me because I ask him to and because we have both worked hard at coming to an understanding. The kind of understanding that involves work in exchange for rewards in the form of cookies or a game of tug. Because he has done so much for me, I want to be there in the herding ring with him because I think working on this together will bring some balance to our relationship.
Needless to say, we’re diving for 5 hours next week for another 40 minutes of herding.