Herding–September 12, 2012

Last Wednesday we made the trek to St. Norbert for our last chance at herding before the trial at the end of the month.

On the weekend we went down to Bottineau, ND where I purchased a stock stick so now I look like I know what I am doing. My stick is plain white with a black handle and it’s nothing fancy – it cost $13.99(USD) – but it’ll do.

After Bear’s sheep biting episode the last time we went herding, I decided that I would approach herding like I try to approach other high arousal situations. We did some settle work before it was our turn and in between runs. We played the “look at that” game with the sheep and were generally able to keep the barking down to a bare minimum outside the working area.

This week the sheep we were working with were less cooperative than they have been before – meaning that the instant we walked  in, they ran to the other end of the field and when we walked towards them, they bolted again. Bear was in quite the lather by the time everyone was settled enough to let him off leash. He managed to hold his stay, round up the sheep and bring them to me….then we actually tried a Herding Tested course which involves walking around the ring through 4 panels. The sheep were so sensitive that they did a lot of running which turns Bear’s prey drive on big time! However, I managed to position myself (by running) close enough to him that I could tell him to ease off with a verbal cue. I had to do this a lot and by the end of the run, between the running and hollering easy’ I was tired and my throat ached. That being said, Bear was very reasonable with the sheep – not nearly as much dive bombing.  Quite a few times, he tried to come around and head them off at the front but apparently, this was because I was using too much pressure to get him back off the sheep which meant he naturally moved to the pressure-free zone up front. Even with the flighty sheep, we were actually able to move them sheep around reasonably getting at least one sheep through each panel which would be a qualifying round at the herding tested level.

The second time around, we were on the same sheep, the dog before us had a real hard time moving the sheep off of the fence. They would stand and stare at him, even when he was literally standing with his nose almost close enough to sniff their bums. I was worried about these flighty sheep turned sticky because I didn’t know how Bear would handle things. Would he bite? Would he dive bomb? Turns out he did neither. He shoved his shoulder in between sheep and fence and nipped at the sheep, but not the high arousal, clamp down kind of bite like before. The instructor said this was acceptable, given the sheep’s reluctance to move. It took us a few tries to get the sheep off the fence but we managed to do it, get them around the course again and return them to their favorite pen. Bear was much more responsive this time, almost no barking.

This is it for us and sheep before the trial at the end of the month. I entered 4 Herding Tested runs and hopefully will come home with a herding tested title, if not, at least we would have had the chance to get out on sheep 4 times with a knowledgeable person. Hopefully I can convince someone to come with me to be my personal videographer/photographer.

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