I am a bit behind but two weekends ago, Bear and I headed to St. Norbert, MB for three days of herding. This was my first herding clinic so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I’m new enough to the sport to know I don’t really know anything.
There were a variety of dogs and handlers at the clinic including mixed breeds, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Swedish Vallhunds, a Dandie Dinmont, a Poodle and our friend Astrid, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. I only recall one border collie in attendance!Some dogs were new to herding some have been attending classes for the past year or so. Some of the dogs took to herding like dicks to water and others needed some encouraging to interact with the sheep. Regardless of what happened in the ring, Roy, the clinician, had something nice to say about each dog and their work.
Over the weekend, Bear and I made progress in a few areas and discovered a few new challenges. Below are the highlights:
- We managed to get Bear to work a little further away from the sheep i.e. not plastered to their butts. When Bear works farther back, the sheep panic less and Bear barks less.
- I discovered that Bear barks mostly when I turn him from moving in a counter clockwise direction (away) to circling clockwise (come by).This means he’s turning left, which was the same way he turned in flyball…at least he’s consistent.
- We were able to move sheep in more of a straight line than we ever have.
- Not once all weekend did he try to dive in and grab wool.
- Bear worked in a ring with 2 border collies in attendance…staring at the sheep…as border collies do. He gave them a brief glance and then went back to his sheep..no hard stare, no lunge, no nothing.
- We started working on walk-ups and getting Bear to move towards the sheep at a speed slightly slower than Mach 10. Sheep don’t like Mach 10. and moving slowly towards the sheep is a skill we need for driving at the intermediate level.
- We started a few call offs – calling Bear away from the sheep. He was better than I thought he would be. Leaving perfectly good moving sheep is going to be one of the major challenges for us if we ever progress to the intermediate level.
- Roy believes Bear is barking not at the sheep to get them to move but at me because I am preventing him from doing what he would like. I would agree that frustration and barking go hand in hand with Bear.
Roy said he thought we could ‘go far’…not sure what that means. I think our progress will mostly be limited by how often we can get out and train on sheep and right now, it’s around once a month. Roy did leave us with some ideas for ‘dry land training’ without sheep and I will write more about these as we give them a try.
Other highlights of the weekend included: Meeting some new people including another rottie owner and someone who lives not far from us, great food and company (as always) and and two incident-free nights in the hotel with our friends Stephanie and Astrid!