HERDING WITH SWISSIES?
Sure!! why not??
Here is our first herding experience (March 1st, 1998):
Well today we loaded up the beasts at 5 am and headed for Delaware. The Colonial
Rottweiler Club held a Herding Capability Test today (and yesterday too, but we couldn't
go yesterday because it was the last Carting Class).
The Mood: Maribeth Keitz and her dog Vixen (Jade Mist Sweet Mischief, CGC) and me with a few Swissies. Nice and sunny, happy and chatting, excited about "chasing sheep" we putt-putted across the magnificently *empty* BAY BRIDGE (horrific and notorious parking lot of all summer vacations), we were zipping down US Route 300 making really good time. BUT, it goes from 55 mph to 25 mph for a TWO BLOCK distance and then back to 55 mph, needless to say before 8 AM this Sunday morning, I got a ticket for not "quite" getting it down to the 25 mph mark:) (GRIN) or shall I say :( They have a good little cottage business going on on this short stretch before you get to Smyrna Delaware:) SO anyone who was poking and/or smacking their sharyl voodoo dolls early this morning, you got your wish:) (Ellyn, so stop it already:) GRIN)
Then we ambled around looking for the site for a little bit (carefully following *all* of the traffic laws of the *quaint* area, well protected by Delaware State Troopers, strategically positioned throughout:) as well as following the slightly "flawed" directions to the place!!).
The Scene: When we finally found the "Rottie Party", there were a hundred (it seemed) Rotties all queued up for their tests and we got there just in time to enroll, turn over all our cash and have some good thick coffee and a couple of donuts. We pottied all the little puppies (they just had to go for a road trip)!!, showed them the sheep (they yawned), plucked sheep poop out of their mouths (they chewed), cleaned up doggy poop for some reason even though there was horse and sheep do everywhere (old habits die hard). Socialized the little guys with a few dozen bouncy Rottwieilers and then took some pictures of the dogs at work -- and waited.
Many were working on their second leg of the test, since they had been there the day before. VERY impressive to watch Rottweilers herding, VERY serious and agile dogs. I will take my Rottie (Judge) next time, for sure. Many of these dogs were so calculating in their movements, it was as if they had done this all their lives, with more handler control and deliberate action than most herding border collies I have seen.
We figured we were in way over our heads, as Maribeth's Sheltie (Jade Mist Sweet
Mischief, CGC) and my two Swissies have never even sniffed sheep poo before that morning,
what were we thinking?.....
Well, Anthony (Precious Movin Out v. Schatz- by Ch. Garth of Drum Hill x Ch. Tye Robertson, TT, CGC, TDI) was the first Swissy to go into the arena (large sawdusty corral type area with thick footing, totally enclosed in the large barn/activity building). I told the instructor he was a gentle dog and was not the least bit aggressive, she let out the group of sheep who are the most cooperative and the least difficult for him. He went in happily, amidst the oohs and ahhs from the Rottie people of "is that a Swissy?", "he is so big", "look at that tail", etc. Well Anthony is a
sweet sweet dog (thank goodness because that might be all he has going for him (GRIN), he stood about 20 feet from the sheep and LOOKED at them, for a long time.
Anthony staring at the sheep
So we led him closer...... he looked some more..... then he went foward with our encouragement (the judge/handler was with me the whole time telling me how to do it), he got up really close and sniffed the closest sheep (sheep are MUCH BIGGER THAN I HAD THOUGHT):).
Anthony sniffed, the sheep sniffed back, then Anthony being a Garth son, did what all sweet (but slow) Swissies do when they meet a strange "dog", he did a playbow, with a little "umph" noise....................
Well all three sheep TOOK OFF, SCATTERED in three different directions and with Anthony running in the fourth!!!! It looked sort of like a cartoon skit:)
We walked and the sheep gathered back to us, and we tried to get Anthony to focus on them, but he decided they were not dogs and he didn't know what in the world we were trying to get from him. He meandered around the arena, marked one wall, visited with the spectators, came to us when we called him. He was happy, wagging his tail, running about, but he was NOT herding. He seemed a little sad that they kept running away from him, but he had no interest in pursuing/chasing them.
gooochie goochie:) Anthony didn't fall for it!
Aimless Anthony loping about with the sheep:)
Oh well, Anthony did not pass and the comment on his test sheet was something to the effect of "no clear purpose" (GRIN). I laughed and mumbled something to the judge about how he could seriously pull a cart with "purpose":) and left with the goofball to watch my friend's Sheltie. She went in after a couple of Rotties (they switched back to the harder sheep). Vixen ended up working the roughest sheep too.
Now THAT's, how it's DONE!!
She was a star by the way, she never saw a sheep in her life either, had no interest in them from the fence outside, but once turned loose inside the arena she worked them like she had always been with them. Very impressive to see, the Rottie people were commenting on WOW what a Sheltie, stable, confident, WORKING--it takes a lot to get compliments from Rottie people:)
And the other way!!
I was so proud of her, I think even more than for my own goofball Swissies, she was finally doing what she was bred to do!!!
Vixen even put the sheep back into their pen (an advanced thing), it was amazing to watch. I think this was the best day in Vixen's life, really!! She snored all the way home and that is UNUSUAL for her, the energizer dog!!
Then a few more Rotties went, they kept out the harder sheep and switched them around
and then it was Peaches' turn. (Plumtree GA Peach v. Schatz by Bart v. Meyer, TT, CGC, TDI
"rude rex" and Ch. Cassie). They left the harder sheep out because they figured
they were a little tired and okay for her, I guess. Peaches went in with the judge but
couldn't stop looking for
Peaches looking for me!! what a goof.
(I guess all my dogs have a "mommy complex"), so I went in again too. As soon
as she realized that I was there for "back up" she swung wide and rounded up
those "doggies". (3 foot tall animals running wildly at you and in my mind
trying to break my body parts)
Peaches sending the sheep to get me!!
I knew she would love this, but I didn't realize how much, she loped and worked pretty
wide from them, but she was thorough (according to the scoresheet), she practiced what
they called "wearing", which they explained was very good because it meant she
understood how to swing back and forth to keep the sheep with me as I walked (I felt very
dizzy watching from
where the sheep were for some reason, this is definately something you have to acclimate to).
Peaches worked with her tongue lolling out like an Appenzeller (no offense-well maybe a
little:)(GRIN)) and they gave her some pretty nice compliments too, she also was under
good voice control and they were surprised that she responded to a "back"
command, and "easy". I told them that she thought those commands were part of
her NAME!!!. She is so
tired now, she can't even roll over:)
I was very warm in the cold building with my new Swissy Sweatshirt, Thanks Don and Sonya!!
Peaches going for the one getting away!
The judges thought that both Vixen and Peaches should try for the second leg, but we
declined for now, but we left with big ambitions to return to get their second legs and to
start a few more dogs at this entertaining and very exhausting sport (alas not Anthony):)
I am going to read up on what else we have to do and how and what we should work on
(between sheep) so,
Ray, (or anyone else) what are some good sites to start with?? It was truly amazing to see the unadulterated INSTINCT take over and show the dog what to do (or in Anthony's case, the lack thereof--but that was educational too, so that you don't try to make a herding dog out of a dog that has no inclination for it).
If you ever get a chance, give this a try. What a BLAST!!!!
Ray Dube (who herds with his English Shepherd and his Swissy Shamrock Issac v. Schatz) , helped me find these other links/sites to check out regarding Herding. Please have a look and think about this activity. Our dogs are capable of so much, it is truly amazing to see them work.
|Herding on the Web (One of Ray's favorite sites)||The American Herding Breeds Association AHBA|
|REALLY GREAT HERDING STORIES|
|Mary Jo's Herding Page and HOW to Join Herding-L|
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