HERDING IN VA (no pictures yet) Reprinted from my post to Swissy-L

Oh this is the MOST fun in the world, Peaches (and assorted others) and I just got home from a very long and THOUROUGHLY enjoyable day HERDING sheep. Peaches is the star of all Swissydom today (as far as she and I are concerned) as she just had a blast doing one of things that just comes naturally to her....

We attended the Herding Clinic down near Lynchburg, offered by the Virginia Rottweiler Rescue group and with assorted Rotties (mine included), a Labrador and another Swissy --HI TETON!!, a sheltie and lots of fun people we spent a warm and exciting day having fun with our dogs and I learned A LOT.... I learned that I am VERY uncoordinated (well I knew that before -- but I PROVED it to a lot of new people today - grin), I learned that Peaches and Judge know more about herding already than I can learn in a year, and that germs are EVERYWHERE (he he don, I thought of you many times today).

I hope someone sends me some pictures this time as I will put them on the webpage too, but otherwise here is how it went while it is still fresh in my mind. I might get somethings wrong, but this is how I understood the lessons, anyone who actually does this all the time, feel free to correct me, I am very very new to this sport and there are TONS of things I don't know and could be misinterpreting! Please, if you know better tell me!!!

The instructor gave us a 40 minute or so lecture on herding needing the three parts of Instinct (what the dog is born with), Training (what we do with what we have) and DRIVE (what your dog needs to pursue ANY activity). It was explained to us how to move to keep the dog working the sheep and how to protect the sheep should our "upright" breeds decide to play or be predatory to the livestock. The finer points of competition and the rules for participation by the "non" herding breeds were covered too.

I brought Peaches for the clinic (since she had done this before and showed some promise earning her first leg (the instinct part) on her AHBA HCT in Delaware in March) and I brought my Rottie, Judge, just in case there was time to work him, and I brought young Rosalee to *socialize* her (and because no one wants her to stay home as she is a pest--maybe this is why I show puppies, he he he he), I also took Okeydokey for fun and Cody a rescue Rottweiler I just got and who I wanted to see how he would behave on a road trip (he is available so if you know anyone looking for a really GOOD, sweet pet Rottie, let me know!!!). Ellyn and our sheltie friend were supposed to be right behind me on the road but they ran into a problem this morning and never made it to the clinic, too bad as it was a blast!!!

Peaches once again took to this idea very quickly, she is a natural herding dog and she does everything right even if I am clumsily trying to figure out which way to go and trying not to fall over (or onto --gasp-- ) a sheep.

We each started out on lead and showed the dogs what we meant by "out" and get back (for if they are too close), then drop the lead and use the shepherd's staff to show them which way to turn, like an extension of your arm to block their way and redirect them around back behind the sheep again... The cutest thing in the world was watching Mr. Teton, a six month old Swissy, do this, as he is ALL FEET... what an adorable doggy, they took video of both Teton and Peaches and I can't wait to see it. The Labrador did playbows and happy woofs at the sheep and the instructor laughed about how he could herd the ducks and then retrieve them when they were tired...

One of the Rotties barked the sheep into doing what he wanted, if they didn't go deaf they could be moved anywhere from his "commands" and we found that MY Rottweiler is "too trained" to herd well, but has "potential"... Everytime I uttered any kind of word, noise or even grunt, he tried to rush back in to heel position, I never thought I could be accused of training a dog "too much"... but Judge is a "heeling fool" and he wanted to fall back into the exercises he knew rather than trying to do something strange and different. They said I should let him get his HCT with another handler or put duct tape on my mouth and he'd do just fine!! (GRIN) (yeah yeah I hear you all agreeing to the duct tape, you'll have to tape my hands too!!)

After each dog worked twice in the small corral/pen and the instructor could evaluate how they were progressing, she decided to let Peaches try in the regulation sized area and she showed me all I'd have to do to help Peaches get her second leg for the HCT (maybe in Sept)...

You enter the arena and the sheep are usually huddled somewhere near the gate, you have to have your dog sit or otherwise stay your dog and move toward the sheep and then call your dog into start....you have to back/move away from the dog with the sheep gathered around you and help cause your dog to "wear" back and forth behind the sheep keeping them coming at you as you progress in a "straight" line to the other end of the arena and then come back... The dog has to keep the sheep together and moving toward/with you, he/she can't be aggressive or stupid with the sheep, he/she has to continue to work and shouldn't just run around aimlessly.... A chicken entered the arena while we were working and Peaches tried to make it chum up with the sheep but it ducked under the fence instead and while I thought it was dorky for Peaches to leave the sheep to go after this chicken, the instructor said that many really good herding dogs will try to get any animal in the vicinity into the "herd" that's the point, they don't really realize we only want the sheep:), surprisingly-to me anyway, Peaches didn't want to catch the chicken, just tried to get it to go with the sheep!!!.

After you and your dog move the sheep back and forth you have to be able to verbally "stop" your dog, and then call your dog away from the sheep to you to end the session... So with a little polish on Peaches' basic Obedience and maybe a "drop" while moving at a distance and she is READY!!!

Rosalee is very excited about giving this a try too and I can think of a few of Ellyn's dogs who WILL LOVE this, I have got to find someone with doggy sheep close by so we can do this all the time.. Peaches is exhausted (and that almost NEVER happens) and aside from a few bruises and quite a bit of dirt, I feel better (like we really accomplished something) after a day of herding than running around the ring ten times at a point show!!!

Now for the fun part....Don, I must have thought of you a dozen times today, I have to tell you first that, I really am fond of you both and I admire that you are putting your concerns out to the list and we can all learn from each other even if we don't agree, but I have to say once again that GERMS are not our enemies, unsocialized and undersocialized dogs are far more dangerous than any virus or plague that they "might" catch. No we don't "NEED" dog shows to socialize our dogs, but then I don't "NEED" to do herding either, I don't need to go to dog class or the petfood store and expose my dogs to germs, I can train at home, alone with a book maybe, I can have food shipped to me and I don't NEED to do carting or agility as that "could" be dangerous, I don't "NEED" to go to the vets, I can have one come to the house and I don't NEED to do ANYTHING, but then what kind of fun would I have? What kind of life would my dogs have?

I mean today, I had more fun with my dogs than I've had in months (including some big wins at big dog shows) and EVERYTHING that I did today was GERMY and probably dangerous.... My dogs went to a farm where-gasp- ANIMALS LIVE!!! Jack Asses, Sheep, Ducks, Geese, Chickens, Kittens, other Dogs, AND a 4 year old human child (the germiest and most toxic of the bunch if you ask me!!!)

I ran around and in the middle of dirty, woolly, shaggy, greasy, smelly SHEEP!!, my dogs ate sheepsh*t, Judge even rolled in some so he could bring the experience home to show the OTHER dogs that weren't lucky enough to even go to the event!!, many of the other dogs also tasted the sheepsh*t delicacy!! and they all agreed that it was DELICIOUS. I fell over a sheep two separate times and landed in sheepsh*tty dirt and even got sawdust and dirt in my shorts and probably my underpants, I got up shook it out and kept moving. To cool her off I got Peaches all wet from the pump and then washed my hands in a horse trough and then wiped them on my shirt and after I used a wetnap thingy, I ate a salami sandwich and potato salad (complete with some dog hair) outside where flies and other bugs reigned supreme. The "riskiest" thing I did was let the 4 year old little girl sit on my lap and pet my dog, who knows what we will catch from her???

Anyway, my point is, I don't/can't/won't live in a bubble and my dogs are not little fragile hothouse orchids, they are REAL dogs, in the REAL world and we can't do anything about the fact that bad germs and danger and disease and risk abound... We need to breed only the healthiest and fully tested dogs to the healthiest and fully tested bitches, we need to raise them all to tolerate and actually enjoy new experiences (you can only do that by exposing them to new things/germs/life-especially while young) in order to reduce stress which affects the immune system and makes them more susceptible to disease than the actual germs themselves!!!. And then we need to take normal precautions against diseases/risks without sacrificing ANY quality of life/fun for the perceived reduction of risk.

Sharyl. (It was a long drive, I had time to think tooo much. Peaches was snoring and even Rosalee wasn't much for conversation.)
Peaches (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, baaaaaaaaahhhhh, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)
Judge (duct tape, he he hehehehe)
Rosalee (when is it MY TURN???)
Piccadilly (Judge you smell....ummmm, hmmm, shall we say "SHEEPY"??)
Chance (you mean you didn't eat the chicken when you had the opportunity????)
Ciba (no silly, she'd get salmonella):)