Wednesday, May 20, 2009

There Once Was a Sheepdog Puppy Named Reese....

She dreamed ....

of rolling hills with green meadows full of...

When she grew up and was about 6 months old, her human took her to see if she really understood what sheep were...

Yep, she we went back to Mamma Style's house..

to herd sheep. Reese is still learning and this is what she looked like about a year ago.

Last week we had a lesson with Derek Scrimgeour who won the English National Sheepdog trial in 2008. I was told he had a wonderful way of communicating with the dogs without needing to use hard corrections. He is able to communicate with his body language what he wants the dogs to understand, even those just starting out. I don't have any pictures of our lesson, but it went very well. I was expecting a round pen and instead there was a very large field with about 9 or 10 sheep in it, with 2-3 small lambs. Derek took Reese into the field and I stayed next to Derek as he unclipped her leash and sent her to the sheep. At this point I was not to sure how things were going to go, especially with lambs in there.

Reese did a great job she ran up to the top of the field peeled the sheep off the fence and Derek had her flanking around the sheep. After a few times he started putting the command with the direction he was giving Reese with his body language. A flank is when the dog runs around the sheep on one side or the other. If you think of a clock and the handler is at 6:00 the sheep are in the center of the clock and you send the dog so she is at 12:00. Sending the dog clockwise around the sheep is "Come Bye" and sending her counter clockwise is "Away to Me".

Reese was able to work a long time for Derek as she was working for him in a very controled manner, you could really see her thinking about what she was doing and adjusting herself naturally when needed. He was also able to get her to walk up behind the sheep and stop and lie down. It was wonderful to see my girlie doing what she was meant to do.

After Reese had a break and some water I took her in the field myself. It started a bit badly as Reese ran to the top of the field a few of the sheep including one little lamb ran down to the other end of the field. Reese didn't split them which is not good unless you ask for it, the sheep just did it and the sheep were far enough away by the time Reese caught up with the non-conforming woolies and so we just worked with those sheep on that end of the field. The sheep were sticking to the fence, but I was able to get Reese to back away and give the sheep a little room so they could get about 5-10 feet from the fence. Reese was then able to get behind the sheep and pull them off the fence. I was working on her flanks and we were doing pretty well. By this time Derek had made his way into the pasture to help.

My biggest problem was that I wasn't staying with my sheep enough. That is one of the most important rules. The sheep feel safe with you the human and it is also easier to let the dog know what you want her to do to help with the sheep.

Derek thought that Reese had a lot of potential and could be quite good. She had natural even round flanks and didn't split the sheep, was not nasty to them and didn't grip. She controled herself and stopped when we told her to. She also recalled when I ask, my, my, my what a little darlin' I have. (Usually when dogs are first on sheep they forget all the commands they once knew).

We will be herding again on Sunday so I will write and update on how we do when Derek is not present. It may be a completely different story but I am hopeful that we will take some of what we learned last week out to the flock with us again.

When not dreaming of the real sheepies Reese has Lambie to play with. Actually it is Lambie II
This was Lambie I
which is, ahem, why we now have Lambie II.

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