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November 30, 2013: Sheep Herding 101, Part III

Today Ryder, Pete, and I went to our third herding class. It was really, really cold, -10° F or so. The sun was shining brightly – the dogs seemed invigorated – the sheep seemed mystified – undoubtedly they wondered why class hadn’t been cancelled. And me? I was glad to be wearing my Refrigerware suit and mukluks. It felt like I was in a cocoon.

Ryder didn’t get to go for a walk this morning because we took Hrimmi out, so she was more energetic than she might otherwise have been. Got me to thinking that we would have our hands full if we hadn’t been so diligent about getting her out.

We were the first to arrive. And Suzanne was the second person to arrive. She promptly got into the pen with the dozen sheep and invited Ryder to come in. Important – dog must sit prior to entering the pen, and prior to being told he or she has permission to work the sheep. The following brief and very useful lesson centered around the word “out.” What Ryder needs to learn, and what Suzanne worked on with her, is to keep her distance from the sheep. Ryder, you see, wants to micro-manage the ewes. Meaning, get in close and nip at them. A few times Ryder’s attention wavered and she wandered off. Then a few times she laid down, which was a good thing. Most definitely, Ryder was into the task at hand.

The second time Pete went into the pen with Ryder. They ranged further afield than did Suzanne and dog. Ryder did better at keeping her distance, particularly when Pete turned around and faced her. He was in front, she was behind, this was fetching.

Then there was the grande finale. Class was short because just two other people showed up with their dogs. Suzanne said that Ryder could bring the sheep from the enclosure to the regular pen. And Pete could get to do the honors. I opened the pen and the sheep walked out. Ryder and Pete headed up road, Pete walking and Ryder keeping the sheep bunched up near him. As they walked, I listened to Suzanne’s commentary.

Suzanne thinks that Ryder is from cattle herding stock. Such dogs tend to be more aggressive than those who are from sheep herding stock. I watched as the dog kept the sheep bunched together, moving in maybe more than she should have. Again, she was micro-managing. Ryder did as told, and pushed the sheep into the pen. But oh oh, she then ran off to say hello to Suzanne’s dogs, which were in cages. There was no time for a “that’ll do.”

Not so good, Ryder. Eh, as Pete and I later agreed, Ryder is still a very young dog, and like all young dogs, more inclined to do wrong things. So, you reward the good by focusing on what she did do well.

It’s so very cool to be able to let this dog do what she was bred to do.

Next: 250: 12/1/13: Dog Search and Rescue – Session #1