Sunday, June 22, 2008


Yesterday Honor-Bug, Katrin, Monty, Obi, and I went out to Two Shadows Farm to try our hand at herding. Colleen, the trainer, used to be located in Wrentham and now has a lovely place out in New Braintree - about 90 minutes away.

Katrin and Monty had their lesson first so I could watch. It was really excellent (and overwhelming!). Colleen is so good - as she was instructing Katrin she was also giving me asides explaining different things. Colleen uses a small children's size rake to direct the dogs from a distance. In my mind the rake acts sort of like a rudder directing the flow of the dogs movement. Colleen had Katrin use it to change Monty's direction and give the sheepies more space. The rake doesn't typically actually touch the dog.

Monty and Katrin seemed to have a really good time and on a couple of occasions Colleen commented on how pretty a certain get-out or get-around was.

When it was the Bug's turn I brought him out and let him play with some sheep wool. Colleen's sheep are what she referred to as "hair" sheep. They do not have to be clipped/shorn, they shed their wool. A quick google search told me that "hair" sheep are Katahdin Sheep. Katahdin sheep are a breed that was developed in the U.S. by a fellow in Maine. He saw pictures in National Geographic of some of these sheep in West Africa and decided to import some.

Bug LOVED the wool.

After Bug had an opportunity to play with the wool, Colleen told me to bring him into the pen. She said that the dog should NEVER enter the pen without your permission and should be under your control. I asked Bug for a sit, opened the gate, walked in and released him. I then asked him for another sit. Then Bug let out a low growl - so while he was not stressed he wasn't 100% with the sheepies.

I put Bug in a sit and asked him to wait. Then I walked partway out to the sheepies, turned and returned to Bug to reward him for a good wait. Eventually I walked out, touched the sheepies and returned to the Bug.

Then we practiced "get out" which involved walking around the outside edge of the pen, Bug on the outside and me on the inside. I asked him for four different behaviors while walking and then switched sides and did the same thing. Colleen then asked me to walk with Bug straight into the sheep. Bug put on the brakes. Colleen came in and picked up one of the sheep's hooves so that Bug could get a close sniff. He wasn't so sure he wanted any part of it.

Colleen had me chase the sheep with her holding Bug and following.

Since we wanted to work on Bug being more comfortable, Colleen had us start walking along the outside edge of the pen and slowly get closer and closer to the sheep. I kept treating Bug for his bravery. Thank gods Bug is a cheese whore! By the end we were REALLY close to the sheep and I was about to be sick with the dizziness! Big improvement.

Collen said she thought it would probably take two or three lessons for Bug to realize, "Oh, sheep are fun!" Part of the dynamics is how new Bug is to me and his softness. He has only been with me for a month and a half, although it feels like he has always been with us. I am sure as our realtionship deepens and he has more confidence in me he will become more confident.

After Bug's lesson Obi had an opportunity to herd too! He did awesome. On the ride home all the dogs were conked out. In fact, I think Bug is still tired from yesterday. Learning is stressful after all!!


Shelly said...

Oh, I'm so happy it went well!!

Shaya and Tom said...

That sounds really great! Yeah Bug, Monty, Obi, Julie and Katrin.

I've also heard of hair sheep being a breed called Karakul that are the oldest domesticated sheep, but probably not what you worked with.

ann & partner said...

Nice pictures and writing. Thank you for explaining in great detail.

Jules said...

We had a lot of fun. Now I have to look at my calendar, Katrin's calendar, and Collen's and get some more lessons scheduled!

Holly said...

We are thrilled! Go Bug! Go Monty!

A very proud grandmum.

Blue said...

Oh cool! It sounds like Bug had a really positive experience with the sheep, and Colleen sounds like a great trainer. Iris says it's no wonder Bug wasn't sure about the sheep. They're really big, especially from Corgi eye level!