Wednesday, December 02, 2009

SheepGoatDuck Muck

Duncan and I had another work-for-herd session yesterday. Duncan had such an excellent time that he’s still pooped. Speaking of which, its amazing how my prissy boy doesn’t care how deep or nasty the muck is that he’s slogging through, as long as there’s a sheep involved. Between the mud from the rain the night before and the general farm muck, Duncan was covered up to his belly by the time we were done. He was a dirty, happy pup.

We mixed things up quite a bit, to see how he’d do. He had a lovely easy session with two sheep when we first arrived (remember, the fewer sheep in the flock, the lighter (more skittish) they are, so to have an easy session with two sheep means Duncan was very relaxed and controlled). Now, if we can just duplicate that at the trial this coming weekend, I’ll be ever so happy. We did a session of boundary herding, which Duncan handled wonderfully. One interesting thing we saw was that Duncan takes correction from Claire with no problem (when she reminds him about the edge of the boundary), but when I correct him, he goes into Worried Dog Mode and tries to come farther into the grazing area to get right next to me. As long as I’m not correcting him, he doesn’t seem to have any trouble with being that far away from me. Just something we need to work on.

Duncan definitely remembered the goats from our last session, because he made a point of trying to avoid them, even when he was tied to a tree. Apparently, he doesn’t find being head-butted particularly entertaining. After a bit of work, we had another session in the arena, but with a much larger flock. Duncan handled them with no trouble at all, moving the flock around the arena with barely any effort. More work, and then back to the herding. We took the flock through the woods, which was a new experience for both of us, and then to the upper part of the grazing area for another boundary session. At one point, Duncan figured out he didn’t need to keep running the boundary, so he sat down for a break. That was perfectly fine, because as soon as the sheep moved too close to the edge, he popped up and moved them right back into the grazing area. And he did that with no indication from either me or Claire that he needed to do it, which I think is pretty impressive.

After moving the sheep back into the arena, we headed up to the duck pens. Ducks don’t herd at all like sheep, and that was very evident. Poor Duncan kept herding them like he would sheep – moving them in the correct direction and then backing off. Unfortunately, backing off of ducks means the ducks will stop going where the dog was trying to get them to go, and instead they’ll head back to their pen. Duncan got pretty mouthy with the ducks, but Claire only fussed once or twice. At one point, he tried licking a duck into submission. When that didn’t work, he just picked it up (and no, he didn’t hurt it). Claire said he was just doing what most dogs used to sheep do at first - trying to either hold the duck in one place to make it stop moving (balance is very important to herding dogs), or simply picking the duck up to make it go where its supposed to. We’ll have to keep practicing with the ducks.

Now, these pictures have nothing to do with sheep herding (or duck herding, for that matter), I just really liked them.


Anonymous said...

Duncan's a smart puppy!!!!! Good with sheep and good with ducks....don't blame him one bit about the goats!!!! Like the pics too!!!!! :)Love,Mom

Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures...I think you are getting more professional with your photography and the dogs are liking the model business. Miss you all. Mary B.