Saturday, February 20, 2010

Herding: Not Just For Sheep Anymore

Duncan and I spent several hours at Claire’s yesterday. While there, we worked with sheep on outruns, obstacles, gate work and boundary herding.

Duncan is doing very nicely with boundary herding. He’s slowly getting more comfortable with moving around the entire grazing area, although he’ll get more practice with that when he gets to work a larger flock. During Friday’s session he also managed to spend some time relaxing on the far side of the area opposite me. That’s a big deal, because he generally doesn’t like to be that far away from me.

The line of stones is the boundary on this side. Duncan's staying right along the edge.

The sheep have moved, but Duncan is still behind the stone boundary.

Since the sheep are moving, Duncan is doing the proper thing and moving with them to make sure they don't leave the grazing area.

Duncan is waaaaay off to the far right of the photo. Thats the farthest he's ever been from me while working sheep, but he handled it very nicely.

Duncan stays outside his boundary line while helping me take the sheep back to the arena.

Back in the arena...

Here we're working on guarding the gate while I sort out some sheep. Duncan's job is to keep the sheep from rushing the gate as a group while I let two of them go through. He's also responsible for suggesting to any extra sheep that try to go through the gate that, just maybe, they don't want to do that.

And this picture is in here because he's an extremely handsome German shepherd, even if he is mostly covered with muck.

Now we're working on moving the sheep through an obstacle. The goal is for me to stay outside the obstacle while the sheep walk through it. Duncan's job is to push them through, but not go through it himself.

Same goal, different obstacle.

One thing Claire noticed during this session is that the faster Duncan's tail wags, the more likely it is that he's going to try to grip one of the sheep. Its a great indicator, except that he should always be behind me when we're moving around the arena.

Since Duncan has some trouble with ducks, we started herding turkeys (well, trying to herd them, anyway). The birds are big enough that Duncan isn’t quite as inclined to pick them up as he is ducks, but he still gave it a try a couple of times.

Turkeys just don't pick up quite as easily as ducks do, although not for lack of effort.

Notice the turkey third from the right in the picture below. Notice her pretty white wing and tail feathers.

Remember the turkey with the white wing and tail feathers? Duncan brought one home as a trophy. After he plucked it from her.

Our biggest problem was the goats – not that Duncan was trying to herd them, but that they really did not like him. Claire had to pen them while we were working because they kept harassing Duncan. My poor pup has been nervous around the goats since one of them head butted him a few months ago, and he’ll go out of his way to avoid them (or to use me as a blocker). As we were trying to leave yesterday, we had a bit of an incident. Duncan wanted some water, but the goats wouldn’t let him near the trough. Claire and I were trying to get out of the arena, but Duncan kept wavering – go, or get water? Claire backed off of the gate and the goats started towards her, so Duncan headed for the trough. As he was finally getting a sip of water, one of the goats suddenly rammed him in the side. Duncan fell over, and I actually heard the air being knocked out of him. My response, of course, was to start smacking the goat with my stock stick so that he’d back away from Duncan (the goat was staring at him, looking like he was daring Duncan to get up). Claire grabbed the goat and I got Duncan out of the arena. Thankfully, it appears that Duncan’s very sturdy ribcage took the blow. I didn’t find any injuries or indication of soreness, so I think Duncan was more startled that anything else. Claire said that when the goats start getting obnoxious with her dogs, she encourages them (the dogs) to use their teeth. Unfortunately for Duncan (but fortunately for the goat), fighting back just isn’t Duncan’s personality. I have a feeling he’s going to be even more nervous around the goats from now on. But I also think that Claire will make sure Duncan’s not put in a situation where this could happen again.

Poor Duncan – he had a rough day. He had to work - and watch us work - for five hours (never mind the additional three hours of drive time), he was attacked by a goat, and to top it off, Albert the cow bonked him on the head with a horn because Duncan tried to give him a kiss. It’s a good thing Duncan loves herding so much…


Anonymous said...

It's such a joy to read of ya'll's trials and tribulations and excitements and herdings!!! Way to go, Duncan. Put a feather in his cap and call him Macaroni!!! :):):)Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

When everything is coming your way, you are in the wrong lane.............................................