Hope everyone inhales lots of yummy Thanksgiving food (and keeps the table scraps away from any begging eyes or prying noses). <3
Motley’s mom texted me today to see if I was going to be around for the holidays. Since I’m working on Christmas Day, I’ll definitely be here. She’s flying out to California to be with her family so I’ll be watching over Motley and Brandi for about two and a half weeks! I’m pretty excited. She’s also interested in bringing the girls out to the farm one day to see how they do with the livestock. I think she’d really enjoy herding with the girls!
Sammy and I have come a long way. I hadn’t realized how far we’d come until one of my co-workers came out to the farm with her new Border Collie. Flex is about a year and a half old and has had prior training with livestock. His new owner, my co-worker, has been around a lot of working dogs and has had the opportunity to watch and learn from our instructor and other herding acquaintances, but she has never actually been in the field with a dog before. I’ve learned the hard way that watching is easy, but doing is much more challenging! Thankfully for me, my friend is starting around the same level as me so I’m able to observe and learn from her and her dog, and hopefully we’ll be able to help each other advance (which is nice because all of my other friends who have been herding for a year or two now are past the point where I am).
After watching my co-worker working with her new dog for the first time, it helped me realize that Sam and I have made some big improvements. For a moment I was afraid I was stuck and just not getting it. But now I realize that however minor our progress may seem, we’ve actually accomplished a lot of really great things! I have to remind myself that herding is not easy and that Sam and I won’t be a great team overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, and if we keep it up, we might turn out to be a decent team!
When I first began herding with Sammy, it was more like playing a game of chase. I always had my eyes on the dog, I was always chasing the dog, I was moving around the livestock in a way that would block her from effectively helping manage the livestock, I would only briefly glance at the livestock, and worst of all, I was inanimate for about 90% of the time whenever I went into the pen with Sam and the livestock.
There are some things I have to remind myself when I go herding:
- Stop watching your dog. Where’s your livestock?
- Don’t chase your dog. Get with your livestock.
- If you watch your livestock, they will tell you where your dog is.
- Situations are ever changing and you have to be ready to move accordingly.
- Things will never go as planned. You have to be ready for anything.
- There’s no need for frustration. Herding is far from easy.
Being more animated has been one of my biggest issues. I’m just not an animated, outgoing, excitable person. In herding, you have to move constantly. I’m still not at that point yet, but I’m doing a hell of a lot more moving than I was in the beginning. Helping out at the farm is very beneficial. Just yesterday I was wrangling ducks! I’m growing more confident little by little. I really think my time on the farm will ultimately be a great character-building experience for me.
Working with the livestock also gives me the opportunity to learn how the animals think. I’m able to see what decisions they make, what directions they take, how they move, etc. Which can be very helpful when I’m herding with Sammy because I’ll have a better idea of where the livestock might move next, or how they might react with my dog in different situations and positions out in the field.
I have definitely been toying with the idea of getting a farm dog. I had been considering another dog for awhile, but have been too reluctant to really look into it because I’m afraid of losing another dog to unforeseen events down the road. I’ve come a long way since then and after a lot of emotional struggle I’ve finally realized that my dogs truly are the most important things in my life. No relationship will ever come between my dogs and I ever again. I was foolish and in a very emotional state. I regret losing my Australian Shepherd every day since the day I gave her up.
It will not happen again.
Still, I want to approach this idea very carefully and with 100% certainty. I went from wanting a rescue dog to wanting a stock dog. I haven’t decided what breed I’d like to get. I know it will either be an Australian Cattle Dog, an Australian Shepherd, or a Border Collie. All three of these dogs herd very differently. From what I understand, nothing herds like a Border Collie. They have the strongest “eye” and seem to do a lot of stalking to intimidate the livestock. Aussies tend to be “pushers,” and will actually get in there and bump the livestock around when they need to put pressure on the herd. Cattle dogs are headstrong and use a lot of force. BC’s are the natural “gatherers,” and Aussies and ACD’s are the natural “drivers.” So far, of all the breeds I’ve seen herding, I really like the way Border Collies and Rough Collies work, but Aussies and ACD’s are my favorite overall breeds.
My instructor has a lot of experience working with Border Collies and German Shepherds (I think she has also worked with Aussies). I’m excited about the clinic in January because I’ll have a chance to watch a lot of breeds working at their best, including the Australian Cattle Dog. They are stubborn dogs, but my absolute favorite breed. I’m hesitant to choose an ACD though because I don’t know if their working style is what I’d like to work with, and also because I’m concerned about introducing another headstrong dog into the mix with Sam and Helo. They need a dog who will bring balance, which is why I’m leaning towards Aussies and Border Collies.
In January I will be attending my first clinic up in Northern Virginia! I’m excited to have the opportunity to watch different breeds work livestock, and to learn from Larry Painter (a gentleman who herds with Australian Cattle Dogs and Kelpies). Clinics are like workshops. I was told that if I was really interested in getting into herding, clinics were a good way to watch and learn, as well as meet other trainers and people who have more experience than me. I should definitely get some amazing pictures at the clinic!