Sunday, March 12, 2006

To Herd or Not To Herd?

Yesterday Annie and I took the border collies to be tested for admission to a herding group hereabouts. Basically this is a group of people who train their dogs to "work" sheep, kind of like the pig in "Babe". Border Collies are sort of the world champions at this kind of thing -- it's what they're bred for and they're extremely good at it.

At least, in theory.

There were three people there, one woman with an older border collie and an Australian shepherd, and another woman with a brown and white border collie with only three legs. Then there was the woman running the show, the woman who owned the place we were at, and Annie.

Yes, once again, I was the only uncut male in attendance. I am nervous that one day one of these women is going to pull a pair of wire snippers out of her back pocket and announce their new "Fixed Males Only" policy.

Anyway, we anxiously awaited our turn like nervous parents at their child's first recital. The dogs are young, just a year old, was it too early? They love pacing the fenceline and act very ferocious, would they try to kill the sheep? Would they (most likely) be instant masters at it and earn us untold fame and fortune?

As it turns out, all the time I spent worrying about how the dogs would do might have been better spent wondering how I would do. I lost Radar's leash twice, once having to dive after him as he lunged at the sheep from outside the round pen where the sheep were. I scraped up my leg pretty good while managing to look like a completely ungraceful clod. Another time he leapt up and around me and I just lost the handle on the leash and he went barking and leaping around the pen.

It turns out they're just too young, and need some more seasoning and confidence before we'll know whether they're cut out to be herding dogs or not. There's that word again, "cut out". After my pathetic performance holding the leash, I can feel the snippers getting closer and closer ... Maybe from now on Annie should go to these things alone before I go from a stallion to a stud with one cut.


annie'sbuddie said...

i never knew there was a bc to start working sheep. when i was taking my shiloh to classes the teacher and one student had littermates about 7-8 weeks old that they were introducing to lambs...made my 2
year old shiloh look like a fool!
p.s. there is a trial next weekend in brenham-if annie is interested tell her to let me know.

annie'sbuddie said...

oops! meant to say a bc too young to start working sheep

Jeff Hebert said...

Well, she said that they just lacked confidence at this point, and to get them out into more situations with more animals and people. Also to do more trust-building between them and Annie, doing basic obedience stuff and the like.