Working Sheep With Dogs
Just finished watching Babe ...
Do you know anything about working with sheepdogs? I only know what I have seen in this movie, and in the "Mist" films from Devon, and in one televised sheepdog trials long long ago.
I would love to know exactly what "Away to me" and "Come by" and the other commands mean, and what it is really like working with sheep and dogs.
Is it all Border Collies nowadays? What about Collies and Old English Sheepdogs and other traditional sheep-herding breeds?
Anything you can share, I would love to read!
http://bordercollie.org is pretty herding-centric and has a lot of information. Border Collies definitely dominate the scene, but other herding breeds are still around.
Years ago we trained border collies to herd, but cattle, not sheep.
A good dog will work anything, but the rules for working sheep generally need a bit different dog than cattle.
We did start our dogs on dog broke, trained hair sheep when very young, as soon as they had turned on.
All dogs may chase, herding dogs herd, border collies generally herd by gathering and balancing their stock to the handler and then learn from that how to move the stock whatever direction the handler tells them.
You work with the instinct a dog inherits and teach it to listen to you.
You can't herd if a dog doesn't has the right herding instinct and yes, border collies and kelpies are generally the best for today's kind of herding, although other breeds can have some dogs almost as good.
I expect you have some herding trials nearby you could go watch dogs work.:)
I've done it, not for several years now since we don't have sheep any more, but I used a high working bred Aussie for it.... He was trained to Way, Come By, Down, Hold, On up (moving faster the faster I said it), Come behind and of course "that'll do"... :)
It's amazingly helpful when you have sheep all scattered from heck to breakfast and you're too short and out of shape to run and get them by yourself! It feels like magic to have a dog out there on command helping and having the right feel. Mine seemed to learn in a minute and be able to anticipate what we needed; he was too strong in the close corrals but our ranch partner had two older BC/Aussie crosses and a Pomeranian that were good there.
I herd with my dogs, New Zealand Heading Dogs. I also have a small flock of sheep I play with . There is a long history of working sheep with dogs all over the world. There are many breeds that work sheep but they all don't work them the same. The are generally divided into eye dogs, like border collies (NZ heading dogs as well) some Aussies as well and upright dogs. Eye dogs work the heads of the sheep, bY going forward to catch their eye to stop them. Upright dogs tend to work behind the livestock and drive them. Almost every culture has some kind of herding dog.
The border collie and their style of working is what is commonly though of as herding dogs but many others also herd. I have some friends heading to the Bouvier des Flander Nationals to compete in herding with their dogs. I have watched their dogs work their own flock of sheep as well as any working dogs.
It's very addicting and lots of fun.
a Pomeranian as a herding dog?
Originally Posted by cowboymom
Yep, she learned alongside the other dogs and she ended up being pretty good at it! Not a traditional sheep dog by any means but it was cute to see!
The herding BNT we worked with, that had a kennel full of top winning herding dogs, had a yorkie that he used to bring the goats in when they escaped.;)
My dad has a good border collie that he trained, with help from a pro, for working his sheep and goats. The dog doesn't have quite enough power (willingness to be aggressive and bite) for cattle, but it's sure cool to watch him work the sheep and goats. Away to Me and Come By are directional commands to send the dog clockwise or counter clockwise out around the stock. Dad's dog also knows Down (stop and lie down), Walk Up (drive the stock straight), Get Em (get aggressive with stock trying to challenge a gate or direction) and Look Back (there's some behind that tree/brush that you missed, go get them too). His farm is a big hill with a bench at the top, and he can send the dog up to the top to get the stock and bring it down without any direction when he's out of sight. Pretty cool, and very handy.
In the realm of nontraditional herding dogs, my German Shorthair will hold a gate for us and help drive cattle. She just wants to work and help, so has picked it up.
We work the goats with dogs. Well...we used to, until our best Border Collie was killed in an accident.
The BCs we have now are not very good! They try their hardest though and we're working with them and seeing improvement! The youngest one really just needs focus.
We do not use verbal cues as the farm owner is Deaf - the dogs are trained with hand signals. We use them to move the entire herd to/from the big browsing areas and sometimes when we need them to go into the milking parlor pen and they don't want to cooperate (usually when it's not milking time and they know it)
The breeders I've bought my aussies from for decades and decades show both bench and herding. Las Rocosa Australian Shepherds. They wrote the books. And started the aussie club way back when. I've seen their dogs in action, been to their place in Colorado, love the Hartnagles and their dogs. Aussies herd bison and cattle and sheep and the ducks at shows.
Some herding trials used to be held up in Dawsonville, but most of those dogs there were border collies. I used to go to them. The border collies are faster over fields that are aussies. Once the nationals for aussies were held in Gainesville GA and I went there, and visited with my breeders.
All of my aussies of course had the herding instinct. My first aussie, who'd flunked out as a seeing eye dog for a family friend who lives in California, came here to her parents, ended up given away to our neighbors, and ended up with my horses in our yard. Boo would herd cats. It was cool, except for the kitties (neighbors' cats which I had to take in and have fixed). Boo would herd them like a flock of sheep.
My other aussies chose to be guard dogs. I was burglarized in St Louis before I got my 2nd aussie. After that? No burglaries. We moved to Atlanta. Over 20 yrs of aussies and no burglaries.
Herding dogs are wonderful. Once my aussie and my siamese cat and my boyfriend and his cocker spaniel and I were traveling through Idaho and came upon a flock of sheep in the road. The guy on a horse just had his dogs make a path for my sports car thru the flock. I have some old pictures of that somewhere.
Do have to give a shout out to the Kelpies. LOOOVE them.
Most I would say are work a holics, always going but then never met a non working one either. So loyal and awesome working dogs. We have a red & tan one here on the farm.
Just reading that link. Never seen or heard of a "show" kelpie and the dogs used to demo the different colours look obese compared to most that I have seen.
Yes, there is herding and then there is border collies and kelpies herding, elevated to a sublime height.
Originally Posted by Polydor
We had a wonderful aussie and she worked cattle with the best.
We also had a norwegian elkhound that worked almost as good as her and had more power, not as much instinct.
All that paled when we started using border collies, they truly are a different level of talent and the kelpies I have seen take that to even more extremes.
There are many different ways to herd, some breeds are drovers, some boundary herders, some chasers called heelers, like corgies and shelties can be if let to do that, although those can also learn to herd properly.
Those two little ones were bred to herd in small places and kept the stock out of the garden, mostly.;)
GSDs have special boundary herding trials.
What really is useful no matter what you do when handling stock, the real all-arounder that can do it best is still the herding type most border collies/kelpies show, that outrun, balancing, gathering and bringing in to the handler, then moving one way or another, here or there, cross driving, sorting, etc. that border collies and such have been bred for.
Many aussies and other herding breeds can do what border collies do and excel as working dogs in farms, but generally are not quite as talented when competing at the top against them in herding trials, that is why you generally see mostly if not all border collies there in the USA.
A bit like a cutting horse, that many horses of many breeds can cut a little, cutting bred horses most can cut well and then there are, at the top, mostly just cutting bred ones, rarely some other happens to be that good and it is obvious why those best ones are the best watching them work.
My GSD Breezy was trained to herd sheep before I got her, and even won some competitions.
I have a picture of her on my old computer looking completely flumoxxed when a sheep she was herding 'fainted'. Her look was a combination of WTF and 'I didn't do it!'.
I'd meant to add German Shepherds to my list too -- glad to read about them here!
Wow, this is turning out to be a great thread! I am learning a lot. Thanks, everybody, for your replies.
GSD are tending dogs, not herding dogs like BC. They mainly do boundary patrol so that sheep can be kept in the fallow section of the field and off the crops, or even, as they were often used in Germany, to maintain the sheep as they grazed along the roadside grass verge - the dogs kept them in the long strip and not in the road.
Ulf Kintzel of White Clover Sheep Farm in NY state trains GSD style herding. His website www.whitecloversheepfarm.com has links to articles. They just had a trial last weekend.
All of this discussion reminded me of the Extreme sheep herding video..
LOL I can totally picture that Fred! Too funny!
Originally Posted by Fred
I could sit and watch a good working kelpie all day. Amazing to watch them. Well should rephrase that love watching any good working dog work.