Ever tried your hand at sheep herding? Not with your dog, just you. Not something most of us would think of trying ourselves, but I got my opportunity quite unexpectedly. (November 2011)
We were out walking our dogs and a boarding dog. As we approached the top of the hill, I realized my neighbor's seven lambs had escaped their pen and were running loose. It didn't appear that our neighbor was around, and I didn't want to leave the lambs running loose. I had my husband take away all three dogs – who were a bit too interested in the lambs. I went to see what I could do about the lambs.
The lambs were curious and a few were actually quite friendly. I managed to get them all to follow me back into their pen. However, getting past them to get back out of the gate was not so easy. Three ran out, but I managed to close the gate and keep the other four in the pen. Now, how to get them back in the pen without the other four escaping again? Not quite as easy! With a bit of work, I managed to herd the remaining sheep safely back in the pen.
So what does this have to do with dogs? If you've done any training with me, you've most likely heard me talk about or demonstrate body blocking – which really is “herding”. By using our bodies to block or maneuver our dogs, we gain far better control ultimately rather than using leashes or grabbing collars to move our dogs. The chance to practice a bit of herding with seven sheep was good practice for my body blocking skills.
For those who don't have sheep to practice with, you can simply use your dog! By communicating with and learning how to move our dogs with our body language, we gain control even from a distance. Happy herding!