Tomorrow we are hosting an AHBA herding trial, along w/ a JHD . This is similar to the PT course in AKC. I wish to take a moment and address how best to run these courses as I have seen many a wreck that was unnecessary. Proper approach to the sheep would have eliminated much of the messiness of the runs.
First, the sheep used in tests are mandated to be of a tame and dog-broke nature, so they shouldn’t be easily panicked. I always put the PT sheep on a good pile of hay, away from the entry gate so as to allow the handler to enter the arena at a safe distance. Leave the dog 0n it’s “stay” at this gate and advance BY YOURSELF to the sheep. The sheep will migrate to the person if the dog is calmly at a safe distance. DO NOT WALK YOUR DOG TOWARD THE SHEEP ON LEASH!! I can’t tell you how many times competitors have walked toward the sheep w/ the dog straining on the leash, causing the sheep to run away. I observed one handler literally drive her sheep to a corner w/ her dog leashed, hoping to “capture” the sheep from running. WRONG!! Put yourself in the sheep’s hooves and see how readily YOU would stay in a trap w/ a prey-driven dog. It was a disaster and I had to run out to drive the dog away from the sheep. Another handler w/ a nice Corgi, chased the sheep around the arena w/ the dog leashed to his side and complained the sheep wouldn’t stop running! He would get w/in 15′ of the flock and off they would go!
When your dog is on a good “stay” and you have the sheep calmly eating from your pocket …send your dog around the sheep on the WIDEST side so as to get more distance. This requires a FLANK (read previous blogs). If the dog runs AT you or the sheep, your woolies will take flight assuming you have no control. If the flank begins properly; as in the dog bends AWAY from the sheep, the sheep should stay close and follow you around the course.
When the handler w/ the Corgi went for his 2nd run, I suggested he do it this way. Voila! Sheep stayed w/ him and they did a great job.
A word about “Dog Broke, Tame” sheep: they are DOG SAVVY!! They read them better than most people. If the dog is demonstrating even the smallest lack of control, they are flighty! If you go into the arena and your dog breaks from his spot and begins the chasing motion, they are gone! It’s the nature of the wooly beasts to SURVIVE! Everything about your dog’s attitude should be keen but controlled. I will be addressing the technique necessary in achieving this.