I am going to digress from the usual column about training and handling to discuss a VERY IMPORTANT subject: SPORTSMANSHIP…..GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP In a world where everyone wants everything equitable, I have some unwelcome news for you. SHEEP DON’T PLAY FAIR. They play to win, or in their minds, to survive. EVERYTHING eats lambs so from the time they are born, survival instinct is strong. I was just at a trial where the sheep NEVER get worked by dogs and are surrounded by coyotes. We flushed a couple brazen varmints out of the camping area. The sheep were completely unafraid of our dogs and proceeded to beat the crap out of them. Over half of the scores were RT/DQ as dogs were unable to bring them down the field. That’s USBCHA trials. When you are at an AKC or AHBA trial, the organizers HAVE to use “dog broke, course-trained” sheep. These sheep-devils are machiavellian schemers who rid themselves of dog pursuit by racing to exhaust pens or safety corners. AFter a few miserable attempts to bring the sheep back on course, handlers are called off and sheep put away. Sheep – 1; dog – 0. There are sheep that just won’t let you WIN. However, if you and the dog are a good team, you can get around a course. THESE are the runs that will live in memory as achievements. Many years ago one of my clients remarked, “Never have I spent so much time and so much money to attain such humiliation”. That sums up dog trialing. Let me emphasize it is NOT always the sheep’s fault. They are reacting to the behavior of the dog working them. If, in the sheep’s mind, the dog is chasing, they will escape. It’s imperative to give the sheep the sense that the dog is QUIETLY in control, not boisterously rousting them up. The most difficult of sheep will react positively to the respectful behavior of the dog & handler. So train your dog well, handle your sheep quietly and you will have more success. However, be aware the surly, cantankerous sheep can WREAK your day ……so smile 🙂