Hey, Look, Herding!

Winter of Herding: Day Eighteen

We’re winding down our herding adventure, I’ll have to start thinking about a long term plan for, uh, continuing education. There’s a slight chance I may not know everything there is to know about herding by the end of next week. However, I do feel way more confident with what we can do. I will miss working every day, I really enjoy doing something new. I like being bad at things, pretty much anything you do makes you feel accomplished! It is very true though, when attempting to get better at something, simply doing more of it is a good place to start – this has definitely been well worth the effort.

Down in Scio, started out seeing if Haku could do the full pro-novice outrun and … not so much. He was confident on the distance part, but then came in tight and then did a weird cross over thing right in front the sheep. As I’m so fricken far away I feel like I can only stand there and watch in amazement as to what weird things he’s going to attempt to do at that point. For some reason Ian seemed to think I should have actually helped him instead of just silently watching. Shocking thought, but it’s so far away – I have no faith he can hear me at that distance at all, I feel like he’s out of my range and on his own. Neither Haku or I are comfortable with that level of distance at this point.

So we went back to the smaller arena and worked on teaching Haku a cue to increase distance from the sheep, so I could, theoretically, shout it at him from an extreme distance. So that’s something we can work on in practice.

Ian worked with Navarre on ‘obedience’ in the big field, you know, actually listening when he’s asked to do something. Navarre had other things in mind, there was much discussion. Afterwards I lamented how Navarre was such a good boy in all other aspects of his life and not at all pushy and contrary any other place but around sheep. Ian says that dogs with a lot of ‘natural talent’ don’t want to listen because they think they know better because their instincts are so strong. Navarre has yet to impress me with his ‘natural talent’, but I look forward to seeing it. Someday.

In other news, near record breaking high temperatures – what a January!

Winter of Herding: Day Nineteen

Molalla today out in the big field – we didn’t lose any sheep! Though, to be fair, they just wanted to run back towards the fenced corner anyway, so it wasn’t really ever a danger. Had a much harder time getting them to move INTO the field, they were squirrely sheep.

As usual, we had a hard time getting started, I think with new sheep Haku needs to get a feel for them and in a new place I need time to figure out my flanks and where the sheep want to go – and it seems to be a pretty big mess until we get that all figured out. I can’t say we did that great even after that, but once we did get the sheep moving he was working well away from me, trying hard, lying down far away and usually taking the right flanks. Even occasionally fixing his drive lines!

We only tried a couple outruns as just driving the damn sheep out there took so much time. The outruns weren’t great, he’s really cutting in these days, but he would lie down at least. I felt connected, the skill just wasn’t there – with either of us. I also found it very funny when Dave is like, ‘just keep working your dog while I tell you about this abstract herding concept’. Seriously? I have absolutely no recollection of what he said, I certainly can’t do both at the same time. My mind was not super focused today anyway, so it’s all good.

Navarre and Dave did better this week, Dave didn’t have to do hardly any sprinting through the sheep to get Navarre to listen. He did some longer distance driving and was basically behaving himself. And, once again, Navarre is so popular with herding people, it cracks me up how he always gets all the praise when in my eyes he’s almost 4 and still can’t do anything useful. Today he was called ‘pushy but not chargy’, which is apparently a good thing. I will say in the realm of issues your dog can have in herding, I’d rather have too pushy than getting ‘stuck’ all the time, and Haku not standing up to sheep is super unhelpful. I’ve also done herding with a ‘quitter’, and I won’t do that again – so I get how pushy can be helpful compared to the opposite issues. Assuming you know how to deal with it, which I really am not good with. Still, poor Haku, he never gets compliments – it’s good thing he has good self esteem and I think he can do no wrong.

Winter of Herding – Day Twenty

Down in Scio, another thing Haku has no concept of – watching the handler to tell him where the sheep are. We’ve just never worked in big enough fields that he doesn’t immediately see them, so he doesn’t have a concept. He, very rightly, keeps looking for them in places they’ve been before out in the big field. So we had to walk ALL the way up the field, as the sheep ran into the trees while I was trying to get him looking in the right direction. So the first time he’s had to get them out of the trees – he kept leaving some behind (admittedly, there were a lot in there!). It’s sad how well he knows his ‘look back’ cue, he’s done a lot of leaving sheep behind in his life. Then we drove them all the way down the field, which is definitely going better.

Finally, we did a pro-novice run! His outrun wasn’t terrible, still tight on top so the sheep were offline, but we fixed it and did our post turn and drive and, this is huge, actually got all the sheep (and there were a lot of them – maybe 10?) through the panels – the first time! And then we did our cross drive, which was really hard for me to tell where they were in space and if they were off line – and we got our panels again, holy crap! And then Ian is like, “Go to the pen!” And I’m like, “What?” We’ve never penned anything before, and it showed – but we got all but one in, which I’m totally calling a success (herding people are so concerned with getting ALL the sheep – pish, what’s one or two extra?).

So, yeah, there is probably a much more logical, progressive way to go about this whole herding thing, rather than just sort of taking a flying leap at things – but it’s kind of fun to do it this way with Haku. We have no grand expectations, he’s having a great time, he manages to make me look good.

One issue we had both today and yesterday was him not taking flank cues when he’s close to me if he thinks it’s being contradicted by motion or body position. So we had a chance to work on that today as well, getting him to now ignore my body language and go on the verbal. With arms out like I was when I was penning was the most difficult. We’ll continue to look at that, but he definitely seemed to catch on with a little work.

Overall, not a bad day for Haku – he continues to impress me what he’s able to do even though I feel like we missed many, many steps along the way. And he thinks it’s just awesome. Ian seems to think we need to enter Pro-Novice for the February trial. I’m thinking maybe we should be able to do Ranch first …

Navarre and Ian also had some good stuff … for a while. I was super impressed when Ian sent Navarre on outrun at pro novice distance and Navarre ALMOST did it! When did he learn how to do that? Well, clearly he didn’t as he cut in at the top, but he just went out like it was something he did every day, totally confident. But when Ian told him to lie down from back at the post when he cut in, Navarre actually DID IT. Dude, totally impressed. And they did some driving with the big group of sheep, some of which looked good. Then, after a bit, Navarre stopped listening and got scolded and taken off the field. I don’t think he cares much about scolding, but I do think losing the sheep will make an impression on him. Well, we’ll find out, anyway. Once again, it always seems like we’re skipping steps here, but Navarre seems to know what he’s doing anyway. Kind of like magic.

I also have a tentative schedule for continuing herding. I do feel like we have some nice momentum going and I don’t want to lose that, so we’re going to squeeze in some lessons with Ian into our normal herding schedule once I go back to teaching. Our agility is going to suffer to pay for it, but, once again, my time is limited with Haku, we need to use it while he still can.


In other news, no puppy raising for me this winter – I ended up not being needed for the herding bred litter. Which is a shame, as I do enjoy playing with puppies and would have been interesting to work with a dog from lines I don’t know anything about. May do it for another litter in the Spring, half sibling to Navarre.

Navarre is coming up on 4, so this year I am starting to look at potential upcoming litters in the next couple years. There is a repeat breeding of a litter I really liked the end of the year that I’m interested in, related to Bright and Haku, so will see what happens there. May not pan out though. And we’ll see how the whole herding thing goes this year, that breeding I’m looking at is very much a sport breeding – if I really want to do herding with my next dog, I might want to look at herding litters. Dove is going to be bred this Spring, maybe to a herding dog, so that’s something to watch to see how that litter turns out as well.

I would like to have it all, a nice moving dog with a solid sensible temperament that gets along well with other dogs, easy to live with, flexible, athletic, good jumper, sweet, cuddly, not too big, no epilepsy, fun, happy and with natural herding talent. No sharp, snarky, sissy, reactive, fearful, clingy, spun dogs.  Not so much to ask, right? But I suppose, much like with Navarre, I’ll know it when I see it. There are a lot of nice dogs and litters out there, but they just don’t speak to me. I’m very picky, but in no rush – I really like my mix of dogs I have right now, we don’t need a puppy at all. But, eventually, yes, we will become a four dog household. I even have a name, I think. Just need to find the dog to match the name.


2 thoughts on “Hey, Look, Herding!

  1. Dang, I was hoping you were going to get one of the Hybeck Blake puppies, then I could steal it. Ha. If I didn’t already have a puppy… Blake is such a nice working dog!


    1. I know, I think they’ll be great herding dogs and so cute! Probably a good thing I’m not raising one, I think I would have a had a hard time sending them back 😉


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