Hi dog lovers! It’s me, your favorite canine obedience and behavior expert in Miami, Florida. Today has been a long, but wonderful day. Today I took Marty, my youngest Border Collie, for his herding instinct test at Asher Dell Farm in Malabar, Florida. I have been anxious for several weeks wondering how Marty would react to seeing sheep for the first time! It was only a matter of minutes after watching a few other dogs work the sheep that Marty became curious and began to closely watch the sheep. We had three opportunities to work the sheep for ourselves today, and I must say…I knew Marty would have good instinct but I never dreamed he would be “phenomenal” as our instructor described him. Marty is a natural! Of course, what sheep herding dog isn’t! Throughout the video you can hear the voice of our instructor, Judith Kelly, instructing ME on what to do. I was pretty clueless the first time I went out (which is the video I’ve posted here), but I’m proud to say that by the 2nd time I went out with the sheep I got a clue and actually started to use my herding stick to guide Marty into the correct positions. Me and Marty have worked hours, and hours, and HOURS together over the past 2 years to achieve the kind of dog-handler connectedness we displayed today. You’ll hear Judith in the video mention that she rarely allows “this.” What she is referring to is a first-time sheep herding dog and human to go out off-leash into the big open field. I can’t help but gloat a bit…have a proud dog mom moment….because this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? To be able to have that kind of connection with your dog, that kind of off-leash control so that you can fully experience the magic that is WORKING with a dog, was absolutely amazing.
A few things about the experience:
- I had NO idea what I was doing. LOL. At one point I think I was trying to guide Marty in with the slip line I had on him initially (which is there to prevent him from going wacko on the sheep, which he never attempted anyway). I pulled it and about scared him half to death. Marty has been obedience trained with a clicker, treats, and a tug toy. He’s not used to having pressure on his neck in a corrective context.. so I startled the crap out of him. Sorry Marty 🙁 I’ll eventually put the video up of his first few moments in the pen with the sheep and you’ll get to see the “why did you just do that?” look on his face.
- I had a more difficult time figuring out which way gates opened up than Marty did figuring out how to make the sheep move through the gates.
- At one point I got a little over excited and yelled SIT at him. I wasn’t mad, I didn’t even think I had yelled it, LOL. I think I was just trying to make sure he could hear because I knew he was very focused on the sheep. I was quickly reprimanded by Judith for yelling at him (oops). I should have used my stick to get his attention, but again, It’ll take a while before I even remember I’m holding the stick and that I can use my stick as a way to gently guide marty back into the desired position (behind the sheep).
- Apologies for my noisy squeaking labrador in the background. He just can’t stand it when I’m not paying attention to him. He had no interest in sheep, but was loving sniffing the field!
- My husband is amazing. I don’t know what I’d do without my videographer 🙂
Lastly, I just have to say that anyone who has a sheepdog or herding breed –you’re missing out big time if sheep herding is not on your agenda at SOME point in your dog’s life. My oldest border collie mix, Zoe, was itching to try working the sheep. I think next time I will let her, although she will likely run out of steam in 10-15minutes (poor old lady!). This is something I have been wanting to do with Marty for over a year! Yet, I think it was a blessing in disguise that I was not able to until now.
My countless hours working with Marty paid off HUGE today. There is no way, without the diligent practice, relationship building and deep training/working bond that Marty and I have with each other, that we would have been allowed to so quickly move out off-leash into the field to work the sheep. It was at that moment, when I was out there in the big field that I felt “at one with the sheep.” For a brief second I forgot anyone was watching me, and even where I was. It was just me and the sheep and my dog working together to accomplish something so beautiful it’s hard to describe. So proud that now Marty is Marty McFly, HIC (Herding Instinct Certified!).
Oh, and I did of course eventually stop to cuddle the sheep a little. They were pretty precious!
This is Dee the Doggie Deeva of Applause Your Paws Dog and Puppy Training in Miami Florida saying, “That’ll do dog, that’ll do.”
Need help with your dog or puppy? www.applauseyourpaws.com 786-529-RUFF 786-529-7833 firstname.lastname@example.org. We are expert dog trainers serving Miami Dade county for all your dog training and behavior modification needs.