Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I was so excited to take Gilda to her first Sheep Herding Lesson today. In preparation, Mike took her on a 5 mile hike and I took her on a nice pond swim.

We got to the farm early (imagine that! me, early...) and got to watch a man work his beautiful belgian sheepdog. Kelly, the instructor, sat outside of the fence and gave direction while the handler moved his dog using a long line. Having never watched a sheep herding lesson, I tried to glean as much as I could.

Kelly asked me to walk Gilda on a loose leash through the gate and around the field. She explained that this way, Gilda would learn that her new surroundings were safe.

Kelly's dog, Possum, moved some sheep for us into a smaller pasture and Kelly took Gilda in briefly just to take stock of  her and then it was my turn to take the rope...

{Awesome Possum
waiting for a turn}

With Kelly's guidance, we moved the sheep from one corner of the pen to another corner just by moving around them and toward them. At one point, Gilda got excited and barked and ran at the sheep. Since this is not permitted, Gilda was given a reprimand through the use of the cord. The cord is held loosely in the handlers hands (Kelly describes it as holding a fishing rod and reel. Corrections are issued by closing the thumbs down on the line and off again quickly. These are not harsh corrections, just a reminder to the dog that what they are doing isn't correct. At this point, we aren't using any commands. We are trying to see how comfortable the dog is with livestock and we are beginning to teach them how to move around them.

We watched a cattle dog's lesson and then it was our turn again. This time Gilda acted completely disinterested in the sheep and would barely glance in their direction as she haltingly followed me around with Kelly's direction.

I was somewhat mystified as Gilda is usually very keenly aware of moving things... especially living moving things! We have witnessed many of her attempts to herd ducks, deer, small children, our other dog and ourselves when we run to the phone.

{Gilda waiting

After she gave a lesson to a second cattle dog, Kelly and I talked about the day and future plans. When she asked what my goals were, I pointed to her Border Collie, Possum. I didn't mean I wanted her dog (okay, you know I did). What I meant was that I want a dog who is both obedient and content with her life.  Possum would like to move sheep all day long, you can tell, but instead, she is content to do what Kelly tells her. Best of all, she is friendly to people and dogs and just seems thrilled to live on the farm.

Kelly said (and I'm paraphrasing) that Gilda was barking at the sheep out of fear as if to say, "I'm really really big and scary see? See how scary I am?" (This is how she acts in other situations that she is unsure of too). She went on to say that Gilda is a dog who has learned how to slow down to avoid doing things. Today, when we told her that she couldn't bark at or run at sheep, she decided that she wouldn't interact with them in any way at all. I told Kelly that this is how Gilda is in Agility: Where she used to run fast through the obstacles, she now trots half-heatedly and looks miserable! It reminds of people who decide that rather than risk failure, they won't try at all... not at all what I want for my dog!

When I described the issues we have with Gilda at home, she said that it sounds like Gilda is used to being her own boss and treats strangers her own way rather than our way. She said that she witnessed me giving in to her on several occasions just while loose leash walking her. No surprise as I wouldn't want to make anyone wait for us! I could hear Jessica in my head saying, "Don't settle for crap!" and Linda saying, "Why did you just treat that?!"

Kelly's recommendation is that we first work on some obedience to  learn how to clearly communicate with Gilda and to teach her to obey and trust. Having seen Kelly's dog and her teaching style, I am comfortable with this plan and really look forward to creating a great bond and a happy dog. Look Out Pico! This will affect you too!!!
{Trying to look

1 comment:

Vertigo said...

MOST LUCKY! Would love for to chase all the sheep. Instead, just do agility, also like you! Teach Sidekick with clicker training also. Is most best, yes?

Very great for to meet! Found from dogswithblogs. Cannot wait for to read more adventures. Will have to read through archives today!