What is Herding?
Many Thanks to Bob Vest for making it all possible!
Herding is using dogs to help move livestock. Jobs that dogs can help us with are gathering, sorting, moving, holding, trials. Stockman and trialist should consider that the easier the work looks, the "smoother" it works, the better the work. At trials not all trial judges recognize smooth work; however, it is our goal.
Herding is a stepping stone of training. I have gathered information from many people, but Bob Vest has helped me more than anyone to help all dogs.
This is from Tenley Dexter. She has said my feelings and development very well. I think this refers to all dogs, Aussie and BC to mixed breeds.
"Then I found Bob Vest and the world turned around for me.
I learned from the supreme master of understanding dogs and people and how the two interact. I learned not to fight with my dogs but to communicate with them.
I learned that training a working dog begins at about 5 weeks, not at a year of age.
I learned that Aussies think differently than BCs which is why the BC people, as hard as they tried, could not understand my dogs or apply their training methods to them successfully
I learned the BASICS!
I learned I will work on basics for the rest of my dog's lives.
I learned to not be in a rush but to take my time and let dogs mature into their work.
And THE most important thing I've learned from Bob Vest...don't let anyone, including Aussie people, put limits on your dogs.
My dogs have no limits because I believe in them. I don't understand people that say I've got a BC to do this and an Aussie to do this because my Aussies do it all."
NOTE: I will talk about sheep, but the rules apply to other types of livestock as well.
The natural instinct of most herding dogs is to FETCH. Fetching means the dog brings the sheep to the handler.
The traditional view of the dog, sheep, and handler is to imagine a clock with the handler at 12 and the dog at 6. Wherever the handler moves, the dog counter balances to match the handler's position.
The dog pushes the livestock away from the handler. Once you have taught driving to your dog, you are on the way to a fully trained (or "broke") dog. Driving can be easy if during beginning training the handler stops the dog off balance.
The instinct of the dog should be to keep the sheep all together in a group. We need to encourage this ability.
Splitting may occur and is common in young dogs; we let the dog figure out how to fix the messes.
There is a lot to be learned from livestock. A big part of your job as handler is to begin to watch how sheep react to different things and how they move.
Sheep will ball up at times and stop. If you watch them closely, you will see one sheep look the direction you want them to go; she will look 3 times, then go with a little pressure from the dog. Another way to get sheep to move is to have the sheep begin to roll like a ball and then they will begin to move in the direction you would like them to go.
All livestock see out the side of their head, NOT straight ahead. Most work should be on the sheep's sides to "work the eye". Ears should be watched because the sheep will let you know when the dog is connected.
Most livestock are more afraid of people than of the dogs.
The dogs ability to read the stock to find the spot where the stock will move in the correct direction with out stopping or running. This balance point can be seen naturally when fetching. The balance point in driving is the same just the position of the handler has moved
It is important to set goals so you know where you are going and develop a plan to get to that point.
A good place to start trialing is an instinct test or a Pretrial. This will give you the opportunity to get experience in front of people and on different livestock.
I recommend ASCA and AHBA trials before you go to AKC trials. AKC requires more control on the dog and will take some experience handling your dog around a number of obstacles in a small area (course A).
Copyright Jan Wesen 2010. Please ask my permission before reproducing. These are herding notes, to be used as a supplement to herding classes.
My Herding Experience
I have been working with Australian Kelpies since 1985 and Australian Shepherds since 1999. I have competed in Australian Shepherd Club of America, Working Kelpie Inc., American Kennel Club, American Herding Breed Assn. Canadian Kennel Club and Border Collie trials. I am an American Kennel Club Herding Judge, American Herding Breed Assn. Judge, Australian Shepherd Club of America Stockdog, Obedience and Tracking judge. I have competed in Herding (WTCH, HX, HC), Tracking (TDX), Obedience (UDX), Agility, Flyball (FDX), Fresbee and just have fun with my dogs.
My husband and I work our dogs on our 600 cow dairy farm doing ( 300 organic) a variety of chores: bringing cows in for milking, holding gates, sorting, and letting us know when livestock are trying to escape. We have also increased our working stock to 13 Cheviot and x breed sheep and a few ducks. My dogs are all fed BARF raw. I have been feeding Barf since 1994
My background on the farm and trialing has increased my awareness of the importance of having a well-trained dog. The more advanced the dog's training, the better you do in trials and the more work you can do on the farm. Each day I am learning to improve my technique and my dogs.
The information on these web pages is meant to be used by my students in conjunction with my classes.
I offer classes and seminars on the following topics :
- Operand Conditioning (Clicker training for basic dog behaviors)
- Tracking (seminar's only)
Resources to further your knowledge of herding