A dog is meant to do what a dog is meant to do. Who would have known that my cattle dog (bred to herd cattle) would LOVE herding? She is a bit gun shy in that she isn't chasing them as much, but she does enjoy following them around and being around the sheep. It is also seemingly a very Oregon thing to do...
About a month ago Brontë and I started going to NZ Ewe-Topia Ranch. She had her first lesson in with the sheep and we are both hooked. We still have no idea what we are doing but we are getting in there and playing with the sheep. Brontë hasn't quite understood that she is the one moving the sheep and I am walking around like a chicken with my head cut off, but the sheep move and Brontë has her tail up the whole time and is enjoying herself (Even when she wonders off to smell or urinate).
Herding is a very old tradition and has been integral in the
development of our societies through the last few thousand years. It has led to the development of some very talented and specific breeds. Whether it is cattle, sheep or ducks it is a wonderful sport that can have enormous benefits for you and your pet. It is not a dog sport that one can jump in and immediately be successful at in the titles and levels kind of way. It can take years of training (so I'm told) to get dogs to an expert level of competition herding. Even then not all dogs will excel at it.
NZ Ewe-Topia is a wonderful place. They believe that any dog can herd and encourage any dog owner to give it a try. This makes them a bit of an anomaly in the herding world. In even my limited experience I have found it difficult to find trainers to teach (my herding dog breed remind you) to herd. Many said they only do border collies and they DON'T do cattle dogs. It was a breath of fresh air and a relief to find individuals passionate about herding and understanding, even promoting that any breed can herd. I have not gotten to work with Patty yet (although I hear wonderful things & will be soon) but Gabe has been
wonderful, patient and encouraging with Brontë and I. We both need encouragement as we are unsure of what to do. Gabe is extremely knowledeable and it shows he enjoys what he is doing. The great thing is we also have fun meeting other students and watching their dogs work as we wait our turn in the rotation. The sheep are wonderfully cared for and friendly. Be ready for some mud if you come in the spring! Sunday when we went it was raining cats and dogs but none of us cared. We kept going and learned that Brontë is a bit gun shy but is curious as to what is going on! Sue (gab's dog) was a great addition to our lesson and Brontë (me too) were able to work with other dogs and have some healthy interactions. It is also great to see Sue work the sheep as he is very excited to be working.
Herding is a great activity on many levels. It is stimulating mentally and physically as well as pushing the dogs to interact with other species in a kind and respectful way. Brontë is often very tired after our lesson and better behaved for a few days following. She also is learning to respect other animals and is more respectful of the horses we are neighbors too. She also seems less afraid of other animals. When we are out at NZ Ewe-Topia she is calm and extremely well behaved (like I have trained her!) It is nice to see her comfortable and successful. If you are looking for a fun activity that will build your relationship with your pup while working their brain and body this may be your answer. We are looking forward to growing and continuing in this sport in the future... if we can somehow figure our jobs out!