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Canine Sense - Did You Know

Check out these articles by Dr. Stanley Coren (BC, Canada) Canine Corner

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kingston Sheep Herding & Dock Dogs

In Kingston, Ont Aug 6-8th, there was the 23rd Annual Sheep Dog Trials. They also held Dock Dogs - that's where the dog's run & jump off a high dock after their fav toy into a large pool. Other demos included the Kingston Police K-9's; flyball, agility, sheep shearing & how young dog's get started in trialing. There were all kinds of booths, doggie items, alpaca & sheep wool items, wood items, handmade hats, doggie treats, and of course human treats.
I went down with Maryl0ou arriving late morning. We were able to see one run of the 15 that qualified over the last few days (out of 113) before the lunch break. Their runs were more complicated and had 20 sheep vs 5 they dealt with on the other days. At 1pm they started up again. I've selected a few (humm turning out to be more than a few!) of the 100+ pics I took to give you some idea of the size, complexity, and how the dog's work, just by a whistle from their handler at a distance, and voice when closer in.

At the beginning of the lunch break there was an auction of 5 different shawls that had been made the previous day. There were 4 woman that took 4 hours to do each.

These two woman bid the highest and won the ones you see them with.

OK .. now on to the sheep herding. I have witnessed this before for CKC & AKC herding titles, altho in a much MUCH smaller arena, and with a lot of shelties competing. The main one was when we put on the Cdn Shetland Sheepdog Asso's National here in Ottawa.

CSSA National 2006, Ottawa -the back red fencing gives you an idea of the depth of the ring.

Now here's the 'ring' size this past weekend .... this is looking out to the right ...
If you look way past the white fence on the right you can just spot a lighter green object - that's a large umbrella where they would bring out the 1st group of sheep.

Here the dog is going on the outrun to gather the sheep on the left. The handler can not leave their post. The dog has to have a lot of trust in their handler that there are indeed sheep, somewhere out there.
Command here is 'walk up"
Now the dog, with the handler whistling commands, guides the dog to bring the sheep through the two fences.

Once the sheep are on the move towards the handler, the dog is sent back out to another group that are on the far right of the field. With the field having small rolling hills many times the dog can't even see where the sheep are and is running 'blind', following the whistle of the handler.
Which way MOM????!!!! Where are they??? Are you sure they are out there??

Command here is "Away to me"
Now you can see the pole where the handler stands; the dog has gathered the 20 sheep and must move them between the handler's pole and one other that is just outside the picture to the left.
Command here 'steady' and 'come by'.
Dog's not done yet!! Now they have to move the flock out to the middle of the field, turn left and head to the far side where there are 2 more fences that they have to move them through, make a hard left turn and bring them back across the field on the left of the handler to the center ring.

Here they are coming back from going thru the fence.
Once the dog & handler have the 20 sheep in the center ring - it's down a bit from the rest of the ground, mowed down, and you can see small piles of shavings which denote the edges.

The goal now is for dog & handler to shed off the sheep that do not have the red collars! This one the handler was having a real darn hard time with ONE sheep - red arrow. Do you think it would get to the outside of the group, nope, it continued to stay in the middle of its herd. She tried, we watch and the time ticked down on the clock. They have 25 minutes to complete all of this.

Although it was an over cast day, it drizzled a bit late in the day, the hard working dogs needed a break to cool off, so they knew where the kiddie pool was, and in no uncertain terms told their handler 'just a minute!!! have to dunk myself.'

"That'll do"
This was the last dog we watched. There was one real stubborn, ornery sheep; she baaa'd just about the whole time, calling to her 'friend' that had already been shed off and was now off over the hill in the shed pen.
Once the handler takes hold of the 6' rope on the pen they can't let go until the sheep are in and the gate is closed. You can see how this dog is just holding its position, that ornery sheep is pounding the ground ..'nope you back off!!!', 'no you get in there!'. Bit by bit they backed up into the pen ... it was anxious moments .....
some 4 mins according to my camera times. They did it with around 6 mins to spare. A very nice run - the crowd gave her a big round of applause, and it was a BIG crowd there too.
I said the rain held off during the trials, however on the way home it POURED! Coming through Smiths Falls the sewers couldn't handle it all. At a red light, I captured this moment of it 'bubbling' up through the man cover.

I must admit I got shivers watching these dogs work, the outruns the dogs did were with extreme conviction. Their commitment to continuing to work, no matter what the sheep threw at them was something to behold. Although I may not figure out how to find the time ... maybe not doing herding .... I'd like to do more higher level obedience & agility training with some of my dogs.


Kav August 9, 2010 at 9:23 PM  

I love watching sheep herding. It's fascinating and I can't get over how imbedded that herding instinct is. I was babysitting when I had my first pair of shelties and I had two babies in my care. I always thought it was funny that when I was in the kitchen the toddlers never strayed out of one corner, leaving me a clear path between the fridge and stove as I made lunch. It took me a while to figure out that my two dogs, working in tandem, herded the babies into the far corner of the kitchen and then kept them there while I prepared the meal. Everybody was happy -- but safely contained. :-)

judyf,  August 10, 2010 at 6:57 AM  

Teaching a dog to perform as a sheepherder in trials is lot of commitment and hard work. Not for every dog or handler. However it is lovely to watch the dog/handler teams that perform well, as your pictures show. Rally, basic obedience, and even agility take less time to learn.

Shelamo Shelties August 10, 2010 at 11:09 AM  

Too funny how they kept the kiddies out of your way

Cindy,  August 14, 2010 at 8:08 PM  

I attended on Sat for the elimation rounds. 10 min. trials. It was the best experience I've had in awhile. It is amazing how border collies are so focused on their job. I caught a bit of the puppy training and at 16 wks of age, the herding instinct is so evident. I really enjoyed the dock diving too .. we saw the extreme vertical. It was awesome watching again how the labs are so focused on their job. It was a great day, watched the agility and fly ball demos too. Scout does agility and next year Axel will start but the flyball even though Axel is super fast at retreiving, a little too much barking for me. We enjoyed a couple of hours after the trial downtown Kingston, what a beautiful city!!


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