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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I really want to find something to do with Caeda, regular walking etc doesn't quite cut it for her, she needs an outlet for that boundless energy of hers. I am planning on some recreational canicross, if I can get the guts to try it and she doesn't kill me on foot maybe some bike/skijoring. I'm still looking into other stuff that might be good for her if the pulling doesn't work out.

I asked our trainer and she suggested herding. Caeda is pretty driven, though not exactly "biddable". SO energetic. And she did actually keep up to two deer once, for quite a long distance, so she has some surprising speed! There is apparently someone a few hours drive away who does seminars and training. The big appeals of it to me are learning some pretty awesome off-leash obedience combined with the fact she would likely have a blast (so she MIGHT actually listen to commands!). So, on to my MANY questions (sorry! lol)

How often do you need to practice? How do you practice? What if you don't have access to livestock regularly? How hard is it? As the handler what do you do? What does the early training entail (if its stuff that can be concentrated on in regular obedience I can start on it, whether we pursue herding or not). Is it worth driving several hours every month or so to do seminars on it? Oh....and can a dog get hurt doing it? How much of a worry is that? Will it make her more likely to want to chase wildlife?

Yeah, lots of questions, just looking for some general input and experiences really, from any of you who have been involved in herding to see if its something we might want to pursue.....
 

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How often do you need to practice?
Hawkeye has gotten two herding titles so far Started and Open sheep, for each one he only practiced 4 or 5 days in a row right before the trial.

How do you practice?
I take my dogs back to their breeder and she helps me learn to work them on stock, she is a stock judge.

What if you don't have access to livestock regularly?
My dogs only go back to the breeder about 2-4 weeks out of the entire year. Not really too much of an issue

How hard is it?
For me it's VERY hard to learn how to correctly balance on the stock, it's not hard for the dog tho.

As the handler what do you do?
You have to read the stock and watch your dog at the same time, making sure if the stock are moving but acting frantic that you tell you dog to back off and not push them so hard. If the stock is being lazy and not wanting to move you ask the dog to push closer to them and if your working cattle you ask the dog to bite head or hocks. If the stock is being drawn back to the herd you need to balance yourself and the dog to encourage them in the correct direction, ect.

What does the early training entail (if its stuff that can be concentrated on in regular obedience I can start on it, whether we pursue herding or not). Is it worth driving several hours every month or so to do seminars on it?
A good "lay down" will come in handy.

Oh....and can a dog get hurt doing it? How much of a worry is that?
Yes a dog can get hurt, more so if working cattle. Hawkeye has been kicked several times in the head, neck area, it takes a tough dog to get back in there and keep going. I have seen two dogs run over by cattle both came out sore but otherwise unharmed, I have also heard of actual physical damage being done to dogs while working cattle. Sheep not so much, while it IS possible for sheep to run over a dog, they are much more likely to jump over it. And Ducks? well ducks can't do much more than scratch a dog.

Will it make her more likely to want to chase wildlife?
If you do proper training she will be easier to control when she does chase wildlife but it wont create a drive that's not already in her.
responses bolded
 

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Have put a number of herding titles on dogs - mostly started, or entry (test) level but a few more advanced. I'm a city girl and used to get out to practice at least every couple of weeks. My first titled dog qualified on sheep the first and third times he saw them, though we'd worked some on ducks. He was a very good dog though - never really needed me to tell him how to do the job! Alice was really difficult because she was so driven to work that not seeing stock on a regular basis, we had to work a while to get her settled in. If you have a dog with natural instinct that is a good start. If you have a trainer who is skilled with many breeds that is also helpful. You want to teach directions, a good down, a good stop and a good call off. You can do all this off stock, but expect the dog to look like you never did it the first time they are ON stock. I don't know what one would expect from a Swissy. I saw a very good experienced dog get his leg broken working cattle at Nationals. And I've got a knee that was never quite the same after being taken out by a large sheep. Another possibility that is gaining in popularity is Treibball, or ball herding. Instead of needing livestock, you need a field and a herd of exercise balls.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow, awesome responses both of you!
Its very helpful to know that it isn't something that we'd have to do daily or even weekly. In the nicer months I wouldn't mind at all taking her a few hours away for seminars and practice if she enjoys it and has an aptitude. There must be some people around here that have herding dogs, there are rodeos here every year, perhaps I can find a "mentor" (maybe get Caeda a job, she can pay her own vet bills ;) ). I actually saw one in a field a few years ago but I think that dog passed on...its job was to control a whole herd of sheep in a field near a busy highway with no fence. Quite impressive, I pulled off the highway once just to sit and watch.

Swissys being working dogs were known for pulling and also herding, so there's at least a (supposed) genetic aptitude. Caeda is pretty healthy and physically tough despite being just over half of her expected size...I think she would cope well. Treibball is a great idea too, but I'm not sure she would be quite as excited as with livestock....a good way to perhaps do some training though!!

Oh, and most helpful Keechak is the calling off of wildlife thing...she chased wildlife once and we had a hard time getting her back, if this can help build the skill of calling her off I'm even more intrigued. I'd drive to the ends of the earth weekly to have her solid on that front!
 

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I don't know what one would expect from a Swissy.
This is what I was going to say. I don't know much about swissys, but just doing a quick google search, I came up with results saying that they were used for livestock guarding. To be clear, this is very different than livestock herding. I'd encourage you to start with what is known as an "instinct test". The idea is to evaluate the dog's natural instincts before getting into serious training. If it goes well, then you can build on what you've got through training.

Also, be warned that the herding community can sometimes seem a bit...closed. Be prepared for someone to be incredulous when you say you'd like to train a swissy to herd. But don't let them stop you from trying it.

P.S. Another great sport gaining a lot of momentum now is nosework. Among its many benefits is that dogs of all breeds and sizes can do it, and it's pretty hard to get hurt doing it.
 

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I have herded a few times with Mandy. The clinician who did her herding test had never seen a dog with her high prey drive before, she said, and she travels around the country to teach and test herding as a living. LOL I let her take Mandy while I focused on taking pictures. Half way through the first run Mandy grabbed a sheep in the butt, suddenly I saw through the camera how she drug the sheep backwards ... while the poor sheep tried to run forward. I lowered the camera and hollered "give" and she let go while longingly looking after the sheep who exploded forward she slowly sat down. When her butt was on the ground and the sheep back with it's buddies, she turned her head and looked at me with a facial expression of utter disgust. LOL, like, "See what you made me do? There goes my prize".
The clinician (I've forgotten her name) got her back to work and after that she actually herded instead of chased sheep. We worked her a couple of more times over the weekend and again a weekend a couple of months later and she did really good as soon as she came in with the sheep. Outside of the pen she's a mess though. To this day, she gets hyper excited when she smells or sees sheep ... and hope she'll get to catch her own dinner this time. LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hmm.....instinct test. Interesting! I'm not sure if anyone in this area would be able to do that, though I'm sure the people who do the herding seminars could. The closest thing to herding she has ever done is chase the laser in the front yard (her absolute favourite thing!) which we have stopped out of nervousness because of the wildlife that has been around lately. Too bad too, since when we stopped we had just started "calling her off" of the laser chase. I hadn't thought about the guarding vs. herding issue....I have though seen a vid or two of an Entelbucher training in herding (another sennnenhund, looks like a Swissy, but smaller....kinda like my runt Swissy). I figured the herding community might be a little closed (or should I be reading that as elitist?), I've got a tendency to butt heads a bit when people get like that. If Caeda seems to have any aptitude I'll likely push through any negative thoughts on it.
I have considered nosework, and done a couple of games around the house....Caeda doesn't seem terribly interested in it though unless she is smelling new unknown stuff in the yard (and deciding if she wants to pee on the smell lol). I should try using her toys though....she seems to be getting more driven by her tug toy than food lately.
Bit a sheep in the butt LOL, awesome. It wouldn't surprise me if Caeda did that, she's definitely got a high prey drive, don't know what she'd do if she caught something though. It amazes me that a herding tester wouldn't have seen a prey driven dog before. Weird.
Either way, now I'm definitely interested in at least doing one trip to see how she does, I think it would be worth the drive (and probably a little vomit in the back seat). I'll be waiting until spring time, which gives me enough time to get her polished enough on leash and with basic stuff to get her ready to potentially meet some herding people and dogs, and maybe even some sheep :D
 

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I really want to find something to do with Caeda, regular walking etc doesn't quite cut it for her, she needs an outlet for that boundless energy of hers. I am planning on some recreational canicross, if I can get the guts to try it and she doesn't kill me on foot maybe some bike/skijoring. I'm still looking into other stuff that might be good for her if the pulling doesn't work out.
Just thinking ... wouldn't drafting be the obvious activity, to explore ?

http://gsmdca.homestead.com/Activities/Drafting.html
 

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I made this cart for less than $30 ... but I had the wheels since before.
Mandy is not amused ... but she's getting better by the day and if I hitch her before dinner she's fine. I think she sees the dinner as a jackpot. LOL

 

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http://www.ahba-herding.org/ check out this website. The first level of the HCT is basically an instinct test. The second round requires that the dog be able to control the stock and listen to cues. The Border Collie community (sorry, folks) tends to be very insular. All breed groups, less so. As to biting a sheep, it sounds funny but it's not. Sheep can be easily damaged, and a good supplier of stock is concerned with the wellbeing of their stock. And not happy when people are not respecting that, or dogs injure livestock (not to mention, it lends ammunition ot the ARs who want to end all animal sports.) So, it's important to have some control of your dog if they are high prey drive (or even decide that this is not a safe sport for your dog) It sounds like Hast had good control with the "out" though.

Hmm.....instinct test. Interesting! I'm not sure if anyone in this area would be able to do that, though I'm sure the people who do the herding seminars could. The closest thing to herding she has ever done is chase the laser in the front yard (her absolute favourite thing!) which we have stopped out of nervousness because of the wildlife that has been around lately. Too bad too, since when we stopped we had just started "calling her off" of the laser chase. I hadn't thought about the guarding vs. herding issue....I have though seen a vid or two of an Entelbucher training in herding (another sennnenhund, looks like a Swissy, but smaller....kinda like my runt Swissy). I figured the herding community might be a little closed (or should I be reading that as elitist?), I've got a tendency to butt heads a bit when people get like that. If Caeda seems to have any aptitude I'll likely push through any negative thoughts on it.
I have considered nosework, and done a couple of games around the house....Caeda doesn't seem terribly interested in it though unless she is smelling new unknown stuff in the yard (and deciding if she wants to pee on the smell lol). I should try using her toys though....she seems to be getting more driven by her tug toy than food lately.
Bit a sheep in the butt LOL, awesome. It wouldn't surprise me if Caeda did that, she's definitely got a high prey drive, don't know what she'd do if she caught something though. It amazes me that a herding tester wouldn't have seen a prey driven dog before. Weird.
Either way, now I'm definitely interested in at least doing one trip to see how she does, I think it would be worth the drive (and probably a little vomit in the back seat). I'll be waiting until spring time, which gives me enough time to get her polished enough on leash and with basic stuff to get her ready to potentially meet some herding people and dogs, and maybe even some sheep :D
 

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I figured the herding community might be a little closed (or should I be reading that as elitist?), I've got a tendency to butt heads a bit when people get like that. If Caeda seems to have any aptitude I'll likely push through any negative thoughts on it.
I dunno, in some ways it may seem elitist, but in a very strange way. Border collies are generally considered to be king among herders. If your living depends on your dog's ability to move sheep, you get a BC. Anyone who knows anything about BC's will tell you, though, that being a BC is about what the dog DOES, not what the dog looks like. Serious herding folks may exhibit breed prejudice, mostly because it's rare to see a non-herding breed be very successful at herding.

BUT...reputable BC registries have policies allowing one to register any dog, regardless of parentage, as a BC, if it can pass certain herding tests (which, by the way, are very difficult to pass). It's called "Register on Merit" or ROM. Herding trials are generally open to any dog, and anyone who achieves success gains the respect of big-wigs, regardless of their dog's breed or looks. So in some ways, the prejudice is against individual dogs that aren't good at herding, not against breeds per-say.

I'd look for an instructor who trains dogs of many different breeds (as Pawz said), and one who is a hobby herder, not someone whose livelihood depends on sheep herding. The first thing they should do with a green dog is an instinct test - if not, run away.

As for nosework, a lot of people think their dogs don't show much interest or don't have a very strong nose. Until they get into a class and pair it with some structure. The National Association of Canine Scent Work has certified trainers all over the US. If there's one near you, I highly encourage you to check it out.
 

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I dunno, in some ways it may seem elitist, but in a very strange way. Border collies are generally considered to be king among herders. If your living depends on your dog's ability to move sheep, you get a BC. Anyone who knows anything about BC's will tell you, though, that being a BC is about what the dog DOES, not what the dog looks like. Serious herding folks may exhibit breed prejudice, mostly because it's rare to see a non-herding breed be very successful at herding.

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And if your livelihood depends on your dog's ability to move cattle, or having an all-purpose farm dog who can do multiple chores, you might get something else. BCs are specialists. And very good at what they do. Not sure I'd refer to them as royalty, though.
 

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I would think draft/carting or weight pulling would be the perfect activities. Canicross is a great sport, I do a little recreational in the spring/summer times when its warmer and my dogs love it. Need to get a new harness soon, one that can be used for both canicross and biking.
 

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http://www.ahba-herding.org/ <snip> So, it's important to have some control of your dog if they are high prey drive (or even decide that this is not a safe sport for your dog) It sounds like Hast had good control with the "out" though.
I could have controlled her better, but the clinician (who's sheep it was) took control of my dog (I know better now, but I hadn't come to the realization never to give over full control of my dog yet ... I trusted the profesional).
Mandy had a fully working down and could easily be "downed" every time she got too excited, which also happened after the sheep incident, but the clinician either had forgotten or hadn't heard me when I told her before she started.

It did teach me a whole lot about my dog though ... Mandy absolutely didn't even flinch when the clinician hit her with a pvc stick to get her to let go of the sheep ... but she opened her mouth without even a seconds hesitation when I told her. The more pressure I put on her the more she pressures back and the less likely that she'll just do what I want her to do. When another "trainer" told me that she was stubborn when she didn't let go when the clinicians hit her with the stick I finally understood a few things about dog trainers, dogs in general and my dog in particular. They called her stubborn when in reality to pressure her is to put her in a position of a "tug of war" of sorts and give her the option to have an opposing idea rather than teach her that doing what I ask is rewarding. And as I said ... it also taught me to always keep the basic control of my dog, to be prepared to step in and take over if "the professional" doesn't handle her the way I think she should be handled. It all ended good ... the only thing that happened to the sheep was that Mandy spit out a large piece of wool after she let go, and I suddenly had quite a different outlook on how to teach my dog.
 

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I could have controlled her better, but the clinician (who's sheep it was) took control of my dog (I know better now, but I hadn't come to the realization never to give over full control of my dog yet ... I trusted the profesional).
Mandy had a fully working down and could easily be "downed" every time she got too excited, which also happened after the sheep incident, but the clinician either had forgotten or hadn't heard me when I told her before she started.

It did teach me a whole lot about my dog though ... Mandy absolutely didn't even flinch when the clinician hit her with a pvc stick to get her to let go of the sheep ... but she opened her mouth without even a seconds hesitation when I told her. The more pressure I put on her the more she pressures back and the less likely that she'll just do what I want her to do. When another "trainer" told me that she was stubborn when she didn't let go when the clinicians hit her with the stick I finally understood a few things about dog trainers, dogs in general and my dog in particular. They called her stubborn when in reality to pressure her is to put her in a position of a "tug of war" of sorts and give her the option to have an opposing idea rather than teach her that doing what I ask is rewarding. And as I said ... it also taught me to always keep the basic control of my dog, to be prepared to step in and take over if "the professional" doesn't handle her the way I think she should be handled. It all ended good ... the only thing that happened to the sheep was that Mandy spit out a large piece of wool after she let go, and I suddenly had quite a different outlook on how to teach my dog.
It sounds like it was a valuable lesson to understand a bit more about opposition reflex. The more you fight with a dog, the more the dog thinks it has to fight back. Been there, done that one.
 

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If you want to have a go at herding, then go for it, but go with the AHBA or such as they cater for all breeds. Herding, like anything has it's die hard competitiors and those who just want to have fun. We own a ranch and had a large cattle station in Australia and hence we had and have a number of working dogs... mainly border collies but we also had the occasional kelpie and a couple of other crosses... but all were herding breeds.

A Swissy would be similar to a Bernese I would imagine and they tend to make better guardians, but in saying that, they still could herd. Rarely do you get a dog that does both.... our Anatolian is a great guardian and he keeps his sheep in line.... when I put them out into a new pasture, he rounds them up and puts them back in the old pasture LOL. But once he is ok with them being in the new pasture, he leaves them alone. He does tend to push them together late in the evening and keeps them closer to the barn, where he obviously thinks they are safer from coyotes. But this is not so much herding, this is purely protecting. During the day he leaves them to patrol the boundaries and checks to make sure everything is in order... our Pyrenees puppy is out with her sheep during the day and then penned up with them during the night.... she comes to visit the house occasionally during the day, but then returns to her sheep... both her and the Anatolian visit but then go back to their respective "positions" with their own sheep... though the Anatolian is older and more experienced, so he tends to guard everything, including the farm cat. The sheep know the difference between our guardians and our workers (border collies)... they are not fearful of the guardians at all and often run to them if they get scared, but they have more respect for the workers and run away from them in a working situation. If the Anatolian is out when we are gathering sheep with the border collies, the sheep generally run to the Anatolian.

The border collies we have are working border collies. We are into both sheep and cattle trials and are pretty pedantic about bloodlines etc. You will find a lot of people that both trial and use their dogs for everyday work, are fairly adamant about what they like and what they don't like. I wouldn't have any other breed and I am pretty fussy about the bloodlines within my chosen breed... however there are probably more Kelpies being used in Australia for sheep yard trials than anything else... both border collies and kelpies are used for sheep trials and mainly border collies for cattle trials.

The reason that you see primarily Border Collies, is because they are the most popular breed for the job... have been bred for many, many generations to work stock.... however other dogs also dominate the competitions in other countries. In Australia, where I am from, Kelpies usually dominate the sheep yarding trials... border collies and kelpies both work the sheep trials and mainly border collies compete in the cattle trials, however you see the occasional kelpie/border collie cross, the occasional Koolie (more so in the sheep dog trials) and we even had a 1/2 New Zealand Huntaway 1/4 Kelpie & 1/4 Border Collie who was an awesome ranch dog and she was great at the cattle dog trials too. However, I knew exactly how her parents worked and who bred and owned grandparents, so even though she was a mix, she was a mix of good working bloodlines.... In saying, I usually tend to stick to the proven registered working Border Collies, because the pedigree at least gives you some idea of how the previous dogs in the pedigree worked... and if I don't know about certain dogs in a pedigree and their working ability, I do my best to find out.

There are trials here that are based on time, which are usually cattle trials. The dogs don't have as much eye as sheep dogs do, and the trial is judged on times... I prefer the traditional working sheep or cattle trial where there is a time limit but the dog is judged on ability to mavouvre the sheep or cattle around a set course... this way you get to see how much eye a dog has (but you don't want them to be sticky eyed either) and how much natural instinct the dog uses and how well they work the cattle. I prefer this type of trial because personally when I am working sheep or cattle, I want everything to run smoothly, you don't just rush in at a herd of cattle and try and get them moved as quickly as possible, it puts too much pressure on the cattle and too much pressure on the dog. And you never want to work livestock that way. In saying that the cattle timed trials are still fun and nice to have a bit of fun at, especially if you have a dog that is loose eyed but has a lot of drive and just wants to get the job done. Australian Cattle Dogs (heelers) are often loose eyed and are generally not as strong eyed as the Collies and Kelpies and hence are usually better for cattle and often more suited as yard dogs because they want to heel. You can get Collies and Kelpies depending on bloodlines that are more loose eyed as well... in other words they use body position more than eye to move the stock. A stong eyed dog is when you see the dog creeping low and staring at the cattle/sheep. It can depend a lot on bloodlines of the particular breed as well... there are strains of collie that are more suited to sheep as they are a little soft on cattle and vice versa... which is why you don't see many Australian cattle Dogs working sheep, they are generally just too hard... Australian Shepherds compete here in some of the open trials and do quite well... I have never seen them used in Australia, but then they have only been in the country since 1984 I believe, so they may gain popularity as time goes on... but the long coat will often hold them back due to the rugged and hot Australian conditions.. which is why majority of collies now are short coated.

If you have a dog that you just want to have a bit of fun with, check and see if there is a local herding club. You see a lot of people having fun doing trialing for a hobby with their GSDs, Corgis etc.. non of which are super trial dogs but they have fun and that is what it is all about... if you are wanting to start out, I say give it a try and see how you go... there are going to be the hard core trial people who will tell you not to bother unless you have a border collie.... and I personally wouldn't myself, because we use our dogs on our ranch as well as trial them... but what these people don't understand is that not everyone wants a hard core trial dog and if you are just interested in going out and having a bit of fun, go for it... ... it can't hurt for you and your dog just to have some fun. But as others have said, you do need to be aware that a dog can get hurt once in a while. And often the dogs that can get hurt more are the dogs that do not have as much natural ability and instinct. Even one of our top working and trial dogs, got a broken leg at home working cattle. I have never had any injuries working sheep apart from the occasional young dog being run over... but the only thing that was hurt was the dog's courage... he was a little on the soft side and it didn't take much for him to be discouraged... eventually he made a nice sheep dog but never was stong enough for cattle. And because of a Swissys size, they are not going to be as quick as the true herding breeds.

My best advice is to go to some trials and watch, and also watch some of the fun trials people are doing with their corgis, GSDs etc... no disrespect to them at all, but you should be able to notice the difference between the border collies at the bigger trials and the other breeds at the fun trials... but most importantly you will learn to teach your dog to stay somewhat balanced, if the dog lacks natural balance and you can learn control and body language etc if your dog shows enough natural ability.

None of my dogs chase anything that they are not supposed to, however a good down and recall is a must before starting. And I never give them the opportunity to chase either. They know that horses are out of bounds, though the pups will often try the horses if they are running free and I am not there constantly supervising. By the time they are adults, they understand they have a job to do and when they are not doing that job, they are in their pen. They are worked at least 5 to 6 days a week, so they sleep when they are in their pens. They don't chase wildlife, they stay behind the horses when we are going out into the pasture and are stay "behind" unless otherwise given the command to go and work. And once every couple of weeks, it is back to the round pen we go and get the basics back again, just so that they know that I am running the show and not them so that we can re-inforce commands and correction in an enclosed area etc. Training is ongoing, no matter how good the dog is, even just to re-inforce basic commands because a herding dog is working so much on his own and "reading" the stock before we even realise what is happening.
 
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