Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sheltie Herding

Yesterday I took Romeo out herding again. We were invited out by a fellow Sheltie owner, and I was eager for the opportunity to see a more practiced Sheltie (and handler) do their stuff.

Jill and Pilgrim are a great pair, and Pilgrim's enthusiasm is infectious! It was great to watch them work, and even though Jill insisted that Pilgrim was sloppy, I was impressed. I see now, comparing how Pilgrim works compared to where Romeo is, exactly what I need to work on. And lucky for me, I think I can do some of that without sheep. Hopefully I will get around to it before our next adventure out to Dog Tale Ranch.

Here are a couple of pictures of the charming Pilgrim at work ...

As always, Arlette (owner of Dog Tale Ranch) was a joy to work with. Her passion for herding, sheep, sheep dogs and ranching is apparent in everything she does. And she has unending patience to deal with clueless people like me!

Romeo had a blast, of course. He hasn't quite figured out the finer points yet, but he sure understands that he can make those sheep move (and if he makes them move all in different directions then he gets to tear about after them to bring them back together again ... sigh). We worked on setting him up so that the sheep were between him and me, so that he can move up to bring the sheep to me. The tricky bit is that Romeo is so keenly focused on me, that while he is thrilled about the sheep, he still has a tendency to swing around towards me instead of towards the sheep. I'm considering velco and tennis balls on the sheep's backs.

We worked a little bit on driving the sheep, and he really liked that. It allows him to be closer to me, relatively, yet still working the sheep. When he is pushing them away from me, he gets to be between me and the sheep, so all of his focus is on the sheep and he was more responsive to my cues to speed up or slow down.

Arlette is playing host to John Carter for a couple of months this summer. John is a very experienced shepherd, trainer, and judge. And, of course, he was out to watch me flounder around with Romeo. It's a little nerve wracking knowing that I am probably doing everything wrong and the many other experienced people watching are likely rolling their eyes and groaning under their breath. At least, that is what I imagined, though it is probably a vast exaggeration.

On the ride home, Jill mentioned that John had commented on Romeo while we were out of ear shot. Said that Romeo had great power and interest in the sheep. So that leads me to believe that it isn't a lost cause, and as long as I can get my head in the right direction (and my body following along!), we might be able to have a bit of fun with this!

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