Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why are these sheep running?

If you don't look closely you might wonder why these sheep are running.  But the tip of the  black tail of the border collie behind the gate on the right hand side tells you what's happening.  It's a herding dog at work.

The other day we happened on a field where a young man was working with his lovely border collie.  I think the dog is in training as it took him a number of tries to get the sheep going in the right direction.

 Here the dog is in the classic border collie stance--slightly crouched, head down, walking slowly up behind the sheep.  But every time he'd get close to the gate he'd get excited and come in faster.

Then the sheep would veer off, and the trainer would whistle another command.  The dog would move off in a different direction to try again.
Below you can see the collie moving fast on the outside to try outflanking the sheep to turn them.This happened several times as they kept getting away.  But the dog was enjoying every moment of it.  Just look at the huge smile on his face.  

Finally everything went right and dog was able to drive the four sheep through the gate.  You can see the boy opening the gate to let them in.  Here the dog is in a "down" and the sheep are moving well.

I so enjoy watching border collies work this way.  The connection between the handler, the dog and the sheep is like a dance done with incredible focus.

If I'd had the time and money I would have loved to do this work with my dog Geordie.  He has a strong herding instinct and we did spend a weekend learning the basics a few years ago.  Sadly, without land or sheep it would only have been an expensive hobby and I decided not to pursue it.  But it's wonderful to watch it when the chance arises.

By the way, Geordie loves sheep, but my other dog Maggie doesn't even seem to notice them.  For her it's all about the tennis ball or the frisbee.


  1. Do I see a tip of an ear too ? I assume the fields and the cute sheep belonged to the young mans family.

    I also love to watch herding dogs at work. Plus I think Border Collies are beautiful black and white dogs.
    He does seem to have a great smile, that is a super happy dog !

    I just love when my Scotties smile. My Kirbey who died many years ago, had one of the best Scottie smiles. I miss her every day, she was a wonderful friend.
    Lovely post today.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. My favorite dog 'show' of all. I could stand all day and watch these dogs work with sheep. Lucky you to have it close to hand.


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