As a dog trainer, I am always amazed to watch a dog’s natural instinct at work. To this end, I always try and take my border collies to have a go working sheep, and my gundogs get to have a go at gundog training with dummys. Merlyn was the first dog I worked on sheep, and he did really well (for a male, merle!) but he was already hindered by me when I started him at 6 years old. To be good on sheep, a dog has to have natural instinct, but living in a pet home (and doing obedience, agility & flyball training), he didn’t think for himself as much as he needed to. He constantly wanted to check in with mum, bless him! BTW, Gyp was scared of the sheep!!!
Through my dog breeding (Tottlefields) I also strive to breed dogs that are fit for function, i.e. could go out and do the job that they were bred to do. To this end, my end goal with my Border Collies is to have healthy, tested, International Sheepdog Registered Society (ISDS) registered lines, but my newest bitch, from Bryning Border Collies is purely Kennel Club registered (but fully health-tested), although she has a pedigree depicting many working BCs in many different disciplines, including some of her relatives having gone on to be registered with the ISDS on merit after taking their working test. Freya has a wonderful work ethic and at 5 months old is already very herdy with my other dogs at home. I wondered whether she would be able to transfer this qualities to sheep. So we booked a session at Mayfields Farm and Sheepdog Training centre in Norfolk to see what she was like.
We had just 3 sheep in a field to work with, but that was more than enough, especially since I really had no idea what she would do with them. Sarah told me to take her off the lead and just let her do her own thing (very scary when you’re not 100% certain you have a reliable recall on a youngster!). She started happily running round the field, but always being aware of where I was (she would constantly stop, check on me, and carry on with what she was doing). As we wandered towards the sheep, who were, of course, at the opposite end of the field, her interest was piqued. Once we were close enough to them, she promptly ran round the back of them away from me and just circled them, keeping her eye on therm at all times. I was gob-smacked and soooo pleased with her. I had been a bit worried she might have too much eye, or be too snap-happy with her teeth, but she was just perfect! She stayed about 1-2 feet away from the sheep, just running round and round, bunching them up and then came to their heads, which Sarah said pups do as they aren’t big enough to control the sheep from behind at this age. In all she probably spent about 5 mins with the sheep, which is more than enough for her at this young age. When asked to come away from them, she accepted it without question. The plan is to let her see sheep for 5-10 mins each month for now and then start some proper training with her at about 7/8 months of age and then go from there.
Since we had answered my question of “does she have any interest or natural ability with sheep?” as a resounding “YES” and we had travelled 1.5hrs to do this, I let Melryn have a play too. It’s proabably about 2 years since he last worked sheep as we just didn’t have the time to fit it into our lives. He remembered exactly what to do, and we even starting asking him to learn to do an outrun, the thing he’d had issues with before as it was too much thinking for himself. I look forward to going back in September as I had great fun, and the dogs LOVED it! Hopefully I’ll get some pics and/or video next time too
We are also looking to see if we can join up with Mayfields Farm and run a CCC training day or afternoon. Keep an eye on our events page for more news on this, and our other events.