Herding is the act of grouping livestock animals, keeping the group together and/or moving an animal or group from one location to another. It is an exciting sport for dogs and their owners alike. If you are the proud owner of one of the 56 breeds that are eligible to participate in the American Kennel Club’s herding events (https://www.akc.org/sports/herding/eligibility/) and your dog is over six months old, you might be interested in this fun sport. I asked some of my friends, who have tried herding with their dogs, to tell me about their experience with the herding breeds they’re familiar with. They all seemed to agree that this sport was exciting for both dogs and handlers.
Carolynn Cobb, Texas, Berger Picard — “We have only been involved in herding for little over a year. It has been quite an experience. As with most performance sports, it requires discipline and obedience as well as athleticism. Herding also uses a language of its own, which means a steep learning curve for both handler and dog. To really perform well the dog handler team must have a significant bond. Our dogs have lived with the handler and trained daily. Most people think herding is all about instinct, but the true instinct is a prey drive. So dogs have to learn to control the prey drive and listen to the directions of the handler. It is way harder than it looks. Good herding is actually kind of boring to watch as a spectator. It should be smooth and flowing with control. The dogs become addicted to the sheep. Some physically shake with excitement while waiting their turn to herd. It’s a cool sport :)”
Kathy Erickson, Canada, Berger Picard — “…it was actually quite beautiful to watch how the 2 dogs worked together to [work] the sheep..how amazing it was to see how the two worked as team just based on their instinct. Actually, the person who ran the clinic figured Edan had potential to be very good prospect for herding…”
Laurie Lyons, New Jersey, Border Collies — “…If you have a herding dog, no matter what the breed, It is my belief that you should get your dog to do what it is bred to do. That being said… I learned that not all Border Collies are excellent sheep herders! My Kasey almost killed herself on sheep when she was young…so we stopped and redirected her by doing more agility and obedience. Dallas was too soft.. but an excellent agility partner. Fiona was born to herd sheep, and they feared her! I was told she could become a top herding dog…but I did not want to go down that path in competition. She gets to herd occasionally now and absolutely loves it. She is a force to be reckoned with! Mick, on the other hand, has a very strong eye… which is not always a good thing when herding sheep. In other words.. he is afraid the sheep are going to get away so he stays close…Where Fiona is confident and stays off and keeps them in check with her movements…”
Pat Rivera, Georgia, Berger Picard — “We took Cole twice. He did fabulously the first time and thrilled the instructor who was intrigued, having never heard of the breed. The second time was Cole’s first episode of true over-threshold stimulation and although he did well in his first run, he was not able to go back in with the sheep…It was beautiful to see baby Cole’s natural instincts stirred and guide him to do the job he was bred to do…”
Chet Stephens, Florida, Berger Picard — “I first experienced herding as a youth out west. Our family owned large sections of grazing land and although our family didn’t own sheep the areas were used when moving sheep for other herders. I have been around many sheep herds and the herders who moved those sheep. The dogs used were the more traditional herding dogs such as Border Collies. The Berger Picard instinct to herd is strong and has not been bred out. The Picard is a tending herding style meaning they would tend a herd in the fields of northern France. Many pastures are without fences and the Picard keeps the flock in the pasture as opposed to the Border Collie which is a driving style used to move flocks from pasture to pasture.”
If what these handlers had to say intrigues you and you think this might be the sport for you, head over to https://www.akc.org/sports/herding/ for more information.