Saturday, June 5, 2010

The very late herding clinic post.

I wasn't sure if I would let Chandler participate at the clinic.

Yes, he goes gaga over sheep...actually too much so, which is a problem. Generally the other English Shepherds at these events sit by their owners, watching the proceedings. Chandler is the one bouncing like a hooked marlin on the end of his leash while bark-screaming with excitement at the top of his lungs.

However, at the last clinic the instructor wrapped a long line around his waist, which I'm not to thrilled about. There's no bone down there to protect his organs, and an excited Chandler can charge with some impressive momentum. As a puppy he broke the snap-buckle of his first collar. Also, during the previous clinic he'd gotten tangled in the long line and slammed down on his hips, which is not good, given that he has mild dysplasia problems.

So I planned to settle Chandler in his crate, take photos of the clinic, and see how things went. I ended up tossing blankets over the crate to cut off his view as he fussed and barked. Then I had to tell him to quit biting the crate bars. It was pretty much par for the course when you put Chan anyplace near sheep.

However, after consulting with the instructor, it was agreed that I could bring Chandler in on his prong collar and six foot lead. I deadringed the prong because I didn't want a high level aversive when it was likely he'd lunge, and clipped it to his flat collar for extra security. Since Chandler has left his "teenagerhood" I rarely use the prong as a management tool these days. He's learned not to attempt to pull me over. The last time I had to use it was when he was enforced rest due to his cut paw, and there were squirrels everyplace. However, since Chandler is familiar with the prong and respects it, I decided it would be the best management tool for keeping both him and the sheep safe during our run.

After that, it went like this:

Chandler - Herding Fun Day at Fox Hill Farm from Laurie Christensen on Vimeo.

(Many thanks to Laurie for getting this footage on her camcorder.)

I will admit to being very cautious. Chandler has a lot of drive, and I didn't want to risk a situation where he or the sheep would get hurt. I wasn't about to allow the long line to be attached to the prong given how excited Chandler was. He was so keyed up that he didn't even flinch when she whomped her empty-bag noisemaker in front of him. I'm not sure if that says anything about his concentration or my work on his sound sensitivity. It strikes me that the sound sensitivity of many herders is probably an adaptation that makes training and controlling them easier. I didn't like that she tried bopping him on the nose with the bag thing, even if it was pretty harmless. It was very out of character for Chandler to snap at it.

I think I'll let Chan have an alternate career, instead of herding. The instructor said she might be able to do something with him if she had him for two months, and frankly she wouldn't enjoy it. However, the clinic host noted that he has improved every time he has been around sheep...which is a total of about four times now. She seems rather impressed with his sheer power that gets stubborn sheep moving, and wondered how he'd do with cattle or hogs. I know that if I ever end up with livestock I'll have to spend a LOT of time teaching him to be calm around them. That isn't happening any time soon, so I think I'll concentrate on his other talents for now.

My photos of the clinic can be found here.

The photos taken by the clinic host can be found here.

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