Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sheepdog! (???)

ML offered to introduce Riff to sheep yesterday.  Woohoo!!  So we went out to her sheep pasture, where Riff met her older dog "Pete" and young dog "Sam."  Riff was excited....and nervous.  A new place, new dogs, and - wow, what are those fuzzy animals?

Riff and Sam
The dogs got to know each other, and Riff got to look around, before M and Pete went into the big pasture to bring in the sheep.   

Watching the flock come in.

M and Riff got acquainted before she took him into the small round pen with the sheep.  Not knowing what he would do, she put a light twine lead on him.  The lead was doubled up in her hand, but easy to lengthen, or pull out of his collar, if need be.

ML, Riff and Pete

First pass

Riff glanced at the sheep.  He was nervous, though, and spend a fair amount of time looking for me.  ML kept walking him around after the sheep, and he started to settle down.  He never did get into a crouch or get all "sheepdoggy"...he was too confused and distractable.  She said "This dog has no idea how powerful he is.  These sheep don't usually move much for a soft dog, but he's got them on the run just from his presence." 

She was very slow, gentle and patient with him.  Soon, she dropped the lead.  He would steal glances at the running sheep, but stay close to ML.  After a short rest, she took him back in with no lead at all. 

He seemed better without a lead on him.  Still not entirely interested, though.  ML brought Pete in so Riff could watch, and perhaps learn... 


After that, ML said "shadow me" and we both walked around after the sheep, with Riff trailing along.  ML said I was okay by myself, and left the pen.  Riff's tongue was hanging out pretty far by then (you Bezel-baby people know what I mean!), so we didn't stay with the sheep long. 

He seemed to be looking at them more often by the time we were finished, but he certainly never "locked on."  However, I was pleasantly surprised to feel perfectly at home in a sheep pen.  I thought it would be scary!  But these sheep were a lot smaller and more pliable than the cattle I used to work with, years ago.  Of course back in the cattle days, I didn't have a dog.  Having a dog makes all the difference!  I didn't even mind it when the sheep came up close to me...they're actually kind of cute little woolies, and although they came in close they never did step on me or offer to knock me over.  (At least not yet.)  The only part that was squishy for me was their poop.  Heh heh.  

ML was very kind about Riff's apparent lack of "natural" ability.  She said he was just nervous, because everything is so new to him.  She pointed out that all he knows is me telling him what to do next on an agility field.  He kept looking at me for guidance...but there's not a lot I can do to actually guide him, other than hope he begins to understand that it's the sheep he should be looking at...and that he can actually move the sheep around by himself.  Without that understanding, we can't move ahead with working sheep.

So - is Riff a sheepdog?  Doesn't look like it, so far.  But ML said to bring him out again next week.  She thought his reaction was fairly typical for a "first timer," and she says there might be a sheepdog in there....somewhere. 



corgi2bc said...

Sheep should be easy for you after cows. :-) I hope you give Riff another chance or two, sometimes it does take a few times for a dog to realize it is OK to herd the sheep.

Anonymous said...

Fun! I'm glad Riff got to see sheep. Rampage saw sheep about 2 years ago and he just barked and chased them (not herding just plain chasing). It would be interesting to see what he'd do now.


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