Herding Basics

I have no idea if Lyra can herd sheep. She has never seen one. The photo, above, was taken at a sheepdog trial in England (it was thrilling to watch!); the dog is not Lyra. However, in watching the trial, I was struck by how strongly the dogs — all border collies in this instance — reminded me of her. Lyra does seem to have some innate herding traits: e.g., the lope, a strong eye, loose shoulders, a tendency to circle round things rather than approach directly. She is not from a working line, but does have some in her genes. (Presumably they all do!)

I am taking a short online course in force-free herding basics (no stock needed). The skills will be helpful in any case — but I also wanted to get a better idea of what drives her, by watching other, working dogs and learning what they do.

Skills that we are working on:

Folding Down — a “lie down” that goes directly from a stand (not a sit) to a down. This can take pressure off the sheep quickly, but it can also be a way to stop Lyra in her tracks. I’m working on getting her to lie down from a walk or run. I need to reinforce the quicker downs, as she’s a bit lackadaisical 🙂 

Collar Tug — The goal is to get a dog used to being re-positioned by the collar. For my purposes, it’s a safety measure. If Lyra gets loose and a stranger grabs for her collar, I want her to be comfortable with the move. NB I was checking her face for any sign of discomfort. Also, we’d done some of this work before; if I were starting from scratch, I’d do much shorter tugs.