Sara has had a hard time trying to learn to be a sheep dog. First off for a Border Collie Sara is very submissive, we have to take her outside whenever people she doesn’t know arrive at our house because she “piddles” on the floor when she meets strangers.
The second problem Sara encountered on her road to being a sheep dog was goats. I got goats before the sheep arrived so Sara got her first herding practice with them. She may have been better off staying in the house and trying to herd the cats for all the good working with the goats did. The goats refuse to travel in a group and often reared up to challenge poor Sara. She may be submissive but Sara has a lot of heart and she never gave up. After months of trial and error Sara learned to herd the goats, she just has to get them one by one. It is really funny to watch as she runs up behind them and tries to head them in the right direction. If the goats refuse to move or rear up she learned to stick her nose behind the goats hind legs and lift, moving them in a wheelbarrow race like mode. So long as the goats don’t seek refuge on the deck I can stand by the goats pen and Sara will bring them to me one by one.
The next problem Sara encountered was when the sheep arrived they wanted to follow her around. Seems the farm on which they were born had a dog that would lead them from one pasture to another. To a submissive Sara who was now used to stubborn standoffish goats this wouldn’t do. It often led to hilarious sessions of the sheep first walking and then running behind a nervous and fleeing Sara! The sheep soon lost interest in Sara, but every day she would take up her goat watching post outside and keep an eye on them – learning their ways.
The last bad break Sara suffered on her road to sheep herding was at the horns of the rams. When we would give the rams shots the Commander would have Sara come sit by them as they were held for the rams would become completely docile while Sara was there. I don’t know why this was, maybe they were afraid of her. Anyway one day Sara ran into the ram area before we were ready and one of the rams rammed her into the fence a few times before we could get her out. After that experience Sara wouldn’t go anywhere near the rams and initially, nothing I did could coax her into changing her mind.
The seasons changed and everyday Sara took her post outside, keeping an eye on her goats and those strange sheep. At some point instinct must have begun to click in her mind because she somehow noticed that unlike the goats the sheep liked to flock! When I moved the sheep Sara began to take up a trail position, not moving them but kind of keeping a pacing position. This led to Sara seeking out stragglers and using her “goat” herding techniques on them, sending them back to the flock. As Sara’s confidence grew she got closer to the sheep and began to circle closer and closer behind them, taking notice that unlike the goats the sheep never stood their ground. The final triumph came on a day when two of the sheep refused to leave the woods when the others were on their way to the pen, Sara looked at them and ran into the woods to chase them out, it was a miracle! At some point Sara realized that the sheep are now afraid of her. When we moved the rams to their new home Sara took post behind them and nipped at their heels all the way till they were successfully moved, she showed no fear. I can now stand by the gate to the sheep area and call the sheep, if they don’t come immediately all I have to do is call Sara’s name and both sheep and dog spring into action – the sheep running for the gate and Sara moving to chase behind them.
Sara only knows how to complete simple tasks as she hasn’t had any formal training, but the help she provides makes things so much easier. I would say she is successful about 85% of the time with the sheep and 60-70% of the time with the goats, but she keeps trying and is still getting better. Sara has good instinct but ever better, she has heart!