Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Learning Through the Work

Raven and I take lessons; we do homework; we test ourselves in sheepdog trials.

But what really helped the two-year-old Border collie and me progress was monotonous, daylong work.

For several days in July, we set out sheep for sheepdog clinics. This means that I sorted six ewes from a pen of 80 sheep, had the dog drive them to a specified spot on the field, and then watched as a dog in the clinic gathered them. Sometimes Raven and I had to re-gather the sheep on the field and put them in a specified spot. Then we'd rest and repeat -- for hours.

The work settles the dog. If she became excited every time she was asked to work, she'd be one really exhausted dog by day's end.

It also teaches the dog -- and me -- about sheep. Every group of sheep acts just a little different. We both have to learn to read the sheep and react to them.

When doing the routine work, we both improved and gained confidence, and we learned to work together.

So, by the end of the clinics, when I asked her to gather 50 or so sheep, she thought nothing of it.

 And, when I brought her home, we were working much better together.

Photos: The photos are of Raven working sheep at our farm - after the sheepdog clinics.

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