Of course we were too busy enjoying the dogs to take photos, but this afternoon both of our dogs, Philly and Mesa, tried their luck for the first time herding sheep. We found a fantastic place in Roy, WA that lets dogs of all stripes get in the ring with sheep or ducks and see what they are made of. Ewe-topia is a 10 acre farm with stock completely accustomed to dogs of all capabilities. I think the stock are really what make it a success.
Philly and I were up first. The handler coached a very positive attitude as we just pushed the sheep and worked to get Philly attentive and engaged with the sheep. She was her usual slightly reserved self – very attentive, but not sure if it was ‘alright’ to interact with the sheep. The sheep were so tame that I had to physically get my hands and knees into their wool to get them to move (there were 3 ewes) and that physicality and movement eventually encouraged Philly to circle and actually ‘push’ the ewes occasionally. One of the owners of the place that had been working on some of the lights in a next door arena paused to lean against the fence and start to ask the handler if it was Philly’s first time and provide encouragement that she looked great.
Mesa and Aamir were up next. Honestly, this was as new to Aamir as it was Mesa (he had never been so close to sheep ever before.) Mesa was interested, but those ewes were big and she has a slight fear of large creatures (dogs, horses, just about anything.) She definitely wanted to work, but didn’t find her footing as well as Philly did by the end. You can tell either dog would engage more if the sheep actually ran, but getting used to moving them at a walk is way more controlled. Mesa will get there, along with her ‘handler.’
We will definitely be back out. The literature says to expect to just work on getting engaged with sheep and paying attention and gathering by walking around the sheep in the smaller pen for maybe even months (also depends on how often we can get out there.) But Philly slept the entire drive home. So there won’t be any ‘come by’s or ‘away to me’s in the foreseeable future, but we definitely enjoyed ourselves!