Thursday, March 12, 2015

Herding Instinct Test

On the weekend, Rundle had an opportunity to go to a herding instinct test. All of my Berners have been tried on sheep but this is the first time I have done an actual instinct test.  I wasn't sure what to expect of Rundle. I know he has a strong chase/prey drive so I was a bit worried that he would try to run down the sheep and bite them. At the same time he is quite sensitive so I didn't know how he would take to a stranger (the evaluator) working with him while I was outside the pen. It turned out that I didn't need to worry at all. The evaluator came to get Rundle and take him in the round pen with the sheep. He followed her without hesitation and listened to her when she called him or tried to help him out.  He was confident with the sheep (until one turned to stare at him, then he wasn't sure what he should do) and he got them moving and seemed to have fun.  He did not try to chase down the sheep or bite them, thankfully.

Since I know very little about herding, I do not know exactly what the evaluator was looking for during the test. I know she looked for sustained interest in the sheep and she looked for herding behavior as opposed to strictly prey drive behaviour. This particular evaluator had strict criteria about what she was looking for and very few dogs passed the test. I think there were over 30 dogs tested and only 5 or 6 passed. Rundle had enough interest in the sheep that day to earn himself one of those passes.  

Herding is an interesting dog activity but one that is difficult to pursue unless you have regular access to stock and a trainer.  Although this was fun to try out and Rundle showed some interest, it is likely not anything I will continue with. Unless you are working with sheep often, the dog is not really going to learn what is expected of them.  Although herding does have a natural instinct component, there are also rules that a dog must learn, and that doesn't always just involves chasing sheep in a round pen.  So, it was something fun to try and a new experience for Rundle. 

My friend Jo took some video of Rundle with the sheep. This clip as near the end of our test and you can see Rundle start to get a bit distracted - maybe from the pressure of "rules" (you can see that with the use of the flag) or not knowing what was expected of him, or maybe he was just getting tired. It's hard work trying out new things.  

1 comment:

  1. Rundle was soooo fun to watch!! He had a great time with the sheep, I think he would be an awesome herding dog! but yes it is so hard unless you practice every day, it is still awesome to see the instinct click in!
    I am proud of Rundle for earning one of those few passes! he deserved it!