Posted Date: November 6, 2008
Brenna Fender dabbled in herding at the Games, thanks to the Arizona Herding Association.
OK, it wasn't actually me who was herding. It was a dog, a Border Collie named Max, actually, and his owner, Arizona Herding Association member Ken Theus, was really doing the handling. I was just staying out the way of the sheep (or were they goats?) and trying not to get my toes trampled as I admired herding for the first time up close.
The author listens to Ken Theus while Max works the sheep (goats?)
As far as instinct-based dog sports go, I've participated in hunting tests and trials with my late-Vizsla and lure coursing tests with my Whippet. Herding is the first such sport I've been involved in that involved the cooperation of another species. The quail pointed by my Vizsla certainly weren't participating in the game - they just came along for the ride, got planted in a field, and, when the opportunity arose, they flew for freedom. Lure coursing (thankfully) doesn't even involve a live animal. My Whippet didn't have to coax cooperation out of anything, living or otherwise, as she screamed around a field chasing a bag on a motor-powered string.
But in my first herding experience, I was in a small pen with three goats (or were they sheep?), a nice man with a stick, and a Border Collie who delighted me with his ability to go from zero to 60mph in a tenth of a second, followed by an instantaneous drop into the flattest "lie down" you have ever seen. Max took control of the stock as he collected them and brought them to me or kept them gathered near us as directed. It was awesome!
Over the course of the Cynosport World Games, other people brought their own dogs out to the pen and took an unofficial herding instinct test with the help of qualified AHA members. On Friday alone, over 50 dogs tried their paws at herding at the Games. Many were Border Collies, but there were some Australian Cattle Dogs and even a few "nontraditional" herding breeds, like a Papillon and a Bernese Mountain Dog.
|Four-year-old Papillon, Charlie, owned by Christine Henry of Arizona with tester Ken Theus.||Three-year-old Border Collie Thunder, who competes on the Puerto Rico agility team, owned by Abdiel Hernandez and tested by Fran Evans.|
|11-year-old Border Collie Haley, owned by Elizabeth and JP Evans from Texas, is an experienced herding dog who got to have some extra fun while the rest of the family dogs did agility.||A Bernese Mountain Dog, owned by Stu and Mary Pasternaki of Arizona.|
Although I don't expect my Whippet to take up herding with any success, I do hope I get to try the sport again soon. Next time I'd like to try my hand at directing a (well-trained) dog around. But this experience was a fun chance for me and others to try out the sport. Plus, as a bonus, I got to pet some sheep. Or were they goats?
All photos by Brad Lee of the Arizona Herding Association (www.azherding.com)
Brenna Fender is the Editor of the Subscriber News Page here at www.usdaa.com and can be reached at Brennafender@gmail.com. She really thinks these critters in these photos are sheep, but they look like goats. She finds this weird.