Monday, June 9, 2008

Learning to herd

We rounded up the sheep in a record-setting 20 minutes tonight, thanks to our English shepherd, Porter. If you've been reading this blog in past years, you know that it has been taking us longer and longer each year to round up the sheep for shearing. And the time has been counted in hours, rather than minutes.

All was not perfect tonight, but compared to previous years, we are all ecstatic. Porter is a little more than a year old, so he still has a lot to learn, but he helped us tremendously. I've been working with him to herd the geese. Whenever the geese get close to the road, I take Porter outside, and he herds them back to the pond. He's been getting much better at each aspect of the job. He goes after them more quickly, and he's easier to call off when we're done.

I've only had him work the sheep a couple of times, but one thing that I've noticed is that he is much harder to call off when working with the sheep. With a perfectly trained and experienced dog, the sheep would have been herded into the barn to wait for the shearer, who is coming tomorrow. That's not quite what happened. Rather than herding them into the barn, Porter herded them into a corner and wouldn't let them leave. We figured we could work with that, so everyone grabbed a sheep and carried or led them to the barn.

Later, as we were eating dinner on the deck, I commented on how smoothly it went, and how it only took about 20 minutes. Margaret said with a smile, "Yeah, after we gave up on that stupid cracker idea." Okay, yeah, that was a bad idea. My sheep love crackers, but they just know -- I don't know how they know -- but they just know when we have "evil" intentions, and they won't come near us! Still, like years past, we tried the crackers. And like years past, it didn't work any better this year. I'm so glad we had Porter to help us!

Wish I had some pictures to share, but considering how much he has been herding lately, I'm sure I'll have some pictures of him working soon. Today, he herded the goats back from the wrong side of the barn to the gate where they needed to get back to the pasture where they belonged. I can't believe I thought we'd only be using him once a year. Hardly a day goes by when he isn't herding someone for us.

Now it's time for bed. The sheep shearer is arriving at 7:30, so you'll definitely be getting pictures tomorrow.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails