Jackson, Solo, and hit the road to visit a farm today. At Brigand's Hideout in Battle Ground, Washington, we took part in a Pembroke Welch Corgi Club of America (PWCCA) Sanctioned Herding Instinct Test held by the Columbia River Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club. While advertised as open to Pembroke and Cardigans, I asked if I could bring Jackson as he's a mix, and he was welcomed, too. Herding is not only a farm chore, but also a sport for many dogs of working breeds who don't live on a farm. This event is the first step in determining if your dog may have the natural ability to enjoy this activity. We were just doing it for fun.
The "test" is simple: in a moderate size pen with a tester/evaluator and three sheep, you work to see if your dog reacts to the sheep with herding interest and instinctual behaviors. It's a simple pass/fail event, and it means nothing more than your dog did or didn't exhibit the behaviors on that certain day.
I learned that... sheep are bigger than I thought.
Other dogs entered the ring and were like, "What is going on?" But, with some coaxing, they would have an "aha" moment, and start running and chasing. They just took a little warm up.
Then... there was Solo. LOL.
Solo and I entered the ring as (un)lucky #13. And... basically, I chased sheep for 3 minutes while Solo chased me. Seriously. The tester asked me how much obedience training I'd done with him; I said just basic. She said that was surprising because he was all about focusing on me. He honestly did not care one bit about the sheep. He wasn't afraid of them, wasn't freaked out, but just didn't give a shit about the sheep, even when they kicked up and sprang off.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. "No interest," was the mark on his report card. Now if they'd been giving out awards for Mama's Boy.... well, he'd be the winner.
Hey, that's okay! This was just something fun and different to do with the dogs, and he had a great time traveling, meeting other dogs, and just being his handsome old self. A great day for Solo, period.
Another dog ran, and then I entered the ring with Jackson. Sometimes he's nervous in new situations, lots of people, or lots of dogs but he was doing great today. He was a bit stressed when I would walk away -- he spent much of my away time in Megan's lap!
He passed the test! He has a nifty little certificate and everything!
There were multiple groups of three sheep penned up, and they worked "shifts" of a few dogs each. The sheep were moved around by a handler and a "real" working herder. The cooperation between them was awesome to witness; the dog knew what to do, clearly, but the handler gave specific direction that the dog would respond to. The sheep were twice the size of the dog, but the dog could easily stop or direct the sheep as desired.
Walking around before leaving, we saw another woman working with her dog in a large field wit some more sheep. Again, a beautiful activity to do together.
Here's an interesting article about the tester, Nancy Ward, and her facility, Brigands Hideout. They have a huge barn with an indoor agility ring.
Much fun was had by all!