Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fear of Sheep

On Wednesday, Rob and I took Caitlin to Canines 'n Ewe to sign her up for herding lessons. The owner, Jennifer Clark-Ewers, doesn't teach just any dog. Before accepting a new student, she does an evaluation to see whether the dog has the instinct and the talent to be a successful herder.

So..does Caitlin have the right stuff?

Jen's first comment on seeing Caitlin was, "She's cute!" So far, so good.

We took her to meet the sheep--carefully selected for their tameness and exceptional docility.

Caitlin didn't think so. She took one look at them, leaped backwards, barking maniacally.

Jen put her on a long tether and led her into the enclosure.
The high tail shows lack of concentration on the work at hand.
They look dangerous to me
A crescendo of barking. Decibel count nearing the pain threshold.

"Border Collies don't usually bark like that. Does she have any Aussie in her?"

A shocked look from Rob! Might Caitlin hail from convict stock!? Rob didn't think Caitlin was an Aussie.

"I'll get another dog to help her."
Lacey came racing in and began circling the sheep in a most professional manner. "We'll use Lacey as a fence for the sheep--keep them in one area so Caitlin can manage them better." Caitlin paid not the slightest attention to Lacey. She raced helter skelter among the sheep, barking and lunging.
Lacey demonstrating how it should be done.
Lacey is trying to help
"Did you say she's fourteen months old? She's acting like a puppy."

After about 15 minutes of gentle coaxing, Jen was able to lure Caitlin within 2 feet of the sheep. She even looked fairly calm and relaxed--as long as the sheep didn't move.
Being coaxed into becoming more comfortable with the sheep - doesn't look to be working for the sheep!
Don't anybody move!
Unfortunately, there's not much demand for sheepdogs who can herd statues.

"Okay. I'm going to quit coddling her." Jen dragged Caitlin to the sheep. "Man up, Caitlin. Border Collies aren't afraid of sheep "

Caitlin did finally start running around the sheep the way she was supposed to--more or less. Jen decided to end the lesson on this high note.

Caitlin's future as a herding dog is still undecided.

Points in her favor:
     Caitlin is cute.
     She is interested in sheep. She didn't just ignore them.

Points against her:
     She can't keep her mouth shut.
     She is immature for a dog her age.
     She doesn't pay attention to what a more experienced dog is doing.
     She is afraid of sheep.

We're going back in two weeks to see whether a second exposure will find Caitlin more courageous.

If so, Jen will decide whether she has any talent.

If not, maybe Caitlin can take up tracking. She doesn't seem to be afraid of hot dogs.

http://www.caninesnewe.com/
http://robandsteffieshipley.smugmug.com/Dogsanddogpark/HGDP-2013/Caitlin-meets-some-sheep/27900568_S8SQts#!i=2354563093&k=4vzRtFh
http://www.digitalspy.com/odd/news/a326841/border-collie-develops-fear-of-sheep.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8591664/Britains-worst-sheep-dog-chased-by-flock.html