In THIS post I wrote about the importance of animals having jobs and how it contributes to their quality of life and overall contentment. This past weekend I was treated to working dogs in their finest form when I got to view the Border Collie Sheepdog Trials.
Watching the relationship and communication handler and dog had to have was incredible. If you have never seen a trial, it consists of the sheep starting at one side of a large field and the dog and handler on the other. The dog is then sent to the sheep and verbally/sound/whistle guided to instruct him/her how to move the sheep through three gates, around a pole, into a pen and finally to split the herd.
My favorite part was the beginning of each dog’s turn. I loved to watch them anticipatorily walk onto the field with their handler. They would scan the field for the sheep and the moment they saw them they visually and mentally locked on. They obediently stayed by the handler’s side until released but you could feel the excited energy radiating while waiting for the “go” command. When finally given, which I’m sure felt like eons to the ready dogs, they sprang like a coil into action, speedily covering the field closing the gap between themselves and the livestock.
The dogs were so engaged and so committed to the purpose of their tasks. Do they know why sheep have to go through gates and into pens? Surely not, but they didn’t care. They knew the handlers were giving them objectives and they knew it was about moving the sheep and they loved it.
I did have to wonder how your everyday average Border Collie owner decides to compete in this and how they practice. I don’t know of many that have sheep just hanging around ready to be herded.
Here is a video clip of what the herding looks like. This is not the competition I was at, but a taste from you tube of what the sport looks like.