How sheepherding can help the urban dog…

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How sheepherding can help the urban dog...

Dorice Stancher (c)2014

They may seem cuddly and counting them may be great for sleeping, but make no mistake herding sheep is challenging and some of them are downright ornery!

I live in a condo without a fenced backyard so I look for out-of-the-box, left of center ways to train my dogs to be obedient good little canine citizens.  I recently took a lesson with Carolyn Wilki, owner of the Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm in Bangor, PA, who has been herding since 1987 and studied at both Cornell and Bryn Mawr. If you are a fan of NY Times writer John Katz, you may recall that his highly successful “Dogs of Bedlam Farm” series mentions his experiences training with Carolyn and how he found not only a way to reach his dogs on another level but to also find a sense of inner peace http://www.bedlamfarm.com/?s=carolyn+wilki

And so here are a few of the things both my dogs and I learned.  It is not a crime to slow down and appreciate the world around you.  The bleating of the lambs is almost hypnotic. and for a North Jersey caffeinated girl this was a welcome respite after a tough week. As our emotions influence our dogs, it was better for them too.  “Control is an illusion,” remarked Carolyn as I attempted to call my alpha female Wheaten Terrier off of the three prancing sheep she was chasing.  Obviously I was not as fun as they were.  It was suggested I move my feet and catch her as she turned and remarkably when I asked her to “Lay Down” she hit the dirt, and then when I called her she came trotting back to me.  As a professional dog trainer I always advise my students when training in public to make themselves more interesting than the object of attraction.  While teaching a “Leave It” command is a nice idea, when something so fantastically tempting catches a dog’s eye, a backup plan and execution is even better.

There were so many temptations in the pen: sheep poop, sheep hair, sheep, smells of other animals in the distance like ducks and goats.  And little by little they were of secondary importance as Krista and I learned the dance of two, and becoming united in our purpose to drive those three ornery sheep in our chosen direction following Carolyn’s instructions. She is one of only two sheepherding instructors in the entire country that uses positive reinforcement I learned, and in attendance in my little class were people from California, Brooklyn and Long Island.

I don’t think our condo association allows sheep although my dogs do have a resemblance so I think our next attempt at herding will be with the Canadian Geese that frequent our local park, remembering the goal is to night frighten them into flight, but to keep them together, to have them march toward a pre-determined direction, respecting their personal space.  In my head is the perfect vision of our teacher and her Border Collie  driving the sheep effortlessly and zen-like across the field and into their pens with a “That’l Do” as the final note-a peaceful ending to a great day.

 

Make your dog happy…

Dogs are the most wonderful and amazing creatures.  They give so much love without asking for much in return…a warm bed, food and water.  They don’t care what you look like, or smell like, or what car you drive.  The love unconditionally, and are there when we need them perhaps even more than some humans we know.  Let’s face it, they deserve more than a 15 minute walk in the dark when we come home from work.

This is where Canines Can Do can help.  Make it a special night out with your furry kid and have some fun training with us.  Our obedience classes cover more than just the basics.  We will introduce you to the fun of scent training, tricks, therapy work, agility and more!  It’s all about having fun with the best partner you’ll ever have…your dog!

My first positively trained dog was Duffy, a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier that took me on many adventures.  I was told this was a stubborn and willful breed that I would have to use punitive methods with to get results.

Fortunately I had some excellent mentors including Bill Delaney (deceased) the original owner of The American Canine Academy and Betsy Scapicchio, owner of Top Dog Obedience School, and we wound up winning titles including High in Trial as novices at the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America National Specialty!  Duffy became a therapy dog, a therapy evaluator dog, an AKC ACE nominee, a NJVMA Silver Award winner, the spokes dog for the American Cancer Society (ACS) Dogswalk Against Cancer/Bark for Life appearing on television, won the ACS and earned the Wheaten Ambassador Award (Canada). An annual award given in his memory to deserving Wheaten Terriers that help their communities.

Duffy-2

Here we are winning High in Trial at the National Specialty of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America.  I think Duffy knew he did something special.

When you train with kindness anything is possible

After competing Duffy always enjoyed climbing trees just for fun.