Toki is happiest when she has a mission. Whether it’s chasing a ball, emptying her stuffed kong, or ripping up her “indestructible” toys, she likes to keep busy. The challenge is directing her energies towards productive tasks, rather than leaving her to her own devices. Since our Wisdom Panel DNA test told us that Toki was at least 25% German Shepherd, I thought it would be fun to see if she had any interest in sheepherding.
The Drummond Ranch teaches sheepherding about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles. On certain days they also teach at a ranch in Malibu, which was where we went.
Before you can enroll your dog in sheepherding classes, you bring them in for an instinct test to see if they have a natural interest in herding sheep. Janna, the instructor, evaluates and monitors your dog’s reaction to a small group of sheep in a pen. I was a bit nervous that Toki would prefer to chase and bite the sheep, rather than herd them, but Janna reassured me with her calm manner and her experience in dealing with all types of dogs.
Toki’s buddy Milo also came to take an instinct test. He went first. It was amazing to watch him meet the sheep for the first time and to watch his natural instincts take over. With his trademark laid back approach, he naturally herded them into a little group and towards his owner, Josh. We were all astonished by his intuitive reaction to the sheep.
Toki . . . well she was a different story. On one hand, she also showed a strong interest in the sheep. She started out nosing them and curiously sniffing them. But as she got more and more excited, it was like her adrenaline took over and she started blindly chasing them and trying to grab onto their tails. I was mortified, but Janna assured me that this was excitement, not aggression. Toki just needed to understand how to channel her energy.
We moved to a smaller pen, which offered us more control over the situation. Janna spent the rest of the test working with Toki in the ring. In the end, Janna said that Toki showed a lot of natural instinct and a gathering tendency. Equally important, she was very responsive to her guidance in the ring. I’m definitely considering enrolling her in a sheepherding course. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity for Toki to have fun while we work together.
Does your dog have a “job” at home? Has anyone else out there ever tried herding, or noticed their dog instinctively take to a task?
This post is part of the BlogPaws Wednesday Blog Hop.
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