Watch: An adorable "puppy in training" thinks it's guiding a flock of sheep

Originally published at: Watch: An adorable "puppy in training" thinks it's guiding a flock of sheep | Boing Boing

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Working his little tail off.
Aww GIF

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I am always amazed at animal instinctual behaviors - the sheep accept the puppy in the herding position - the puppy is in the herding spot. That my friends is thousands of generations of selective breeding. It is to me the hallmark of our human connectivity to nature - bending it to our will - but not destroying it.

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Watching well-trained Scottish sheep dogs work is one of the highlights of my life experience. It’s just incredible how patient and anticipatory they are of the flock’s movements. It seems like a virtually impossible task without them.

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A dog walking acquaintance has two Aussie Cattle Dogs (I have a Cattle Dog X), and she was telling me about a farm outside of Toronto where people can bring their herding dogs to test their ability. She said they got out of the car and looked at the sheep, who looked back. One of the dogs moved a foot and the sheep responded (the sheep know what the deal is), and the dogs then knew what to do, and the herding began.

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When my nieces and nephews were very young, we would take our dog to a large park with them, who proceeded to herd them together and round up any one of them who wandered too far from the group.

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My parents used to tell the story of being at a party whose hosts had a border collie. At one point in the evening everyone realized they’d all been herded into one small corner of a very large living room.

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I’m curious about the behavior. It seems the sheep by smelling him are imprinting so they may understand who’s bossing them around later. And vice versa.

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My father grew up with a collie in the house in the rural / suburban divide. Far enough out of town that their neighbour had geese, ducks, and chickens in their backyard.

Whenever the collie got bored, he’d jump the fence and herd the geese and goslings into one corner, the ducks and ducklings into another, and the chickens and chicks into a third. Never harmed a feather.

ETA: this same dog would go swimming with them as kids, down at the river. He’d always swim further out than the kids, and would nudge or nip them (gently) if he thought they were close to trouble. Their mum learned to check their bum cheeks for nip marks: “You were swimming out in the current today!”

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I had an Aussie shepherd for many years who, if you went for a walk with 1 or 2 people, was a totally normal dog. More than 2 people, she worked hard to maintain group cohesion. I always assumed she had a Watership Down type thing going on where her brain went 1-2-many and for many she had to herd.

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Excellent thing to do with a herding-type dog. We’ve done this with both our Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, as there is some herding instinct in the breed, and both found that sheep poo tastes good but the sheep are fee to do whatever they want. We did have the chance to watch a few other Swissies (it was organized by a breeder) find their mojo. Amazing to watch.

On the flip side, when growing up my family had a miniature schnauzer that would herd ducks and geese at the local park. Not a breed known for herding but that little guy sure had what it takes.

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I aw a video - I think here - a couple years ago from a sheepdog trainer talking about how it all works. Apparently the best sheepdogs come from lines of working dogs. But it all comes down to “personal space” of the sheep. The dog needs to understand where it is, and apparently it varies by sheep. If the dog enters the edge, the sheep will veer away to keep the same space. If the dog barrels through it, they’ll panic and run.

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I saw a German shepherd (the person, not the breed of dog) at work once using southern Old German Shepherd Dogs (which is the old landrace of working sheperd dogs in Germany, which only has a tenuous connection to what we know as a German Shepherd). What was fascinating was that their manner of working was totally different than it is with the border collies one sees more regularly these days.

With a border collie, you direct the dog more like a robot or a drone. They are given short term directions (move the sheep into this pen, or even go left). This guy just pointed at a paddock barely visible in the distance and then watched as his two dogs did all the work without any further instruction. It was truly a wonder to behold.

The first picture is the actual guy and one of his dogs (since he works in an open-air museum, I could actually find an image online). The others are just to demonstrate the variety in that landrace of herding dogs:

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nice share! – and now I am down the internet rabbit hole learning about German Shepherd dogs

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These are livestock guardian dogs, not sheep dogs like border collies. They don’t herd or dominate the sheep, they live with them and protect them from predators or theves. See: `https://youtu.be/fBsM_pChQZc - it shows how these dogs are used in agriculture.

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