By Jim Hayes
Recently, I attended a herding clinic at Possum Hollow Farm in Rutherfordton, NC. Attending this clinic was my boy Ch. Topgun Reagan for Freedom CGC, four other Kerry Blue terriers and two “White Kerries,” aka American Eskimo Dogs. The facility was great. The trainers were knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. All five of the Kerries showed great instinct and natural balance.
Reagan was a little confused from his obedience training. Instead of worrying about the sheep, he was more concerned about pleasing me and doing what I wanted him to do. The trainers told me that this was very normal, and that he did great. All of the other Kerries did exceptional too. One of the Kerries that was there was the one that recruited the rest of us to attend. Layla has had about 6 sessions, and she was amazing. Her dad told me that she was going for the first leg of her title in the next few weeks.
Now for any of you that may be interested, but might also be a little apprehensive about starting this new genre, rest assured, I feel your pain. I always thought that this would be fun, but my boy has only trained for conformation other than basic obedience for the Canine Good Citizen title. I was very unsure of how he would react to sheep. After all, Reagan lives in town and his great outdoor experiences have occurred in the privacy of his fenced in back yard. He had never seen a sheep. Out of all the dogs that were there that day, Reagan was the first in the pen. The sheep were very well trained and took refuge in the human. The sheep know they are safest when accompanied by the human, especially when the human is the Alpha human to the dog that’s herding them. (I’m sure there are so many others out there that know so much more about this, but keep in mind this account is from a person that has never participated in anything similar to this with a dog and that his idea of work is a romp around the conformation ring with a judge that wants to verify that both testicles are present and accounted for).
Moving on . . . the trainer took Reagan into the pen on a long leash to introduce him to the sheep. (“Hello sheep,” this is Reagan. “Reagan these are sheep.”) After a short time she asked that I join them in the pen. The sheep came to me, and then I start walking the sheep. They followed perfectly. The trainer then said that any time the sheep caught up with me, I was to turn and start in another direction. The sheep would follow suit and turn with me. Reagan was kept on the leash with the trainer always keeping the sheep between him and me. Like I mentioned earlier, he was a little more concerned about pleasing me than pleasing the sheep.
Possum Hollow Farm is offering another one day clinic sometime in March. I have asked that they email me to let me know because I would love for Reagan to attend again just to see if this is something we want to pursue. Here’s the link to their web site. Possum Hollow Farm. There is also an email address for any that may be interested. Email Farm
One note: Possum Hollow Farm is located very near the end of the earth. About 1 hour east of Ashville, NC. I was grateful for my GPS because it took me right to the Farm, but the roads it took me on were very scenic, winding up one mountain and down the other side. Coming back, I followed the directions of the people there and it was a much better trip and only slightly longer.
All in all, it was a great day. Anytime that I can spend a day with my dog, when both of us are having fun, is a good day. It’s great to see the dog having fun, while learning and watching the instinct come through. Before this day, Reagan had never seen a sheep, and in just a few hours he was following them around the pen. (I’m not saying that he’s ready to be sent out into the field to bring in the herd, but it’s a start.)
Anyone who has an interest or has the chance, I would highly recommend at least trying this once. With the attitude and aptitude of the Kerry Blue, I feel 99% of them could master this if they chose.
(Editor’s Note: As of January 2007, Kerry Blue Terries were approved to participate in official AKC herding trials and tests.)