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“Perfect Kerries” – A Herding Experience

(This herding article was first posted on the uskb-list in April 2007. It is reprinted below with permission of the author, Victoria Kniering. Thank you Victoria.)

Hi folks,

I just wanted to put this out to the group. I took my Kerry bitch, Ms. Blue, and her son, Buster to Carolyn Wilkie’s “Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm” this past Saturday. The Delaware Valley Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club was sponsoring herding instinct tests, and they had a couple extra spots for the kerry cousins. — It seems they do this every year as a fundraiser. (Great fundraiser!)

I can truthfully say Carolyn Wilkie has one really great spot in the world — flock of over 100 sheep and many acres to move them around. When I saw how and where the tests were being done, my first thought was, “What if the dog decides to go over the hill????”

The site for set up and testing was as follows:
The sheep were located in a working pen in a corner of a huge field with wire fencing around the parameter. Of course, this is a big hilly field that you couldn’t see all the edges — but I was assured it was completely fenced in. Ms. Blue was the first up. She actually went into the pen to work the sheep, because she had prior experience at the Massachusetts Herding Seminar, so I guess Carolyn figured Ms. Blue wasn’t going to have “sheep on the hoof” for lunch. Ms. Bailey Blue is a small, (17.5″), compact, 7 year old kerry Bitch–with a capital “B.” She’s a high level kerry, loves everybody, and can stop a Rottie male in his tracks with one look. She is game for everything you give her to do and very happy doing it. Ms. Blue had done lots of training around others in agility, some strong dog and a short stint doing some fly ball at a couple of local training centers. She seems to have a blast and picks all of these up fairly quickly. Herding wasn’t any different. In massachussetts, the shepherd took the dogs in and the owners watched. Once they got the general idea, the shepherd would guide them. (The owners were outside of the pen.) Most of the time was spent with the dog moving the sheep, turning them, picking up a stray off shoot here and there and holding them in place. She did all of these tasks, and it was proclaimed that she definitely had the herding instinct. At the Raspberry Ridge site, both Carolyn, Ms. Blue and I went into the pen and carolyn basically guided me and told me where to move, to keep the dog moving in the direction I was asking to have them go. It went off without a hitch. Carolyn proclaimed Ms. Blue had passed her instinct test and “had a nice sense of working the sheep loose and grouped and is very responsive — a good dog.” (I knew she’s a good dog!).

Up next was my buddy, Buster, who can sometimes be a handful, but that day he was thinking “MUTTON… look at those sheep!” Buster is a happy boy and is very tuned in to me. I think he imprinted on me when I tore him out of the sack. He had never been around sheep, so I really wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew I was a bit nervous that he may high tail it over the ridge and through the Delaware Water Gap heading west. Bu,t he was a “perfect kerry.”…(Aren’t they all perfect???) Once he saw those four sheep kind of huddled in the corner and got a whiff of them, it appeared he wasn’t going anywhere without them — or me!

Carolyn decided to work him outside of the ring first, because we weren’t sure he wasn’t thinking “dinner,” instead of “herding.” Did I say he’s a perfect kerry? He started to move them around the parameter of the pen. I was instructed to keep the sheep between him and me and just walk in the opposite direction and when Busster and I were at completely opposite sides ,then to have him go into a down. (A little aside: I was asked if Buster would do a down. Did I mention he’s a perfect kerry?? . . .I said it’s a possibility, considering we do take obedience classes, and I work a lot with him on my own . . . especially on downs. So believing it would happen, I held my hand up, palm facing him and said DOWN! And don’t you know my “perfect kerry” went into his down. . .looked just a bit confused. I did tell him to stay. I walked over to him and told him he was the best kerry and released him to go get the sheep, and he did it! Not once, not twice, but at least 5 times, he would get everything moving and in a perfect spot, directed by Carolyn, I would put him in a down and the sheep would stop ,and he stared at them, until I released him).

Carolyn’s comments about Buster: “The most impressive ‘lie down’ in a raw, untrained herding dog I have seen in a LONG TIME!!! He has herding talent, too.”

So needless to say, I’m a very proud of my girlie, Ms. Blue and her beautiful whirl-arounds to pick up her stragglers and her son Blue Moon’s Badger Buster. They made my day many times over. Shhhhhh, don’t tell him this. I wasn’t going to take Buster this time. He was just going for the ride. My daughter was with me, and she did say she hadn’t seen Buster so completely comfortable and at home then when she saw him out with those sheep, and that Ms. Blue was so into her element. She was “in control of those fluffy white things.”

If you get a chance to take your “perfect kerry” out to herd some sheep, grab it. The AKC was correct in accepting them in their herding events. It’s fun to do, to watch and the dogs just have a blast. It really brings home why these guys are the way they are when you see them doing their jobs.

Victoria Kniering
Ms. Blue and the Blue Moon twins, Persephone and Badger Buster
connecticut, usa


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