When Prey Drive is a Good Thing:
By Jann Steel Lane, President, KBTCSC
The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Southern California held its first Herding Fun Day and Herding Instinct Testing on April 17, 2005 in Sunland, CA. We had 13 dogs participate (11 Kerries, one Aussie and one Wheaten). Judy Vanderford of Sunland, CA, National Herding Judge (and owner of Belgian Tervurens) gave each of our dogs an official instinct test for sheep herding. We were so proud that nine of our eleven entered Kerries passed their Herding Instinct Test!
What a thrill it was! To see your dog’s instincts ‘kick-in’ is a feeling you can’t describe in words. Judy told us that she had not worked with the Kerry Blue before, and was very impressed with their intensity and power. All 13 dogs were very excited to see the sheep. It was also the first time that these sheep have seen a Kerry Blue! The looks on the sheep faces were unforgettable, not unlike the look on the faces of the sheep when they saw “Babe” the pig for the first time, in the movie “Babe!” Maybe they thought our Kerries really WERE wolves?
Having organized this event, I was very encouraging to all of our club members and their dogs that our breed could herd, and that they should try it. But I have to admit, I had doubts about my own Kerry, Mackenzie. You see, my Mackenzie dislikes (intensely) any “white animal.” I was assured by our herding judge, Judy, that no dog would be allowed to hurt a sheep, nor the other way around. She said she had control. But then, she didn’t know my Mackenzie, and she was not yet personally familiar with the Kerry Blue Terrier!
Then the time came that day that all of the dogs had gone in the pen, except my Kerry. Even my Wheaten, Maggie had her turn at the sheep. Maggie thought the sheep were nice and fellow “shade seekers,” just like her. No interest in herding from Maggie. My husband, Bob, had even brought along extra cash in case we had to pay for a sheep. Now, you can imagine how much confidence that gave me.
But my Mackenzie surprised me. She entered the pen with Judy and within seconds, Judy let go of the lead and Mackenzie started herding. She even ran out and brought a stray sheep back to the herd. Judy was impressed and said she was a natural. I had tears in my eyes and Bob put the cash back in his wallet. After 15 minutes of moving sheep, Mackenzie was smiling from ear to ear in that very happy and worn-out-way, that we have all seen in our Kerry Blues.
The next day we (and our dogs) were walking a little slower, but all of us can’t wait to get back in the pen. If you have the interest, trust your Kerries and give them the chance to demonstrate a very ancient instinct. Our club members loved the experience and I know we will all be looking for another opportunity to share herding with our dogs.
Jann Lane, KBTCSC