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I am watching my Nationals DVDs and one thing I notice is that the sheep are running a lot. I grew up with Hereford cows, (well, mostly steers) and we didn't use dogs with them. We moved them on horseback. One of the rules was, you didn't want to run the cows. Wherever we moved them it was at a walking pace, or at most a trot.

 

I know sheep are not cows, but I formed this idea that it was bad to run livestock. This may simply have been my stepdad's personal notion of how to handle stock, but I have carried it with me.

 

Now, I know that this is a timed event, and you have quite a bit to get done in the time allotted, but I wondered, why don't they give them more time and penalize for running the stock?

 

But maybe it's not hard on sheep to run them - or cows, for that matter. So how do folk move sheep around at home. Do they move fast, like at the trials?

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Hi Geonni,

 

If the DVDs you are watching are from the National Sheepdog Finals held last September at Belle Grove Plantation, those sheep were usually running without much encouragement from the dogs. There was a really heavy draw to the exhaust field, and most of the sheep came off of the top running toward it. Some groups continued to move very quickly around the course, again with little provocation from the dogs.

 

I agree that good stockmanship dictates that the sheep should be moved in a quiet, sensible manner, but most of the time at the 2010 Finals, it was not the dog that was setting the pace.

 

Regards,

nancy

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Hi Geonni,

As Nancy noted, sometimes the sheep just want to run for whatever reason and you just have to deal with that at a trial. As you understood the work in general, the idea is to use dogs for calm, efficient movement of stock, and running the weight off them is not acceptable (at least from my POV as a producer).

 

And although there are cases, as in the DVD you were watching, where the sheep are determined to run no matter what, I have seen often enough at trials people allowing their dogs to push the sheep too hard, especially on the fetch. In this case I think it's either because they are trying to save time on the part of the course where they can "get away with" running the sheep (it's much harder to hit panels with running sheep) or because they're afraid if the sheep stop and have time to take measure of the dog, they will figure out the dog can't move them.

 

Many course times are set such that you need to keep the sheep at a trot to complete the course in time. I don't have a big problem with that (though at home, unless I am in a big hurry for some reason, I'd rather the sheep just walk), but it would be nice to see handlers not allowing their dogs to push the sheep too much. (I'm sure there will be handlers who disagree with me on this.)

 

J.

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I also noticed the speed, we even joked that our turbo-charged Kelly would do great on that trial :D . But in the end there didn't seem to be much time left for the competitors, so I thought that the time limit and the large distances to cover necessitated the speed. I suppose the participants know for sure.

 

When it comes to speed I agree with Julie of course. Also with that that the sheep sometimes just love to run, particularly in the morning if they were bedded in the sheep barn for the night, my sheep like to take off while the dog lies down, and they run and run top speed, 150 yards sometimes while Kelly does nothing.

 

Maja

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While I was not a competitor at the Virginia finals (heh), I did do some scribing, and I believe the course times were set based on how the sheep were moving during the preliminary runs. So, the dogs weren't having to move the sheep quickly, the sheep were setting the pace and the course director accounted for that when he set the run times.

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Laurae,

Very interesting information. This may be a dumb question, but what was the time limit for the preliminary runs? Or wasn't there one? I have no idea how these things operate but would love to know.

 

Maja

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I ran at the Finals and was on the committee that set the time for each round. There was plenty of time, no need to rush. The sheep were trying their best to outrun the dogs and it was a trick to get the dog in the right spot to slow them down and still keep a straight line.

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This is very interesting, when I watch a run I can't always tell how much it's the sheep, how much it's the dog, and how much it's the handler. I always make the effort and see when is which, and I often can't. So it's good to know from the people who actually did the run. I also try to anticipate and think what I would tell the dog to do, and see if I read the situation correctly, and so often I am way off the mark. But it's a good exercise.

 

Maja

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