Introducing Sheep Herding

Why on earth would you want to herd sheep with your Vallhund? After all they are Cattle dogs aren’t they? Driving dogs that nip at the heels of stock to move them out to pasture. Border Collies are for sheep, Valls  don’t have an instinct to circle or ‘gather’, they are not fast enough to ‘cover ‘ sheep, - oh & they bark which is definitely not allowed, is it?

Sheep Herding

 

Read more: Introducing Sheep Herding

Why Do a Herding Instinct Test?

Herding Instinct Tests take many forms, and can be very useful or utterly meaningless! Their true value lies in deciding what you actually want to learn about your dog’s herding potential, and evaluating what characteristics your dog displays with livestock.

‘Passing’ a Herding Instinct Test is actually not very useful in the ‘real world’ of herding, although of course human nature is such that people like to have Certificates and Awards! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that of course, so long as you remember the limitations of such a Test.

You may be a Breeder who wants to discover if the inherited herding instinct is still alive and well in your lines. Or you may want to see if your dog is suitable for training as a hobby or pastime, perhaps going to a trainer every fortnight. Alternatively you may want to see if your dog may be suitable for regular, practical ‘work’ in a farm or small holding situation.

The ethics of how livestock are treated in these Tests seems to vary hugely. This series of Articles is about herding sheep. All of the 4 Trainers I have used over the past 3 years in the UK are horrified when they see You Tube video footage of many Instinct Tests which allow what is really ‘sheep worrying’ in a small pen by a dog. Sheep do not ‘sign up’ for being bitten by dogs, and whilst occasional ‘flossing’ of teeth on fleeces can be tolerated, wanton gripping of legs or faces should never have its place in an Instinct Test.

Read more: Why Do a Herding Instinct Test?

A Herding Journey

A great deal has happened since June 09 when I & our two Vallhunds – Loki [Starvon off the Cuff for Bowkol] & Megan [Castleavery Gold Gaiety for Bowkol] ventured up to Pickering to begin our Herding training with ‘All Breeds’ herding trainer Jackie Goulder. [In photos below, Loki is the ‘bob tailed’ Vall, Megan has a ‘full Spitz tail’.]

We found that both dogs had inherited a strong herding instinct. Loki was very biddable, Megan less so. Loki found it harder to ‘bounce back’ after correction whilst Megan remained unperturbed by such things. Work in the round pen had made them calmer around sheep, there was less barking, more steadiness. Megan occasionally ‘flossed her teeth’ on sheep, Loki would just use Vallhund ‘eye’.

Loki in an early session - learning to 'keep his cool'

Loki in an early session - learning to 'keep his cool'

Read more: A Herding Journey

Wanted - Puppy for Work!

Tilly (Starvon Valkyrja Mist for Bowkol), at 2 years old, is our youngest dog, and the first dog I have ever deliberately chosen for her potential as a working Vallhund. Happily she is developing into exactly what I wanted, having had experience of working Loki and Megan, and knowing what characteristics I was looking for and the type of work I wanted her to do.

Was this just a happy accident? Of course some of it was luck on my part, but I also think there are certain things to bear in mind that can increase your chances of choosing a good working Vallhund.

Not all Vallhunds have a herding instinct; some are just not interested, whilst some are actually afraid of livestock. Whilst it may be possible to nurture an instinct, so that the dog eventually ‘turns on’ years later, (such dogs may indeed eventually gain herding titles), that doesn’t mean they are necessarily good workers in the ‘real world’. Some have a strong ‘heeling’ instinct, but would much rather that they worked together with you, and are really not happy to go to the heads of stock or stand their ground when challenged. Then there are some dogs (Loki) that seem to only find their true place in the world once they have started to work.

What I was personally looking for was a dog of real use as a practical ‘chore’ dog and useful Farmers companion. I had in mind certain criteria.

Read more: Wanted - Puppy for Work!

Herding Trials and Tribulations!

A great deal has happened since June 09 when I & our two Vallhunds – Loki [Starvon off the Cuff for Bowkol] & Megan [Castleavery Gold Gaiety for Bowkol] ventured up to Pickering to begin our Herding training with ‘All Breeds’ herding trainer Jackie Goulder. [In photos below, Loki is the ‘bob tailed’ Vall, Megan has a ‘full Spitz tail’.]

We found that both dogs had inherited a strong herding instinct. Loki was very biddable, Megan less so. Loki found it harder to ‘bounce back’ after correction whilst Megan remained unperturbed by such things. Work in the round pen had made them calmer around sheep, there was less barking, more steadiness. Megan was prepared to nip & pull wool if a sheep challenged her, Loki generally didn’t need to.Sheep Herding

 

Read more: Herding Trials and Tribulations!

Swedish Vallhunds

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Fit for Purpose

Vasgotespets

Bowkol Swedish Vallhunds

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