By Lynette Milleville and Gail Zamarchi
There are three basic methods of moving flocks of sheep: fetching, driving, and tending. With fetching, the dog works primarily behind the flock bringing the sheep toward the shepherd. When driving, , the dog works primarily between the shepherd and the flock. This dog moves the sheep away from the shepherd. In both of these styles, the position, movement, and behavior of the dog determines the speed and direction of the flock.
The tending dog, however, controls the length and breadth of the flock; it is the shepherd who controls the speed and direction. While the primary job of the fetching and driving dog iss is to keep the flock moving, the primary work of the tending dog is to keep the flock together. It is the shepherd that keeps the flock in motion. As the shepherd leads the sheep to a meadow where they can graze, it is the job of the dog to keep the sheep together.
Fetching and driving are based on the predator/prey instincts of the dog and the sheep (This is a hunting instinct). The dog acts much like q predator, such as standing on stiff legs or slinking or circling the sheep. As this behavior intensifies, the sheep move away faster and faster. Through this behavior, the flock is driven different directions.
The holding of the sheep by the tending dog is based more on a relationship of trust between the sheep and the dog. In English, the word "to tend" means "to care for", "or "to take care of". The tending dog will walk calmly next to the flock; this will keep the flock together. These tending dogs are also called boundary dogs because the dog often must walk a boundary where the sheep must stay on the other side. If a sheep crosses the boundary line, the dog will drive the sheep back and the moment that the sheep is back with the flock, the dog will again be relaxed and calm and return to working next to the flock.
In the US, opinions differ about which of the above styles (fetching, driving, or tending) is the natural instinct for the Briard. According to our opinion, the Briard is a natural tending dog and therefore in this article we will only provide a description of tending. We do advise you, however, to listen to other opinions and to watch many dogs working and form an opinion of your own.
SHORT HISTORY OF THE BRIARD
The Briard comes originally from France. The breed was developed because man needed a dog to help the shepherd with his work. With the development of agriculture, much fencing and gates were put in place, that the shepherd must lead the sheep by to the grazing area. The work of the Briard was to hold the sheep together, and not allow the sheep to move ahead of the shepherd. The dog must always stay behind the shepherd.
As a result of this the dog learned to work the natural boundary such as the change between high and low grass, or the edge of a road or a ditch in order to keep the flock together. He must patrol along this natural boundary and if a sheep comes over the boundary, the dog must chase him back. The presence of the dog, plus the natural instinct of the sheep, makes the sheep stay near each other in a group.
The dog works on both sides of the flock and with that defines also the shape of the flock. In this way the dog determines the length and breadth of the flock while the shepherd indicates the direction and speed.
As the flock comes to the meadow, the sheep are allowed to go and graze. Then it is the job of the Briard to hold the flock inside the meadow. Sometimes he does this by running along the edge (the natural boundary), but he may also go lay calmly, but he also watches the sheep.
THE TEACHING OF HERDING
As we attempt to teach the dog to herd, it is very important that we proceed step by step. Because the beginning student must learn as much as the dog, the first lesson is between the sheep and the student. The dog is not included at this step.
The herding student walks at the head of the flock of sheep with sheep feed in the hand, walking slowly backward. Meanwhile he talks calmly to the sheep. He must determine which sheep is most dominant. This is the lead sheep. When the student feeds this sheep and it walks along with him, the flock will follow. This step is for the sheep must learn to trust the shepherd, and the shepherd to learn to understand the behavior of the sheep.
Now we include the dog. Just as the sheep have learned to trust the herding student (see Step 1), as the student comes back with the dog and remains calm, the sheep will learn to trust the dog.
At this step, we work with two herding students. The first keeps the sheep under control with the food; the other walks in front of the flock with the dog. Thus will the sheep be walking behind the dog. The purpose of this is to teach the dog to relax near the flock and the flock to trust the dog. The two shepherds lead the sheep along the path or road for a while, then change places so that the other combination of shepherd and dog walks in front of the flock.
The final step is to let the dog become familiar with the borders. We do this first without sheep. We place something flat on the ground to use as a boundary such as plastic fencing. Step by step we will walk along this until the dog understands so well that he is to stay on one side that we can try it without the lead. The handler then walks inside the boundary while the dog walks on the outside.
When the dog has a good understanding of the idea of the border, we then move to working with a natural border such as high and long grass, etc. Thus the dog will slowly learn to keep the sheep in each place that the shepherd wishes within such natural boundaries.
HERDING INSTINCT TESTS
We regularly give owners of Briards the opportunity to let their dog get to know sheep. Yvonne will test the dog on its interest in and reaction to sheep. If the dog has a good interest and attitude, there is the possibility to join a sheep herding course or to take private lessons.
The sheep herding courses will be held mostly on a weekend, starting on a Friday. They consist of three days of hard work in the field with a small group of dogs. The participants find that it gives a lot of fun and satisfaction. Some times we give week-long courses, mostly in Germany or France, with about 300 sheep.
The next sheepherding clinic will be held at 6-7-8 July. Costs:
€ 225.- this inclusive coffee, thee and lunch.
Yvonne de Vries- van Yperen