My dog should have been a Sheep Dog and learned to fetch, heard, single and cross drive through the gates, back to the handler all safely arrive.
This is what was rumbling through my head as we attended the annual Sheep Dog Championship in Soldier Hollow. This event is well known all over the world. It features competitors from 16 countries and 6 continents to compete. It has been noted that the Soldier Hollow event has the world's biggest annual crowd with over 30,000 attending.
I am absolutely amazed, delighted and thankful that our quiet remote Heber Valley hosts such a world class event and that people from all over the word travel miles to attend. How fortunate are we? If you are among the thousands that have attended, or maybe one of the few that hasn't taken the time to attend, you will all appreciate the skill, drive, disciple and shear love of the sport these dogs have.
First, the dog must leave the handler, find the sheep and fetch a group of 5 sheep, who are located about a forth mile, to the handler. The dog must have complete control over the sheep and at the same time not cause any stress on the sheep.
Second, the dog must drive the sheep away from the handler to go through different gates. Driving the sheep away from the handler is not in the dog's instinct so this is a very good test of the dog's discipline, skill and willingness to do something out of his/her comfort zone. The dog must keep the sheep in a straight line as he/she moves them from gate to gate.
Next, in a ring marked on the ground, the dog must single out a couple of sheep from the rest of the group. Usually these sheep have been marked. The dog and handler work as a team to keep the sheep within the bounds of the ring and single out the chosen few. Again a test on the dogs ability to listen and to follow instructions.
As a stated earlier, the dog is not to stress the sheep. When the sheep become nervous or agitated the collie will lie down and stare at the sheep. The sheep will since a calmness within the dog and at the same time a sense of authority It is amazing to see the self control the dog has and its ability not to give up or get discourage or complain that the sheep are not cooperating or they are taking too long.
And last event, the Sheep Dog, while working with the handler, must move the sheep into a pen. This is very difficult and the sheep do not want to go. They will stomp the ground and even charge at the dog in rebellion. The dog must have endurance, determination and focus to keep all 5 sheep heading toward and into the pen.
As you can see the dog's temperament must be sensitive enough to bend its will when asked, tough enough to stand up to the pressures of training, eager to learn, with enough confidence and determination to carry on with its work without constant guidance. They can run as fast as the wind, yet stop in an instant or switch directions without stopping. They don't take their eyes off their sheep. Their intense gaze is focused on the stock, wiling them to obey, to go where the dog directs them to stop if the dog blocks their path. The stock aren't rushed or afraid, but they certainly respect the dog A good Border Collie's obsession is its livestock, and this is as it should be.
All this must be completed within 13 minutes.
How nice would it be if my dog had those traits.
Better yet how sweet would it be if I were.......
· Sensitive enough to bend my will when asked.
· tough enough to stand the pressure of criticism
· eager to learn
· have enough confidence and determination to carry on without constant guidance.
· to keep focused on my task even when there are so many distractions that are calling out to me
· to be a person with certainty and knowledge that would cause others to want to follow and work with me.
I come away from this event every year reminded of the power I hold within me to be a more sensitive, confident , determined person.
-- Guest Blogger Arlene Hutchinson