Ewe-N-Me Farm is your Northeast Florida center for herding, one of the country’s fastest growing dog sports—and no wonder. Combining competition, the outdoors, and loads of fun, herding is one of the best activities you and your dog can do together. Ewe-N-Me Farm can get you started with complete training classes at our first-class facility. Sheep that can be found on our farm are Dorper, Barbado, St. Croix, and Katahdin.
Herding is the ability to group livestock and either bring it to the owner/handler (fetch) or push the livestock as a group from behind (drive) toward a specific point, like a barn or down a road.
During a herding lesson, we will work with you one-on-one how to teach your dogs to work livestock. We will occasionally step in to demonstrate a concept, but primarily you, as the owner, will be the one directing your dog. Both you and your dog must be in good physical condition. Herding is a demanding sport, requiring both dog and owner to cover a lot of ground and move quickly, especially in the beginning stages. There are inherent risks involved – sheep don’t always part around you when they’re running your way. With consistent training, you and your dog will progress and one day be able to perform chores around the farm and exhibit at herding (or stock dog) trials.
Before attending class, all dogs should have a reliable “recall” (come) with distractions and preferably a “down.” They should be good around other dogs, as there are usually several dogs present during lessons. Dogs may be introduced to livestock on or off leash, but must be responsive to their owners’ voices, because most of the work will be done away from the owner. Observing trials or dogs doing farm or ranch work are great ways to get an overall feel for the final objective of teaching your dog to herd, although just watching more advanced dogs at class will also help.
Terms you will be exposed to:
The natural instinct of most herding dogs is to fetch. Fetching means the dog brings the sheep to the handler. The traditional view of the dog, sheep, and handler is to imagine a clock with the handler at 12 and the dog at 6. Wherever the handler moves, the dog counter balances to match the handler’s position.
The dog pushes the livestock away from the handler. Once you have taught driving to your dog, you are on the way to a fully trained dog. Driving can be easy if beginning in training the handler stops the dog off balance.
The instinct of the dog should be to keep the sheep all together in a group. We need to encourage this ability. Splitting may occur and is common in young dogs; we let the dog figure out how to fix the messes. We encourage the dog to be on the perimeter of the livestock.
There is a lot to be learned from livestock. A big part of your job as handler is to begin to watch how sheep react to different things and how they move. All livestock see from the side of their head, NOT straight ahead. Most work should be on the sheep sides to “work the eye.” Ears should be watched because the sheep will let you know when the dog is connected. If the handler demonstrates control of the dog, the sheep will trust the handler.
The dog’s ability to read the stock and to find the spot where the stock will move in the correct direction without stopping or running. This balance point on dogs you can see naturally when fetching. The balance point in driving is the same, just the position of the handler has moved.