Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 2

Our herding story continues this week with a video showing Lilly chasing and/or letting the goats go hither and yon. Yes, they ended up spread across three pens, so we asked Ben, an experienced herding dog for help.

First, A Shout Out for Ben

Let me brag a second about Ben. At the recent National Western Stock Show, which has been held in Denver every January for 105 years, Ben came out of the first round in 3rd place (just a second behind two dogs tied for first). He finished in 8th place, after the second round … how awesome is that?

Ben is 11 years old. He is the PERFECT dog for Lilly to be around and learn from when she is herding because he COMPLETELY ignores her.

And, for a dog like Lilly who isn’t fond of effusive dogs, that’s just what she needs.

Herding Mishaps: How Lilly Got Into A Mess

I promised NOT to over-narrate and influence how you feel about what you see, but in today’s goat herding video (almost 3 minutes), you’ll see that working in a bigger space with more goats is MUCH harder for Lilly.

That’s why we needed Ben’s help.

See what you think of Lilly’s movements compared to Ben’s. (Yes, clearly, he knows what he is doing, and she doesn’t, but beyond that …)

If you’ve come to our herding stories already in progress, you can catch up via these posts:

Lilly’s Big Year

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Part 1

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Part 2

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Part 3

Lilly’s Herding Instinct Test, Reflections

Lilly’s Herding Lesson #1, Part 1

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

KenzoHW - February 2, 2011

Fantastic, Lilly clearly didn’t see Ben as a thread at all. I thought I could see her observing him to see what he was doing and maybe she was trying to learn from him. Clearly Lilly’s need to herd was highest on her list with priorities.

    Roxanne Hawn - February 3, 2011

    Yes, Kenzo, Ben is awesome, and it did seem at times like Lilly was learning from him.

KB - February 1, 2011

That was really cool to watch. At times, Ben and Lilly looked like a synchronized team, actually working together with each of them controlling one side of the herd. At other times, Lilly would look briefly lost and then would start imitating Ben, probably learning a ton from following an expert like him.

It looks as if herding training really just builds on the innate instinct of a herding dog rather than involving lots of specific skill-building. Is that right?

It sure looks like Lilly has the instinct. It just needs some refinement that experience will give her.

    Roxanne Hawn - February 3, 2011

    You are right, KB. At this stage, it’s really more about giving Lilly the chance to discover what she knows deep inside. The skill parts and refinement will come later … much later, I think.

Aly - February 1, 2011

Controlled Unleash is fantastic so far!

Well if you ever want to work with another dog, my Clementine usually could care less about others – especially if there is a ball or frisbee around.

Candy Blakeslee - February 1, 2011

OH my she looks like a herding expert to me! I know Betsy would be barking at the goats.

    Roxanne Hawn - February 1, 2011

    Thanks, @ Candy. You’re too kind. She is mostly just following along. Silly girl.

    @ Aly It’s an interesting idea, but after all this time, I’m pretty sure Lilly is as fearful as I think she is. Even our behaviorist told me years ago that Lilly is MUCH more fearful than I thought she was. Yes, Lilly is smart, but this fear is real … not something I think she is playing games with to get what she wants from me. The thing with BEN is that he ignores her, and that’s what Lilly wants/needs. We used both counter-conditioning with Lilly and other dogs, and many of the exercises from Control Unleashed (which I know you are reading). We’ll have to see if her drive to work stock really does outweigh the fear.

Aly - February 1, 2011

The fact that Lilly is continuing to work so closely to Ben is huge. Perhaps she is not as fearful as you think… Clearly she is able to focus on something other than her fear here, we just need to figure out how to channel that into other activities.

How do you typically calm her down around other dogs? Does it involve lots of treats and/or leaving the stressful situation? She seems smart, so I wouldnt be surprised if she continues to act fearful in order to get more treats and to leave a “stressful” environment.

For instance, I know Clementine hates to go to the bathroom at night (if its super dark out). She wants to go to bed! I used to take her out on a leash, and give her treats when she would go. Then I realized, 75% of the time she would squat and PRETEND to pee so she could get a treat! So I switched to a more firm approach… she has to go out and doesn’t get to come back in until I know she has gone. She has to do something I want her to do before she gets what she wants. I dont have to be mean, just firm and matter-of-fact.

One of the reasons she is probably fine with other dogs around the stock is that she wants to herd so badly that she is willing to put up with anything “mildly uncomfortable.” Clem is the same way with the stock and thunderstorms – she could care less if its storming if there is stock to move. The stock is the ultimate reward!

The Sprollies 'n' Border Collies - February 1, 2011

Wow! Ben and Lilly – what a team!

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