Last March a member of our Aussie meetup organized a “barkday” party for her dog at a sheep farm. Around a dozen of us attended and loved it.
Several weeks ago I noticed a post on a friend’s facebook page announcing a “Herding Fun Day” at a farm in Virginia. What could be more fun? Another outing with Aussies and sheep!
I quickly organized an Aussie meetup around it. Soon, nearly a dozen Aussie owners from the DC area were making the 1.5 hour trek to Goldvein, Virginia and Dawgwood Farm's Herding Fun Day.
It was a sparkling Saturday – perfect for a day in the country, or herding sheep. Wink Mason and Judy Moran were our hosts at Dawgwood Farm.
Judy was thinking ahead when she organized the “play area” for our hyped up dogs. An enormous fenced in field greeted them upon arrival – it’s where they could run and play while the sheep were readied.
At this outing, Boomer was the only herding veteran in the group and the moment he saw the sheep – he was ready!
Wink took each owner and dog into the ring with three “volunteer” sheep. Dawgwood Farms only raises wool sheep, but these guys looked like they give themselves up to the highest bidder in a second!
The instruction was as much for the owner as it was for the dog. Wink shared that the goal was to have the dog watch the sheep, but “keep an ear” to the owner’s voice. He also gave instruction on how to utilize the tether – short firm (but gentle) tugs to let the dog know not to charge the sheep.
|Wink provides instruction, Kirk listens, Boomer waits|
Boomer, our veteran herder, received plenty of tugs – he was eager to make contact with the sheep, and seemed to genuinely enjoy the activity. Wink said Boomer had good eye contact and his herding style was gathering – who knew?!
Mosbey and Tucker wait their turn
On this outing we had a number of young dogs – those under a year. And once again, our Aussies proved to be naturals! They were evaluated on their style - driving or gathering; eye contact – loose, medium or strong; temperament – readily adjusts to distracted and nervous; interest – sustained and keen to some or none; and power – sufficient, forceful, excessive or a lack of power. At the end of each evaluation Wink provided comments about the dog. On Boomer’s he wrote, Very nice dog. J Owners luckily were not evaluated, although, I am sure that Wink would comment that all owners were very nice and showed promise!
|Sinbad was a natural|
There is something very satisfying to watch your dog perform the task he was bred to do. Our dogs are incredible athletes and VERY smart! And while the majority of their activity takes place in urban areas, their instincts take over the moment they are placed in their “natural” environment.Following several sheep filled hours, Kirk and I took the dogs to find some lunch. With some good fortune and help of an iphone, we happened upon a lovely spot in Remington, Virginia at Kelly’s Ford and had lunch on the patio of the Inn at Kelly's Ford
Kelly’s Ford was the site of a major civil war battle. Today its home to the Inn at Kelly's Ford and the Kelly’s Ford Equestrian Center.
It was a wonderful day in the Virginia countryside. Driving home, I am sure that at least one of our dogs fell asleep counting sheep.
Thanks to Wink and Judy for a wonderful outing, we are ready for the next one!
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