FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. My dog ignores sheep at the moment - will a herding instinct test awaken a latent instinct?
A. It has been our experience so far that if the herding instinct is present, then it will have already shown itself in some small ways. A dog which totally ignores sheep may have a weak or absent herding instinct, or it may have been checked previously for showing interest, and be wary as a result.
With a little encouragement, and perhaps a change of handler its inhibitions can be overcome, but if the dog continues to ignore the sheep - it cannot be considered as a potential herder although it will be a "safe" dog around stock .
A confident bitch facing up to a mild challenge from the flock, using non-aggressive - but assertive - body language
Q. Is allowing dogs to chase sheep cruel?
A. All aptitude assessments - formal or informal - are undertaken under close supervision with a highly experienced trainer in overall control of the situation. The sheep are observed for signs of stress or overheating at all times, and are rested or changed for fresh stock at intervals. A good stockperson can work several dogs in series with the sheep barely out of breath!
Q. I'm frightened of sheep - will this affect my dog?
A. If you are very nervous you will enjoy the experience more if you send your dog in with another handler, as a typical herding dog will instinctively want to bring the sheep to you. Although normally gentle animals sheep are quite large - bigger than the dogs! - and being surrounded by a group of them may be quite a nervewracking experience for you.
Q. I've no experience of sheep herding - will I have to take the Test with my dog?
A. See also the above question and answer. Be assured your lack of experience is not a hindrance, as it is your dog's instinct which is being tested, and not your skill as a handler.
The tests are fun and enjoyable for the dogs and the handler's role is merely to observe and allow things to happen. Overall responsibility can be delegated to the trainer on the day, who will certainly explain the action - and answer all your questions - so there is no need for you to worry. You can have as much fun as your dog!
Q. I regularly show my dog - is the Herding Test dangerous? - will it damage my dog?
A. If your dog is of a reasonable level of fitness then taking part in a herding test is no more challenging than a good run off lead with another dog would be. Some dogs are more energetic than others but normally left to their own devices the dogs will only do what they feel capable of doing.
Most show dogs are reasonably fit but regular sheep work requires a higher level of fitness than showing. Nevertheless any show dog ought to be able to manage 15 minutes of sustained activity in the sheep pen without coming to any harm.
In very hot weather there is a slight danger of overheating which all handlers should be aware of and watch for. Cooling off in the stock trough is a popular pastime .........
Q. How often are the herding apitude tests held?
A. The tests are held whenever there are enough people wanting to bring their dogs to take part! It is hoped that at least once a year we can host a "Beardie Herding Event" where instinct tests will be high on the agenda and this year we plan to invite Carl Borgstrom from Sweden, who proved such a hit with Beardies and their owners last year. It would be wonderful to supply him with lots of Beardies to work with as we did last time round.
In the meantime we will also hold some smaller-scale events, single days or half days, mostly in the summer months and generally Sundays, but will try to give plenty of notice of these. If you and a group of friends would like to organise yourselves to come please feel free to contact us and we will see what we can do.
Private sessions are another option, for singles and small groups, and are available by arrangement normally Mondays or Fridays though sometimes weekends or summer evenings.
Again feel free to contact us to discuss your ideas.
Q. Is there some training I can do beforehand to better prepare my dog to take the test?
A. Not really ....as the test is all about instinct. However, a good recall will help you catch your dog at the end of its turn.
If your dog has a good "stop" command such as the instant down you will be at a slight advantage when you come to start training properly (if that is what you would like to do), but don't be too surprised if your training all goes out of the window at first as the adrenalin rushes in - it will return!
Q. Is there a minimum or maximum age for testing?
A. Again, not really, as that depends on the dog, its attitude, and level of fitness. So far the youngest Beardie we've tested here was Ebony at five months, but we could safely try them on very quiet sheep even younger, and it would be interesting to do so, knowing that Border Collie pups as young as eight weeks can sometimes show strong herding behaviours.
Older Beardies which are still fit and sound can still demonstrate convincing herding aptitude even if they lack stamina. The ideal age is probably between six months and three years since this age group is usually the most energetic and adventurous!
Q. Will my dog be awarded a certificate after successful completion of the test? Is the certificate recognised by the Bearded Collie Club - or the Kennel Club?
A. The Herding Aptitude Certificate we award is based on the accepted system of assessing herding ability in Sweden and has been adopted here in the absence of any other award of recognition of herding ability.
Q. What if my dog does very well in the test? Are there opportunities to continue with the herding training?
A. If you live locally to us, then please come and join our small but keen group of "hobby herders". Or. if you are prepared to make the effort to travel over to us a few times, you and your dog should pick up the basics before too long, and then maybe find somewhere nearer home to continue the training.
Otherwise it may be possible to find yourself a Beardie-friendly training establishment in your local area - if you do, be sure and let us know about it, as we are always being asked this question!
Q. Is it normal for a Beardie to bark all the time when working? Should I try to keep him/her quiet?
A. Many Beardies - though not all - will bark when they work as this is part of their "huntaway" style of working and was once upon a time evidently very highly valued. Often the barking will spontaneously reduce as the dog settles in its work, which is a relief to the eardrums, but some dogs will retain the "force bark" for use in difficult situations where pressure on the stock is required, and is is certainly kinder than the alternative, which is a bite.
There is little point in telling the dog to be quiet - it's just a Beardie thing.....
Q. I would love to come to your next event but I think my bitch will be in season - is this likely to cause a problem?
A. This is not really too much of a problem so long as we know, as we can ensure your bitch is the last to run so as not to upset any of the males. You may however find your bitch's concentration not at its best if her mind is too much on other things!
Q. I have another dog which is not a Bearded Collie. Can I bring him/her for testing too?
A. Is your other dog also a herding/pastoral breed? If so, then yes do please bring it, we are interested in ALL the herding breeds and their styles, and have already had visits from Polish Lowland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, a Briard, a Pyrenean Sheepdog, an Australian Cattle Dog and a Spanish Water Dog to name but a few.
Non-herding dogs can be brought along if necessary but only by prior arrangement please and must be kept under strict control at all times.