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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bernese Shepherd Dogs

What is Maggie so interested in?

What is Bosley so interested in?

Sheep, of course!

This weekend we went out to Scott and Jenny Glen's farm for some herding lessons.  "Bernese herding!?!  Is that possible?", you may ask yourself.  Originally, Bernese were used as all purpose farm dogs in Switzerland.  They are most widely known for pulling the carts of milk to town, but they were also used to help get the cattle to market.  Bernese are known to be 'drovers' rather than 'herders'.  They keep the cattle moving and bring strays back to the group, but do not round up cattle or sheep like a Border Collie will.  Some Bernese have a strong herding instinct while others have very little.  I was curious to see if Maggie and Bosley had any of that instinct.

Maggie was the first to have a lesson.  I knew that she would be interested in the sheep because she has a fairly strong prey drive and will chase down anything that moves.  She was just a little excited to see the sheep.  She really wanted to chase them, but was kept on a leash for her first lesson.  The leash was to protect the sheep from a crazy, untrained dog and to keep Maggie from forming any bad habits.

Scott is carrying a rolled up feed bag.  It is used to get the dog's attention back when they are so focused on the sheep that they are not listening to commands.  Maggie got bonked on the head with the feed bag alot.  Normally, she would be terrified of getting hit on the head with that bag, but she was so focused on the sheep that she barely noticed.

You cannot tell from the pictures, but Maggie was whining and carrying on because she really wanted to get the sheep.

Control is a huge part of herding.  A 'down' gets the dog back under control and focused again.  Maggie acted like she had never heard the word "down" before.

Here is Maggie after getting bonked on the head with the feed bag.  The bag does not hurt the dogs at all - it is just a rolled up paper bag.

Maggie's sheep decided they did not like a big Bernese chasing them and they jumped over the fence to escape.  Maggie went wild when she saw they were running away.

She really wanted to go get those "stray" sheep.

After getting a new set of sheep, it was Bosley's turn.  I was not sure how much interest he would have in the sheep.  This is his first look at the sheep after they came out of the barn.  He was very excited and really wanted to chase them.  I think Scott was surprised at how strong Bosley is.

I know how strong Bosley can be, but it took all my strength to hold him back from taking off after the sheep.

It did not take Bosley long to realize that he could not just go charging after the sheep but rather, just stay behind them at a steady pace.

Here is Bosley going after the sheep that were in a corner.  Scott is not kicking Bosley, he is just trying to keep from tripping over the leash.

Bosley did not get as near as many bonks on the head as Maggie did.  This picture was taken right after Bosley got bonked. Bosley assumed his "Oh no, I did something wrong" position.

Bosley quickly got over it and trotted nicely beside Scott to go get some more sheep.

These sheep were looking at Amanda, who was taking the pictures, as if to say "Help us!  Get us away from these crazy, giant dogs."

I had a lot of fun at our first herding lesson, and I think that the dogs did too.


  1. It looks like you had a great time and the kids did great! It is pretty fun to see how excited they get. I'm sorry I couldn't make it out this weekend. Next time!

  2. Awesome pictures! Looks like the dogs had a great time. I took my guys to be instinct tested last summer. It's amazing to watch them do something that they just naturally know how to do!

    Are you going to pursue herding with the dogs? That would be great to watch :D

  3. Sounds like a lot of fun! I had never even thought about a berner herding! I hope they learn to love it without too many bonks on the head.

  4. the dogs had a blast! and I think that you should for sure try again. the pictures turned out great!!!

  5. hey good for you Kim....looks like you all had so much fun!

  6. Oh herding is lotsa fun! Hey, if BCs can be herding dogs, then I don't see why other breeds can't. It's just the matter of whether we dogs want to herd or not. I think I would but too bad Malaysia don't have this sport. Boohoo!

    Butt wiggles,
    Solid Gold Dancer

  7. yahoo!!

    looks like they did great, so you are going to go again right??

    your descriptions area perfect, i could totally see hem acting how they did!!!