Remember the days of One Man and His Dog? It was a competition where sheepdog handlers competed with each other, giving orders to their dogs from the other side of the field, to see who could round up a bunch of sheep fastest. With a bit of practice, you could sit in your armchair and give them marks out of ten for each part of their sheepdog trial, and as often as not get it right too.
Now, dog-lovers and aspiring shepherds can get training in the amazing scenery of the Lake District, in how exactly this sheepdog trialling works. You can get one to one instruction, or join a group, and learn the commands that these wonderful border collie dogs respond to, and the basics of how to control a dog and herd sheep.
You get to meet the dogs and learn all about them, watch as they respond automatically to a range of simple commands, and learn how to give the commands yourself. Then watch in amazement as the dog does exactly what you’ve told him to!
As a treat for yourself, or a surprise gift for a dog lover, the thrill of working one of these super-intelligent guys (or girls) is something that will remain in the memory long after the experience is over.
Experiencey Top Tip
First, the good news is that you don’t have to whistle! Some shepherds do use this way to control the dogs, but it’s far more common to use the spoken word – Come By, for example to mean turn left, Away to Me to mean turn right.
Second, remember that running a sheepdog is an outdoor activity, so you need to able to cope with a bit of hilly, uneven terrain, and not be afraid of getting a little damp if the weather is not as kind as you’d like. After all, shepherding is a year-round activity and if the dogs and sheep can cope with a bit of rain, then so can you.