We have herding dogs, or they have us
Herding dogs are a special type of dog. Like many other dog breeds, they are bred to do a job. In this case, herding dogs herd; cows, sheep, sometimes people whether we want to be herded or not.
Our family wound up having these dogs. We live on a small farm/ranch, so it makes some sense. Our dogs have never been trained to work since we’ve never had more than a few cattle, but it could have happened. And they herd us all the same
We’ve had many Australian shepherds, with an Australian cattle dog and even a Malinois mix at one time or another. The honorary herding dog comes to us on occasion, like Tasha the abandoned boxer and Lucky the rescued chihuahua. But mostly, we’ve had herders.
What it’s like to have these guys around
Having herding dogs in your life comes with a certain set of conditions. If you have had them, you know they LIKE routine. A LOT. They like to get up at a certain time every day. Feeding time is a set time. Playing happens on schedule. Every. Day.
I suppose most dogs like routine, but herders take it to the next level. And the smarter they are, the better they are at enforcing that routine. Yes, that’s right. If you live with herding dogs, you can tell yourself you are in charge, but you’re really not.
A typical morning with herding dogs
When it’s time to get up, the dogs gang up. I’m the one that they plan to get up because 1) I get up a couple of hours earlier than my husband, and 2) I’m much easier to get up than my husband.
The mini Aussies, Jessie, and Reba, usually start by jumping up on the bed and getting in my face. Then Sera, their mother, joins in, but she modifies her approach. She starts on my husband because she knows I’ll step in to keep her from waking him up.
If it’s super urgent, Lincoln, the mal mix will lick my face. And Quinn will stare me down, whine, whatever it takes to get me moving if I’m not already up. They work as a group, and each one knows their role. Lucky doesn’t join in because, as token herder with senior citizen status, he’d prefer to stay in bed and let the actual herding dogs do their job.
Being herded by an expert
I’m almost certain that Quinn can both read minds and project thoughts. She is super loveable and sweet, but she is also an opportunist. And she uses her herding skills like the expert she is.
Quinn has a ball fetish that requires frequent ball sessions to satisfy her needs. If she thinks it’s time to play, which is usually about hourly during the day, she’ll start by getting underfoot; a known trick of herding dogs.
If I don’t respond as she wants, it’s time to up her game. She’ll drop the ball at my feet, repeatedly. Just a hint (If she could wink here, she would). She escalates her interference until I give up and play ball.
Since non-stop games of fetch make it really hard to get anything done, Quinn and I have come to a compromise. I tell her “let me finish _____________ (fill in the blank, short 10-minute task), then I’ll take her out”.
If she can wait, she’ll lay down and watch me finish my task. As long as I get up to play ball, we’re all good. If I start another task, she does what she can to make it impossible to get any work done.
Part of life
I’d like to say that I’ve trained her, but we both know that isn’t true. Part of living with these guys is accepting that you’ve been trained. She has trained me to keep my word to her about waiting until I’m done with the designated task. But it works for us both since I get more work done, and she gets frequent playtime.
It’s all just part of living with herding dogs, in my experience. What kind of dogs do you live with? What are their quirks, and how do you work with them? I’d love to hear more. Tell me in the comments below.