Training course with sheep

The obedience club from Marbais, the ECMC where my friend Yolande and myself are going to practice with our dogs, was organising a course with sheep. Initially it was proposed to owners of sheepdogs,like the Border Collie..... This training took place under the leadership of the shepherd of the Vosges, Mr Christophe Portelette.
Yolande also owner of two Bobtails and one Sarpla called Duska, asked if we could register with a livestock guard dog, what the Sarplaninac is. We got a positive answer (to our biggest joy) as the shepherd Mr Christophe Portelette himself was curious to see a livestock guarding dog at work (group of dogs he knew little about).

AliasseRowanThroughout the day the two Border Collies of Christophe, Rowan and Aliasse, assisted brilliantly their master and at the same time they have also helped us.
Being curious and loving to work with our dogs, Yolande with her young Bobtail of 9 months and I with my Sarplaninac bitch, Hodessa of 20 months registered for the course.
Here we are all united on the pasture, where our course will take place, there are a dozen of dogs registered: a majority of Border Collies, 2 Beaucerons, a cattle dog (Australian Cattle), an Australian Shepherd, a Bobtail and a Sarplaninac. The sheep are gathered in a paddock to make our work and that of the shepherd, who guides and advises us on the attitude we should have, easier. We're all beginners except for the cattle dog that has already taken several courses with the shepherd and this was visible in his work and that of his mistress. We work our dogs with a long leash to guide and keep control over them.
First contact of Hodessa with the sheep, she has no aggression towards them; she has a playing attitude, which is a good sign. She must learn to moderate her desire to play and that is what we'll try to teach her throughout the day. The shepherd accompanies me into the paddock and gives me advice, because the training of a dog that works with a herd is completely different from the pure work of obedience that takes place in a club. For example walking to the foot in a club means walking very close to the master, the dog sticks to his leg, while for the shepherd it means 3 or 4 meter around him. The orders, given to the dog, have to be very precise.

Under the guidance of the shepherd, who leads my bitch and gives me advice, Hodessa calms down and is always attentive to the sheep, but the desire of playing is still there.
Then, Christopher invites us to put our dogs in the car because we will do an exercise without them. The purpose of this is to put ourselves in the place of the “dog” and to lead the sheep on a run and to make them pass between two gates (poles). We follow his advice and he explains how to do and how we should position.
The goal is to make the sheep walking quietly, at a walking pace (no galloping because that means stress for them), you have to be attentive to the sheep at the head to see the direction it will take and it also allows us to position ourselves at the right place to have them changing their paths and to make them walk where you want.

Well I’m doing not too bad, I managed to get the sheep passing between the two poles...
Then and after a little moment of relaxation, « THE » Zen attitude, in the Sarpla way....
We must implement this, to do it with the dog this time ........ Hodessa is calmer and we are quietly leading the sheep, she still wanted to play but a call to order has calmed her down, she slowly begins to understand what one wants from her.
After several trainings, at different times of the day Hodessa seems to understand that she needs to walk quietly behind the sheep.

With Hodessa the shepherd made me work like he would do with a Beauceron dog or another big dog i.e. the periphery of the herd (between 3 and 5 meters) in contrast with the Border Collies that are much closer to the sheep.
Following to a relevant question of a participant, who asked him how long it takes to educate a sheepdog, Christophe said, as many years as a dog has paws!
In conclusion, this course has given and learned us a lot. It is true that it’s not in a single day that we know everything, but it has opened up horizons that we certainly will deepen.
I mostly wanted to do it to see how my dog would react, and I am very pleased with her behaviour (and this in spite of her playful side) with the sheep and also with the other dogs present. The Education of a sheep dog is the opposite of that of an obedience dog, in fact each discipline requires a specific approach and education.