Guys! We did it. We took Zoe herding and it was such a great time. I'm not sure if Zoe or I got more joy out of this little experiment but we are definitely going to be taking her back for another lesson as soon as we get a chance. Pictures and more information about the lesson after the jump!
Over the past couple of years people have at various points told me that some of Zoe's behaviors seemed to be consistent with a herding instinct. I'm not sure though if this was just a way of being friendly about Zoe's sometimes, em, erratic behaviors. Still ever since I read A Good Dog by John Katz I'd been curious about herding dogs so I thought it would be fun to take Zoe for one lesson. I did a search for herding lessons near DC and found that seemingly the closest place that offers lessons is Susan Rhodes at Keepstone Farm. Susan is willing to teach any and all breeds and experience levels so we emailed her and set an appointment (she was booked almost a month in advance so if you are looking for lessons I would suggest emailing her now!).
On Sunday we set out with Zoe and our friends and their dog Lloyd. It took about an hour and a half to get out there from Brookland so definitely not close, but I think worth it for the amount of fun we had. Susan started with Zoe in the pen with 3 sheep to let her get used to the sheep and to make sure she would respond to efforts to protect the sheep. Aka that Zoe would retreat if Susan hit her stick on the ground. Within a few minutes Zoe was off the leash and making some little loops around the sheep. She definitely seemed confused about what was going on but she looked like she was enjoying herself almost immediately. After Lloyd took his turn Zoe went back in and this time Mike walked with the sheep and held the little protection stick. It's pretty neat actually, the sheep will follow anyone holding the stick since they know it's there to protect them. Zoe mostly behaved the same, that is running in circles and looking giddy. For her third time in the pen I walked with sheep, which is surprisingly awkward. The sheep walk right up on you which made it feel like I was the one being herded. At this point we saw the slightest indication that Zoe might actually be trying to heard the sheep. Victory right?
So that was it. Such fun. Susan actually told us that she is also teaching herding lessons in Millersville MD a couple of times a week so if you live closer to Baltimore this could be the solution for you.