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I don't know if this is a dumb question or not, I'll assume the former :D :

What kinds of behaviors are considered "herding" behaviors in GSDs that have never been around animals to herd? Off the top of my head, I can think of generic stuff like territorialism and protectiveness, though I'm not sure that could be an attribute of herding or just breeding out working GSDs with those characteristics. I can think of specific stuff like heel nipping, like an ACD, but I don't know if that's really common in a modern GSD or not (my dog does not do this, FWIW, not that she's the standard :D ).

I guess I'm wondering if there are behaviors my pup is manifesting that would speak to her potential as a herder, or at least her instincts for it. How she works, eats, poops, sleeps, whatever. Just curious.

Glad to see some :!: activity in this thread, by the way, herding is really interesting to me. As usual, I don't know anything about this, so any info is great and appreciated.
 

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What I see is the border working instinct.They will methodically want to work back and forth.They dont really know what they are doing but you can definitely see it.they start out just turning back and forth behind the stock or on the side.If you work them enough they will extend the back and forth going farther and farther each time.
Thats about all I know and enough to get one really confused.
 

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So is herding a natural instinct in any dog? Or is this specific to the herding breeds? What I'm wondering is how they bred for this from the beginning of time, because training can't be imprinted genetically, that's a psycological thing, so there had to be some kind of herding instinct in the animals at some point for them to breed for that trait right? You can't just grab a dog, teach it to herd something n expect puppies with a hearding instinct, but it seems odd to me that a wolf, for example, would want to herd anything. Obviously there's lots of herding dogs out there n it had to derive from something at some point in history... it just intrigues me why these dogs have that desire and how it got there. Anybody know the answer?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Mike Schoonbrood said:
So is herding a natural instinct in any dog? Or is this specific to the herding breeds? What I'm wondering is how they bred for this from the beginning of time, because training can't be imprinted genetically, that's a psycological thing, so there had to be some kind of herding instinct in the animals at some point for them to breed for that trait right? You can't just grab a dog, teach it to herd something n expect puppies with a hearding instinct, but it seems odd to me that a wolf, for example, would want to herd anything. Obviously there's lots of herding dogs out there n it had to derive from something at some point in history... it just intrigues me why these dogs have that desire and how it got there. Anybody know the answer?
I am building on your point, not offering expert insight :oops: I think.

I always thought this was unnatural selection...same as what a breeder would do today, i.e., recognize particular traits and breed to them...just on a much larger time scale than recognizing $hitty GSD hips and breeding for that :eek: .

This is also intriguing to me. I guess many of you have seen those documentaries (or maybe witnessed) young Border Collies put out on sheep. I think it's about the most amazing dog thing I have ever seen, the way they just "flip on" and start "naturally" with their herds. Not sure I'd even believe it if I didn't see it. And even the Bouvier on Dog Whisperer a few months back...even that thing "turned on" around sheep, though certainly not to the degree a BC would. Makes me want to throw Annie into a sheep herd to see how she would react. She's probably be pi$$ed none of them wanted to play two-ball with her.
 

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Herding as we see it in dogs is a man made developement. Wolves/wild canids will naturally try and cut off their prey as they try and catch it. Man has developed that to the extream in herding. Same with a bird dog pointing. That's nothing more the a modified stalk.
Here's an explination of the GSD type of herding. http://www.german-shepherdherding.com/behavior.htm
The book "Dogs" by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, goes into nice detail about how todays dogs are bred for certain traits.
The wolf's preditory motor patterns are:
orient/see/stalk/chase/grab-bite/kill-bite/disect.
In the herding dog, man as eliminated (to a point) the kill-bite/disect part of this process by selective breeding.
Another example: Most "average"dogs will chase a cat. Orient/see/stalk/chase. Not many "average" however, have the instinct to go in for a grab-bite/kill-bite/disect.
My own terriers have that extra grab-bit/kill-bite, but it's a big taboo with working terriers to eat their quarry when they kill it. When my terriers make a kill, the game is over for them. They no longer have much interest in the quarry. Again! Bred for traits.
 

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Good idea Woody! Will do. It's been on my list of favs for a couple of years now.
 

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Jerry, does the mouthing of the sheep have any effect on getting the HIC? AKC has a C class, or boundry style of herding trial, but I've not found anyone that does it. The typical "Bordere Collie" style of herding is all most seem to know anything about.
 

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Bob, I know this is way late but I'll give you my views on this.
The GSD has enough size to also protect the flock. The gsd is a couragious dog or was bred to be back in the day.This is to keep the wolfs away. The tremendous prey drive, again back in the day, was what was built off of the herd. There's other traits that the GSD has that make it a great herder. It is social and works well with others, in most cases. Anyway you get my drift. Max von what's his name created this dog for this purpose.
Now about them getting a mouth full of wool. oh well that's prey. They have to be taught not to hurt the sheep, too bad :wink:
 

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I realize that this is an old thread, but I'm going to comment anyway.

Jak most definately has some kind of herding instinct. He's not fun to walk (informal) because he does go back and forth and makes me trip over him and I'm sure we look really funny. He also does the 'Border Collie' stalk when I take him to the lake and he sees the ducks and geese. He did this the very first time he ever saw geese and ducks, so it was definately not something he learned from watching another dog or anything. He also circles when he plays. He'll circle around Gypsy, and try to cut her off if she's running a certain direction (like a cutting horse), and then go around to the other side and jump on her and then they'll roll around and sound like they're killing each other, but that's beside the point.

I've thought about doing some kind of herding test with him just for fun, but honestly, I don't really want to encourage those behaviors because they can really be a pain in the arse! :lol:
 

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Jerry Lyda said:
Bob, I know this is way late but I'll give you my views on this.
The GSD has enough size to also protect the flock. The gsd is a couragious dog or was bred to be back in the day.This is to keep the wolfs away. The tremendous prey drive, again back in the day, was what was built off of the herd. There's other traits that the GSD has that make it a great herder. It is social and works well with others, in most cases. Anyway you get my drift. Max von what's his name created this dog for this purpose.
Now about them getting a mouth full of wool. oh well that's prey. They have to be taught not to hurt the sheep, too bad :wink:
Excellent point Jerry! In the HGH (German Herding Trials) the GSD originally had to do some protection work to show his willingness to keep the flock and shepherd safe.
Also in the HGH trials, grabbing wool was a necessity for the GSD, where a Border Collie would be faulted for it in their trails.
 

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here's a question for you all: brix has always shown "herding" behaviors. at 8 months old, not yet really started in Sch training (except tracking), and me not knowing just what he may excel at , is there a point where i may burn my bridges by concentrating more on Sch vs herding to the point where he may not herd if started (in herding) at, say, 24 mo rather than 12 mo?

i guess i'm asking: just how versatile are these dogs? and, is there a *window* for them learning different jobs? esp the herding--do they need to be imprinted at a very young age?

be patient with me--i personally think they can do it ALL, but i'm looking for some guidance here as to what/when is possible. (i think i might be over-thinking it :oops: )
 

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I really don't know enough about herding to answer how long you can wait. Obviously the earlier the better.
If the instincts are there, you can probably bring them out.
Jerry, one question I've always had is if you've noticed any difference in your dogs AFTER the HIC?
My concern would be that some dogs may decide chasing sheep is the greates thing since raw meat and would loose their edge on protection SPORT.
Any thoughts?
 

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Mike Schoonbrood said:
So is herding a natural instinct in any dog? Or is this specific to the herding breeds? What I'm wondering is how they bred for this from the beginning of time, because training can't be imprinted genetically, that's a psycological thing, so there had to be some kind of herding instinct in the animals at some point for them to breed for that trait right? You can't just grab a dog, teach it to herd something n expect puppies with a hearding instinct, but it seems odd to me that a wolf, for example, would want to herd anything. Obviously there's lots of herding dogs out there n it had to derive from something at some point in history... it just intrigues me why these dogs have that desire and how it got there. Anybody know the answer?
First, you need to consider HOW herding came about. The general act of gathering animals or splitting a few off is older than dogs themselves. Wolves herd, but they herd the animal toward the alpha for everyone to band together to kill. We humans didn't like the killing part, so we decreased the urge to kill however we maintained the herding instinct to drive the prey (cattle, sheep, etc) towards us, their alpha. Herding dogs were bred specifically to have this herding but not killing instinct. Watch a litter of border collie puppies and tell me herding isnt instincual.
You do have to fine-tune them, as with any dog training, but they KNOW what to do if they're from good lines. Kind of like you don't have to teach a good dog to bite, just when and where.
I've worked and titled 5or6 different Border Collies (and 3 or 4 GSDs), and they by far have kept their herding instinct more intact than any other dog. Border Collies have the flashiest herding style, IMO. They "eye" their stock. They intimidate the animals just by keeping eye contact. GSDs, on the other hand, tend to border herd. They are also allowed to grip (bite) a sheep/cattle/etc that threatens to charge or disobeys. We file their teeth down a bit so they don't break the skin.
Ok, so I went a LITTLE off the deep end on that one, but to answer your questions in short:
1. No, not every dog was bred for herding.
2. Yes, mainly the herding breeds (although AKC doesn't group them together nicely).
3. The killing instict of wolves was bred out of dogs, but the herding/bringing back to alpha instinct remained.
 

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My GSD has also got her HIC. She did terrifect, within two outings in the pin the herding instructor got her to herd to the left and right and to stop and wait until he released her to start again. She has tremendous prey drive and herded the sheep right up around us, they were actually doing little circles right around us, rubbing against my legs. I think that he was really impressed on how well and quick she picked up on all this. This was something for fun that we did, I really have no desire to get in the herding sport. This did not affect her one bit in the bitework; bitework is also taught in prey drive. She did leave some fluffs of wool on the ground though. I believe that it is possible to teach the two sports to one dog, pending on its prey drive. It really depends on how much spare time that you have to teach the two. I did see one shepherd who did not pass, it could care less that the sheep were there. With the right dog and teachers I think that it is possilbe. Its two totally different things that you are teaching so it shouldn't cause any problems. In simple terms, one you're teaching them to bite a person with one set of commands, the other you're teaching them to chase sheep, not bite them, with a different set of commands.
 

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I took Zorba to herding in his later years. It was a spectacular failure. He kept chasing the sheep, I was running around getting my "gee & haw" mixed up. Zorba would run & grab the nearest sheep, bring it to a screeching stop, then the sheepherder/trainer would konk him on his muzzle with his big old cane (bonk bonk bonk). Zorba would just blink his eyes, eventually let go & the whole circus would begin again. The trainer was a real salesman & like a true idiot, I fell for his shpeel. He sold the lessons in 8 week increments. Towards the end of each 8 week episode, he would tell me he saw "real progress in old Zorb". It took me approx 20 weeks to figure out it was going no where. My dog truly was smarter than me. Now that I'm reading about herding, I figure the trainer was very experienced in Border Collie type herding, (and very successful), but it sounds like a GSDs' herding job is very different.
 

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susan tuck said:
I took Zorba to herding in his later years. It was a spectacular failure. He kept chasing the sheep, I was running around getting my "gee & haw" mixed up. Zorba would run & grab the nearest sheep, bring it to a screeching stop, then the sheepherder/trainer would konk him on his muzzle with his big old cane (bonk bonk bonk). Zorba would just blink his eyes, eventually let go & the whole circus would begin again. The trainer was a real salesman & like a true idiot, I fell for his shpeel. He sold the lessons in 8 week increments. Towards the end of each 8 week episode, he would tell me he saw "real progress in old Zorb". It took me approx 20 weeks to figure out it was going no where. My dog truly was smarter than me. Now that I'm reading about herding, I figure the trainer was very experienced in Border Collie type herding, (and very successful), but it sounds like a GSDs' herding job is very different.
:eek: Somehow I can't picture anyone outside of family going (bonk bonk bonk) on Thunder's nose with a big old cane. :D :D
 

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My experience with GSD's herding is only observation. I did get a lot of opportunities to observe however. When I was stationed in Germany, the local shepherd had grazing rights on the air base. The control of the flock, probably 100 to 150 sheep, was entrusted with the shepherd and 3 dogs, all GSD's. He would frequently move the flock toward the kennels. When he did, he and I would discuss everything from WWII, current events and of course dog training. Watching him over a period of 3 years was very interesting and kindled an appreciation of herding in me. One I propose to pursue when I retire from the highway patrol. (26 months but whose counting). Generally, two dogs kept reign on the flock. The third dog stayed with him. It was kind of a reserve should a problem arise. These weren't hobby dogs, they were actual working dogs, that each day controlled a sizeable flock of sheep. The two dogs basically stay on the perimeter and ensured all the sheep stayed in the flock. Grazing sheep don't move very fast, so there was very little pressure put on by the dog. On rare occasion, the third dog may be sent out to direct a wayward sheep back to the flock. Mostly, it was very casual, sort of an ambling down one side of the runway and back up the other. He had a pen at one end of the runway where the sheep were kept at night. then the process was repeated during the day. It was very interesting. I don't recall the dogs ever actually making contact with the sheep. Each dog was controlled by a different whistle sound. Same whistle, just different toots meant different things to each dog. He told me, the biggest problem was remembering which dog got which toot for a specific movement. It was interesting to watch though.

DFrost
 
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