Herding dog question. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 10-04-2010, 05:06 PM - Thread Starter
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I know nothing about herding dogs.

One was an Australian Cattle Dog and the other one was very similar in coloring but much different coat - longer and bushier. I don't know what it was.

Today at the dog park these two dogs just took after this poor chocolate lab who was running around on his own. I had seen the two dogs earlier and they seemed fine, friendly, sniffed my dog and went on their way. Well, when they were coming back from their walk around the loop they just went after this dog. Didn't bite but VERY aggressive. I grabbed my dog and kept him close and the other lab owner called his dog over to him but the herding dogs kept getting in the way. The owner of the herding dogs had NO leash and really wasn't doing much beyond yelling "No herding!" um, ok.

My long winded question is...is this normal behavior? Should I stay clear from these two in the future? What in the world was the trigger?

Any ideas? Concerned in case I see them there again.
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#2 of 8 Old 10-04-2010, 06:22 PM
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I'm guessing the second dog may have been an Australian Shepherd from your description.

To answer your question, some dogs DO have very different behavior/play styles than others. Herding dogs can have an aggressive,physical, play style. Since they didn't bite the other dog, it doesn't sound like they planned to attack. Another thing herding dogs do is herd other living creatures- be they other dogs or people. This can involve circling them, nipping, or blocking their movement with their bodies or body language. It can be alarming to other owners who aren't used to it. When I got my shepherd mix he was very mouthy when playing with my Lab (although never made contact), and sometimes rather vocal with growling (but not an aggressive growl, or otherwise showing aggression). He was also VERY intense and physical in his play. I'd never had a dog play like that before and was very worried. I consulted a trainer who said it was 100% normal, some dogs are merely more intense or have different play styles than others.

My guess is, they probably got overly excited and it triggered them to start the behavior, but it could be anything, maybe they've decided that large, brown dogs are things to herd, but small white dogs are not. These dogs are smart and come up with all sorts of quirks like that.

What does concern me is that the owner did not have a leash and obviously didn't have them under voice control. If you're going to walk off leash you should A. by ready to leash immediately if needed, and B. have dogs with a very reliable recall.

As for whether to steer clear or not, I'm not sure. Having not seen the incident, I don't know what I'd do. You might take into account your own dogs personality and how he would respond to such treatment, and also how these dogs seem to interact with other dogs besides the one incident. It certainly wouldn't hurt to keep your dog close when they approach until you get a better feel for the situation.
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#3 of 8 Old 10-04-2010, 06:48 PM
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We have a herding dog - a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. He's smart as can be, and an independent thinker - hallmarks of herding dogs.

The first thing we taught him - at 10 weeks - was to NOT herd people, especially our kids. He learned very well, and we have never had a problem with him trying to herd people.

But when we board him and he gets to play with other dogs, he loves to herd. The woman who runs the kennel raises golden retreivers, and my dog herd them all over the yard. It's a wonderful symbiotic relationship - his instinct is to give orders; their instinct is to follow them. But these dogs also had known each other for years, so there's a different dynamic going on than what you're describing. The first time my dog got let out with another herding dog, he was very flustered!

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#4 of 8 Old 10-04-2010, 06:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Not an Australian Shepherd, though there were two of those there today. Beautiful dogs.

Thanks for your description of herding behavior. Sounds like they were just very aggressively herding him but not interested in hurting him.

My dog would not really have known what to do. Probably would have just stood there or fell to the ground and rolled over onto his back. He's a yellow lab who loves everyone and is very submissive. I found it odd that they sniffed my lab and went on their way but went after the chocolate lab.
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#5 of 8 Old 10-04-2010, 07:09 PM
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I agree with the PP about herding dogs having random quirks that none of us can ever understand. They're a strange lot! And I love them

However, they can accidentally hurt, for sure. Our border collie used to nip at ankles if we tried to jump in the pool.

But I agree that the owner should have had much better recall with those dogs if they were going to be off leash and even possibly show any aggressive tendencies or anything that resembles aggressive tendencies to others.

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Pet-mom to Squirt with FLUTD & Maya the deaf wonder dog .
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#6 of 8 Old 10-05-2010, 12:20 PM
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He's a yellow lab who loves everyone and is very submissive. I found it odd that they sniffed my lab and went on their way but went after the chocolate lab.
They may have been able to sense that your dog is submissive & therefore had no reason to herd it.

We have a Blue Heeler/Coyote cross. He used to try to herd us, especially the kids. The Blue Heeler parts herds by nipping the heels. He stopped doing it to dh & I pretty quickly, it took longer with the kids.
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#7 of 8 Old 10-05-2010, 04:33 PM
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Herding dogs herd. They will herd sheep, ducks, kids, you name it

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#8 of 8 Old 10-05-2010, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by lonegirl View Post
Herding dogs herd. They will herd sheep, ducks, kids, you name it
They certainly will try to, but that doesn't make it appropriate. Many herding breeds are not good dog park dogs for this very reason, plus a number can be very space conscious with other animals. I would steer clear of this person and their dogs if you see them again.

I have an ACD mix and a Corgi mix (and an ACD/Border CollieX before them) and none of them are allowed to harass other dogs like that. My current ACDX herds - sheep ONLY - and he knows the rules when it comes to appropriate interactions don't include charging or otherwise harassing another dog.

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