I believe I have mentioned that Fiona is a very well-behaved dog in public and a holy terror at home. And sometimes at the dog park. I have long suspected that she needs a job. One day, as I was telling this to Kelly at Doggie Do Rite, Kelly told me about a lady across the border in Wisconsin that runs a farm to train herding dogs. She suggested that I take Fiona up to try it out.
Magic’s Legacy is run by Shannon Wolfe, who trains herding dogs for fun, for sport and for actual working farms. For a fee of $65 she will perform an “instinct test”, in which she takes your dog in with a small herd of animals to see whether the dog has the stuff. If the instinct isn’t there, you can’t teach the dog the skills. But if the dog wants to herd, they are likely to learn the commands and the signals and how to work as a team with the handler.
I traded several emails with Shannon to make sure we followed all of the rules and made an appointment. She didn’t ask for vet records, but I seem to recall a requirement that the dogs have the proper vaccinations. She also requires a regular leash – as opposed to those stupid retractable ones that everyone should know by now are dangerous – and a collar that buckles rather than snaps, which Fiona has.
The car ride was a long hour, but Fiona did very well. When we arrived, she mostly wanted to sniff everything, so it was a good thing that Shannon was running behind schedule. By the time it was her turn, Fiona was comfortable in her surroundings.
Before taking her in, Shannon had me watch her dog for a few minutes to see what it should look like. Then she took three sheep into a smaller pen and led Fiona in with them. Her responses were all good, so Shannon took her off the leash. And there she was.
I walked over to get a closer look – and take pictures – when Fiona spotted me and broke away. Walked right over and ignored the sheep. I was very embarrassed and stepped back out of her view. She went right back to work. Then Shannon brought me in the pen with them. I could barely watch my dog because my job was to stay behind Shannon and not get knocked over by a sheep. But I could tell by the movement that she was good. And then we got our certificate:
Her assessment says that she shows “gathering” rather than “driving” instinct. She was forceful without excessive aggression and worked silently. (My mother laughed her head off at that one.) Also, despite my interruption, she “appears readily adjusted” rather than “easily distracted”. Awesome. She passed.
So are we going to start lessons? Maybe. Shannon said that Magic’s Legacy will take amateurs like us who are just there to have fun. But besides the long drive, it is clear that I would need much more training than Fiona. It might be worth the effort just to watch her go.