Where performance counts!         

The Sheep Herding Career

Champion Tracker Sagebrush Molly Brown

The AKC developed it's herding program when I lived in Oregon prior to coming to California.  I was very interested in finding out about the sheep herding abilities of Shelties, but I didn't really have an opportunity to pursue that interest.  A few years after we moved to California, the National Sheltie Specialty was held practically in our own backyard, and associated with it was a sheep herding trial.


It was 1994 and Molly was four years old when the ASSA National Specialty was held in Sacramento.  Along with it was a sheep herding trial in nearby Lodi.  I heard about a herding instinct test to be held after the trial, and I wanted to give it a try with Molly.

A friend of a friend had some sheep, completely unused to being worked by dogs, but she was willing to let me try Molly on them.  Fortunately, it was a decent sized flock, and a reasonably small pasture.  The first evening we arrived, I took Molly in with the sheep, and she dutifully trotted around with me, showing no interest in the sheep whatsoever.  The following morning, I took her in to the sheep when we first got up.  She was her usual early morning enthusiastic ready-to-go self, and almost immediately took off after the sheep.  I let her move them up and down the pasture for some ten minutes, then we went back to the house.  I ran in the door, yelling, "She's doing it, she's doing it!"  I really had no idea what "it" was.  But on the strength of that, I entered her in the AHBA Herding Capability Test at the National Specialty, and she passed.


Learning the Outrun

Like many Shelties, Molly tended to work very close to the sheep at first.  Her first outruns were short and fairly close to the stock.  It took a long time to get her to work well off the sheep.  However, she finally developed the long wide outrun pictured below.  Like many herding dogs, she had a preferred direction–in her case the "come-bye" or clockwise direction around the sheep.  She needed a lot more practice to do an "away-to-me" or counterclockwise outrun.


Fetching:  Doing What Comes Naturally

Fetching is bringing the sheep towards the handler.  For most Shelties, this is their natural style of herding, and they learn it fairly easily.  Molly was a strong fetching dog, and she learned without difficulty to use just the amount of pressure needed to keep the stock moving.


Success:  Her High In Trials

Molly did extremely well in the started classes in both AHBA and AKC herding trials. She earned High in Trial and Reserve High in Trial awards in both venues on her way to her started titles.

Molly's RHIT run in December 1995

Molly's High In Trial run, October 1995


Driving Sheep

Driving sheep (pushing them in a direction other than toward the handler)  proved to be Molly's Achilles heel, so she never got farther that the started class in AKC trials.  She always behaved as if driving felt totally wrong to her.  But she did complete her AHBA Herding Trial Dog IIs title, managing a difficult drive with the sheep a good fifty feet away from me.   The ranch dog courses were more suited to her abilities, and she had no difficulty earning her Herding Ranch Dog IIs title.


Large Flock Trials

Molly and I participated in three large flock trials, based on French regulations, in large open fields.  Large groups of sheep behave very differently from sets of three or five.  We had the opportunity to handle as many as eighty head of sheep in a flock.

Controlling the movement of the flock in a large open field is not as difficult as it might seem.  The flock tends to move as a unit, swarming in the direction dictated by the dog's movements.

Here Molly pushes the sheep from the open field into a roadway bounded by fences.  From the road, she will re-pen them to finish her successful run.

A French-style large flock trial in 1997 (14:47 min)


Her last trial was the Millenium AHBA Trial on New Years day at the dawn of 2000, when she completed her Herding Ranch Dog IIIs title at nearly ten years of age.


That'll do, Molly.


Other Molly Albums:


Back To Top Of Page