On Thursday Suki earned her HIC, or Herding Instinct Certified, title. It’s a test to see if the dog has the natural instinct to herd livestock. In the US the title is HIT, or Herding Instinct Tested. I like the Canadian one because I can make jokes about Suki being a hick (shh, just pretend the C in HIC isn’t technically a soft one).
It could have gone better, but for the day and the sheep she was working with I think Suki did really well. These sheep were not easy to work with; they were hot, tired, and feeling a little ornery. Suki was a bit apprehensive of the situation and just when she was starting to get into it one of the sheep took a running headbutt and sent her rolling, which really threw her confidence. I was feeling a bit discouraged until the evaluator brought her trained Sheltie in and the sheep even gave her a hard time.
I was told Suki needs to build up her confidence, but that if herding is something I want to pursue I should definitely go for it. We didn’t sign up for the actual herding clinic this month and just did the instinct test, but there is probably another one in June and I’m going to aim to have worked on Suki’s confidence for then. I think working on herding itself will be a good confidence booster for her, but it never hurts to pad the odds in your favour a little.
I was told working with ducks might be helpful. They can put more pressure on a dog, but don’t have the size intimidation factor. I asked J if we should we get Campbells or Runners for Suki but he wasn’t very impressed. I thought it was funny.
Suki was pretty velcroed to me during the test, so I’m going to start trying to build her comfort working further away. The plan for this month is to reinforcing her target training (running to stand on a coloured circle), then gradually increasing the distance she has to run to touch the target. I’m hoping this will make her more comfortable working further away from me. I’m also going to work on crate training her so I can keep her kenneled next time, which will hopefully prevent other dogs from approaching her and throwing her off her game. Even if herding is fun, it’s still a pretty stressful environment and I think it’s best not to socialize dogs there as it’s easy to overload them.
Suki got a certificate, an evaluation sheet, and a chunk of wool to chase around at home. I’m really looking forward to hopefully furthering her herding, and I can finally check “try herding with Suki” off the bucket list. I can see myself getting really hooked on this sport.