I love herding dogs. I love the way they think, I love their intelligence and their quickness and their energy, and there’s no denying they’re nice to look at. They are herding dogs, though, and that means they do things which could be considered annoying.
Gryphon likes feet. He likes to grab them as you walk, growling and barking and pouncing on them with his front feet. Needless to say, walking in my house can be challenging. When I bring him to work, he will often pick one student and poke his or her leg with his nose until the student gets up and Gryph can herd that person around the room. I’m a huge NCIS fan; I have a life-size cardboard Gibbs in the house. When I first set it up, Gryphon stared at cardboard-Gibbs’ feet and barked, then looked up at the face, clearly annoyed that Gibbs didn’t start walking (which would have been pretty cool if he had).
Merlin does a sneaky nip thing. He’ll come up behind you, absolutely silent, and get you in the leg. It’s not a bite, it’s not aggressive, it’s a little bit of stress and a little bit of instinct and, in my opinion, a little bit of ‘gotcha!’ complete with mental snicker.
Seelie is my least subtle dog. His idea of herding is to physically crash into you and make you go the way he wants. If that fails, grabbing with teeth works too. It’s a good thing he’s not actually playing with sheep. He doesn’t really do that to me anymore, but he could with someone else.
Ironically, Raven is the only one of my dogs who has actually herded sheep, and she’s the only one who doesn’t engage in herding behavior at home. Go figure. Phoenix herded sheep too, but perhaps that’s a story for another post.
All of them have good on-leash walking behavior, but if they see something move off to one side, any of them could trip me up with their sudden cuts in front. Raven likes to walk behind me and weave side to side, typical herding behavior for driving sheep in a relatively straight line. Of course, that puts her well behind the other dogs, which she doesn’t like, so then she has to run to catch up – usually on the other side of me from where I’m actually holding the leash.
As I said above, I love their energy. Really.