Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Ducks ~ and the training of a sheep dog

New Zealand has a long history in sheep farming in which highly skilled herding dogs play an important role.  Sheep dog trials are a classical form of rural competition and televised to the nation: a small flock of sheep is herded around an obstacle course by a sheep dog which is directed by its trainer in a series of called and whistled commands.  These shows could be likened to horses being put through their paces in show jumping.  But how do you train a sheep dog if there are no sheep handy?  Don Stuart uses ducks!  

I adore ducks.  From long association and observation I know that they are clever, funny, and bursting with personality.  I also know that they are curious and enjoy social interaction so I cheerfully accept Don Stuart's assertion that they seem to enjoy being herded around a course by a trainee sheep dog.  And yes, they love playing in the spray of a garden hose...

Later Note:
For those interested in reading more about sheep dog trials I include this link to a story about long-time competitor, Russell Peek which appeared in the ODT on 31st Dec 2010.

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