Selkie the Border Collie cuts wide. She curves around the field, hunches and creeps in. The sheep bleat in protest, stiffen and get moving. All in a day's work for a ranch dog; however, Selkie lives in the city. Selkie and many other dogs travel with their owners to a 40 acre ranch about an hour outside of Los Angeles, CA to escape the leash and experience the thrill of herding. Drummond Ranch in Vincent, CA allows dogs to have a back-to-basics experience as well as discover what their job is supposed to be.
According to the American Kennel Club, new herding clubs are popping up around the country. The AKC estimates that more than 10,000 dogs compete in herding competitions, which is a 10% increase over previous years. Owners believe that herding clubs are a remedy for the tighter leash laws in the city as well as the disappearance of dog-friendly places.
Selkie's owner wanted a dog to cuddle with and to sit by on the couch. Unfortunately, Border Collies are working dogs and were bred to herd. Borders need mental stimulation as well as a physical workout. Selkie's owner was thrilled with the visit.
Ranch owner Janna Duncan has taught dozens of dogs and their owners about the art of moving livestock. Duncan explains that each breed uses their own technique. "Guardian dogs get to know their flock. They befriend the sheep and the sheep feel safe. They'll follow them anywhere."
Along with Border Collies, the ranch has had visits from Huskies, Labs, Bernese Mountain Dog, and even a four pound Yorkie. Rottweilers are also gifted in herding. Duncan explains that dogs inherently know how to herd. They just need to learn to do it on command.