Under the Baa-r: Lessons Learned in Herding, From Me to Ewe



Last month, my girlfriend Margaret competed at the APF Women’s Pro-Am in Cincinnati. Her meet went well, as did the rest of the team that had been training together during that meet cycle — everyone ended up with a PR total.


With strict orders from Dave not to touch a barbell for four weeks and the first free Saturday Margaret and I had in quite a while, we decided to take our dog Bruce up to an “Intro to Herding” class in Nova, Ohio. Bruce is a rescue pup, and his genetic make-up is somewhat of a mystery to us. He is definitely part Rottweiler, but his other ancestry is somewhat unknown. From what we could gather from the shelter where we got him, the other half is likely Australian Cattle Dog, also known as a Blue Heeler. Knowing Heelers are herding dogs and observing Bruce’s mannerisms around other animals, it has been clear for a while to us that Bruce has strong herding instincts. Bruce is also insanely energetic — always wanting to play with other dogs and THAT DAMN B-A-L-L. You can’t actually say ball. He will lose his shit. And then play with the ball for hours — no, DAYS.


Anyway, we each had mentioned on numerous occasions, “It would be interesting to see how his instincts kick in around a herd of sheep, and if he has any potential to herd.” It finally got me curious enough to see if there were any places around us, and sure enough, Google landed me on this “Intro to Herding” class. The last two classes that have been held didn’t work with our schedules, so considering Margaret’s training had regressed to Globo Gym workouts, this was a perfect opportunity.


Now, before I share the experience that we had at this class, I need to preface a few things. First, one of the big universal beliefs of life is to always give someone at least one chance to speak their viewpoint/argument — and actually listen. (The only exception is telemarketers. Fuck those guys.) One of the best ways to develop values, philosophy, and education is to explore different points of view or ways of thinking. Each interaction should either reinforce or challenge your way of thinking and evolve the relationship between you and your belief system. Even a bad experience or talking to someone who’s belief systems wildly disagree with yours will reinforce why you DON’T want to be like that person.


The second premise is that this trip occurred one week after a meet. If you are or were an even remotely competitive athlete, you know exactly what is going on in someone’s head a week after a meet.


Finally, I had no idea what kind of quality course we were getting. I did not know that the instructors had been doing it for 30 years and had produced multiple champion dogs in herding. And I definitely did not understand that herding is one of the most difficult dog sports to compete in. So now when I say I was furiously typing notes into my phone for this article halfway through the course and the entire hour-and-a-half car ride home was spent talking about powerlifting, life, and self-improvement — you can understand a little more why. Here are the big takeaways:


1. Change You Definition of "No"

2. Keep a Notebook

3. Learn to Read and Understand Body Language and Non-Verbals

4. Everyone Has Potential

5. Try New Things

6. Know When the Cup is Full


To learn more about Dr. Detweiler's takeaways, and to read the full article, visit EliteFTS.com, Under the Baa-r: Lessons Learned in Herding, From Me to Ewe.

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