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21 January 2011

Comments

Dave C

The smartest of dogs.

We're leaving January 29 for our annual trek to New Zealand. While most of our time will be spent on the south island we like to spend a couple of nights each trip at a B&B on a working sheep ranch near the smelly town of Rotorua on the north island.

The border collies on the ranch are absolutely amazing. No verbal commands, just series of short and long whistles at different tones. Watching them herd a couple of hundred sheep to a new grazing area, through a narrow gate is thrilling. Especially seeing them run on the backs of the tightly packed herd. Equally amazing were the dogs could unlatch the gate and close it after the last sheep went through.

I've also seen the rancher put two unshorn sheep in a herd of about 100. Through a whistle command, one dog will pair out the two unshorn sheep and escort them to the shearing shed.

These dogs love to work. But, they are by no means pets. They don't come in the house, not even the porch and they don't have names.

On one trip a person in our group asked what the dogs names were. The rancher replied he never named them but asked the person to pick out a name for one of the female dogs. She suggested Waltzing Matilda. With that the rancher just hollered "Waltzing Matilda" and one of the female dogs ran up to the rancher and sat down.

George Rebane

We had a similar experience in New Zealand, and as a result I bought two models of the whistle used to command those dogs. Thought I'd teach our puppy to also respond to some whistle commands. Turned out that I was too dumb to learn how to make any kind of civilized sound come out of those whistles.

At one milk ranch where we stayed, the dogs were kept in large diameter pipe kennels where they stayed until it was time for them to herd cows. They're definitely not treated as pets. But it's impressive to watch one of them cross a flock on the backs of the sheep to do a job on the other side.

Dave C

Actually, the rancher in New Zealand did not use a whistle device. He just pursed his lips and let out a loud whistle.

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