Working daily with sheep is hard work. The work would be even more difficult if I did not have my top ranch hand to help, Hank. I am very thankful for Hank and the job he does helping me with sheep.

Hank is a registered border collie dog. His breeding is to work cattle. He is the first dog from his sire and dam to work sheep. But Hank does not just work sheep. He will work cattle, cows with calves and bulls. His favorite animal to herd is ducks. He was introduced to ducks after he learned to herd sheep, goats, cattle and chickens. I do not know why he loves to work the ducks.

Using Hank also helps me to be safe. Hank is able to keep the sheep and especially a cranky ram away from me during feeding times. Before I started using Hank during winter feedings, the sheep would gather around and push against me to get the hay before I placed in the hay feeder. Hank can keep the sheep away from the feeder, allowing me time and space to work.

Currently I have one ram that is not shy about being a little bit aggressive. Hank is able to keep this ram away from me during feeding times. Using the dog to control the ram, the ram sole attention is on the dog, and not on me. I am able to move the ram to different pens for breeding or to pasture.

A good herding dog does not happen overnight. First the dog has to have the desire to want to work livestock. Then there is training the dog to learn the commands in order to communicate what it is you are wanting the dog to do. Last, the dog has to gain experience. Experience is gained by working with you and the sheep and making mistakes. No experience is gained without the mistakes. After a year of working with you, you realize you are not giving commands for every move the dog makes, you are working together as a team – you have a ranch hand.

Unfortunately, dogs lives are much shorter than our own. Hank has been my best ranch hand for five years. I know I am going to have to get and start another dog to take over in the next few years. With starting a new dog, you do not know if the dog will be able to read the sheep and perform as well as the dog you have. Each dog has their own instincts and strengths in herding. I have plans to have a son or daughter of Hank for when the time comes I have to “retire” Hank. Although a border collies herding dog never thinks they retire, they always want to work, to herd the livestock.

I am thankful I have Hank.


Penny with a goat, my herding dog before Hank.

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