Monday, November 24, 2008

The Corgi and the Smithie

I thought I'd write a little note about what a day in the life is like when you live with a herding dog. Or, in this case for the next couple weeks, two herding dogs.

First, you cannot be deceived by how cute they are. Although Mattie weighs in at just 33lbs and Annabelle is probably around 18-20lbs, these little buggers can get fierce.

Herding dogs love to play and romp and, well, herd. Technically, they should get in trouble for herding other dogs at the dog park and such because 1) it's not appropriate for them to do that and 2) it's just bad form to use those drives, instinct and skill, which took hundreds of years to perfect, on such "trivial" stock as Golden Retrievers and Jack Russell Terriers.

But, when in my home, a serious herding dog play romp is strongly encouraged. When Kuro the Border Collie stayed with us for 3 months (he was 6-9 months old when we had him so he was REAL fun and crazy) I took video of a typical evening -- Now with Annabelle, it's more of the same craziness, perhaps a bit toned down though.

Annabelle is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and is about 2-3 years old, about the same age as my Mattie. The Corgi was bred to herd cattle. The reason they have no legs is to keep injuries, while herding cows, to a minimum. Basically, the Corgi will bite the cows lower leg to move it (cows are totally stubborn and strong willed), then the cow will kick because it's pissed that it just got bit, and the Corgi will miss getting kicked in the head because she is so low to the ground. I guess you can say Annabelle has it in her to play a little dirty by aiming low and running away.

Mattie is a Smithfield Sheepdog. She is a drovers dog, meaning her job is to drive (herd and push) sheep and cattle from the farm into the town where the sheep/cattle would be sold at market (in this case, the Smithfield Market) and then of course, sent to the butcher shops to be turned into delicious beef pastries and haggus. Her claim to fame is to basically do this "driving" for many miles across the cold and blustery English countryside without a lot of interaction with a handler/human and then to essentially "protect" the sheep/cattle or whatever it was she was charged with that day. Mattie has long legs, unlike Annabelle, and therefore she has to be able to turn on a dime to evade kicks and other defensive measures from cows and sheep - moving fast and biting hard is what she does best. Visit my website at for more info on the Smithfield Sheepdog.

Unlike Mattie and Kuro playing (female and male dogs), Mattie and AB are both female. Coupled with the fact they are herding dogs, I have to say the word "MANAGEMENT" is a part of my routine now. It is the norm in Dogdom that female herding dogs have a difficult time accepting other female herding dogs. So far, M and AB are getting along quite swimmingly. However, I am ALWAYS near when they play as their "play" can turn into a nasty little scrap and I don't want blood to be shed.

The following photos visually describe my typical evening with the three pooches (and the cats of course)...

Something is up because GiGi has that "WTF?" look. This is a clear signal that the dogs have started to get restless...

I walked in to find Mattie totally taking Lucky out. Yes, I actually do think she is holding him down with her left front paw.
Lucky was actually pretty ticked about getting such a smack down. I had to break that one up and rescue Lucky by putting him on the other side of the baby gate.
I feel as though Mattie decided she was going to guard her flock of magazines that fell off of the couch. Note the "play bow" position and AB's and Lucky's hesitation about moving in on the magazines.

Let the games begin. Note Mattie's beautiful coat (she got a bath last night). She is whipping around to ensure AB doesn't go in for an ankle attack... You can also tell AB is getting ready to unleash her inner-Corginess

Game On! Annabelle is going all out here - flared nostrils, forward posture and check out those teeth! Mattie's getting into position though by getting low to ward off the attack.

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