This is a little different than my normal post, however, when working with a group of amazing people in the animal ‘rescue’ business, I had been studying and learning about the breed of dog they rescue, the ‘Australian Cattle Dog’. I have studied their history and how the perfect ‘herder’ breed was established. I have admired all of the beautiful dogs that fall into the ‘herding’ category and I’ve even recognized dogs that I have met over the years that I had no idea were considered ‘herders’.

Well, i suppose all of it has been on my mind as I have been studying and researching, which is what I like to do when I am involved in a project, but what I discovered about myself in relation to ‘herding’ was even more interesting and quite comical. Maybe you will find yourself here in the description also.

I was trying to motivate my child this past weekend and I started early in the day preparing him, then I realized I was herding him. I had to laugh at the thought of the similarities of the herding dog and a parent.

I woke my son up yesterday and kept after him to wake up as he had the apparent, “I stayed up way too late brain fog”, sitting closely by him until he stood up, speaking continuously, with little breaks in between, making sure his eyes were opened and off of the couch where he was sleeping, up the stairs and into the shower, so that we could make it to church on time.

Before I realized it, I had rounded him up and in a matter of minutes – determined minutes. Determined – and it worked and then I thought  – why hadn’t I started earlier? That is when I realized that is my style. I’m a herder – quickly – consistently – persistently – nipping at the heels the entire time. “Oh my stars”, I thought, “I’m a herder” and I laughed again. I put my hand to my head and realized I’m a herder by nature. I’m not sure whether that is good or not. I certainly hadn’t set out on becoming a parent much less a herder.

When I married, my plan was to raise cocker spaniels as children because they didn’t talk back. I have realized now, that I have become adept at herding. How that happened, I’m not sure – I guess between getting the kids ready for church to soccer and softball practices, to getting them out the door to meet the scheduled game times, not to mention, out the door to get them to the bus stop on time for school. I see now that has prepared me to become the ‘herder parent’ I am today. Wow! I’m a herder parent. I had to laugh all over again.

I decided to research just what a herder dog does so that I could clearly correlate parenting to herding and below are a few of the details that I found quite interesting:

Did you know that there is an essence in different styles among the herder breeds in how they work together? “Some dogs bark as it does it’s job, while another is largely silent?” Interesting, some quiet and some yappy. 🙂

I learned that “Two dogs can work quite differently but still be useful for the same basic task, while in other situations, one dog may have a way of going about things that is the best fit for the particular situation. What is important is that the dog do the work that is needed, in a calm, efficient way.” Think about it. One parent may be the one barking and one largely silent. Hmm mm, I find it interesting to note that in the years I was married to a very aggressive personality, who barked rather loudly I might add and constantly, that I used to be the quiet one. I guess that’s the necessary and apparent change of a single parent.

Then I learned about style. Yes – there is a style to herding. There is a way of gathering. The different styles are: “gathers the stock and brings it to the handler, pushes the stock away from the handler, barks, works silently, works close to the stock, works further from the stock, moves smoothly, moves brusquely or bouncily, crouches low to the ground, shows an upright stance, covers a balance point precisely or more loosely, etc.”

There are categories also. A herding dog does either “fetching”, “driving,” and “tending” (boundary work)”

It was also interesting to note that like new parents – Some training tasks come easier to some dogs than others, different situations or uses or training techniques can be suited better to one dog than another.” This can be the same for children I suppose, in that some are easy to train up in this world and others present quite a challenge.

Then it really became interesting when I learned there are two interesting styles that herding dogs are categorized with – the “classic” strong-eyed, crouching, wide-working …and the ‘Loose-eyed dogs” style.  Okay, I had to wonder if that meant something like the stare and glare approach or the calm and determined look parenting approach?

According to the article, there are two different approaches to the way the herding dog looks at the stock. The first style is the ‘strong-eyed’ approach.

“Strong eye” generally indicates a dog that uses an intent gaze as it works the stock, tending to approach in a low-to-the ground, stalking manner, often fixing attention on a small group or an individual, showing precision in reacting to the balance point of the group or an individual within the group. It is not merely intensity: although a strong-eyed dog will be intense, a loose-eyed dog can also be quite intense. Eye is, rather, a development of a self-checking tendency based on the stalking phase of the canine hunting pattern. The dog is sensitive to the flight “bubble” around the stock and will show a tendency in varying degrees to balance “vertically” (toward the stock) as well as “horizontally” (from side to side). This self-checking tendency helps the dog “read” the stock in situations where slight movements can be critical. There can, however, be too much of a good thing, “sticky eye” being used to describe the dog that has such a strong tendency to pause when approaching stock that it will freeze in place rather than continuing to move when needed.”

Okay does anyone notice similarities in parenting styles for the ‘strong-eyed’ approach?

  • Intent gaze
  • low-to-the ground stalking
  • precision
  • intense
  • self-checking tendencies
  • sensitive to the ‘flight’ bubble or risk
  • moving toward
  • rocking side to side

…..keeping an eyes out for slight movements..….. and of course the point that there could be ‘too much of a good thing…….and my favorite the ‘sticky eye‘.

Is that to be compared to the ‘stink-eye‘?

And then lastly, but certainly not any less important – the tendency to pause/freeze in place until the herd gets to moving? Does anyone notice any similarities?

Then there is the ‘loose-eyed’ version. “Loose-eyed dogs, on the other hand, generally work with an upright posture, often using their bodies in controlling the stock through movement, blocking, sometimes even bumping the animals, and usually showing an inclination to push right up to the stock with little apparent concern for the flight zone. herding sheep through gateThe dog takes in the whole picture, glancing around from time to time while nonetheless being aware of the position of the stock. The loose-eyed dog usually has a “looser” balance, balancing more on the group as a whole than on an individual, or moving freely past a balance point and then reversing to recover it; …….. can be used simply for pushing stock or “driving” instinct.

Again – here is what I took note of in the loose-eyed approach:

1.upright posture

2.controlling through movement


4,sometimes bumping

5,inclination to push

6.little concern for flight

7.taking in the whole picture

8.glancing around from time to time

9.moving freely past and then reversing to recover – the driving instinct

So – where do you see your parenting style as a herder? Or – are you a herder?

  1. Do you bark or are you largely silent? If you are married – who is the louder versus silent one of the two when it comes to rounding up the kids?
  2. Are you a ‘fetcher’, ‘driver’ or ‘tender’?
  3. And finally, do you use the ‘strong-eyed’ approach or the ‘loose-eyed’ approach?

For those of you that are herders – Happy herding!  🙂








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