Sheepdogs employ two basic rules in their work

Scientists confirmed what appears to be the case namely that sheep dogs employ two simple rules when controlling sheep. They want to aggregate sheep by bringing them together when they are dispersed and then they drive them forward.

In order to achieve the first objective, “If you watch sheepdogs rounding up sheep, the dog weaves back and forth behind the flock in exactly the way that we see in the model,” says Dr. Andrew King of Swansea University who build a computer model based upon their research using GPS technology.

Sheepdog pushes back a ewe and her lambs
Sheepdog pushes back a ewe and her lambs. Screenshot.

He says that a sheepdog “sees white, fluffy things in front of it. If the dog sees gaps between the sheep, or the gaps are getting bigger, the dog needs to bring them together.”

Sheepdogs decide whether the herd is “cohesive enough or not. If not cohesive, it will make it cohesive, if it’s already cohesive the dog will push the herd towards the target, says Strömbom, a co-author of the research.

They believe that there are numerous applications to their research such as human crowd control.

In the TikTok video on this page we see a sheepdog forcing a mother sheep towards its target which I presume is back to the herd. You can see the dog focusing on the adult while ignoring the lambs. And it’s a bit of a power struggle.

The dog cannot attack an adult sheep but the sheep can attack the dog. The natural order of things is that the dog being a predator dominates the sheep but sometimes you see individual sheep retaliating. In this video you see this battle of wills with the dog succeeding.

It seems to me that there is a natural order of things in the world in terms of a predator dominating a non-predator. This obviously gives the dog the advantage. Perhaps sheep see a sheepdog as a wolf. Perhaps that is inherited in their DNA.

You would almost expect that the mother sheep (ewe) in this video would feel inclined to attack the dog in order to protect her lambs. However, the first instinct is to flee in the face of a predator. It seems that the mother in the video is pulled in different directions: to flee or to stand and fight protect her lambs. That’s the impression I get. Ewes do, sometimes, try to protect their lambs.

Sheep tend to flee and scatter at a sign of an attack that might lead to death. However, a flock gathers close together as predators are less likely to attack a group. Rams and dominant ewes sometimes charge, head-butt and trample on predators. Sometimes, rarely, domesticated sheep stand up to a predator. Rams are intact male sheep and they are often more aggressive, stronger and larger than the other sheep.

There are some more articles on working dogs below.

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