HEADER vs. HEELER STYLE

So often times (via herding training processing) it's about "heeling". But I very well know what a header is and it's so totally different than a heeler! And not all ES are natural born heelers! There are several (headers) within our ES today......just have to be able to recognize 'em.

The English Shepherd was always known/advertised as being a "Natural Heeler", that is they would work/move livestock from the back end, either with (or without depending upon the need) gripping or biting of the hock area. As in today's English Shepherds there are still the "natural heelers" but also "header type". I can tell the difference between the two "types" because I own both types. : )

As these two photos show, Copper is the natural "heeler" and Sasha is the natural "header". This joint working method did not automatically happen for it took a few "practices" in order for them to figure out how they could work in harmony together. As I'd call the sheep through our routine chores, the dogs knew what I was asking so Copper started gathering them . Although when he got them so calmly and neatly gathered together, Sasha came along, circled them, blocking them from moving, messing up Copper's "plan". I said nothing other than called the sheep again. Copper started all over again, gathering and neatly getting them together in a very calm mode and again Sasha came along and did "her" thing. Copper became very frustrated and he just looked at me with a look I'll never forget........ "MOM!! She's ruining it for me!! Make her stop!! " : ) I couldn't help myself.... I burst out laughing and called both dogs away, that was enough "training" for the day. : ) A few days later I did the same thing with the same results and I again quit in the same fashion although never scolding either one for they were doing what came natural for them both, just each had a different "style". Knowing they had to figure out how to communicate with each other to get a job done I allowed them the time by "practicing" at chore time. Never did get to the point during these "practice" sessions where they worked out a good working relationship. Then one night I came home late from work, it was dark and I stood at the barn calling the sheep. I couldn't see where they were and I certainly was too darned tired to go looking for them so I just sighed. Naturally in a tiredly tone of voice I said, "Copper, Sasha.......go get 'em" and off they flew. As I couldn't see anything, all I could do was listen, and the next thing I heard was the sheep hitting the far gate so I knew the dogs had reached them, startled them but no other noise (no barking, growling or bleating to give me signs of aggressive, over the top "working" antics : ). So I stood back and waited. It was just as these photos show......Sasha in the lead and Copper pushing from behind. They had figured out how to work together and brought my sheep through two pens before they arrived at my feet! I was so happy!! In a dire straits moment, they figured it out and to this day continue to work in unison. As a "header", Sasha felt she was performing her duties because she can see (looking over her shoulder) the sheep following like they're supppose to do and Copper is pushing, keeping them moving along. : )

Throughout my working with Sasha I've come to know she does not only want to go to the head to "steer" the animal but also seem to view the entire situation differently than a heeler. She will gather, hold and move by circling the entire group as if she's lassoed them. Then she moves them by a continual circling, covering ground as she pushes them from the rear all the while she's pulling them from the front. It's quite a working mode although it's "her" way and it works accordingly.

Sasha's "header" style does not work well to put stock back because she will wind up blocking the entrance to where you want to put them........sigh. However, she will circle, keep escapees in one place until I either get home to put them back in or open a gate to put them in. She is very beneficial when working individual animals for she will help "hold" by planting her face in the stock's face, air snapping if needed, while I get a grip on them, for instane to worm them. I've yet to see my "heelers" do this although maybe others have. ? ?

The bottom photo does not show Copper "pushing" the lambs along but he's still there.