How Single Dogs Can Herd Giant Groups of Sheep
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How Single Dogs Can Herd Giant Groups of Sheep

October 22, 2019

Would it surprise you to know that a
sheepdog is better at math than you are? That’s how they’re doing this:
algorithmic math. Herding requires the type of thinking that’s
often used in engineering. Sheepdogs are uniquely great herders
because they naturally think algorithmically. Sheepdogs know that sheep behave
according to the “Selfish Herd Principle,” which means when there’s a perceived threat, an individual seeks cover by
pushing deep into the herd. This acts as a centripital force pulling
the rest of the herd inward on itself. A collie can analyze the state of a herd, like its mood the and proximity
of the sheep to each other, then quickly decide on an action
from a limited choice of barking, eye contact and circling the animals. If you’re not ready to get a sheepdog
to take your engineering exam for you yet, check this out: the algorithmic strategies
that sheepdogs use are so effective, that they’re being considered for
use as human crowd control. Dogs’ herding skills originally came from
their ancestral predatory behavior. Through training and selective breeding, humans have modified dogs to
retain their hunting skills, but eliminate their killing behavior. Some breeds, like the Australian cattle dog, are called “Heelers,” because they herd
by nipping at animals’ heels. Other breeds, like the border collie,
are called “Headers,” because they run in front of the animals
and stare them down. People and dogs coevolved, and have
a long history of working together. Humans work with sheepdogs
to herd by using voice commands, hand signals, or a combination of both. Here are some common commands that
you can yell to a sheepdog, to try herding your own children. “Find!” means locate the herd and keep
them in place until the shepherd arrives. “Cast!” means gather the
animals into a cohesive group. “Back!” means give the animals some room
so they don’t get overly stressed, and “That’ll do!” means stop working
and return to the shepherd. “Your mom is gonne kill us!”
means everybody hide. Popular sheepherding breeds include
collies, corgis and, of course, sheepdogs. Most herding dogs are now just pets
who’ve never even seen a sheep, but their herding instinct remains strong. Where no sheep exist to keep them busy, your pet herding dog will round up your
kids into corners or tight circles. Wait, don’t speed to a pet store yet. Herding dogs need pet owners
who are skilled at training, and who give them work
that rewards their instincts, or they wont be happy,
healthy or good family pets. The American Kennel Club currently recognizes
25 breeds for being excellent herders. These dogs vary in size and appearance, from the Australian cattle dog,
to the Swedish vallhund, but they share the ability to herd
creatures much larger than themselves. The most popular is the border collie,
which is known for its intelligence, and eagerness to please its handlers. Using advanced math principles,
and herding you into a corner, that’s what shepherd dogs do, and that’s what makes them
Crazy Creatures!

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