Can Boxers Herd Sheep? Ewe Bet!

By Margie Clutter

As I was growing up in the Midwest decades ago, my best friend was our family’s Boxer, "Banzi." We lived on a farm and Banzi thrived watching over us kids and helping with chores. On January 14 and 15, 2012, I was delighted to reminisce about my childhood buddy as I watched Boxers competing for AKC herding titles for the first time at the San Pasqual Valley Herding Club’s Frostbite Trials in Escondido, CA!

For the past 5 years, Boxer fanciers from the USA, Canada and England have been collaborating to promote their dogs’ working abilities, including herding skills. Dedicated Boxer owners have trained their dogs and earned herding titles through other herding organizations, including AHBA and CKC, to demonstrate to the AKC the innate herding instinct that Boxers can possess. In 2008, the Boxer Club of San Fernando Valley sponsored the first Herding Instinct Test in the USA solely for Boxers drawing an entry of 15, and all but two passed the test. In 2010, one Boxer was shown non-competitively in a novice class at a USBCHA Border Collie trial in Vista, CA, surprising bemused Border Collie handlers with her calm, focused attention on the stock! The judge even deigned to give the Boxer a score after she and her handler successfully completed the course with all of the sheep neatly penned.

Effective January 1, 2012, AKC accepted Boxers for competition in AKC herding events. So how did the Boxers fare at the Frostbite Trials?

Dynamic N Shera’s Here Comes Trouble VST CA, "Darby," passed her Pre-Trial Tests on both Saturday and Sunday to earn the PT title, shown by her co-owner Diane Stephens from Valley Center, CA. Darby is a 4 year old bitch, bred and co-owned by Barbara Riggs and Diane Baldo. Darby is the only Boxer in the USA that is VST certified in tracking.

3 year old Bix-L’s Red Passion at Dynamic TD CA, "Teagan", went into the Saturday Herding Started A Course class on sheep with trainer/handler Terry Parrish, and qualified with a score of 77 for her first HSAs leg! Teagan’s breeder/owner is Beth Pariseau from Valley Center, CA.

6 year old Shera’s Great Expectations TDX AX AXJ, "Pip," bred by Barbara Riggs and owned/handled by Reegan Ray of Encinitas, CA, has the most herding titles of any Boxer through AHBA, and is working on her AHBA Herding Championship. Pip is sired by CH Glenroe’s Rob Roy of Telstar x CH Shera’s Fancy Dancer of Rosa. On Saturday Pip and Reegan came out of Judge Nyle Sealine’s Started A Course-sheep arena with a score of 85, taking 4th place in the class of 10 dogs. And on Sunday under Judge Larry Favreau, Pip and Reegan scored 93 of 100 possible points, tying for second place in the class. They ended up taking third place, having earned one point less on the cross drive, which also cost them Reserve High in Trial on A Course! Can you imagine a Boxer RHIT in an all-breed herding trial? It ALMOST happened with this talented pair!

Despite a back injury two days before the trial that was causing significant pain, Reegan gamely took Pip onto the B Course in the Started sheep class on both days as well. The B Course is a large, open field, not fully fenced and has additional challenges not found in the A Course arena, including a longer outrun unassisted by the handler and the free-standing pen. The dog and handler have to convince four sheep to walk calmly into a small pen and allow themselves to be trapped there. The B Course flock for this trial consisted of cross-bred lambs, not yet one year old. They were flighty; several of the Started dogs lost control of their sheep and had to retire from the field.

Pip was up to the challenge, handled her sheep expertly and was tied for 5th place in the class of 13 Started dogs on Saturday with a quite respectable score of 87. On Sunday, Pip qualified again for her second HSBs leg, scoring 85.

Reegan reports that Pip thrives on doing "chore work" with the sheep, and that she was in heaven working all day as the "pick up dog" for B Course at an AKC trial last summer. Pip was sent to remove the stock from the field when each competitor finished their run, put the sheep into smaller pens where they could rest and relax, and then drove the whole flock back up to the set-out trailer each time before the next class started.

Next on the agenda for herding Boxers will be an AKC All-Breed Herding Match sponsored by the Boxer Club of San Fernando Valley on March 25, 2012, at Action K9 Sports in Escondido, CA. Welcome, Boxers, to the herding fields!