Do City Dogs Dream Of Chasing Country Sheep? Many people spend summertime in the great outdoors, enjoying simpler living. Reporter Fred Mogul took his city dog to a farm in Pennsylvania to see if she might enjoy exploring her shepherding roots.
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Do City Dogs Dream Of Chasing Country Sheep?

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Do City Dogs Dream Of Chasing Country Sheep?

Do City Dogs Dream Of Chasing Country Sheep?

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When people tell you about their dogs, you may hear about the traits of the particular breed, you know - loyal, protective, maybe known for being good hunters. Well, Fred Mogul of member station WNYC has always wondered if what he's heard about his dog is true. For years, he's wanted to conduct an experiment to find out, and this summer, he finally did.

FRED MOGUL, BYLINE: Looks like this is the place. Take a look, Lily. What do you think? Lily and I have driven two hours west of Brooklyn to get here.

CAROLYN WILKI: You're at Raspberry Ridge Sheep Farm. We're in beautiful Bangor, Pa.

MOGUL: That's Carolyn Wilki.

WILKI: I am the resident chief shepherd and chief dog trainer. We have 67 acres, 100 sheep, 100 ducks, 1 camel, 13 dogs and two cats.

MOGUL: And, for a little while today, there is one more dog - Lily, my family's faithful mutt. I'm here at Raspberry Ridge to give Lily a herding instinct test. I got her years ago at a place called Herding Dog Rescue, and I've always wondered if she really has herding dog in her. Wilki is going to help me figure that out.

WILKI: I'm looking for sustained interest. I'm looking to see if the dog barks.

MOGUL: Dog and sheep start out kind of as enemies. The dogs are the wolves, the predators, and the sheep are the prey.

WILKI: We don't want the dog to have lamb sushi or take down a sheep, but what we want them to do is take their predatory actions and control the livestock.

MOGUL: All right, enough talk. Let's see what Lily can do.

WILKI: So what I want you to do is start walking around on the outside of the pen, and when I yell good, you yell good also.

MOGUL: This is to praise Lily just for looking at the sheep. She's eyeballing and sniffing the sheep through the fence. Good.

WILKI: Oh, this is good though. This is good.

MOGUL: They start moving to the other side of the pen. Lily follows.

WILKI: See how she's going back and forth like that? She's doing a little bit of what we call wearing, which is a pendulum-like motion where they go from one side of the sheep to the other.

MOGUL: So far so good. Now it's time for the main test. We open the gate and enter the pen.

WILKI: We're going to get her in here with a 20-foot line.

MOGUL: Which Wilki warns me I'll need to tap dance around as it whips across the ground.

WILKI: It's there just so we can catch her if things get too crazy, that's all.

MOGUL: Wilki tells Lily and me to walk together toward the sheep.

WILKI: A mental image - you're two wolves going out for lunch. That's your lunch, so start chasing after them. Go to your left. Go to your left. Go to your left. Go running after the sheep.

MOGUL: OK. I'm trying, but I'm not moving that fast. I've got sound equipment and a camera, and I'm dodging that 20-foot rope that's zipping back and forth in the grass. At least Lily's on top of things.

WILKI: She's putting them together. She got two together. Where's the other one? Yeah, go get him. Yes, good. All right. She's keeping them together.

MOGUL: Lily's having the time of her life.

WILKI: That's it. You did it.

MOGUL: At some point, though, Lily starts to hit overload. She sits on her haunches, looks around and tries to figure out what just happened. We gather outside the pen. While Lily drinks from a water bucket, Wilki writes up a report card.

So if we were scoring her, what do you think?

WILKI: It's always guys that ask that question, and honestly - this is a pass-fail. She's showing, clearly, much more than 50 percent of what she needs to do at this stage to do a herding.

MOGUL: In other words, Lily's like a promising minor-league prospect. So now what?

WILKI: The dog will tell you, with further training, whether it really likes it and wants to do this or not. But right now, she's saying all systems go; let's do it.

MOGUL: Well now that we figured something out about Lily's nature and her DNA, we've just got to figure out the nurture part and whether there's going to be any more herding in Lily's future - tough to say. I mean, how are you going to keep them down in the big city once they've been to the sheep farm? For NPR News, I'm Fred Mogul.

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