Source: Nature: "Dogs That Changed the World"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
In this Nature video, Joe Ralf uses his Border collie herding dogs in the Lake District of the United Kingdom to herd his flock of sheep. The dogs can follow the shepherd’s command to herd in sheep from over a half mile away. Because they spend so much time together, shepherds and dogs form a close social bond. Part of the herding dogs’ skill is innate (under genetic control or instinctive) and part is learned behavior (what you teach the dog to do). People have used herding dogs for over 9,000 years.
Culture, animal science, world history, anthropology
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for elementary or middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) Discuss different types of dogs and various jobs dogs do in the world. What do you know about herding dogs, sled dogs and hunting dogs?
Focus (ELA) Synthesize (put together in a meaningful way) what you already know about other types of working dogs with what you learn about herding dogs in this video.
Follow Up (ELA) Discuss the various jobs dogs do for humans. Synthesize what you know and have learned about dogs to discuss the influence dogs have in the world. Discuss how synthesizing information and discussing ideas with others can help a writer or learner broaden his or her understanding of a topic.
Frame (SS) How do animals and humans work together?
Focus (SS) Think about how herding dogs may have influenced the agricultural history of humans.
Follow Up (SS) Discuss how working dogs, such as herding dogs, may have influenced the agricultural history of humans, such as what they eat, where they settled and other factors.
NARRATOR: Joe Ralf has lived and farmed in the Cambrian fells all of his life. He tends to 2 thousand sheep across 2 thousand acres of some of Britain’s toughest farming terrain. Neither man nor machine can move sheep down from these steep rugged hills. Farming here would be impossible without his dogs. Liz, Eve and Fly.
NARRATOR: His sheep dog, this one is Liz, must interpret Joe’s commands carefully. From the hundreds of sheep around she must pinpoint exactly which ones to move.
NARRATOR: The dogs can follow Joe’s commands from as far away as half a mile.
NARRATOR: If a straggler gets left behind, there’s even a command for look back, you’ve missed one. The trust between shepherd and dog must be strong because the work is potentially hazardous.
JOE RELPH: If you get a sheep that moving on the edge of a 200-foot drop, they have got to be able to use their own brain as well to deal with that situation. When you are gathering on the fells, I mean its 90 percent dog and 10 percent us, I would say. I care deeply about them you know, they are a great friend, I mean we spend hours, a lot days you maybe spend most of the day with them and you know, once they are retired I would never part with them, we always keep them till they die, you know because they are part of the family.
NARRATOR: Joe’s dogs are Border Collies, bred originally on the Scottish borders, and refined over the centuries by selective breeding to move sheep with the control of a chess grand master. Humans succeeded in doing this by harnessing killer instincts dogs inherited from the wolf.
NARRATOR: Wolves use a specific sequence of behavior when they see a meal. First they eye the prey….
NARRATOR: …then they stalk it.
NARRATOR: When the moment is right, they chase, then they bite to kill.
NARRATOR: Sheep dog handlers train their dogs to hold back from that final bite instinct.
RAYMOND COPPINGER: One of the most beautiful phenomenon in the dog world is a trained Border Collie, because what happens is the dog has as sequence, I start chase, you can’t teach them that, you cannot teach any of those behaviors, they are written in the brain. When you watch him in, he comes in this classic eye stalk position and the sheep recognize that as a hunting behavior, and if an animal sees that they think oh oh, I’m going to end up as mutton at the end of this one.
NARRATOR: The sheep respond to the threat by grouping together, making it easier for the dogs to control them.
RAYMOND COPPINGER: The fascinating thing about a Border Collie is that they’re a nice balance between what we’d call innate behaviors, things set under genetic control, and very precisely under genetic control, and learned behavior, so people, when you buy a Border Collie you buy that genetic set of behaviors and then you train it the way you want to do it. It’s just unbelievable what you could do with that dog.
NARRATOR: People have been using dogs for herding for as long as 9 thousand years. Today they are still used for herding sheep and goats, and even reindeer in different countries. A dog is so vital to controlling these animals, we may wonder how people would have ever domesticated wild beasts without them?
JAMES SERPELL: It’s quite a big leap from hunting wild sheep and goats say, to herding them. And you have to ask what made people to decide that herding was an economically feasible thing to do. To me, watching the shepherd here getting his sheep off this very rough ground, it’s like saying, well, how on earth could he, how could he do this without those dogs. And the sort of ancestral terrain for sheep and goats is this kind of terrain, so my argument would be people would never have embarked on that expedition, if you like, to domestic sheep and goats, if they didn’t have the help of dogs. I think it was having the dog that precipitated that domestication, maybe it would never have happened, maybe we would be still hunters and gathers if it wasn’t for dogs.
NARRATOR: Every day across the world, from the plains of Argentina to the icy mountains of New Zealand, hundreds of thousands of herding dogs set out to fearlessly perform tasks that we could not achieve by ourselves.
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