Dublin farmer’s dog takes to herding like to a duck to water

A duck-herding dog that hangs out on a farm that’s close to The Square in Tallaght.

It might sound completely quackers.

However, Donie Anderson’s eight-and-a-half-year-old Border Collie, Jess, will prove her mettle at the Flavours of Fingal Country Show in Donabate, Dublin on June 24 and 25.

Jess knows all too well that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. And it’s going to do exactly what she tells it.

When Anderson’s ducks need to be herded to a shed at night to avoid foxes, Jess can always be relied on to be on the job. She also herds geese to a locked pen at night.

I’m lucky to have her. She goes everywhere with me.

Anderson farms about 60 Wicklow Cheviots and Lleyn ewes on the Dublin mountains in the Glenasmole Valley near Bohernabreena. He does some work with Agri Aware at Dublin Zoo, as well as sheepdog training – having bred Jessie and her mother.

“We have had her breed in the family for 60 years,” he said.

“She works ducks, hens and sheep,” said Anderson who is actively involved with Wicklow Uplands Council and Bohernabreena Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

“She is very gentle with lambs and works sheep very well on commonage grazing.

“It makes an awful difference when you know the dog’s temperament. Jessie is very sensitive and intelligent. She has never been on a lead. I only need to tell her to do something once,” Anderson said.

Farmers often ask Anderson, who has a number of other dogs, for advice on how to find the right sheepdog.

It’s not like buying a tractor – it’s not going to do the same thing everyday. Different dogs have different temperaments.

Dogs can also take different lengths of time to train, Anderson said.

“Some people think you can buy a dog one day and have it working by the next but that doesn’t usually apply. Other people would rather buy a dog that is already trained.

“Everybody is different and every dog is different,” said Anderson, a former Tallaght Person of the Year, who has done farm-themed awareness work with a local school.

Dogs need to be trained before the age of three, but it’s not always the earlier-trained dogs that are the best, he said.

“Once the dog is over three, it will usually have picked up bad habits,” said Anderson who runs sheepdog trials in Bohernabreena every year.

Training is an ongoing process, he said. “There’s no day but you are learning and it’s the same for dogs,” he said.

A Welsh farmer with a similarly diverse dog made the news for bringing his duck-herding canine to festivals, corporate firms and even weddings. So would Anderson consider further broadening Jessie’s brief?

“I’m open to offers,” he laughed.