Who let the dogs out?

photo Charles MacKinnon

This is where I humbly confess that I have been ‘sheep dogging’ for longer than I care to admit.  Not that I did it consciously mind you, I would have been surprised and likely offended if anyone suggested I attempted to “force or nudge someone off their intended path”.

I stand here, hand raised, yes I am guilty.

This revelation came to me at a retreat I attended recently where one of the facilitators Dan Hines described part of his upbringing. His childhood included time spent on his grandfather’s sheep ranch observing sheep dogs doing their job by forcing and nudging reluctant sheep  to their intended destination. Dan then described the perfect metaphor of how as humans we also tend to want to ‘sheep dog’ others in the direction that we see as right for them.

We are all probably guilty of ‘sheep dogging’ on some level or another, especially if we have raised children. Young children are easy to ‘nudge’ without them being aware of what is being done.  Teenagers will see you crouched to the ground in herding position, call you on it, bolt off and break away before you have a chance to rise to your feet.

I am very aware of my need to be ‘right’ and the great difficulty I have in changing even the smallest imperfections in myself.  Why would I want to take on the impossible job of trying to convince someone else to change direction?

This Hindu proverb states it perfectly:

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everybody that his or her path is wrong.

And so, it is with great relief I will attempt to give up ‘sheep dogging’ completely, both in written and spoken word.



There, done, everyone on their own………:)

17 thoughts on “Who let the dogs out?

    1. It is easier to catch yourself doing it with children, sometimes with friends it comes clothed in ‘helpful advice’
      but now that I have a name for it I can catch myself before I lower to herding position.:)


    1. Yes, since hearing this wonderful metaphor not only do I know when I am “being sheepdogged’, I can catch myself doing it. Hard to stop a lifetime habit though, will do my best, you need to identify a problem before you can fix it.:)


  1. Like Patti, this resonated with me. While a more aggressive form of “sheep dogging”, I try to steer clear of giving “advice” (my mother warned me early on it’s not wise to “give advice”), but have to admit to the occasional “suggestion” lol. Enlightening piece.
    Great pictures 🙂


  2. I just re-read this one and it really hit home as I spent the entire Christmas period trying to corral people into one place while at the same time wanting one on one time the most. “Sheep dogging” as a term makes so much sense to me. Naming something helps makes sense of it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s