Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Smartest Sheep in Grainger County*

*This claim is based on 1) the scarcity of sheep in Grainger County and 2) the assumption that most people have better things to do with their time than clicker train sheep.

Here's little Maa-Maat, my 6 month old Tunis lamb, showing off her tricks.

As you can see, there are no cuts in the video. This was done to show how much she enjoys performing. As a matter of fact, she usually has a little temper fit when it's time to stop.

The most complicated thing she does is the Bang the Drum trick. For this, she has to hit the feed pan with first one foot then the other. Just banging away at it with one foot doesn't work.

As for the Bow Down trick, she can also expand it to crawling along on her knees. This, however, has pretty much been eliminated from her repitroire as it just looks too creepy.

If anyone has any suggestions for additional tricks, I'd really like to hear them. My husband is after me to try to teach her to roll over, but being as she's 1) overweight and 2) a sheep, I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. Neither is she very well suited to retrieving items as she pretty much tries to eat anything she can fit into her mouth.


  1. Well, you could teach her to weave poles and do the see-saw like the sheep on this video:

    You could also teach her to lay down, and to stand on her hind legs. My sheep do it for leaves; why not for the click and treats?

  2. What a clever girl! :) I really need to get out my clicker and work with the sheep and donkey....the problem is finding a quiet place where no other animal is present (who also want the attention and/or treat). You're my inspiration!

  3. That is wonderful, Pamela!!!
    The only trick my Daisy knows is how to unlock the gate and let herself out! (Which she knows she's not supposed to do!! LOL)

  4. OMG....never would have thought!! Pretty neat:) Okay I could not help but notice the in the world do you keep it that clean??!!!

  5. I loved that. When it was on my computer, my dogs, who are clicker trained, ran over and started nudging me.
    I think you should do spin.Where she spins around and teach her to touch a post-it note on the wall with her nose. Both popular tricks with my pups.

  6. Oh, my, I'm 'laf'n n laf'n' - Such a smart girl - and very pretty too... and a very easy way to get some treats- who did you say was trained??? :-) T.

  7. my word - performing sheep! if i wasnt a follower of your blog i never never ever would have thought this was an option. so you see what a difference you make? I shall look at sheep differently.
    thanks for the smiles :-)
    ps any more eggs?

  8. O.K. Someone needs to call the Letterman show or Animal Planet about this ! I think you've done a fantastic job, and Maa-Maat too .

  9. That's great! What do you use for treats? Clearly, I am not feeding my sheep the right stuff!

  10. Fantastic video, great job. I bet you could add counting to her list of tricks easily.

    Makes me want to start working with my Tunis wether, Rufus. He is a sweetie since he was bottle fed.

    Aren't the Tunis beautiful? I can't wait until our fall lambs start coming. Nothing cuter than those Irish Setter red babies bouncing around.

  11. Walk atop a line of hay bales like a "tight rope"?

    Ring a bell by pushing it with her nose?

    Any dog agility stuff (go through tunnel), walk across a board, etc?

    Baaa on command?

    Next thing we know, you'll be taking her on Pet Star!

  12. How cute! The first thing I noticed is you haven't docked her, are you going to? She has a nice fat tail :)
    She is a cutie :)

  13. OH WOW!!!
    I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I am!
    What a brilliant little sheep she is. Totally an in-your-pocket kind of girl.

    How long did it take her to learn those tricks. And what treats do you give her after clicking?

    Ya know what?
    I'll do any of those tricks for you, if you give me brownies. :)


  14. Michelle, the video of Clarinha (the Portuguese trained sheep) was my inspiration for starting with Maa-Maat. I'm going to give the lie down a try. Hoping I can see if she can go up on her hind legs although she's a bit chubby.

    Wrensong, So glad you enjoyed it! Really fun teaching Maa-Maat and working with her. I've seen quite a few examples of donkeys and can't wait until you start your sheep. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

    Paula, get yourself a clicker and have a go with Daisy. It's really not difficult at all!

    Kristi, thank you so much for the compliment on the barn. Now if you can explain to me why I manage to clean the barn aisle every morning yet can't seem to get the kitchen mopped. Pathetic, huh?

    Goatgirl, I had not thought of spinning around at all. That's a great idea. Thanks!

    Tina, that's the beauty of clicker training. The animal pretty much figures it's got an automatic treat dispenser.

    Val, thank you so much! And yes, I'm still getting an egg or two a day and each one of them is almost as exciting as that first one. It's like Christmas morning every day.

    Kathyb: Thank you! Maa-Maat is really easy to work with because she loves the treats so much.

    Debbi, I hadn't thought of counting. That's another I'm adding to the list. I really think you should give Rufus a go--wethers are so much easier to mess with than ewes (especially spoiled ewes like Maa-Maat). And I really love the copper faces on the Tunis--just lovely!

    Orange: Ring a bell! GREAT! I've got a bell so that's definitely on the list. I have been after my husband to build me some agility stuff, and he says he'll get to it (right after all the other stuff on the list gets done LOL)

    Sittin.n.Spinnin: I'm not going to dock her. When she was born, I considered it, but never could make up my mind--one of those situations where you make a decision by not making a decision. I like her tail long, and since I handle her so much, flies haven't been a problem.

    Lisa: It didn't take her long at all to learn the first trick where she gets up on the straw bale. The next one (jumping through the hoop) took about a week. That's not unusual as she was really having to learn two things. She had to learn to go through the hoop, and (even tougher) that's there's more than one trick in the world. The little southdown, Happy Jack, has gotten stuck on the first trick--he just can't seem to understand that there's more to life than getting on the straw bale.

    For treats, I use a bit of lamb feed with just a tiny bit of horse sweet feed mixed in to give it a sweet taste. I know the horse feed isn't good for her, but even if we work a long time, she's barely getting an eighth of a cup. For each trick, she gets a few lamb feed pellets is all. She's so food oriented that's all it takes.

    Again, thanks so much for the compliments. I'm really proud of her.

    Oh, she went to the vet yesterday and instead of going into the "livestock" area, the vet had me bring her into a regular exam room. She was really well behaved, standing beside me and not crying while we waited at the desk. It was a hoot to watch people's expressions as they realized that the white animal on the end of the leash wasn't a dog.

    Can't wait to try some of the new trick suggestions! Thanks so much!

  15. What a smart girl Maa-Maat is!

    Hmm..I wonder if Annie the goat can be clicker trained not to put her head throught the fence everyday?
    Have a great weekend.

  16. I love it! I so enjoyed your video! I smiled through the whole thing. What a smart girl! (Ma-maat, not you.) (But wait -you're smart, too)....oh dear..what have I gotten myself into... :-) :-)

  17. That is the coolest thing! I can't believe you can clicker train a sheep. My son can't wait to try it.

  18. Update! Tried "I Need Orange's" suggestion about ringing a bell. Have a cow bell that I hung on some baling twine. In about 5 minutes, she had the idea and would trot over and bang it with her nose to make it ring.

    Going to try the spinning in a couple of days (I like to let a new trick age for a bit before going to another one.)

    LOL Farmgirl_dk! I really have to give the credit to Maa-Maat. None of the others are interested--well, Happy Jack likes to do his one "jump on the straw bale" trick and that's as far as he will go. I really think she's special in that she seems to love learning new tricks.

    Nancy, thank you! As I said, Maa-Maat is the one that gets the credit. She's so eager to learn.

    Christy, I'm so glad your son is going to try! Tell him just do the regular clicker routine. It does help if you pick a lamb that is very Maa-Maat's case, she's a little pig about treats.

  19. This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. I can't wait to check out the rest of your site to see what other good stuff you've been up to.

  20. I still can't get over the fact that you can clicker train a sheep. Completely fascinating. I loved the video. Very sweet sheep.

  21. Hey, Pamela!!! Me again... I just saw your comment over at my blog, and we live in Andersonville, near Norris Dam. (about an hour from you.)
    If you go back on my blog and see my post from September 19th, "This Girl is a Woman now"- those tractor pictures at the bottom were taken at Ritter Farms... I KNOW you know where that is!!

  22. Are you sure that's not a dog in sheep's clothing? What a fabulous job you're doing with her! Can't wait to see the next video with all the new tricks she's learned.

  23. Oh, that made me smile! It's incredible - so surprising what you can do with a sheep if you try. Most people don't think of them as intelligent, but clearly they're not so daft.

    And you taught her the bell trick too!

    I'm sending the link for this to a friend of mine who has two pet sheep. :)

  24. Missing your excellent photos! Hope you have time/energy to blog before too long....

  25. What an adorable video of Maa-Maat! You made my day!

  26. How is Maa-maat doing now ? How is your husband doing with your horses ? Has Letterman or Animal Planet contacted you yet for video of your incredibly smart sheep ? Hope you are all well!

  27. Good Morning Pamela, I enjoyed your video. What a smart girl you have. Hope you have a Blessed Thanksgiving! Nancy

  28. Pam, you never seem to stop amazing me! It is unbelievable! But then you are always good at everything you do.