Welcome to The Real Time Canine

My name is Amelia Smith of BorderSmith Kennel and with The Real Time Canine, I am providing training technique for Border Collie Sheepdogs. Beginning with 10 week old Kensmuir Star, I will document his daily lessons in words and pictures every Sunday. Previously subscription based, the complete working journal is now available here every Sunday.

From the moment I collected Star, his training began and you will be with us every step of the way. Good manners, willingness & confidence are necessary for him to attain my goal to become a useful working sheepdog and successful trial competitor. From the first lessons on manners & socialization to his first exposure to sheep, you will be a part of Star's journey to success.

After a lifetime with animals, dogs, horses and livestock, I am happy to share my expertise with you. I have found success in sheepdog trials at home and abroad and have trained dogs that went on to find success with others. To learn more about me and my dogs, please visit my BorderSmith website and my BorderSmith Blog! Cheers and thank you very much.

Dec 28, 2010

Handsome Devil

Pretty is...
Tuning up today for Snowbirds on the Border Sheepdog Trial. Pretty is as pretty does, and Star man was very handsome today.

Dec 25, 2010

Week 105

In the beginning

Some minor medical issues have kept me away from training this week. I am well now, and completely on the mend. Since I have nothing new to report, I thought I would take a look back at how far we have come. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the past:


When a dog puts his feet on you, it's a sign of disrespect and of it's dominance towards you. I believe they can differentiate between play time and otherwise, but usually, when aged dogs put their feet on one another there's going to be a fight over dominance. In order to raise a well mannered puppy, you cannot allow it to be disrespectful and this starts from it's earliest contact with you. It's much, much easier and less stressful for everybody if you teach respect from puppyhood than it is to re-train a 40 pound dog that's jumping all over you as well as everyone and everything else.

Star has known no other way since I've had him. At 10 weeks, he has already learned the lesson and rarely puts his feet on me. He has learned that if he wants me to open the kennel gate, to be fed or petted, he has to have all 4 feet on the ground . Consistency is absolutely crucial to accomplishing this and I do mean every single time. Here's what I do. When he jumped up on the kennel gate, I growled at him. "Aahh!" Then when he put his feet down, I opened the gate and let him out. In the beginning I would open that gate as soon as he got down, but overtime I required that he stay on the ground for longer periods before I opened it. It took no time for him to learn the lesson and now just a quiet "Aahh" gets him off that gate and keeps him there if he gets excited and forgets.

I know of one person who's dog was so unruly in his kennel that they had to put plexi-glass on the gate to keep him from hurting himself. I'd rather just teach mine to be well behaved. When the puppy put his feet on me, I simply and gently shoved him down with my hand and gave the same growl. The growl lets the puppy know that it's doing something wrong. Just pushing the puppy down isn't enough. It might be considered play. You have to push him down with the growl as a correction. The push doesn't have to be and shouldn't be harsh or scary. It should be gentle, but resolute and it absolutely must be consistent. Consistency is the key to the whole thing and this holds true for everyone that has contact with the puppy. If you don't allow him to jump on you, but others in your family do, you'll just be wasting your time and confusing your puppy. Be consistent!

Day 18os 5/10/2009

I introduced Star to whistles today. Usually I wait until a dog is solidly on voice commands to do this, but he took to it just as easily as he did voice commands. Going forward, I'll likely use both interchangeably. I like the idea of training voice and whistles at the same time and because of Star's sensitivity to my voice and mood, I think he might like whistles better.

Last Friday Star went to the vet and had a foxtail removed from his ear that he picked up in my 3 acre training field. Even though the sheep have grazed it, the plants just head out closer to the ground. To avoid the foxtails, I'll be working away from home on a grass field that's available to me, and that's where we were today.

Still preferring the away-to-me side, I set up a walk about so that he had to cover on the come-bye side to keep from losing his sheep. I still prefer to let him work this out on his own, rather than force the issue. I sent Star on bigger outruns today, maybe 100 yards, and he was pretty nice. He didn't cross, went out with fair enthusiasm and made a fetch with a bit too much pace, but not enough for me to correct him in any way or attempt to stop him. He was not rash and there was no chase or grip. I am teaching him that his first and foremost job is to bring me sheep, and I let him do that pretty much at will. It was hot today and Star got his first taste of working sheep in Southern California. He got hot and when he headed for the shade, I simply walked off with the sheep. When he came back to work on his own, I gave him a flank, downed him and called him off. After working the other dogs, I let him gather the sheep and load them in the trailer. Not only did he do that with enthusiasm, but tested his nerve twice by going in after them with a tentative nose bite just to be sure. Good boy.

Day 88os 12/6/2009

We worked again on getting him deeper at the top of his away-to-me outrun. The first time I sent him, he flattened out, which causes his tail to rise and his gate to become ragged when he comes to balance at an odd angle to the sheep. It is plain to see from his body when he is wrong. This time I stood by the sheep and backed up as he came near balance after speaking to him at the point of his outrun where he flattens.

I am still allowing him to turn in and come on to the lift with intention, but noticed that he defaults to a come-bye flank when I steady him with a whistle just after the lift. A quiet "here, here," brings him back on task, but I would like to avoid the default flank all together. We practiced a steady with an immediate "here, here," and after 1 or 2 tries eliminated the default flank on the steady whistle.

Back to the outruns. I sent him a few more times with me at the sheep correcting at his "flatten" spot, then tied him in the shade to soak. I was interested to see if he would internalize the lesson and improve. After a short break I sent him away-to-me from my feet and was gratified to see him carry all the way beyond his sheep to finish in a nice arc on balance. Hope the lesson holds tomorrow.

Day 124os 4/25/2010

Today, for the first time shedding, I was able to call him through away from the fence. He is not following my body, however, and has many times turned on to the wrong group. I have not, and will not correct him for anything as long as he keeps coming through the hole. To avoid it, each time he started through, I crossed my body in front of him, between him and the sheep, turning the shed into a fetch instead of letting him circle all the way around, and spoke to him, "here, here," to keep him on the right group.

It worked, but even when he was able to catch the sheep before they re-grouped and fetch them to me, he would stop and turn to the cast-offs. That hesitation caused him to lose the sheep he was supposed to holding, and I had to work at it to maintain my good attitude. He is absolutely determined to keep things together, and you gotta love that! I was not frustrated with him, but by the sheep's sour nature and their insufficient numbers. I kept thinking; "I've got to get more sheep."

Any negativity on my part, however, manifests in Star, so I have to be careful with my emotions while I work him. Today I did this by reminding myself how young he is, and how well he works for me in almost every regard. In other words, I used gratitude, and it alleviated my frustration.

Day 157os 7/25/2010

I stepped out into the most beautiful morning today. Cool enough for a light jacket which I wore almost the entire time we worked. I really opened things up today, and set up outruns that were every bit of 500 yards, maybe farther. Price and I drove sheep to the farthest reaches at the low end of the field. Back near the truck, I took Mirk and Star, one at a time, onto a little rise to send them on their way.

That little hill did nothing for the dog's ability to spot their sheep, they were too distant. But it gave me a great vantage point to watch and enjoy my dogs, and I do love to watch them run. Star went out on blind faith, finding his sheep easily after crossing the wash to my left. At one place on the first outrun, he appeared to be dangerously close to crossing, so I gave him a re-direct whistle at the exact moment he decided to widen and look further. Learn anything lately, Amelia? Trust you dog, damn it!

Random Notes:
Snowbirds on the Border Sheepdog Trial is coming up in a couple short weeks, and Christmas is upon us. I'll be spending lots of time in the training field, and I hope your season is joyful and filled with the love of family and friends.

Dec 16, 2010

Week 104

Slow week here at BorderSmith. I only had an opportunity to work once or twice, but they were glorious days. In the spirit of the season, I wish all of you all the glory that you can have.

Assistant Trainer
Day 200os
Today was a lesson day here at BorderSmith Kennels, so Star worked as assistant trainer, and he was good help. We were in the big field using the Dorpers, and unfortunately Star did not have any time on the fresh sheep. That's OK, we'll be back tomorrow. The goat guy moved the big mob down to the bottom end of the field far from where we were working, but the nursery pen is still close by. Star's main job today was moving sheep away from that, back to an area where the lesson could continue unencumbered by that slight draw. With 6 inches of volunteer rye grass to keep them busy, the Dorpers aren't moving too fast in any direction.

Perched on a rock distant from the truck, I was guiding the lesson, and would call Star out whenever I needed some help. Happily obliging each time, he retreated to his spot next to Mirk, who was on the end of a chain, and waited to again be called into service. There was one instance where a little more oomph was necessary, and so Mirk got the call, but, all morning long Star was useful, patient and responsive at the same time. Each time I used him, he would come out looking for sheep, and it took a series of walk up and flank whistles to guide him, but I don't think there was ever a time when I had to move my feet and help him find his sheep. He is a thinker this one. More than once, he had to worm his way around the goat nursery pen and return the Dorpers to our working area. Useful, and so nice that he understood the job, and never once got hung up on the pen trying to bring the goats.
                                             Photo credit: Jan Elliott
Volulnteer Rye Grass
Day 201os
Today it was just Mirk and Star with the Chevies on the big field. With the goats in the creek 500 yards away, I was able to set up some bigger outruns. The goat nursery pen interfered, but only slightly, and it caused Star in particular, to have to think his way around it. With the sheep on a little rise 300 yards away, I sent him away from the nursery, come-bye.

After ignoring the pen yesterday, he shaped his outrun in that direction today, but I was easily able to re-direct him with 2 stops followed by 2 come-bye whistles. On the second flank whistle he looked upfield, spotted his sheep, and took off like a shot. He followed that outrun with a beautiful lift, slow and smooth, and followed that with some beautiful off-balance work on the fetch. With the chevies moving easily in front of him, he sharply took each whistle to flank off balance, and I eventually flanked him all the way around between me and the sheep to drive them back out to the point of origin. Star's work was immediate, precise and he was happy doing it. Good to see.

The 2nd outrun was away-to-me and Star had to pass by the nursery to accomplish it. Since he was essentially headed right towards them, he hesitated and looked at the goats. How could he not? On my walk up whistle, he carried on snaking past the pen, then looked upfield and headed off. Not for the first time, I stood there thinking; "clever dog." Another pretty lift, more crisp off balance work, and he brought the sheep to my feet. That meant going right by the goats, and the draw is stronger on the chevies. Star continuously took a series of come-bye flank whistles to find success, and the sheep were at my feet.

Now the draw was to the trailer, and I set it up so Star was driving away from it. Then, as I did the other day, I gave him a flank, causing the sheep to flee towards me and the trailer, and Star to have to pick up the pace to stop them. He forgot this lesson from last week and dawdled, but was immediately reminded when he lost his sheep. We started again, and practiced a few times. He began to cover and catch his sheep each time, but after the first time, he started cutting the corner and slicing. So, I positioned myself closer to the sheep before I gave the flank, which caused him to open up, and cast out to catch them.

Time for shedding, or in our situation of only 4 head, splitting. The sheep are already wise to the splitting game, and it is getting harder. Star internalizes the task completely now, but wants to walk up eyeing the situation carefully, and lie down. No good. Things move too quickly. I use "on your feet" to keep him there, and say it as soon as I see his joints start to bend. Sometimes he beats me to the ground, but he understands the meaning of the phrase, and more and more often complies right away. Star is also beginning to respond to the urgency of the situation. If he doesn't come through quickly with momentum, all is lost, and he is beginning to rise to the occasion every time now. The chevies are just what he needed to finish off shedding school.
                                          Photo credit: Jan Elliott
Mirk - Safe Distance
 Random Notes:  All dogs have holes. Some dogs have fewer than others, but every one of them has issues that you have to handle around. It's always a question of which ones can you live with, or not. Which ones you are good at working around, or not. This morning when I was using Star to put sheep out, I kept having to lie him down on the way down the driveway. I don't really mind if the sheep beat me to the road, but I worry about the dogs getting there ahead of me, because my neighbors are not always considerate. Star kept blowing me off and walking up on his sheep. Star needs all the initiative he can muster. I never impede that, and I never correct him for it. Once to the road, a bit ahead of me, he started to flank between the fence and sheep, knowing they must be turned to get where they go. I just stood quietly, and watched him work. Pretty as you please, he got around them, and smoothly started them back towards the gate while I stood silently watching. I very much appreciated my youngster at that moment, and wish for all of you that you experience the very same thing more often than not.

Dec 7, 2010

Week 103

I am gearing up for another dog trial in about a month, so we trained hard this week, and there was much to share. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I did the work. Cheers all and welcome and thank you.
Close and Personal
Day 195os

We were blessed with another of those perfect days. One in which the sun was shining, a Fall crisp in the air, gentle breeze, blue skies, and...and...and FRESH SHEEP!! Did I mention how much I am enjoying the kittehs? I mean Cheviots? Well, I am...immensely, and more importantly, so are the dogs. Wish I had 300...no, 350 of them. Over to the big field today, and Price got the call to load the kittehs, because it had only been done once before, when I bought them. That time it took 2 of us with handy little panels and 1 useful dog to get 'er done. No panels today, and only me with my trusty right hand man, Price. Sure wish he could breathe, and so must he have by the time we were finished. They're a flighty bunch, my little kittehs.

The goat guy has 300hd of Dorper cross goats grazing on my (she writes wishfully) big field with 2 guardian dogs outside the hot wire, so we had to be careful. With a hundred acres or so, you would think there is enough room for all, but the situation limited my much loved, HUGE outruns. I carried a big stick just in case, but the LGDs settled down quickly enough and ignored us. Still, we kept our distance. I had a run in a few years back with one when Price was lifted off all 4 feet, then shaken, not stirred, so I am mindful always.

I spent much time with Mirk today perfecting the square flank. I doubt there will ever be a day when he won't need reminding, but he is much quicker on the uptake than ever before. I know he knows. He loved the Chevies and we practiced being precise. That is as unnatural for Mirk as it is EZ for Kensmuir Star, and the contrast is striking. It's good to have 2 completely different dogs to work. Keeps me on my game. The good news is that what frustrates me about one, is easy for the other. The bad news is that both frustrate in some way.

I found a way to keen Star up on the sheds today, and used the technique liberally. I simply put him on one side of the sheep, jazzed him up by spooking the sheep, then called him through whatever hole appeared, regardless of which sheep went where. Ah Ha! Another club in the golf bag, another tool in the box, another spice in the cabinet. I do not play golf, repair, or cook, but I can train a sheepdog, and shooting Star (oy!) found an edginess I have not witnessed in him previously. He lost his nerve a bit driving the shed sheep away, but I stayed with him, and made him stay with the sheep. You can almost see his relief when, at last, he is allowed to put them all back together. Double-edged sword that togetherness instinct.

Get moving!
Day 196os

Today didn't start out all that well, but if I could go through something like we experienced and then have the day out working that we did, I would take it gladly. I was using Star to separate the Dorpers and lambs from the Cheviots with the intention of moving the Dorpers to the small field by my house and loading the Cheviots into the trailer.

Taking the Dorpers out of the overnight pen, Star took the wrong flank and left a ewe and lamb behind. Meanwhile the others had toddled all the way down to the field. Those sheep knew full well it was field time and after walking down to bring them all back, put them together and try again, we had a hard time. I tried to stay in my happy place, but I was frustrated with Star and he reads me quite well. I stayed with it. Without too much more fuss, we got all the Dorpers moved, and then it was time to get the Chevies out of the overnight pen, and load them. They know the way to the small field and the trailer was between the overnight pen and that field. If I held my side, and Star did his, it would work. But, he was going to have to do what I said while I was holding my side, which involved a bit of flapping. Star didn't like it, slowed down and overflanked with his head down, tail tucked and ears drooped. No good. We were getting nowhere. I got Price, and Star ducked into his dog house. I'm thinking; "he's young, Amelia, he's young, and look how long it took you to learn to rope!"

Once over at the big field, we put it out of mind. I was happy and Star was as keen as ever. It you can't be happy on 140 acres of 6" volunteer rye grass with the sun shining on you, fresh sheep and good dogs, then you need to find something else to do. My dogs worked great, my heart was soaring, and it was a gorgeous day.

Bring 'em
Day 197os

I've been busy this week training almost every day. Tomorrow I have a lesson, so that means I will be back at it again. A good thing. The more I work, the more fun we have, and the closer we become, me and my dogs. They become comfortable in a routine, and because they are improving all the time, it is more enjoyable for all of us.

I feel like I've turned a corner with Mirk, and we are hitting a groove. He has some idiosyncrasies, that dog, but I am learning to work with them, and he is trusting me more and more. All I can tell you for sure is that it feels really good, and I am getting some lovely work out of him. I just did not know what we were missing until the trials last summer, and once I did, I got to work on him. It has been 3 solid months of ironing out, but now were smooth. My whistles are soft now, because he is listening, and I am not speaking to him much at all. He was really good for me at Porterville in September under uncommonly challenging conditions. I look forward to seeing how he handles at Snowbirds on the Border coming up.

Working Star today on the Chevies was all about precision tuning. With sheep that move when he flanks, he is learning to come forward all the time. On the Dorpers, he could square off, over-flank, and still have plenty of time to get to the top. Not so with the kittehs, and I encouraged him to pick up the pace on every flank. He had to lose them a time or two after they squirted while he was dawdling around them before he understood what I was saying, and I am not altogether sure he believes me entirely. We'll see.

Day 198os

I gave a lesson in the big field today, and the weather was postcard perfect for it. I find it really hard to get down to business in that situation of striking green grass contrasted against bright blue skies, fresh sheep and warm sun. Who wants to practice on a day like that? We eventually settled in for some really nice work after overcoming early challenges that involved extracting the kittehs from the goats after the Chevies ran head long inside a hot-mesh enclosure that thankfully was not hot, guarded by an ancient livestock guardian dog that was decidedly off duty. Oh well, those situations just build character as far as I am concerned. My dogs waited patiently back at the truck while I eased the kittehs back outside the pen.

Today I reinforced the fact that the kittehs will not wait while Star dawdles. After sending him on a little gather, I allowed him to pick up the pace behind them on the fetch to the point where they were squirting well ahead. Then I flanked him to come between me and the sheep on an inside flank, and drive them away. He took his time at first and the sheep got all the way to me and beyond before Star caught them. I set it up again, and this time gave much encouragement to cover all the way around before they got to me. Lots of voice and whistle encouragement, hand clapping and shushing. He still doesn't like the come-bye inside flank at distance, so that is the way I made him come around. Star found success, and then he had it. "Oh, they will get away if I over flank slowly. I get it now!" It felt like Star was encased in cement and I chipped it away. Slowly it cracked and big chunks fell away with Star in motion. Then all of a sudden he is running like the wind with small bits of the material stuck on here and there, but mortally flying now. That is what it looked and felt like. Hope the lesson holds, and I will know more tomorrow.


Another glorious day today, and I mixed it up a bit. Instead of working on the idle hay field, I went to the other end of the field, which is never planted. With the goats in the way at the other end, I felt the need for some bigger outwork today. The cover grew quite high last year making the field eventually unusable, but that growth has been beaten back by time and weather, so it is mostly passable now. Still pretty thick in some places, it is certainly no worse than UK bracken, and I thought it would be good for my dogs to persevere in spite of it. Coming from Wales, of course Mirk would have no trouble, and didn't, finishing up with bits of vegetation stuck all over his tongue, and panting happily. More precision, and attentiveness from him today, she writes smiling. There was the odd bobble here and there, but not much.

For the first gather, I sent Star right, which took him through the thickest brush. He had seen the sheep at blast off, but lost them soon enough once engulfed. It had the effect of pushing him to the outside edge of the field, and it occurred to me that he might be running terrain. In other words, remembering the lay of the land, and heading to where the sheep are normally set. This time, however, they were closer than that, but soon enough he came right, and made a nice job of the lift and fetch. I recalled him and sent him again to my left, and took time to notice something about my dog that I am just very excited about.

Star loves to run out. He comes off his chain as keen as can be and looking, looking, looking for sheep. It is so easy to set him up, because all I have to do is wait until his nose is pointed in the right direction, say the flank, and stand back, because he is off and I don't mean maybe. I can give him a walk up first if he is looking too wide, or I can stand him beside of me and a little behind to widen him. And I know that no matter what happens, I can always guide him to his sheep, because no matter what he is doing, I always get an immediate response to a re-direct. I think it goes back to his early days when I hid sheep from him. He learned to listen and to trust, but none of that would have been possible if he hadn't been determined to find his sheep in the first place, and that was all natural in Star man.

Yesterday's lesson did hold, and Star was much keener to complete inside flanks at distance and prevent the sheep from escaping. That was nice to see, and I really appreciated my fresh sheep today. We finished up with splitting. It started off with Star failing to break through quick enough, but he rose to the challenge on the second pass. After the first ragged attempt, I simply gave him a flank, shushed him and said "get 'em, get 'em." That bought us new found enthusiasm, I set up the split again, and this time Star shot through and carried the split off sheep away crisply.

I let Star gather and load the sheep for me today, and had him complete a silent gather in the process. Star has a tendency to wear a bit behind his sheep, and I have a feeling that comes from shoving stony Dorpers around for so long. The kittehs won't tolerate it, zigging and zagging, causing Star man to always play catch up. I thought the best way for him to learn was to teach himself, so I simply stood on a boulder, sent him and watched. Sure enough, he wore, and the sheep zigged, but sooner than later Star realized the error of his ways, and settled in nicely behind them. He brought them a bit fast, not too bad, but it was nice to see his enthusiasm, and I left it alone. It caused him trouble at the trailer with the sheep a bit buggerd, and again he had to work a little harder than he should have to get them loaded. More youthful exuberance is just what Star needs, and I drove away thinking; "good day."

Dec 2, 2010

Week 102

I am having fun with my fresh sheep. So too the dogs. We are again under blue skies, and I am thinking about our next dog trial over new year's eve. Welcome to this week's RTC, with my thanks for joining us.
Balancing the kittehs

Day 192os

It's been 3 weeks since I've done any real training, and I went back to it in very modest style today. First off, I stayed home, worked in the small field, and used the Dorper mamas and babes together. The lambs are almost as docile as their mothers and worked very well. They simply stayed in the middle somewhere and did what mama did.

At the barn, Star focuses on the lambs while I am feeding, and it was interesting to see him working with them in the mix. Excited by their presence, I caught him once or twice staying with one and begin to leave the others behind on the drive. Each time his good breeding took over, and he balanced the drive to take them all. Very tempting, the little ones, but great instinct prevailed, and I was very happy to see it.

Setting up to split the kittehs

Day 193os

That was so much fun! I worked Star on the Cheviots by themselves, sort of, and without a doubt it is just what he needed. They had the same effect on Star that the Scottish Blackface sheep had on Price when we were in Scotland. Star had to become deliberate, thoughtful, and oh-so-careful. In both cases, it was a beautiful sight to see.

I used Star to move all the ewes and lambs down to the little pasture by my house. Then we shed the Dorpers and lambs from the Chevies, and drove them to the bottom end of the field. I called Star off, flanked him around the Chevies, at which they ran like scalded kittehs, and I witnessed Star's light come on. They juked, he jived. They skittered, he found appropriate pressure and pace and exquisite balance. Star's expression became more intense, he dropped his head, and went to work for about the third time in his life. 1 and 2 being at the Meeker practice field, and exhausting on the Meeker trial field. But that was different. This was fun! With the sheep constantly trying to go back to the others, Star drove them to the top of the field, and learned in the process to be mindful. Instead of shoving plodding Dorpers, Star was catching and guiding little kittehs who moved in front of him like a school of fish. Star was enthralled.

Once at the top of the field, I flanked my dog all the way around, and the little ewes shot back towards the others. Star picked up the pace, but was aimed at covering them all. When he got just past the fleeing Cheviots, I gave him a steady, said his name, then "here, here," causing him to look at them. Then a walk up to bring him on, and he had them. The Cheviots stopped in their tracks before turning back towards me. This is where it got pretty. Every step of the short fetch those ewes tried him, and he rose beautifully to the challenge. He became deliberate, precisely attentive to his sheep, and very, very careful not to lose them. Instinctively, he found just the right amount of pressure and pace to bring them quietly, simultaneously raising his approval rating measurably. It was just so pretty to see that I repeated the exercise with Star who understood the task perfectly on the very next pass. I quit when the sheep also figured it out after 2 or 3 repetitions. Then we set up the split.

I only have 4 head, so I intended to split them 2 - 2. At first it was hard enough just to get on opposites, and I used the top fence as an aid. Again, picture a school of fish moving from the wave of a hand, and you have a pretty good idea of what this looked like. It wasn't going to be easy, and the first attempt brought us a single that by itself proved to be too much for my youngster. Confused, he lost her. Another try, this time with more patience on my part. If I could just catch their eye, they would fly apart like a muffled explosion, and that's exactly what happened. Star worked with me brilliantly. He knew exactly what was what, and came right through on the back 2. Managing to hold them for a bit, he eventually lost them, but it was a lot to ask, and I had nothing but praise for my good, young dog. My appreciation for Star swelled today. On the right sheep, he might just be hard to beat.

Trying to keep kittehs in the same frame as the dog
Day 194

Oh boy, another glorious, sunny southern California day out working dogs. Sorry all ya'all in the colder climes, it's sunny, breeze-less and about 70 outside right now. Oh, and the grass is green, the stock are all slick and fat, and the dogs are happy to be back to work. There are so very many things that frustrate me about living here, but the weather is decidedly not one of them.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I now have an eye towards Snowbirds on the Border trial over new year's eve. Training-wise, I am gearing up and my little Cheviot/kittehs are just perfect for the task. Usually at that trial, we have growthy, freshly shorn lambs that are a commercial cross of merino and suffolk. Not much fight in them to speak of, but leaderless and smart enough to rapidly internalize the draw. Even without good practice on my own sheep, they are Star's kind of sheep. That is, the kind that move easily off the dog and require precision.

We worked the ewe flock as a whole today, then practiced shedding the Dorpers from the kittehs, which is no mean feat, but still requires some effort. There are a couple Dorpers who are quite comfortable with the kittehs, so I ended up with a Dorper ewe and lamb or two that needed to be extracted each time. Very good for little Star man, but there were more challenges to come.

I sent him on little gathers for the all the sheep, then shed off the Dorpers, worked the kittehs at one end of the small field, then split them a time or two. Repeating the exercise from 193, I flanked him around, made him cover just the escaping kittehs before they re-joined the Dorpers, and then split them. That exercise is good for him, because, unlike the Dorpers, the kittehs are fleet a-foot and there is no time to dawdle on the flank. Accustomed to the lumbering Dorpers, Star would just lope around them. Another level of intensity is required on these fresh sheep, and he has keened up. The first time on the split, Star man did a masterful job, but lost his nerve when the split off kittehs tried him fairly hard as they got closer to joining the others. Star second guessed, and all was lost, so he flanked, and covered them all. I do wish this insecurity would pass and we could get on with it. I set up another split, and this time it held. Good boy.