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|
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.