Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beauty Rest

Nan works hard some days here at the farm. A couple of days ago, we went to my far field and worked on long outruns, stopping and holding the pressure on the fetch. On her outrun, she listens well and downs with no hesitation. She does push the sheep hard on the fetch so I have been trying to make her feel her sheep. I want her to steady more and not be reactive but more proactive. She has gotten better but still needs to feel the bubble.

I have put her on 60 plus sheep and she weaves in the back, unsure of how to push forward. Since she has being doing the flock work, she has been coming on straighter on the sheep and not weaving as much. She was unsure of what to do and good, practical farm chores have helped a lot. I don’t think she worked a large flock before but just was trained on trial sheep, on small sets.

She was terrified at first to work on ewes and lambs but had to step up to plate. She doesn’t have the smoothness and quiet calmness that Tess has on sheep as her movements are quick. Tess will take pressure of by glancing away and freezing still until the ewe and lamb moves, then taking tiny steps. It's slow and steady and the ewes and lambs trust her. I can send her into a field with 50 ewes and new borne lambs and she will bring them, nice and slow and with no fuss. But Tess had many years to fine tune her skills.

Nan is learning but hasn’t yet learned to turn her head and take the pressure off. But she will as she tries very hard. She will also work with Tess and sometimes looks at Tess to see what she is doing and mimic her.

Well, except for putting the chickens and ducks away at night. Tess moves slowly and quietly to put the 15 chickens and11 ducks away. The chickens scatter and run since they don’t want to go in. At dusk they are willing to go in but if you want to put them when it is still day time, they revolt. Patiently Tess will work them in a group and move them to the coop.

At this point, Nan arrives from hanging out on the front porch and being very jealous of Tess working, now will work for me on the poultry. This would be fine and dandy if she actually worked the chickens and ducks. Instead, she takes every command at warp speed, and barks in glee. Mind you, the chickens and ducks now all burst out of the tightly formed flock that Tess has put them in and scattered to all four parts of the yards. Tess works them again with Nan behind her as an assistant manager with her flashy movements and barking.

Today I laid Tess down and tried to use Nan to put the chickens and ducks away. That was a bust as she ran over them looking for the sheep. Feathers flew and the chickens ran to the barn to escape the tornado in their midsts. The ducks laid down on the ground and refused to move. So I got Tess and she regrouped them and once again, Nan in the background, we got all in the coop for the night. Nan was quite pleased with herself and Tess wanted a treat. Maybe someday, the light bulb will go on for Nan but in the meantime, I’ll keep working Tess and Nan, as a backup on the fowl.

Earlier in the far field I was working with her confidence and thinking for herself. Sometime the sheep are all scattered and I send her with a flank command and let her cast out and get the sheep. Most of the time she will bend and bend and then gather the flock. The sheep spread out all over the field which is 650 yards from end to end. A couple of times, she would get the sheep that were close and miss the couple of stragglers over 200 yards away. I down her and give her a look back and then a flank. On the gathering of the field, after the initial commands, I let her figure out how to bring the flock to me. When I first did this with her, she would look at me for the next command. Now, she does most of it by herself but will take any command that I give her. Often as she is gathering the flock, I will go the side away from the draw so she has to hold the heavy draw to the gate and bring the sheep to me. At first, the fetch was a large banana shape and sometimes the sheep would beat her to the gate and escape to the upper part. Then she would have to retrieve them. Now, she has figured it out and her fetch lines are much straighter now. Now, as she is getting more confident, I give her some flanks commands on the fetch to make it tighter. She is getting better at that and in time, will be able to figure out things without me telling her every step.

She is a fine dog with a large heart, willing to embrace me in her love. She wants so hard to make me happy and does anything I ask of her. She takes her commands at warp speed and I have to be aware of that. With Tess, you have time to fix errors you make, but with Nan…let’s just say, “Oops”

Nan is a good driving dog but tight on her inside flanks. She slices and coupled that with her speed, that cause the sheep to be unsettled and often will push them offline. I try to rein her back so the sheep are more at ease but often once she starts to slice then the sheep do not trust her. The sheep get wound up and then so does Nan.

So our latest exercise is opening her inside flanks. At close hand, she is nice and square but farther off, she get tight. The last few days we have been working on her being square. I also want her to feel her stock more than waiting for my next command. She will but it will take time. The last time we worked on her square flanks, she did quite well. I had to put a bit of pressure on her to be squarer when he was 100 yards away. Once she got it, I praised her and I think she was getting it. Now we have to make it the new and improved habit.

We worked a bit on shedding and she came in fast and furious. The sheep were latched on to me like tick on a hound dog so I had to pry opens a hole. We had several failures where she went to the heads to stop them (we were near the gate) but finally we got a good clean shed. She was beat and so was I. She was very pleased with herself and bounced up and down next to me in her happiness.

Today I didn’t get to work dogs until later afternoon. I had Tess sort some more sheep to put into the training group and had Tess do some heavy driving. The sheep didn’t want to go through the large puddle of water that came up to their knees so I had Tess push them through it. It was tough but she did it. Nan was dancing outside the pasture waiting for her turn.

Audrey stopped by so she worked Dan and Kael. She also worked Tess. Then it was too dark to work Nan. By this time, she knew she was not working so she went and helped Getty with the burn pile. While she was there with him, she found some nice fresh, green duck poop and added it to her white collar.

Earlier she did help Tess with the ducks and chickens. She was especially proud of the fact that she scattered the flock, not once but three times. It’s become a ritual with her trying to help. One day, she will see the ducks and chickens and the duck and chicken duties will be hers.

So Nan had a hard day today. She got to sleep in and help Getty feed the sheep in the morning while I went to the Cardiologist. In the afternoon she was the “Leaf Master” while Getty raked the leaves. Then she was the “Poultry Zenist” and during the Dan and Kael lesson, she was the “Burn Queen”. Tonight during dinner, her role was “Sitting Statue”

But now her great role is this picture is ” Upside down Bed Warmer”

Life is rough, when you have so many jobs to do in one day.

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