Friday, April 8, 2011

Learning Lambs

We have had an explosion of lambs at the farm, which mean some lambing work for the dogs. Tess, the seasoned pro makes the moving of the ewes and newborn lambs look so easy but it is very difficult. If a new lamb is slow to move, Tess will put her nose under the butt of the lamb and wheelbarrow it to the desired location. The mother ewe just ambles along and doesn’t seem to mind that her lamb has extra help. Tess is very thoughtful and quiet near the ewes and they trust her so moving the flock is painless. But this year, I am leaning on the others dogs to step up to the plate as Tess is almost 13 years old and one day she won’t be here. (I shudder of when that day occurs). Tess, although retired still insists on shouldering most of the farm chores so I have to leave her in the house. If I do not and I go to open a gate, she stands at the gate and no dog dares go past her to work. Should I take another dog and leave Tess behind, she will merrily leap over the four plus foot gate and work the sheep in the other pasture to the same commands that I was using on the dog at hand. I guess you would call it a brace but I call it being “put out”

Nan has come into her own as a lambing dog, snapping near but not on the lambs to get them to move and sometimes even shouldering them. She is still quick, can upset the ewes, and hasn’t learned the finesse part yet and I don’t think she will be as quiet as Tess. Nevertheless, she gets the job done and can move the most stubborn ewes and lambs. She loves to help with moving the flock and will try to sneak past Tess to get in, often failing since Tess gives her the lip curl. Nan has learned to hold a ewe against the wall while I check out the lamb and finally will settle down and thusly the ewe will get more relaxed. It has taken a bit for her to be comfortable in tight spaces but now she is very reliable and will go under a wall of sheep to move them. She will hock them low on the heel or do a quick face snap and then just as quickly lie down amongst their legs until given another command.

Rainey is learning to be a farm dog now and is quite good. She has learned to do head grips now than trying to slip a shoulder grip. She is learning about the lambs and when they don’t move, she gets confused. She will puff herself up to look bigger and tougher and then gets perplexed when nothing happens. She will have to figure out how to move them the correct way but for now, she is a work in progress. She has no issues in the tight corners and will face a ewe down or back her up several feet. I am still working on her drive as that is her weakest link but it is coming along. She is a very slow maturing female but very biddable and gives it her all. Janet runs her in PN and I train her at home. She is Getty’s dog and often is found on his lap when he is watching TV, getting belly rubs and treats. She is his dog and is quite the spoiled dog in the house. She likes to sneak all the toys to her bed and bury them under her pillow. Tess still treats her as a pup, lets her eats from her mouth, climb all over her, and lets her get away with anything, including taking a toy from her mouth. Should any other dog try to take a toy from Tess’s mouth, they will soon be on their back, wishing they were in some other country and whimpering “please, please get Tess’ jaws of death off their throat”. Needless to say, no dog has ever tried to take a toy from Tess more than once. After she gives them the “come to Jesus talk”, they usually keep a few yards away from her at playtime. Rainey can rip the toy out of Tess’s mouth and she looks fondly at her and wags her tail. Never mind the fact, that Rainey is 3.5 years old but in Tess’s mind, she is still her pup.

Roo is a good lambing dog and can move the stubborn ewe and lamb. He has gotten the good air snap that will send lambs scurrying for their mothers. He is excellent in the stall, spent many hours helping me, and is very dependable. He is very much like his mother in this regard. I have had Roo back from Scott for about 18 months and we have finally gotten a great teamwork going. I use him as a backup dog, sorting dog and a go-to dog on lesson day and he has done the job well. We have struggled last year but in Oct, the tide finally turned for us and we really began to click. I enjoy running him and we are getting better and better. He still is a hard dog to run and if I slip on the trial field. I will pay the price so I have to be cognizant that he is like his sire Pleat and not like his dam, Tess. If I get into his head right away at the trial, we do well. If I do not, then it rough, fast and a beer later after the run. Tess has spoiled me for all these years, where she ran like a top, did as I asked and we had that special connection. She wasn’t the most powerful dog but very obedient and had great stock sense. The more I kept my mouth shut, the better she ran. In the shedding ring, we would gaze at each other’s eyes and just know when to get the shed. With Roo, I have to have him in check or the sheep will run over me. Roo is a great farm dog and up to any challenge that I throw at him. He has no hesitation on going full on with a charging ram.

Taff is a bit strong on the ewes and lambs so I have been working him so he can settle down and relax. Once I get him to settle, he is fine but I have to get him to settle right away but in time that will come. He is so eager to help me and in his opinion, he thinks he is the only dog that can do the job. He is very jealous when I work other dogs so I work him first. I have found out if I get him to stop right away in the work session, then the rest of the session he is pliable. His flanks are getting better (more square) but not 100% yet. At least he is trying to do the right thing now and partner up with me. He believes everything should be at warp speed so he is learning to pace himself now. If he walks nice on the sheep, I let him be; if not, then I tell him to steady. I can whisper to him now and he will take the command. However if he is too wound up, then it doesn’t work. Taff is not afraid of anything and can move anything. He is incredibly powerful and probably the strongest dog that I will ever own. He is very pushy, has good stock sense, and is learning to be more proactive than reactive. Having him move 65-100 sheep has helped him slow down as he has to tuck the sides in and they can’t be rushed. Additionally, I give him more of a free rein when he is correct and tighten the reins when he is not and he is trying to figure the proper method now. I see him look up at me when he was not sure, whereas before he would blow in so the fact that he is wiling to ask me for help is a big step. He is very talented and driven. Off the stock, he believes he needs to be by my side and not play with the common dogs. He loves for me to play toss the ball for him but should another dog show up, he loses interest. Often I will go and play one on one with him and his eyes glow and he gets so darn goofy. I am amazed at his goofy side of him, which shows his great humor and playfulness. One would think he would be serious off the stock, but he loves to play and be fussed over. Taff loves to be brushed, which is good as he is very hairy and will stick out his tongue in delight as I brush out his coat. Some days I want to throttle him and some days I am in awe of him. He is a complex dog that can be hard but I find out if I am soft on him, he tries harder. If I get into his head right away on the trial field, he is awesome on the stock powerful but nice. If I do not get a hold of him, then it’s trying to get some brakes on him and the run can be rough. However, he does trust me on the trial field when he can’t see the sheep and will wait for me to help him out.

Lambing is almost over and soon the dogs will learn how to move the flock from one pasture to another. They have done their share of stall work and now the next phase of working ewes and lambs as a whole is coming up soon. Hopefully the weather will turn to a sunny spring so I can sit on my deck with my dogs and watch carefree lamb races and realize that life should be filled with joy and not worry.

1 comment:

An English Shepherd said...

Lambing sounds a very busy time :-)