Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weekend working dogs

I love seeing dogs develop in their training; from being a raw piece to a finished product. Each dog’s journey is different and some take longer while others can be quicker. I never know how long each dog’s journey will be as there are many factors that come into play. Tess’s journey started with me close to thirteen years ago and we still are on the journey together.
So on Sunday, Audrey, Kathleen and I went on a journey with our dogs. Namely to the far field on undogged ewes and lambs. The flock is a mixture of North Country/Coop, Clun forest, Katahdins and a few Suffolks. The lambs are three to six months old and maybe worked a couple of times prior. The field has several hard draws, one is where we put the sheep to be held until we need them as well as an exhaust area. The sheep that were being worked can see both sets and want to join their companions in a big way.

Kathleen brought Josh, Emma and Gael. Josh is her fourteen month old Kelpie which is starting to mature and getting a good solid foundation on him. He is keen and quick and handled the ewes with ease. The Suffolks gave him the evil eye but when he walked up on them like he owned the world, they turned and marched onward. Kathleen is getting miles on him so he will be well seasoned on all type of sheep as well as terrain. Nothing seems to fazes him that I could see.

Emma, the seasoned dog at 4.5 years old, is her main dog. Kathleen put a Thundershirt on her to settle her down since she was spooked at the fireworks. It did help and she was not edgy. The sheep really tried to sneak past her to the draw and it was an effort to keep them out in the field. It was the same for all dogs. By the end, she was driving about 250 yards and holding the draw pressure. Emma has no issue moving sheep or cattle as she will stand up and if needed, do an appropriate nose grip. She has set sheep for trial, works a large mob over 1000 sheep, worked cattle and done farm chores. Kathleen has taken the time to round her out and it showed. Kathleen is working on her whistles and soon, she will be running her in PN. She has run her in PN but not on whistles.
Gael is the newest of her pack and just over two years old. She just had a winter of training with Scott and now is learning to team up with Kathleen. There are a couple of rusty spots but they are getting on the same page. Gael is a different sort of dog than Emma, so that is an adjustment for Kathleen.

Audrey work Dan( Pleat x Tess) and he finally has come into his own. He is pacing well and had a great feel for the stock. Hits the edge of the bubble and the sheep know he means business. It was a struggle for this team in the early years as Dan always wanted to take the reins but now, he is letting Audrey run the show. Dan is very nice dog and reminds me of a younger version of Roo.

Kael was the other dog that Audrey worked. He too, finally matured and is handling the sheep well. He is still green but now is able to handle the pressure. He is casting out well and walking firmly into the bubble and holding the pressure. This litter was slow to mature and his sister, Rainey finally was able to take pressure and do well.
I used Roo to put the sheep away and then sort out the lesson sheep. he did quite well and did as I asked. we have come so far in a year. A year ago, we would fight each other and butt heads. Now, he really tries to please and we get along better and our work shows smoothness.

Several times a single would break away and Roo would back the single off the exhaust and back to the lesson sheep. it was like poetry in motion, one step at a time, nice and slow and good work on Roo's part.  Roo was the backup lesson dog and we worked well on that. I was very pleased on how we clicked as a team. I was very excited to see him take my lookback and then flank whistles when the big flock was in front of him. She spun around and then took my flank to get the second flock that was out of sight and under a shed. He had to flank an away, then through a gate and then flank a come bye, down a hill, and to a shed which was out of sight. He took every command and had no hesitation. I am feeling good about our relationship now and how well we trust each other. He is the replacement for Tess and has filled her shoes quite nicely. I am happy that he is my partner now.

We all got several rounds of work in and called it a day. The dogs had improved and we were happy at the progress. Kathleen and I went out to a late lunch and then hung out for a bit. The dogs got to play in the pond pasture and we could see the happy wags of the tails as they swam about. It was a good way to end the day with good dogs, good friend and good food. Oh yea, we had some sun and that was a real bonus.

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