It’s been just over three weeks since I got Maid. It seem like it has been a lot longer to me. We really connect well and enjoy each other. She fits into the pack quite readily and knows the routine. Join the other hooligan when let out to chase the wild bunnies off the front lawn, go potty then wait at the door to be let in for a treat. Sleep upside down on the couch for belly rubs and at night, cuddle on the floor on her bed next to me. She has a goofy side to her also. She will toss a toy about, bark and flag her tail gaily in the air. She loves the soft fuzzy toys and will sneak then out of the box to play and toss about.
I got each of the girls a bop-a-lot ball in which I put treats and it keeps them occupied when I watch TV. The first time, Maid licked and licked the hole, hoping the treats would magically fall out. She got more serious when she realized that Nan, Tess and Rainey had finished their balls and where lined up watching her. She figured it out and now can clean out the ball in seven minutes flat. She will lift the ball and drop it or tap it sideways with her paw to fling them out. She is a very clever dog and analyzed the ball to figure out the quickest way to get the goodies out. Nan and Rainey will roll their balls around in the dog beds and haven’t figured out the tapping on the ball trick yet. Tess will take her ball to the top of the stairs and drop it down or fling it on the hardware floor for maximum use. It’s fun to watch them work the ball. I can adjust the hole so the treats can come out fast or slow. Maid and Tess will first use their tongue to open the hole wider then work on getting the treats out. Nan and Rainey have not figured that out yet and as a result, will take longer to empty their ball.
Maid and Rainey ended up being good friends and will hang out together when outside. They will play with each other, running in circles or playing with the ball. They will lie next to each other in the house.
I have been working Maid on the farm chores and having her get used to whistles. Sadly, my whistled are dismal compared to Scott’s and she is trying hard to figure out what I want. She did try a couple of time to run through my down so I chased her off the sheep and now she will stop. Once she stops, I give her the sheep back and she is beginning to trust me. She is very relaxed when working for me and very willing to do ask I ask. She does her commands on the fly when I use voice commands. I am still struggling on the flanks but we are getting there. She is a real joy to work and when I am done, I feel excited and relaxed.
Maid is very biddable and full of courage. The massive North Country ram stood up to her on Saturday's work session and she held her ground. He lowered his head at head and she obliged him but giving a good solid nip. He wisely melted to the center of the flock and kept a wary eye on her. She takes no prisoners and has no qualms about letting the challenger know that she is in command. She is very appropriate with the sheep.
I had her doing some sheds and she came in swiftly. The sheep had been lining up nicely and with a flock over 35 or so, I was able to make some nice gaps. Then at the last shed, the gap was tiny, I called her in and the sheep raced forward and there was a huge ball of sheep in front of her and no gap. I was worried that she might grip, given the wall of sheep but she muscled her way through, knocked down two slow ewes with her shoulder that were in her way, then turned in the newly created gap and held the laggards. When she came through, it was like in slow motion, the two ewes were in her way and when they didn’t move, she dropped her head and bullied them out of the way. They rolled around, the fat roly-poly ewes, got up and only their pride was hurt. She held the sheep and when one tried to dance around her, she took the lead and waltzed her back in line. I smiled at this tremendous brave dog and called her to my side. I patted her head and told her she was a good girl and her eyes focused on my eyes, while her tail wagged slowly. Yes, we are going to be a team; it will take time and I am her handicap but she is a blessing. I am grateful to Scott and Jenn for giving me the opportunity to own such a talented and willing partner.
Rainey was next and I kept her hungry by working Maid first. This is my homework by Scott and it is paying off. She came in fast on her outrun and I worked on her driving around the pond. Her driving has gotten faster and when the sheep stalled at the far pond stream, she used her teeth to get the bunch going. She is getting stronger on her driving but it will not her be specialty. I hope with each trial she will come in faster at the top and have more push on her drive. The ram took a charge at her and she slung on his ear, like a fat tick. She hung on and he spun her off. She got up, raced after him and hocked him hard. Well, I guess she has a bit of a temper! I had Rainey drive and drive the sheep all around the ponds and it helped. She can’t whip to the side to head the sheep as one side is the fence and the other side is the pond. So she only had the alleyway to push and after a while, she was holding in the center of the pressure than the sides. I hope that after a lot more of this, she will push more on the back of the sheep. She is a game little dog that is quick to do as I ask of her.
Earlier in Saturday, I sorted sheep with Nan. I put the Clun Forest ram with the locker lambs and merged the wool sheep with the hair sheep. I had to pull out two ewes from the locker lamb area to put them with the main flock. I was using Nan to push the sheep out from the back lawn pasture and then I was going to do a back sort. The sheep kept stalling in the mouth of the gate and Nan was hocking them to go out, but they would not move. Finally, I turned around to see Tess holding them back. Apparently, she was doing a great job, as they did not want out. I told her to leave and she dejectedly trotted to the barn and disappeared inside. Little did I know, she trotted out the other end of the barn, up the driveway, around the house and snuck back behind me. I had almost all sorted out and then began to struggle with the last few. I quickly glanced over my shoulder and didn’t see why they were stalling. Tess had positioned herself directly and a little to the left of me, just out of eye range. It took me a bit to figure it out and I told her to go to the barn. Again, she trotted in the barn and I caught her sneaking up the driveway to “assist” me again. Ok, if she wants to double team with Nan, I will let her!
I called her in, she shot to my side like a rocket and me with an old, slow dog and a fast, middle-aged dog, we got the two ewes sorted and put with the main flock. Nan is very meticulous about working and if she thinks another dog is part of the program, she will run to the front door. However, she will work with Tess and it does help her with a ewe is charging at her. She is not the bravest at the front-on challenge so when Tess is behind her (usually going forward with her jaws open), Nan will stand her ground. Then she will go in for a grip and the ewe will turn. It has helped her and now she will lean forward for a grip, although sometimes she will be a little weak. I encourage her and she will lean, knowing that I am there. Oddly enough, she has no issues on gripping a llama or cattle. She really enjoys that. I worked on tidying up her inside flanks and not slicing as much. She did well and I hope she keeps it up. Since she is nine, I am not expecting her insides flanks to be perfect as I have let her be slicey but I am going to try to help her get them better. She is the Ferrari of my trial dogs and I have to handle her right, otherwise the sheep will bolt. She is a joy to run and my sweetheart!
Sava is maturing quite a bit and it was well worth the wait to let her mature. She has a wide lovely outrun and a nice pace. She tries hard to do right and is getting less “blonde” on her flanks. I used her to hold the lambs off the feeders and soon she figure out the routine. She is easy to work and wants to please. She will be a good Open dog after more time on the PN class. I plan to run her in PN for at least another year. I am not in a rush to move her up, as she hasn’t gotten a lot of trial time. By in time, she will be one of the Open dogs and Nan can rest on the couch, while Sava steps in her slot.
I am very happy with my string of dogs now. Nan and Maid are excellent Open dogs, Rainey and Sava are holding their own in PN and young Reba and Billie are the future prospects her. Scott has Wynn and Kiwi and I hope they will make him proud. Of course, Tess will continue to be my lap warmer and setout dog.
I reduced my flock down to about 1/3 of what I normally have due to the high hay prices. I will try to rebuild in the spring but for the time being, I will have to make do with what I have. By working the sheep, either as the entire flock or just a few, I can train for what I want. Luckily, so far, the winter has been mild and the fields are not as muddy as they normally are at this time. The problematic coyote was killed so that has helped quite a bit. Kodi and Glock have been on full alert since spring so the coyote went to the neighbors’ flock and did major damage. We also had two cougars move in and the large male took resident in the marsh field next to my house. He got a few lambs and then would help himself to the neighbor’s flock too. The Game Dept finally got him by the edge of my back fence and the other cougar was treed by a local hunter. It has been a hard year due to the predators.
The winter darkness has rolled early each night in making it hard to work dogs when I get home from work. So I invent chores for them to do in the stall of near the barn where there is light. It is a lot of close work but it helps on the confidence. They learn to squeeze in tight spots and hold sheep in the stall while I worm or treat them. They learn to hold a single and work the silly lambs. They figure out to ignore the LGD and not bother the horse or llama. They get to pull the sheep of the feeders, while working around the horse and llama and not leaving any strays behind. I also let the sheep graze on the lawn so they learn to tend the flock. Every little bit of work helps; it doesn’t have to be trial work. A good honest day’s work makes for a good, honest dog.
I am lucky to have four honest dogs in my trial string and it makes the winter chill a lot less colder while my heart warms at the sight of my dogs working as they have been bred to do for generations.