Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Now What To Do?

Qwill having tummy scratch ecstasies.

After the work we did on Monday, I was debating what sort of sheep to get for Qwill today.  The choices were: same kind, some heavy and some light, or all heavy, or a large group.  I decided for her particular issue a large group would be the best, so I just had Sprite bring in the whole flock of 21.   The lambs and everybody were in there.  Qwill did pretty well, although she did run through the middle a few times, she didn't chase but instead put them back together.  Our next thing (soon) is to work on a packed pen idea because she gets a little frantic/flustered when they are all on the fence and I think she just shuts her eyes and runs.  Anyway, she needs to calm down a bit when they are all packed together. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Training Qwill

Pepper and Qwill

Qwill, my little puppy, is now almost 18 months old.   She has a real natural talent on sheep, and I could (should) probably be working a lot more than I have been.  I did get her out to work yesterday, after using Pepper to bring in the flock and sort them.  

I gave her a more difficult group this time, including the anchor sheep (Decker and couple of heavies), plus a flighty young ewe and two lambs.  I wanted to see how she'd handle that.

We were working in the 100 x 100 paddock, and the first mistake (too close) she made, the three flighty ones split off and ran for the gate.  She went after them and it was a bit wrecky with her taking a nip on a heel.  I yelled "HEY" and she dropped to the ground.  She can be sensitive at times even though she is tough in other situations.  Emotionally sensitive while being physically tough, I would say, kind of like Hank was.  

She started playing it safe after that and pretending the three splitters didn't exist.  This is frustrating, to say the least, but every time she dropped to the ground I took her leash and gently pushed her around the group.   I didn't get mad.   After about 6 times of doing the same thing (patience of a saint required!) she began tucking them into the whole group when they would try to leave.  I told her she was such a good girl (without stopping her or distracting too much) and I had her circle in both directions for a while before letting her balance up and walk a little.  Then we called it quits for the day.   I felt like we had made good progress on that issue of handling flighty splitters that day.



Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring Lambs

The snow is melting and today was the first day the small pen is mostly ice free. I broke up the one little patch that was left and had Pepper sort 3 of the old sheep for me into the little pen. The lambs are mostly outside the barn now, with just 3 of them still in a stall with their moms, and Pepper did a great job working the whole flock, ewes and two week old babies included. We didn't do a lot, but just enough to get them sorted. I will be sorting the ewes from the wethers every day to give the moms some extra food. Then I put them back together. Yesterday Sprite did it and today was Pepper's turn.  

Once the sheep were sorted, I took little Qwill out to see what she remembered from last year. She didn't look like she forgot anything, and had even gotten a bit smoother. She's working on get around, stop, walk, out, all that good stuff right now. When old Decker tried to sneak out the gate with us as we were leaving she also got to work on "watch him" and "walk up" a bit more. She kind of liked that.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Farm Work, Errant Ram and Savior Puppy

Because, of course, I have to do things at the worst time possible, the time I set for replacing some falling down fence posts was this morning.  The weather was terrific- about 32, slight drizzle, and an inch of nice slushy snow on the ground. 

 I was just about to head out to the field when I looked out and saw one of my ewes standing off by herself with her head down.  This was suspiciously like a just lambed posture, so first of all I hurried out there to see her, but there was no lamb and she was back with the others by the time I got there.  

Just in case, I took Ben with me and had him gather all the sheep up and sort off the three who looked closest to lambing and put them in one of the barn stalls.   Calling Ben to come with me, I went up to the loft and threw down some hay for them.   I was tossing bales, when I looked around and there was dingbat ram standing at the door.  He hopped right up in there with me and Ben!   I had Ben shoo him out of the loft. I finished up a couple more bales and that silly ram was still standing at the door staring at Ben.    We walked him back down the hill and Ben gingerly put him back through the lower part of the barn and into the sheep field.  Gingerly, because pressing even a pretty nice ram too hard when he's all by himself makes him feisty.  

Now that the sheep were sorted, I could go back to the original plan of fence post planting.  I needed to replace one old corner which was falling down.   I took puppy Qwill and Ben with me.  Qwill is now 7 months old and very excited about sheep, so I put her on a long line to keep her from wandering across the pasture and discovering them.   There are few things less trustworthy than a very excited 7 month old puppy.  Or, maybe I should say I absolutely trusted that she WOULD get in with the sheep without a leash. 

This is Qwill now:
Still cute as can be

This was Qwill back in April when I got her: 

So, with my long line, puppy, Ben, and clamshell post hole digger, I was all ready to get started.  We all traipsed out two gates and across the pasture through the slush.  Nicely enough, the corner of the pasture I was working on was sheltered by pine trees, so there wasn't any snow and it was a bit drier.   I tied Qwill to the fence and she sniffed around a little and then lay down to watch me, like such a good dog.  

She stayed right there until I tripped over nothing, lost my balance, fell over, knocked into a post I had propped up and sent everything tumbling down on top of me.  I wasn't hurt, but my savior puppy rushed over and started leaping all over me with (I think) great concern.  Or possibly she thought I was getting down on the ground to play with her.   

I told her to cut it out and behave, and eventually she quit jumping on me so I could prop the fence and post back up and resume digging.   

This was all fine again until I found rock in the bottom of my post hole, so I had to lie down flat on my stomach with my arm in the hole to try to pull it out.  Savior pup leaped into action again, only this time she started digging at the back of my head!  I was protected by a hat and a hood, but still!

I told her it was all fine and she should sit down like a good dog with Ben, who had been just standing around watching all this.   

So, I was able to finish up my post and head back inside to warm up with some hot tea.   I still have some more to do, but that was enough of this weather for me!   

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Want to Start Trialing Again

I finally have decided that I want to trial again.  It has been years.   I think there will be money for it finally, as long as I don't go overboard, and the kids are old enough that they are more independent and don't need a parent at home every minute.

It has been so long that I'm more nervous about starting up than I ever was about trialing in the first place. I need to get over all that and just do it.  First of all, I'm looking at some other places where I can work my dogs just to get my feet wet again with different sheep.  If it goes well, I'll have a confidence boost. If it doesn't, I'll see where my training needs improvement.  

Pepper is the chosen dog, though I might trial Sprite some more in advanced also.  Sprite is lacking only 2 advanced cattle legs for a WTCH.   Pepper has never been to a trial at all.

To get ready, I have made the commitment to work Pepper every. single. day.  Regardless of weather or how I'm feeling, we are going to get out there and do a little something.  Or a lot of work, depending various factors.    

Pepper knows all the commands, her big issue is that if she gets a little too excited things go all to hell very quickly and herding turns to chasing.  Taking sheep off a fence line when I'm far away is one of her big bugaboos. She can do it just fine when I'm closer, so we need to work on that distance.  Letting sheep go through a gate and "escape" is another situation in which it is hard for her to be obedient, so we are going to be doing a lot of take pen/re-pens.    I figure this is something that a LOT of work, good work, not sloppy stuff, can fix because she will gain obedience and confidence in my follow through and in her ability to control the sheep correctly. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An 'A Plus' For Ben

I wanted to sort off the ewe with the older lambs today, to put her out with the rest of the flock, but keep the one pregnant ewe and the ewe with the one week old baby inside the barn still, in case we get more bad weather. 

I planned out a strategy using a small pen, two gates and Ben and it worked perfectly the first time! 

How many times does that happen?  Barely ever, and certainly never when anyone is watching.  No one was watching us today, so that is probably why. 

 It worked even though one ewe charged Ben right away when we walked into the small pen.  He nipped her in return, and then she behaved.  

The pregnant ewe went back in the stall, I changed the gates, the ewe with the older lambs went out into the field, I changed the gates back, and the ewe with the tiny baby went into the stall.   

All done!  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring and Lambs!

We're having a pretty day today, so I took the ewes and lambs, who have been living in the barn, outside into a small pen to get some sun and grass, well, dry weeds, for the day.  They were not going to move at all for me, so I used Tessa (on a line, she's never done this before) to put them out and Ben to bring them back into the stall in the evening.

I took some pictures of the second time I moved them.
Ben did a great job.  He really knows pressure. 

The moms with the older lambs or not lambed yet ran right in to the barn first.

One day old Peanut is not so fast.

This is the closest Ben got to them, giving her plenty of time to feel safe enough to turn her back.

She's thinking about going in the barn with the other sheep.

Baby Peanut, unconcerned about me or the dog, is interested in this rock.

Wow, this rock is really cool.

Ben waits patiently beside me. 

Mom checks out baby again.

She feels safe enough to walk away.

Baby follows.

Checking out the dog again because we have moved up.

Now they are back in the stall.  One of the other ewes peeks out.