Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tessa and Sally videos



For the first part of the lesson we worked on walk up, down and out, all on the line.  She has done this before in the small pen, where we don't have to worry about the sheep running off.  I have to be a lot more careful in the big field or we won't have sheep, they will just leave.   But she already knows the drill, and doesn't get excited enough to make the sheep run.  This was just a refresher.


The camera ran out of memory, so there was a pause to go get a new memory stick, which is why we are  on the other side of the field in the next video.   I start Tessa walking around the sheep, and push her out when she tries to lean in on them.   Most of this training was also done in the small pen in other sessions, so here she just gets a small reminder before I drop the line.  I don't say anything when I drop the line since at the start of the walking around I had given her a flank command.   I just walk toward the sheep which is enough pressure to hold her out on the path she had started on. 

A couple of times during the lesson I stop her, catch her, and start her the same way for extra practice on all of those things: stopping, being caught (this isn't always the same thing as some dogs will stop but then won't let you get near them without running off around the sheep again), and going around again.    This makes her more willing to stop in the future because we don't just do it at the end of the session.  

Letting Tessa go around

This is more of the middle of the session.   You can see her start to cut in and I step in and push her out.  She tries to go back the other way but I make her go the same was she was originally.   Then we get a nice slow fetch at the end.   Raising my arms makes her go slower behind the sheep.  I am also saying "there" to her, which I don't think you can hear on the video.    It is important to let her cover the sheep if they start to run by me, not just for her own happiness but because if I don't, and  just insist on slowness all around in the wrong place, she will lose the sheep to the far side of the field, which will probably cause her to run after them and make a mess.  

Short steady fetch

Near the end of our session I ask for a stop (stay), which she does, but then tries to go around as I walk toward her.  I am repeating "stay", and I step in between her and the sheep and put on a little pressure until she does stop and stay.  


The next ones are of Sally.  She has not done as much line work in the small pen as Tessa, so I didn't do it out in the larger field.   We have to go back to the small pen and work on that next.    I started her by standing between her and the sheep, which didn't make as smooth a start but it wasn't too bad.  She went around and didn't lose any sheep.  

Sally, the first part

In these videos I am working on keeping the sheep between us, letting her cover and keeping her flanks right.  They are pretty good naturally so I am just reminding her with my stick so she doesn't start to come in closer.  At one point I pushed her out a bit more when she was coming in.  She does more flanking than Tessa, who prefers to walk straight.   I think this is an innate difference in how they work. 
Sally -Middle

The last video shows me getting her to stop.   You can see her give a big stress yawn there at the difficulty of stopping and staying.  It is no longer balance for her when I am on the same side of the sheep as she is.  This is the hard part of the lesson.   But she'll get it and it won't be so bad once she knows she can go back to the sheep after I catch her.   I don't know if you can tell in the video but how I walk toward her is very important if I want her to stay until I get there.  I'm pointing my shoulder at her and giving "don't leave" body language, a very subtle focus off to her side to appear non threatening.  I don't call her to me because that would make the sheep run off.   If I had gone to her fully facing her and looking at her with a "move away" body language she would have been gone and around the sheep, and it wouldn't have been disobedience, but exactly what my body language told her to do, just not what I intended.    I guess she's only had one lesson where I worked on stopping her a bunch.     

Sally- last part

Thank you Dane for braving the biting gnats and videoing us!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men...

...gang aft agley
It sure went all agley for me yesterday.
I was on my way to Michigan for the Semasa trials, and only got 10 miles from my house, when a deer came popping out in front of me.  I saw it coming and slammed on the brakes, but it was too close and leaped in front of me.  I can still see expression of the deer as it jumped out, the huge black eye, and the slow motion flying of deer cartwheeling through the air.    The person behind me stopped to see if I was ok, and said the deer was still alive.   I called the police and they came to fill out a report, and try to hunt down the deer.  It must have been injured, but limped off into the brush.  I don't know if they found it.   The car was still drivable to get home, but I wasn't sure (and the repair shop people weren't either when I took it there) that the radiator wasn't damaged.  They couldn't get the hood open as it was mashed- well, they could have, but it wouldn't have closed again.   So I went home again.  What a disappointment.  I was really looking forward to seeing friends I haven't seen in a long time, and trialing the dogs. 

I had entered Sprite in open sheep and ducks, and started cows, and Dodge in started everything.  I had Hank along as a back up dog and company, or in case runs opened up.

On the positive side, it was a really beautiful day yesterday, sun shining, a bit of coolness in the air but warm enough to sit out in the sun.  I spent much of it working dogs after dividing the sheep into several groups  (and after spending what seemed like hours on the phone calling everyone under the sun- Motel 6, insurance etc.).

Sprite worked the ewes and lambs and did really well.   None of the ewes are challenging dogs anymore.  She worked on some small outruns.  I love the way she starts those, she goes out wide, feeling the sheep and thinking the whole way.   Sometimes she hooks in at the end but yesterday she didn't.  Then a little driving.  We kept the session short to avoid tiring the little lambs, especially tiny baby G-Girl.    Some of the older lambs are looking humongous compared to her. 

Tessa had a small group to work in the 100 x 100 pen, and we practiced her good flanks, walking up, and stopping.  She has such a nice standing stop that I only ask for a down occasionally to be sure she knows it.  Mostly I have her stand.  

Hank worked a light group out in the big field, who, sad to say, were not light enough.   Even the hoggs (I finally looked that word up.  It just means young sheep of either sex) are now coming running to me as soon as I send him, which means they aren't great for working on outruns.    So we had a sheep training session where every time they started to run to me (and Hank was no where near pushing them that way) I'd stop him and flank him back toward me.   After a few times they would at least hold still until he could get around them.   At the same time I was working on getting him out further.     It may not be the most efficient training, since it is always better to work on one thing at a time, but I thought it was successful anyway, as by the end of the session he was doing a better outrun and the sheep were holding still longer.  

Cinder also got a small turn with the sheep just to keep her paw in.   She's getting a little "fluffy" these days so I have to keep her exercise up, plus she loves to work.   I didn't get the camera out yesterday, so these pictures of Cinder are from a few years ago.    Looking at them is a little like looking at old pictures of myself- as in, hey, look, a waist. 

Best dog ever

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Luke and Cinder's Birthday

Today is Luke and Cinder's 11th birthday.   Michael got them each a bag of biscuits, although they each only got to eat a couple today. 

Luke smiling, Cinder looking serious
We also got our one lawnmower back all fixed.  We traded the other one for the repair.  I paused  halfway through mowing the yard to take the picture, so you might see some short and some long back there. 

"Flame tree"

lilacs and apple


The neighbors' field is pretty well shortened, so I brought the ewes and lambs back yesterday with Hank's help.  It was drizzling.   Hank was very excited at first, plus the lambs had forgotten what a dog was (such short memories) so we spend a minute in the field calming everyone down before walking them out the gate, down the neighbors' drive, along the road, then into the forest and let them slowly graze their way back to our gate with Hank and I moseying along behind them.    
The picture above is the fresh grass for them.  

Yes, there is a lamb in that grass

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


G-Girl's mother, Flicka, has a totally opposite personality from Gremlin's dam, Faline.   While the latter aggressively defended her lamb at first, Flicka prefers not to cause waves and hides her baby behind her.   G-Girl was really sticking close to her mom.  

"Try some greens, lambie"

"Are these yellow things good to eat, Mom?"

"Yes, dear"

"Come on, lamb"

"Mom, the dog is looking at me"

"That's ok, it's Ben.   Try this tree, it's really crunchy"

The crabapple trees are just starting to bloom and will look really gorgeous.  The people who planted this farm years ago did a wonderful job and I'm glad since I'm hopeless with decorative planting.   The lilacs are getting close to full bloom also.

Crab apple.   It really should have a prettier name.

Pictures from our walk

The trees and flowers are really booming now.  This is the apple tree near the house.  If the weather cooperates we will have some good apples in the fall.   We never spray or do anything to the apple trees, so some years are good and some are bad for fruit.   The flowers are pretty every year. 

The grass is so green it almost overwhelms starved eyes which have been looking at nothing but gray and white all winter.  We have gotten more rain than any year since we moved here, which our neighbors tell us is more normal and the end of a 10 year drought.  We have lived here 8 years. 

I think Pepper looks good with green

Kip does too

Becky, who is 14, still enjoys walking with us.  

She's a good dog
I'm not sure green is Sprite's best color, but she's still cute

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tessa pictures

Nothing much new this week, I just got some cute pictures of Tessa on the deck.   I've been working Sprite and Dodger in preparation for a trial next weekend, and they both seem to be doing well.  I don't work on anything different, just some chores and basics, driving, fetching, little outruns, moving the sheep here and there.   

I've also been spending a lot of time in the garden- it's pretty much planted now except for a couple things like green peppers and garlic.     The asparagus is growing and we've been eating that.  What could be better? I love fresh asparagus.  

We had one more little lamb born, so that's every ewe that we have- they are all done.  It's the cutest little white one.  Dane named her "G-Girl" and says we have to keep her.  

Friday, May 20, 2011


There are not very many things as sad as one duck.    The female wood duck died, cause unknown as she was not eaten,  and every time I went past the pond there was the male, floating next to her in the middle of the pond.   Even though ducks don't have facial expressions and I  don't even know if ducks feel grief, he seemed to be floating sadly.  We have had several horrendous human tragedies in our small town this past month and seeing this one duck on his own there made me think of the others who have been left on their own and are grieving. After several days the male left, hopefully seeking a new mate.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chickens and Ducks

Just because!

The rooster, who really should have a name, as the only surviving rooster and cock of the walk.   But he doesn't.

Sprite today

Sprite worked on driving the sheep around the dog yard.  She does well on taking them away from the draw, pretty well on a cross drive and not very well on going toward the draw.  We worked on all directions, and she needed a lot of commands to take the sheep toward the gate where they wanted to go.

Driving across

Driving toward the gate.  She'd just keeping going "bye" unless I stopped and reflanked her.  After doing it a  few times I just had to repeat "there" when she was far enough.
Driving around a tree

Driving toward the far corner, into the trees

This was her good direction.

Pushing the last sheep through

Cooling off


I like to figure out how to get dogs thinking.  To me, going around the small pen after a dog has learned a few basics like stay out of the middle of the sheep, bring them to me, and stop, doesn't give the dog enough to think about.   Getting out into different areas will make them either fail and learn from it, or work a lot smarter.  This happened with Tessa in the last two sessions.   Last week we were out in the 5 acre field and she had gotten over her wanting to only hang out on the heavy side.   She's a smart girl.  It really only took me that one time of showing her, in the previous session, that she could go around to the other side without losing the sheep and she was willing to do it whenever I asked.   She has really got a nice steady walk when she gets to balance- she doesn't always come rushing up on the sheep.   Today I had the sheep in the dog yard, and decided to work a couple dogs in there for something different.   It's a new area, there are new things to figure out to get the dogs thinking.   Tessa did very well.  I pushed her out a couple of times, but mostly she was staying out on her own.  We just fetched around a little and practiced "stop".  

Hugging the fence

Stopping on her own well off the sheep

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Working weekend

This weekend I worked with Dodge and Sprite on some light groups of sheep.  This time Dodge had no trouble walking up, so I don't know if it was the different group, different area, I did something different, or he was in a better mood for driving.  I know people say female dogs have more moods than male dogs, but it hasn't been my experience.  Dodge has more moods than any of the girls I've trained.    Sprite is sensitive to me, though, and how much attention I am paying.   I have tried to video tape her several times and each time she knows my full attention is not on the job she looks at me like "Are you sure you want me to do this?" and she becomes much more hesitant about each command.

Hank helped me move the ewes and lambs over to our neighbor's house, where they will be good little lawnmowers on a new pasture until the grass is short enough.   With the warm weather and the rain we have had some really good grass-growing weather.  The one ewe that was sick is back to normal now, feeding her babies and gaining weight.   She did experience a "wool break" from fever, though and dropped her hair suddenly to become nearly naked.  She was looking completely awful for a few days until the new hair started to grow.   Now she just looks mostly awful, but the bald parts are covered with a little fuzz.  

Sheep in the new pasture

Hi sheep

Today I worked Kip and Pepper, and Kip was such a joy.   He really is fun to work.  Pepper worked on driving on a very long line and she likes to drive fast!     So mostly I was working on keeping her at a fast trot instead of dashing around or through the flock, and getting her to stop even way far out in front of me.

Friday was the kids' fun fair at school and I took a couple pictures of them when we got home.  This was the best fun fair yet for me because David is old enough that he goes off with his friends, and Michael is responsible enough not to get lost in the crowd.   Other years it was quite exhausting keeping up with two kids that wanted to go in opposite directions.   The only down spot was when the bounce house supervising lady forgot she had David's glasses and left on break with them- but we found her and found them undamaged.

Balloons and silly hats:  what could be better?


David was really really happy to have won a soda at the ring toss.