Tuesday, June 28, 2011

S, T, P and D

David worked Sally again, this time in the larger pen, which is about an acre.  She started to get a little more wound up so I stepped in and helped and got her stopping and walking again.   I worked Tessa in the really big field on the ewes and lambs for the first time.   She also needed a bit of correction to start since all the popcorn lambs got her excited, but soon she had settled down was was working her normal calm way.   Mostly we worked on fetching and getting her all the way to the head since she was tending to pull up short.  I worked her for a long time- I wasn't timing but she and I were both hot and tired at the end.

Pepper had a very long session too.  I worked her on a lot of driving, all short drives, but many of them.   Also I started doing what they call "pulling her off the top" which means flanking her around from balance to my side of the sheep and then having her drive from there.   She did that pretty easily.   We also worked on some longer outruns with the sheep in a heavy corner.  After messing up the first one by running through the middle of the group and getting yelled at for that, she did it right the next 4 times. 

Dodge had a session in which we did some long drives while I walked along with him, and some little outruns.  He still has trouble coming to me when we're working.  If I want to call him to me to set up and outrun he stands there looking at me.  Sometimes I even have to crouch on the ground to get him to come.  It's not so much that he's stubborn, he just finds my pressure hard to come in to sometimes.   So we've been working a lot on that.   He also has trouble with "stay", as he thinks my movement is a signal to him that he should jump up and balance the sheep to me.   Patience, patience and more patience for both of us.

S and T


Sunday I went down to Genoa City in southern Wisconsin for an AHBA trial and had a fun time judging all the really nice dogs and good handlers there.   There were many courses, including the large flock (RLF) in which you start with about 30 sheep in this case.  The location was Shannon Wolfe's training center, where I originally started taking lessons years ago.   A place of many good times and fond memories.   Here is a link if you want to take a look:


Shannon ran several of her dogs FEO (for exhibition only- can earn titles but not awards) and it was not as hard to judge my former teacher as you might think.  I tend to forget who is handling the dog when I judge, the same way I forget that a judge is watching me when I trial.   I have a lot of focus.

They will be having another AHBA trial in the fall if anyone is looking for a good challenging course with nice stock.  I keep trying to make down there to trial but October always gets so busy with trials for me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

David and Sally working together

David and Michael wanted to get into working the dogs today.   David worked with Sally and Michael and I worked Cinder together.  Sally was actually listening to David, whereas Cinder kept waiting for me to tell her what to do. 

At first he has her circle the sheep and practices changing her direction.
David and Sally working

Then he heads out across the pen.   He walked from one side to the other with the sheep and I thought they did great together.  
Second Part

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One way to see the sun

This is the picture Michael drew today of Hank herding the sheep on a sunny day.   Hanging it on the window, we can pretend it's not raining AGAIN.    The brown blobs are sheep, the black blob on the right is Hank and the long flat thing between them is a mud puddle.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Walk pictures

We managed a little walking in between downpours and drizzles. 
The gang waiting at the gate for me

Exploring an anthill.  No, they don't taste good.


 Ben stalking Sally

Cinder and Becky (in the back)

Tessa with her wacky ears.  I love her eyes.  She's very intense.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cartman the Fish

Assorted cichlids

Feed us!

We added 4 fish at first to get the tank acclimated then added 5 more on Sunday.  The nitrogen balance is important for fish and I can't say I understand it completely but the bacteria that eat waste have to build up after you put the first fish in.   This gives the fish the best chance of health and survival.  


One of our original fish, the big yellow one, who didn't start out bigger than the others but has been growing at an amazing rate, immediately set about hogging the food, the best spots in the tank and all the pictures I took.   I named him Cartman after the South Park character because you can almost hear him demanding "Mem, Memmmmm- I want more fishy pellets now, Memmmm".    So of course the small orange one that was left hiding behind the filter became Kenny.   Michael named the other yellow one Windy, and the other orange one Pumpkin.  

The blue ones are new and are becoming some of my favorites.  They are aggressive feeders and the speediest of fish, but are not so much into chasing the other fish around.   Those, together with the yellow/black striped fish, are always at the front of the tank begging for food when they see anyone.  

Dane says in the event of a zombie apocalypse we now have another source of protein available. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Stop when you're ahead



We've been having fun, can you tell?

Friday was "puppy" working day.   I split the wether/ram group in half and put one heavy group in the smaller pen and one lighter group in the 1/2 acre L shaped field.   Tessa went first and was a bit distracted acting in the small pen.   She was totally focused once we moved to the other group of sheep in the larger area, though.   They were much lighter and did not want to stick with me at all so she really had to work to keep them from running off.  She did a pretty nice job, although it would have been better if she had been wider and she would not have had to work so hard.    It was a learning experience for her to settle down and settle the sheep.  

With Sally, I worked only in the smaller pen and she did really a fine job.  She could have gone on to the other group in the bigger pen as well but I was getting kind of tired out.  Not physically, but a little mentally tired and figured it would be better to stop then rather than risk me screwing up.  Stop when you're ahead!    Sally is starting to get the standing stop better out away from fences, and although she still flanks a lot she stays out and keeps the sheep from running past me.   She is really looking like she will make a fine and biddable working dog.   I practiced the walk up and out with her and she did quite well.   I can tell she'd rather go around, but she's doing the walk up confidently even with the old ram in her group.   He sometimes doesn't think he should have to move. 

I've still been trying to work Pepper for short periods each day, and there's usually not much to write about as the sessions tend to be the same.   We do a few outruns, work on fetching slowly and do a little driving with the ewes and lambs in the big field.    She is so fast, and absolutely love to run.   I bet she'd be happy if I had several hundred sheep so the running from one side to the other was actually needed.    Working  three light sheep in a trial is going to take some work and more maturing for her.   A big herd of cows would also be really good for her, but I don't have that here. 

Sprite is threatening to take over all the chore work from the older dogs.  She did a lot of the sorting and moving work for me this week, as well as practicing shedding a little bit more and a few outruns.   I just wish I could convince her the cat is not a sheep and she should just ignore him.   If he's out there she's all worried about him not being in the group of sheep.   One frustrating day, every time I gave a direction command she was orienting them all to the cat and not the sheep.   Silly dog!      Butterscotch had no comment, except "Baa, I really am a small orange sheep".  

Friday, June 17, 2011

More shedding

I tried Sprite next on shedding the large group out away from a fence (ok, it's not that large, but it's the bigger than the small group).   She did it just right the first time which I was not expecting.  I made a hole for her, called her in, she came in and turned on to the sheep I was facing and drove them away.  I thought it might be fluke so I tried it again and no, it wasn't a fluke.   I guess she knows it.   I could make it harder with stickier or smaller groups, or not making the hole for her, but I think I'll stick with our success for now.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Photo by Becky Beckmann

Photo by Becky Beckmann

Dodge had a really nice working session the other day.  I had him moving the flock of ewes and lambs around the big field and he fetches and rates them really well.   They hardly ever try to run past me.   Then I asked him to drive along the fence and he went out in front of me and held his position just right to keep them going and on the fence for at least 100 feet before he got too close to the fence and I wasn't quick enough to stop him from pulling them off.   It looked so nice and calm I was reluctant to stop him, but afterward I realized I should have done something different before the drive fell apart and he went back to fetching.    But overall, I was really happy with how he did. 

Yesterday I tried the same thing with Pepper, but she's not as far along in driving and continually was slipping to the front to stop the sheep.   She would take my commands to come back behind, but she wouldn't hold the driving position on her own, which was my goal.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to stay alive as a rooster

First of all, you need to crow at the appropriate time, which is sunrise or a little later.  In the summer this can be 5:30 or so, but at no season is midnight to 3 am a good time to crow loudly and persistantly as if trying to encourage the sun out of bed early, especially in the summer when people have windows open.    Floyd here passed that test, and he survived the round of rooster butchering and soup making the first year we had the chickens.   We didn't actually know them apart by their crowing habits, but after getting rid of most of the roosters there was a lot less midnight crowing so we were happy.

The second key to survival is to know your limits as an edible bird.   Some of our remaining roosters suffered from an excess of machismo and would attempt to fight with Kip through the fence.    This did not come out well for them as Kip knows exactly how edible chickens are and doesn't take guff from a mere rooster, fence or not.   Floyd passed this test, and I have never seen him act aggressively, except toward the male ducks when they harass the female ducks.  He's definitely a peacekeeper, and a survivor. 

Introducing shedding

I introduced Sprite to shedding today, via the technique I learned from Bob Vest.   I learned so many things just from the two clinics I went to with him.  When I use those techniques I remember him and hope he is in stockdog heaven knowing how many people appreciated what he taught them.    The first clinic I went to I remember thinking you don't often run into a genius at reading and training dogs.  I have seen a lot of good trainers and compared to them I am barely passable, but Bob was truly great.      He got one big old dog of a breed that I can't remember, almost the size of a Great Dane,  interested in working by pushing cows  back over toward him.   The dog showed little interest in sheep, but when the cows started coming toward him he realized he was a working dog.  He may have been a Catahoula mix. 

The first step is to get the dog used to coming through the sheep.   Bob used a large group of sheep in a small pen, and with the dog walking on a line behind him simply walked through the group of sheep, saying "That'll do".    This may sound simple, but if you've tried it with a group of well dogged sheep it may not be so easy, as they tend to want to clump and run.   You have to read the sheep and have the dog and you in the right place to split them.   Today I practiced a couple of times with Hank, just so I could see how easy it would be with this group of ewes and lambs and to brush up on my skills.  This is review for Hank as he has done the more advanced version.    Then I tried it with Sprite.   There's really almost no way the dog can mess up this step if the person is doing it right.    Although one time when Bob was demonstrating with Tyler, Tyler got excited as he got in the middle of the sheep and heeled the only leg he could reach, which happened to be  Bob, who didn't get excited but just kept going. 

We walked through the group of sheep a few times and then I went on to the next step, which is to call the dog into the sheep as you stand in the middle of them up against a fence.   First I had Sprite help me line them out and make a nice big hole, then called her in.   I was actually thinking she wouldn't do it, or it would be difficult for her, since is sensitive to the sheep bubble, but she did, her biddability winning out over her desire to group the sheep together.   I did that a couple of times, then we went out to the big field to work on some driving.    I love my Spritey dog!

Friday, June 10, 2011

One version of paradise

This is how I imagine paradise might look: 


Our neighbors' new lambs come over to visit through the fence


This one is of Pepper, or "mini-Kip"

Their faces are nothing alike but their color and style of working are similar.
David, Kip and Pepper chilling on the couch

This sheep is just barely hanging on to it's hair
Lift-the-flap sheep

The new summer coat is all ready underneath, and the winter mat is ready to come off

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pepper videos

Some videos from today:
Small outrun
Pepper fetching sheep

In the video below I set Pepper up ahead of me to attempt an inside flank.   She does know which direction I want, but she goes way out wide behind me.   I don't really want to correct that, (if it's even wrong- I don't know) because she's trying so hard to be good, so I just let her go and try again. 

Attempt at an inside flank

The next one she goes pretty well- I'd like to see her a bit wider on the side, but her start was nice so I let it go.  

Inside flankInside flank

I also had her come around on an off balance flank while the sheep were up against the fence several times, so she had to come around me and take the sheep off the fence.  Most of the time she was really nice and calm.  Only one time she thought some of the lambs weren't going to come off easily and she dashed through them.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


So, we set a record yesterday for this date in our town.  It was 97.     It's too hot to do any sheep work that doesn't need to get done, so we pretty much stayed in the AC yesterday, except for a short walk for the dogs and us, and getting chores done.  

David's rocket went off with a bang at school- we had to be outside for that, but it didn't take long to fire all the rockets.   Most of the contests were done inside the gym, where it not exactly air conditioned but at least slightly cooler.  The cucumber cars were really cute, and homemade frisbees and paper airplanes were fun.  Today will be the last day of school, then on to summer fun for the kids.  

Rocket lauch

Lauch at school

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dual birthdays

Ok, don't tell David I put his baby pictures on here.    Today he turns 10 years old!  And the little black fuzzball in the pictures, Kip, turns 9.  

Monday, June 6, 2011



Sunday I worked with Hank, mainly on taking flanks a little more squarely.  The "way to" flank he was pretty good, the "go bye" flank (left) he was cutting in.   The goal I set up was to weave the sheep among the fence poles (no fence attached)  while driving and to do that he had to make good flanks or the sheep would run too far to the side to make a nice weaving pattern.    I had to correct the go bye several times by stopping him, going up to him and pushing him out, but eventually he started doing it better and we made the weave poles.  

Sprite worked on holding the sheep still in between us and taking good flanks there without pushing the sheep.   Eventually I'd like to start teaching her to shed, so we're getting this part worked on separately.  I imagine it will be hard to teach her to come in between the sheep, but I haven't tried it yet.   I also had her do a couple of blind, over the hill, outruns where she started running the wrong way (she couldn't see the sheep) and I had to stop and reflank her, bending out more, to get her on the right track, which she did just fine.  

And a picture from Saturday at David's birthday party.  He's going to be 10 tomorrow!   The kids played capture the flag with water balloons and had a great time getting soaked in the heat.  
Water balloon fight!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nope, didn't make it

I crashed out for a two hour nap this afternoon.  

For this morning's training, first Ben sorted the sheep, then I worked with Sally in the small pen on some line work.  She is such an easy dog, she just does everything I ask, no fuss.   She worked on lie down, standing stop, walk up, out, and both directions and then was off the line for some fetching around and more work on the stop.  

Then I had Dodge shuffle in a new group and gave him a little work on the basics while we were at it.  He's pretty easy on the sheep too.   You know how there are some dogs who constantly push, and you have to keep a thumb on them, well, at the other end there's Dodge and Sally who are nice and easy.   I actually do like the pushy dogs, but sometimes it's more relaxing to get stuff done with the easy ones.  

Then it was Tessa's turn and she did the same sort of practice as Sally, a little line work, a little free fetching, some stops, a little more line work.  She's doing very well, and her down is improving.   She's not a hard headed dog by any means, but more intense than Sally which requires a slightly tougher correction than Sally to get her attention sometimes.  

Pepper got a longer training session with the ewes and lambs in the 1 acre field.   She did some really nice outruns and driving.   They are not long ones yet, but we'll get there.   We have to make the short ones right first.  

Last night we visited some little ones:

These are Foster/Paris puppies belonging to Bruce and Renae, of  Defiance Aussies.   Nine little beasties, and 6 are reds.  Paris is Luke's daughter.   Facebook page for the puppies

Blog interlude

I don't know if I'm going to make it through today.  I stayed up late because it was too hot to sleep, then was awoken at 5:30 by Michael wanting to fill the pinata NOW.   I worked dogs before it got hot: Sally, Tessa, Pepper, Ben and Dodge each had a short turn.   Then I finished scooping the poo from the yard and mowing the grass.  Then cleaned the house in a whirlwind since we have a birthday party today.  Now it is lunch time and I'm putting off more house cleaning with my blog here.   Michael, David and Dane went off to pick up pizzas and ice cream cake.

Pet Day at school and home

Every year the kindergarten at our kids' school has a day for pets.  They have spent all week learning about responsibility for pets and how to treat them, then one afternoon people bring in whatever they have at home, mostly dogs, but also quite a few cats, and this time there were also a ferret, some caterpillars, hamsters and a hermit crab.  I brought pictures of the sheep but though they wouldn't really enjoy the crowd.      Luke was our dog of the day, and after getting all spiffed up, washed and brushed, he had a great time meeting and greeting the kids and parents.  
Michael and Luke
Michael's favorite animal, after Luke, was the ferret, who was really a nice one.   We have had friends who owned them and they were kinda nippy.    After seeing one at the pet store (rehome needed, $70 includes cage and everything) the kids now really want a ferret, which is not happening.   

Last night we finally got our fish!   There are two yellow and two orange cichlids.   They aren't the kind that get really huge, so after they have a chance to start the tank nitrogen cycle we can go get some more to add.  They seem to be having a great time find hiding places among the tank decorations.  

So far their names are Spud, or possibly Monkey. 

Friday, June 3, 2011


Sometimes you're wandering through the house and see some weird shapes on the wall that you just have to get a picture of.   One of the shapes is easy, anyone want to guess what the other two shadows are?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lessons of the week

Lesson one:   Pepper is not ready for only two sheep.
Lesson two:  The more sheep, the better.
Lesson three:  Latch the gate.  Especially if you are going to have Sprite fetch the sheep and want to keep the puppies from "helping".  

No major disasters but I thought I might write about some of the problems of the week.   Lesson one, I actually did start with three sheep, but I approached from the wrong angle and one of them ducked through a gate which has a gap that I have yet to fix.   I sent Pepper, and for some odd reason then thought it would be a good idea to have her drive the two sheep instead of going and getting my other one (or more) back from it's hiding place.   She pushed too hard, the two sheep split and ran, and she had to go around and bring one back from a dead end corner with trees, which she did, so I was not too unhappy, although I was mad at myself for setting up such a bad situation.   Then I did go back and get a bigger group, and kept them away from the gate, and she did fine.  Lesson two, was today, with all the ewes and lambs.   I worked with Pepper and she did really well.  She is learning "steady" and  "there".   We worked a little on scooping them out of a corner they really wanted to hang out in.  

And finally Lesson three:  this was just dumb.   A few days ago I was going to feed the ewes so I took Sprite to run out and get them.   Otherwise the closer ones coming running and the farther away ones don't see the grain bucket until it's too late.  Tessa, Sally, and Dodge were in the yard, but I thought, this will just take a second and didn't latch the gate behind me.     So of course, in comes Tessa to the field and scatters the sheep that Sprite has just brought.   I told Sprite that'll do and she ran off to find the water pool while I got Tessa under control.   Tessa got them grouped back together right away and then she was pretty easy to catch, but still, I don't need my daily dose of excitement that badly.     Sprite has come a long way from when she was the instigator of havoc to being willing to leave when I told her she was done.   Some day Tessa will be a big dog too and not a silly puppy. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fishless tank

Dane found a free fish tank with all the equipment, so after testing it outside to make sure it would hold water, we bought a stand and set it up in the living room.   The floor is not level, since we live in an old saggy house, so this part took some doing to make the fish tank sit level.   It looks great, the only problem is, no fish.   We were expecting to set the tank up, wait 24 hours for the water to filter and warm up, then throw a few fish in there.    We got all excited about buying fish yesterday and took the kids after school to the fish store, but the person there said we really should wait longer for the water to filter to have the best chance of fish survival.    So we bought yet another tank decoration/ fish hiding spot and went home.   But at least we have decided on the kind of fish we want.  They are some yellow cichlids which fit both Dane's criteria (that they are cichlids) and mine and Michael's, which is that they are pretty.