Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Larky the Duck Dog and Other Notes

Larky loves poultry. I went outside Sunday morning to hang clothes on the line to find Lark "babysitting" a hen with her chicks, all of whom were trying valiantly to take a dust bath despite their audience.

Saturday was the BC Boards picnic at Becca's place. This year we also had a bunch of non-border collie folk from a couple of other forums that Becca is also a member of. It was fun to meet new people and new dogs. The food was delicious per usual, and those of us who wanted to work our dogs had the opportunity to work either ducks or sheep.

Given Lark's love of chickens (she will work them here at the farm), I figured she'd be a natural on ducks, and she was. Here's a video Laura took:

And since we were playing around, I decided to give Pip a whirl. It seems that Pip thinks working ducks is beneath him. The speech bubble above his head reads "A sensible dog doesn't work ducks, he eats them!" This video is in three parts, and if you watch closely, you will see a couple of occasions where Pip is spitting feathers. Disclaimer: No ducks were hurt in the recording of this video....

And just to show that Pip isn't a completely useless working dog, here's a video of him working Becca's sheep. We had just pulled this set of sheep out of the main flock, and in doing so, separated them from their unweaned lambs, so they very much wanted to go back toward the gate and to their pasture, which is to their left on the drive. They were leaning really hard on Pip, but he managed to drive them away anyway. They hadn't been penned before either, so this video is a little lesson of sorts in how to pen uncooperative sheep with an inexperienced dog. (That's Robin French with her good open dog Spottie setting sheep for us.)

Training Notes and Vids
We also got some videos of Phoebe and Raven at home. A note on Phoebe: Ever since she came into heat (her second) in mid-April she has completely regressed with respect to stockwork. As a result, I had moved her back to a smaller area on easier sheep, thinking that perhaps her "crisis of confidence" was the result of having been overfaced, or pushed too far, too fast. After discussing the issue with others, I'm now inclined to think that it was completely hormone related. In the past week or so, roughly eight weeks after coming into heat, she seems to have her brain back and be working as well as she was before coming into heat. If this continues to be a problem on every heat cycle, then I'll probably end up spaying her.

Anyway, I also wanted to get video of Phoebe working in a similar situation as Raven so that Raven's owner could compare their working styles. So here's Phoebe working the dog-broke sheep in the paddock last Saturday morning.

Laura came by last Friday evening to try her six-month-old pup Linc in the round pen. You can see the video of his work session on her blog (see the list of favorites on the left). I had Laura tape Raven for me as well. I wish I had video of our first few training sessions so y'all could see the tremendous strides she's made, but unfortunately I didn't have anyone to tape for me, and it's pretty impossible to tape and train a youngster at the same time (at least not without a real camcorder and tripod). Here's Raven in the round pen.

Saturday morning Darci came by to work a couple of dogs and ride with me up to Becca's. I got her to tape Raven in the paddock (she also took the video of Phoebe above). The work isn't perfect by any means, but you can see that she's showing less tension, is flanking reasonably well in both directions (except that she sometimes still blows in to the right), and seems to be enjoying herself. Note: The sheep that crashed into the fence did so because Raven sliced her flank and pushed him too hard. Since this was a lamb, his reaction was quite exaggerated, hence running into the fence. Had it been one of the ewes that Raven had buzzed like that, she likely would have reacted less violently.

We worked Darci's young dog Stella in the round pen on Saturday morning, and she's coming along very nicely. Then I took Darci's Chris in to work her. Chris has a real problem with working sheep in tight spaces, and so her reaction is to try to pull sheep down. Darci has gotten to the point where she doesn't like to take Chris off her own place to work for fear of the damage she could do to someone else's sheep. That's why I took her in the round pen. I figured if I let her damage my sheep, then I had no one but myself to blame. Now this is where well dog-broke sheep (Robin's "magic sheep," whom I refer to as "the Holsteins" because of their markings) truly prove their value. I had Chris going around between the sheep and the fence in a calm and controlled manner. I think she grabbed at the sheep just once in our entire work session. The first thing I did was get her attention when we walked into the pen. It was clear her mind was just churning, and I wanted her to remember that I was there and pay attention to me. Getting into her head right at the start made a big difference. What she does is get tense and then goes into a reactive nonthinking prey mode--and it's all the result of feeling uncomfortable in close proximity to the sheep. All I did was get her to engage her brain before she got into the reactive mode. I also asked her to lie down at the moment when she would normally speed up and try to shoot through the space between the sheep and the fence (with the sheep up against the fence). By getting her to lie down, I was getting her to think and helping her to see that she could be close to sheep and up against a fence and nothing bad would happen. I sure wish we had taken videos of her working--the change from this time to the last time she was here (when I had to use Blu-kote liberally on my sheep) was amazing.

Other Stuff
In other notes, and somewhat related to my "When it rains...," entry, I got a speeding ticket on the way to Becca's. It was simply my inattention, heading downhill and talking to Darci instead of keeping an eye on the speedometer, that got me caught. Now there's another bill I have to pay, although I'm considering going ahead to court and seeing if I can get it reduced and keep it off my license, thereby saving my insurance. The irony of the whole thing is that I tend to be a bit of a lead foot, but lately I've been very conscientious about driving slower to try to conserve fuel. Maybe I should have tried to tell the state trooper that I was practicing hypermiling and was just trying to get my speed up going down that hill so I could make it up the next one with fuel usage. I'm sure he would have bought that excuse!

I also will be getting a few Rhode Island Red pullet chicks in the next couple of weeks. I love my Old English Game bantams, but it will be nice to have regular-sized eggs, and I've always had a soft spot for RIRs since one of our pet chickens when we were children was an RIR aptly named Curious.

We're drier than ever here. The few storms that have come this way have split and gone either north or south of us. The pasture we seeded is dying, and I'm feeding the flock hay already. I think I need to relocate my farm to someplace that gets a little bit more rain. Karakuls originated in the arid steppes of central Asia, and they did amazingly well during last year's drought, but I had really hoped we'd have some decent pasture for them this year. If it keeps up, I won't have any choice but to ship some sheep out of here.

And although this post is already too long, I wanted to report that I swam Twist at Becca's and then used her to sort sheep (despite the fact that she's not supposed to be working--our help was needed) and she had to do some major "cutting horse" moves to keep the set of sheep we had separated off from rejoining the rest of the flock. She hasn't shown any signs of lameness since all the activity on Saturday, so here's hoping that she's all healed up and will soon be back in fine working form!


Rachel said...

Glad to hear that Twist isn't showing any lameness after Saturday. Great videos and commentary.

carson-crazies said...

Hey J - I'd have bought that excuse if I was the HP dude. ;) It was a fun weekend, wasn't it? Lots of good stuff going on - and it makes it hard going back to work this week for me.

Anonymous said...

Chis says she wants her some holstien sheep here at home too!
( Oh, and that round pen I promissed her!)
What a difference eh? Chicks on hold, and despretly seeking panels.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

What gives? I clicked on every video play button and got "We're sorry, this video is no longer available."

Julie said...

Hi Michelle,
I just checked them all this morning and they seem to be working fine. I wonder if YouTube was just having some sort of glitch last night?