Training update

I don’t think there’s any substitution for using a dog to do real work.  I read other blogs wherein people write about going out to “work” dogs.  I am glad to now be in a position where I don’t have to go out to “work” my dogs.  I go out to do work (chores) and use my dogs (I pluralize dog, but right now I’m really only using Gel) to help me.  Gel has become my right hand; he’s Wally’s left hand.  Gel is my dog and he always will be.  He helps Wally, but he doesn’t work to his full potential for Wally.  There are times when I watch Gel working for Wally, I see a lot of “yee hawing” going on.  Frequently, I am compelled to step in and get after Gel for working in that manner as he’s taking advantage of Wally’s lack of knowledge about how a dog is supposed to work.

A friend of mine went to a Kevin Evans clinic and one of the things that he was helping her learn was a look back.  A “look back” is used when a dog gathers one group of sheep and then has to stop the fetch, look back to spot a second group sheep and then go back to pick up the second group, merge them with the first group and then bring the whole group to the handler.  Gel has an excellent understanding of “look back” and he learned this while working goats who are notorious for splitting off from the main group and heading off into parts unknown.  They do not flock like sheep, at least not for any length of time.  With goats, it’s every goat for himself.  When moving the dairy goats, I frequently have to ask Gel to look back either because a goat has been left behind or because the goat(s) are in different locations.  Gel understands “look back,” “go back” and just plain “back.”  He also understands just “look.”  I’m very glad I decided to start Gel on goats as it taught both of us a lot.

We lost one of the LaMancha cross goat kids on Tuesday.  I went out to feed them in the morning and he refused to eat.  He died later that day.  The other two are doing fine.

I don’t know how I thought I would be able to dry up a goat named Rain.  She simply will not dry up so I’ve given up trying.  I can’t let her walk around with an udder that is all but dragging on the ground and given that I’m putting them out in thick brush to graze, I don’t want to risk an injury to her udder because it’s too full.  I only milk her every three days or so and she’s holding condition.  I will completely stop milking her a week before she’s due to deliver so that she’ll have sufficient colostrum.  This decision may end up kicking me in the face when it comes time for her to deliver, but I don’t know what else to do at this point.

I now have three hens sitting.  If all goes well, we should have chicks and chickens coming out of our ears.  The batch of chickens that we brought up are doing well.  It’s fun watching them scurry around.  It will be very interesting to see how many are roosters.  I think I can tell the hens from the roosters in the Rhode Island Red chickens, but the white ones, which I believe are Cornish crosses all look exactly alike.  Unless one of the ducks is sitting in a hidden location, I don’t think they are sitting at all.  The first hen has been sitting for 15 days, not too many days to go before the eggs hatch.  The other two hens are sitting in the nesting box.

On Tuesday night Wally and I went out to look at some rabbits.  We didn’t know what to expect when we got there and was it ever a pleasure to find a nice clean barn full of rabbits.  I bought 12 young rabbits for $50.  Five or six of them are ready to butcher now, the others need to grow up some.  I spent the morning cleaning out the small dog run that we had previously been using to store scrap lumber in.  I put wire on the bottom of the run to prevent the rabbits from digging out.  When I finish writing this post, I’ll go the local feed store to get rabbit food and straw to put down in the run. Right now they are in the stock trailer and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun trying to catch them.

If this experiment goes well, I’ll start to get weaned rabbits from my original supplier and raise them up to butchering size.  I had been getting them frozen whole.  I’d defrost them, clean and grind them as needed.  This worked okay, but I much prefer cleaning freshly killed rabbits and I know the cats and dogs prefer it that way.  Also, if I am raising them, I can control what they eat and they’ll get more exercise in the dog run than they would in regular rabbit cages.  If the woman that we bought the rabbits from on Tuesday continues to breed and supply us with rabbits at about the same price we can start to cut down on the amount of chicken we are feeding the dogs.  I’d much rather feed rabbit than chicken.  If I could avoid feeding conventionally raised chicken altogether I’d be happy.  The plan is to butcher all of the roosters that we raise up.

For the past three months I’ve been getting chicken at wholesale prices which has been a godsend.  The chicken is extremely high quality.  Now if I try to feed the dogs or cats store-bought chicken, they turn their noses up at it.  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.

Yesterday morning before going to work I played around with Fern on the agility equipment.  She was in her glory.  Today I plan to start to train her using the 2×2 weave pole method designed by Susan Garrett.  My agility instructor started a 2×2 class, but it was on a day that I could not attend.  I can’t sign up for any class at this point because I never know what days I’ll be working.  I was working on Tuesday and Thursdays, but for the next two weeks, I’m working Monday, Wednesday and Fridays; then I go to just Thursday and Friday.  Oh well.

It’s getting hot in my office so I guess I had better get this post published and shut down the computer.

Until later …