Fern

Oh, she’s testing me.  The episode on Tuesday with the sheep and the buck (who is now living in quarters separate from the does and that’s where he’ll stay) shook her confidence.

If I ever get another puppy, never, ever again will I put it on stock any younger than a year old.  I’ll do agility and nothing else.  It’s hard: you see a six month old puppy that shows a lot of promise.  Fern showed a lot of promise, she still shows a lot of promise.  As a puppy, she seemed tough and strong and wanted to work stock so much that she’d keep on working through the pressure of training.

Wrong.

I didn’t really start Gel on stock until he was a year and a half and even then, I put so much pressure on him that he quit.  A lot.  I almost sold him many, many times.  It’s a damned good thing that I didn’t.  Keep in mind, that Gel was sold as a herding reject because as a less-than-seven-month-old puppy, he didn’t show enough interest in stock to satisfy the woman that sold him.  This is the same dog that is almost completely self-trained and will be running in Open in his next trial.  Self-trained by a moron I might add.

Fern doesn’t show any lack of interest in stock, but she’s very, very sensitive to pressure.  I had been thinking about entering her in Pro-Novice at the trial in January, but Hell no!  I’m backing way, way off her and building her confidence back up.  I am still very, very bad at reading stock and in tuning Gel up to trial, I’ve been working my sheep in small groups.  They tricky, tricky beasts.  Gel can handle them, Fern can handle them if I let her, but if I try to force her to do something that she doesn’t think is right, she gets upset and yes, she’ll quit.  That in and of itself would make many people move her on down the road and I seriously considered it yesterday.

Fern isn’t going any where.  Hell, I’ll keep on training her, being patient and when it comes time to trial her, she’ll move up that much more quicker.  Gel ran in Pro-Novice maybe two or three times, Ranch once or twice.  I see no sense in keeping him in Pro-Novice or Ranch for a season or longer for the trial experience.  Gel works the same no matter where he is, he’s an honest, natural dog and won’t make a mess on the trial field.  Why not run him in Open?  Fern will be the same way as long as I am patient.  She’ll teach me patience which is exactly what Split needs, although she’s not as sensitive as Fern, but I could easily make her so.

Wally and I discussed the dogs quite a while last night.  Managing Border Collies is a lot of work.  The more time they have on their own, the more things they find to do that please them.  You might think that isn’t a problem, but if they are allowed to do lots of things that please them and then ask them to do something that they may not want to do, well, why should they do it?  They all have their own arsenal of things-to-do.  Gel drops sticks at your feet begging you to throw it; or he’ll flirt with female dogs; or he’ll suck up to anyone who lets him.  Fern hunts cats, not to hurt them, she hunts them.  She’s obsessed by them.  She’s obsessed by Gel and if Gel is retrieving, she’s hot on his heels biting him in the ass.  She’ll also work the poultry on her own if she’s given the chance.  Split will work poultry in a heart beat.  She can’t be outside loose with poultry around.  She’s obsessed with Fern like Fern is Gel.  Of course, eventually I get upset with them for doing all of these things and correct them for it.  Sometimes I get angry, which isn’t a good thing.

So, we’ll make it a point to better manage all of these obsessions.  I’ve already decided that while they are at the Christmas Tree Farm, they will not be allowed to run loose.  They’ll be tied to the ATV when they are not working.

These dogs have a good life.  They live in the house, they get plenty of exercise and work.  I don’t feel bad about these restrictions.  I think it will be better for all of us.

Until later …