Gel is so polite, he shows his teeth to stock before he uses them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the stock move, he needs to learn to back up his threats by connecting with those teeth if need be. I forgot I had these photos that were taken in June of 2006. This red goat was quite the hot ticket. Wally sold her not too long after this picture was taken. He tried not to keep any goats with horns as they had the tendency to be more aggressive and ruin fences with their horns.

I’ve been teaching Gel a bark and hop and down on queue to add to my bag of tricks to move cattle. Of course I know he isn’t going to do this on stock; in general Border Collies work stock without barking. It’s fun to train different behaviors if the dog is operant. I’ve called around to try to find someone who is experienced in trialing on cattle to give me a quick lesson, but thanks to the drought, most everyone has sold off most of their cattle. I guess I’ll just wing it, like I did last weekend. I do have a better understanding of how cattle move and I will go to local farms and walk around them myself.

This morning I brought the sheep out into the back field to work on driving and whistles. It was a good session. It isn’t going to be too much longer before I’m going to have to keep Fern on a line when I’m working Gel. This morning she kept trying to go out and fetch the sheep herself. I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble putting distance on her work. She’s already outrunning at least half the length of a standard Novice/Novice run and she’s casting correctly. She has inherited Gel’s square flanks, but she stays in contact with the stock better than Gel does. It is hard to tell whether Gel’s occasional lack of contact is natural or created by me. As a young dog, he was very pushy and I spent a lot of time pushing him off stock. I’ve since learned it’s harder to bring a dog in than it is to push it out so it’s best to keep them in early on in training. I’m lucky Gel is as forgiving as he is. Fern is very forgiving as well.

Quite often the discussion comes up on the various sheepdog lists and boards about Novice handlers, whether they are given fair treatment, if they have to move into Open, if Open is where everyone should strive for, etc. There was a time that I felt that Novice handlers were not given fair treatment. After the trial this weekend, however, I can understand how the Open handlers feel. They work bloody hard to get to where they are and it is difficult watching a Novice handler making a mess of a run due to lack of training, commitment or just plain arrogance. I have a new found respect for Open handlers.