My lesson on cattle on Sunday went very well. I feel much more comfortable around cattle and I expect Gel does as well. In the beginning of the lesson Joe (the instructor) worked Gel in a smallish fenced in area. He kept flanking Gel around so that he’d have to come into the heads of the cattle. Gel wasn’t so keen on working for Joe, but he did it. I could see the tension leaving his body the longer he worked with Joe.
Then we took the cattle out and worked in the open field. Joe had set up a Y-chute and several panels. Getting cattle through a Y-chute is really hard for a Border Collie. I can see why Aussies would have an advantage over Border Collies in tight situations involving cattle. Border Collies have the tendency to over-flank (and Gel is one big over-flanker). Joe ran his dog (a very experienced bitch) first and he had trouble getting the cattle into the chute for that reason. We were working five of them and they had never seen a chute before. Aussies tend to be more comfortable working in close.
We kept working and I think now Gel has an understanding of what is required of him when it comes to the chute. At one point when I was trying to get the cattle through the chute, I couldn’t see Gel until I flanked him around to push the cattle out of the mouth of the chute. I almost fell on the ground I was laughing so hard. He was covered in mud! From the tips of his toes to the tops of his ears and he had the biggest grin on his face. Gel loves working cattle. I had a hard time convincing him to stop.
Will I trail him on cattle in the future? Likely not. Working cattle is a big risk and Gel is too valuable to risk him for the sake of a trial. In the arena trials I am right there with him and can come in to help him if need be. This is not the case in USBCHA trials. If a cow decides he wants to run a dog down, there’s not much you can do 200+ yards away from the dog. I have thought of trialing Fern towards a WTCH when she’s trained to that level, but I’ve pretty much decided not to attempt it. She’ll likely be able to do it, but I’m not going to risk her on cattle nor do I want to invest that much money in a title. If you need to make a living involving cattle, then you need a dog who can work cattle, but for trials, it isn’t worth it to me.
While we worked cattle I had Fern tied out where she could watch. She wasn’t so sure about the cattle, but she didn’t freak out or attempt to escape under the fence when they went by her. After we were through with the cattle, Joe brought down his flock of Dorper sheep (about 40 ewes and lambs) and we put them in the pen for Fern to work. Joe was very impressed with her.
I’ve signed Fern up for a clinic to be held the end of June held by Alasdair Macrae. Alasdair is supposed to be a fabulous clinician. I’ll sign up for a private lesson on Friday with Gel. Poor Gel, what will he do not being involved in the clinic. I noticed on Alasdair’s web site that he’s offering “remote” lessons. You take a video of you and your dog working and send it to him and he analyzes it. This may be something that I may take advantage of after the clinic. All the driving I’ve been doing is getting to me.