Workin’ dogs

Sunday afternoon I went over to Wally’s to work dogs.  When I called to let him know I was coming I asked if he was going to work Kessie.  He said yes, we might as well work all of them.

We got there and I parked my car across the street where the sheep were.  Wally brought out Pyro (Fern’s sister) first.  I sent Gel to bring the sheep up and intended to use Gel to keep the sheep from running into the woods when Pyro was working them.

We’ve put Pyro on sheep a couple of times since Wally’s had her, but she didn’t show sufficient interest.  She was interested on Sunday: in running them down.  The sheep flew into the woods with Pyro after them.  I yelled to Wally to call her off, which he did.  I then suggested that we take them across the street into an approximately 100 x 100, flat, fenced-in section.  Gel had a heck of a time getting them out of the woods.  Those woods are an accident waiting to happen and Wally and I are going to have to take a few weekends when it cools off and start to clean that out.  There’s a ton of trees and limbs down and limbs broken off trees part-ways leaving sharp edges.  It’s a mess.

Finally we got the sheep out and across the street and Wally tried again.  It wasn’t any better.  Pyro just slammed into the sheep and barked.  After she sent a couple over the fence I took her from Wally, who can’t move fast enough to block her from running through the sheep.  I put Gel in the one corner they were running into to keep them out of there.  It wasn’t any better so we put Pyro up.  I got Kessie and brought her out and Wally told me to work her.  I did and she worked quite nice.  I tried to get her to do some driving, but wasn’t successful.

We went back into the house and sat down for a few minutes.  I looked at Joe, who is Kessie’s brother in his crate.  I asked Wally if he wanted me to try Joe.  He said sure if I wanted to.  I worked Joe once when Wally first got him and wasn’t impressed with him.  One other time he got in with the sheep and took one down.  I figured, what the heck, I could get some exercise keeping him off the sheep.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Joe worked very nicely for me.  The only problem was I couldn’t get him to recall to me.  I worked at it and got him to come to me.  I praised him and let him go back to the sheep.  I did this a half a dozen times, then called it quits.  Joe was thrilled to work.

We put Joe up and I got Fern out of the car.  Damned that dog is working nice.  I send her on little outruns and it looks like she’s going to come in tight, but right at the right moment she bends out beautifully.  I started to use whistle commands as she flanked around keeping the sheep to me.  I was using my Commander Series whistle which is pretty loud and shrill.  I found that Gel wasn’t hearing my whistles if he was several hundred yards away or if the wind was up so I bought the Commander Series whistle which he does hear.  Fern is so sensitive to my commands that the whistle was too much for her so I stopped using it.  I brought her around to my side and then started her out driving.  She was extremely comfortable following behind the sheep and only made small efforts to go to the head of the stock.  All it took was for me to softly say her name to get her back on line.  She walks in straight as an arrow when she’s driving.  Gel bends quite a bit and doesn’t have quite so straight a walk-in.  I was quite tickled with how Fern worked yesterday. 

When we were through I used Gel and Fern to bring the sheep back across the street and Wally and I went inside for a much needed cold beer. 

We talked about his dogs.  He said he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to get Kessie running flyball again.  She will go out fine, but on her way back she often goes off course to pick up stray balls and sometimes runs in the path of the dog running along side her.  That’s a dangerous practice given how fast some of those dogs run.  They rushed her training a bit early on in an effort to get her running.  She’s fast as a rocket, but without consistency, she’s no good.  Wally said he thought Pyro, April (a blue merle Border Collie Wally’s wife, Laura, gave him for his birthday this year) and a Rat Terrier named Tinker, were going to be his flyball dogs.  Wally and I had talked quite a few times about whether he was going to be able to get Joe running in flyball and it doesn’t look like he’s going to take the time to get him going.  Joe was brought up as a kennel dog and doesn’t have the foundation that he’s put into Pyro, whom he got at around eight weeks old.  He got both April and Tinker as puppies as well.  Joe is wound pretty tight and it’s a bit hard to get yourself into his picture.  He could be done, he could be a flyball dog, but it would take a lot of training and Wally just doesn’t have the time to do that.  He works full-time, has a wife, etc.  I then said to Wally, “you know you’ve got too many dogs.”  Wally went from one dog to five in less than a year.  He agreed, but said there wasn’t much he could do about it.  He said if he were to let one go, it would be Joe and that if he could find a working home for him, he’d sell him.

I then said he wasn’t worth much as a working dog with what he has on him as far as training and that he was neutered which would decrease his value in some eyes.  Both Kessie and Joe are from very nice imported lines and while that means a lot as far as their working ability, most people seem to want an intact dog so they have the option of breeding them.  I then suggested maybe I could take him home for a week and see how he does.  Wally accepted immediately.  I headed out to go to the grocery store and gas station and suggested that Wally clear this with Laura and if she agreed, to drop Joe off later.  I knew I wouldn’t have room in my car because I had my two dogs with me and was going to do some grocery shopping on the way home. 

Wally dropped Joe off a few hours later.  Joe was beside himself with all the stimulation: sheep, goats, cats, dogs, etc. and was dragging Wally around.  I went back in the house and got a head halter and put it on him.  He fought it, but I was able to get his attention focused on me rather than all the other distractions.  He settled down quickly.  In general, I don’t like head halters for dogs, but when you have a dog who get so stimulated, they are a very good tool.  If nothing else, it prevented by arm from getting yanked out of the socket.

So, Joe is with me.  So far, so good.  He seems to be happy.  Apparently Kessie was pretty domineering over him and he wasn’t getting much one-on-one attention.  I took all three dogs for a long walk this morning.  Something I haven’t done in a long time now.  It went well.  I put Joe in Fern’s run and Fern in Gel’s run.  Gel is loose right now.  If it looks like Joe is going to settle in, Wally is going to bring over a spare dog run.

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have considered working with Joe.  I couldn’t deal with Kessie’s temperament and Joe is Kessie squared.  He’s much more intense than she is and a harder dog.  Kessie could be sulky if you demand obedience from her.  She’s a pretty willful little dog and if things don’t go her way, she sulks.  Wally loves her to death and it was a good thing that I let him have her as she has a wonderful home.  Laura bought Joe for Wally because he loves Kessie so much.  It was a surprise, Wally had no idea she had arranged this.  I burned several bridges with how I acted about Kessie and I’m sorry for that, but we all act like idiots throughout our lives.  Kessie came to me at a very bad time in my life.  Things are much better now.  Not that I expect working with Joe is going to change repair the bridges, but it will be a learning experience and a challenge.  We’ll see how he does.  If it looks like I’ll be able to work with him, I’ll drop his breeder a line to let her know I have him.  I’m sure he’ll be very happy to get the exercise and work he’ll get with me.  Wait until he finds out what the ATV does.  He loves to run.  After training, I’ll take the three dogs for a run on it.

I re-set my ElectroNet in the back pasture on Sunday and I brought the stock and puppies down there this morning for the first time.  It went without a hitch.  It was funny watching Kitty and Rose’s excitement about going some where.  They seemed to enjoy being in a new location.  The immediately went to work marking boundaries.  The new wethers and goats are slowly learning to accept Kitty and Rose.

I’m sending off an entry for the Red Creek trial today.  I’m going to do it … I am going to put Gel in Huntersville in November.  They are not offering Novice/Novice and I don’t know if I can get Fern ready to run Pro-Novice in time.  I’m waiting to hear back from the woman I took the lesson from on Saturday to see if she thinks I should run Gel in Pro-Novice or Ranch and if she thought I could have Fern ready to run Pro-Novice in Huntersville.  I kind of want to run Gel in Ranch so I hope she agrees with that.