Start of lesson, day 3. Teg has gone round to head the sheep and has stopped. This is a perfect start but there are 90 sheep here and with a group this big she needs to be more mobile to keep the flanks tucked in and I want her to get everything moving
I am walking backwards which makes Teg want to move toward me and she picks up the sheep and is working nice and calmly
Here she has got a little fixated on somebody in the middle of the group and that could easily end up in her splitting those two from the side, another reason why I want to get more activity out of her
I move swiftly left and let the sheep escape past me so she has to speed up and flank to head them off - she can't be sticky and fixated while she is doing this!!
Come to a stop again but this time I've asked her for it - allowing her time to realise we can all stand still and rest and the sheep won't go anywhere - this stops her wanting to rush about to try and control them the whole time
Here we are working on directional commands, my 'come by' is the opposite way to everybody else's but she's doing what I ask and is an appropriate distance from her sheep to keep them moving well
She hasn't quite gone far enough on this flank and has got fixated with the 7th head from the left, so she gives the five a chance to escape - but they are more concerned with staying with their mates so she gets away with it
Much better this time!!
This group is dropping behind so Teg speeds them up to get with the rest
Keeping an eye on a straggler, good girl, nice and steady
To make things more challenging we put them through the gate you can see in the background, left. This is her first gate and she made all the rookie errors, but that doesn't matter, we are left with a smaller group which she handles very well
We are trying to get them back through the gate but they want to go through the one on the right instead. This means Teg has to concentrate and use a bit more pressure than she has been up til now
But she manages well and here they are on the other side. I am particularly pleased here because she made a small mistake and split one, and instead of going after it brought the rest back. You can see from her expression she is well aware of the odd man out and what she is doing to correct the situation
Here we have been working the sheep up a fence line so I can get her 'following sheep' that are moving well together - they find this easier to begin with up a fence line as they know they have less ground to cover. Having got her to understand that this is what I want her to do, I can bring them off the fence a little to start a few steps of cross-drive, which is what she is doing here
Very pleased with that so I thought we might go and pick up a couple of ones that got away as we took the big group through the gate the first time. This alters the feel of the whole thing - some want to go to the two stragglers and some want to disappear over the horizon and here is Teg wondering what she should do about it
Very pleased with her decision to go and get the ones that are further away - up til now she would have ignored them and just worked the ones close by, unless I asked her to look back. Her inexperience shows though as she should have gone up the hedge to turn them away from it
The result is the sheep go hide out in the hope she will leave them alone. This is the advantage of practical farm dog education - in the real world sheep are cunning and fields do not have tidy fences to help the dog and she has to work out how to get them out again now they are all jammed up in the trees
After a bit of thought this lovely willing, clever little thing works out what to do and gets them out of the woods and reunited with the other group and the two original breakaways. Really, really pleased with how she worked today!
This is a flock of about 140 now on 3 steep fields that Teg doesn't know, about 15 acres I suppose and you can't see one end from the other because of the hill. I let her go from the far end and she disappeared enthusiastically over the skyline. Then there was that looooong wait while you wonder what is happening - then Teg comes into view having collected the whole lot and very pleased with herself
Smasher here to help today, though she did her lift entirely by herself - they have brought them through that gate behind them. She is fixated on something and he is holding them in so she can't split the little group at the back right off, which is telling her better than I ever could to get looser
Teg takes the hint and here they are moving together again
She is worried about losing the front, a common issue with a young one - it takes time for them to understand the front end looks after itself - so here she is doing a loop to stop them
Back working together to bring them down again, I like that she is thinking independently here and working as a team, rather than following him
Clever girl here covering the long side as they turn right into the yard
Very happy young dog holding them in while I shut the gate
I forgot the lead today which was a mistake because she took off before she was told and had today's sheep (250 ewes) stuck against the fence before I could catch up with her. Here my brace get up close and personal with the sheep to push them off again
Teg's confidence improves all the time and she's not intimidated with the idea of sqashing down between them and the fence
A lot of sheep for a young thing
Really pleased with her here because she's working a long way out and not inclined to split them
Down at the yard she's busy pushing them into the pen
Here is Teg back and raring to go - she's already shown me she remembers all we did before and has gathered them and run them through the race to have their tags read, now we will move them next door
Which involves roadwork, something she hasn't done before. She's really concerned they will go off up the road and she will never see them again....
...still worrying but very important not to cuss her for running up the side because this will be fundamental to staying in control of a group on the road, if they haven't got the guts and the speed to get by them, they are not up to road work
I am asking her politely to stay back and she is responding well
Now we have got where we need to go and Teg has come by to stop them and turn them in. "Gosh, do they really have to go through there?"
They don't want to go through the puddle at all and Teg is having to hold up both ends while they make the decision to take the plunge
Eventually they get braver and she has done well to push them through here
Very important waiting for that last one and this lamb really doesn't want to get her feet wet!
Teg has put a lot of effort into today and she is tired now, but I let her stop them in the field as she has done so well. Can't believe this little bitch is only a year old!
These photos were taken in January of this year. Teg is due back this month, December, for a couple of weeks for a brush-up session and some more advanced training. I'll try to get those photos to share with you all too.
does anybody have experience with sheep dogs working goat herds of 15 head or more?
manuel correia wrote:fascinating and beautiful post - muito obrigado
does anybody have experience with sheep dogs working goat herds of 15 head or more?
Actually, Adeline and her parents used to breed goats. Her parents still do. I'm sure she'll have *some* experience. I'll go ask her.
Edited for update from Adeline -
Yes, it is perfectly possible to work goats with a dog. They handle differently from most domestic sheep, tending more to split in a crisis than flock. You will get people who say 'You can't herd X with a dog' but in my experience all those things can be herded, it's just a matter of how you go about it. A Border Collie with a lot of eye would not be the sort to choose, they would just stand and glare at each other, and I expect the goats would win.
Here's an old photo of a certain someone before she started to get too fat, with her goat, Niobe, bred many many years ago by Adeline.
And another one, of me, my transport, my milk supply, and a very 'sheep themed' woolly jumper.
that's really good advice - the part with the eye contact and staring at goats (wasn't there some strange movie about it?).
I can follow the idea and it makes sense. a dog with the ability to maintain an eye for the whole picture and not be distracted by individual rebel goats.
but to find such particular character trait one would have to wait until the dog is probably a year old, no?
puppies won't be winning or loosing staring contests right away, me thinks...
we are just starting the thinking process about goat and cheese, but eventually that will become a reality and having a dog may be helpful for moving them around pastures.
peace and joy all of you there in portugal
Eye is something that they have, or don't have, at the start. It develops more as they age. In the beginning they are playing more than working, and their 'eye' may be looser. but when they come into real work as an adult they tend to get steadier and use more fixed eye. I wouldn't really want that working goats, who will tend to face down a dog.
And for Valerie
The Welsh dog is the remnant of the old working type that was here in the UK before the Border Collie came along, and this type from the UK would be the rootstock for many of the similar sorts in the USA and Australia - they went round the world with the sheep.
She didn't mention guardians this time, but I'm sure she said to me once before that herding dogs are *not* guardians. The instincts are very different. Can't remember the details though. I'm not a dog person, I'm just relaying information.
Teg is back and has gone straight to work as a fully fledged part of the team. She says there is one stuck in the brambles. She is right, too.
90 left required, Teg right there to do it.
She has matured a lot and is nice and steady, a thoughtful and intuitive worker, nicer all the time!
Teg has lovely parti coloured eyes. She is technically a sable merle.
And yes, Adeline is into genetics too. She also breeds working quarter horses, in interesting colours, and welsh cob/quarter horse crosses.
First on the card today, move this bunch of old ewes out of the way so I can have ewe lambs past them for a vitamin jab. The old ewes are past their breeding career and in bye for 'intensive care'.
Important to give these old ladies time, and Teg is very good at taking the pressure off to make them feel comfortable about moving
Then off to get the ewe lambs, who are well spread out
Teg is a bit rusty about going around but she's got them all
getting them out of the corner she wants to stand for too long and I have to encourage her to move
Which she does when she knows what I want
showing some Border when she works, she has her tail firmly down like a trial dog
getting the lambs into the yard
Pushy but not rough, Teg doesn't bark, she barges
This is a very characteristic little yawn that young dogs do in training, I never see it at any other time. It seems to happen most when they have been concentrating hard on a job.
I am really enjoying seeing these pictures and her commentaries on the dog's progress.
Valerie Dawnstar wrote: The English Shepherd and the Welsh sheepdog may just be 2 different local names for the same dog. They look so very similar and would be the Border Collie predecessor. I
I looked up English Shepherd on wikkiand it seemed to think that 'English Shepard' is the name given to the American dogsdeveloped in the United States from farm dogs brought by English and Scottish settlers in the 17th through 19th centuries, so yes, it does sound like they are all from the same root-stock.
Adeline has a thing about genetics and breeding, and I'd noticed that if you go to the welsh sheep dog society's page her email address is at the bottom, so I asked her about that too.
I'm the secretary. It was founded in 1996 by the few that still had them breeding pure in Wales and couldn't find a decent unrelated stud dog anymore.
Which doesn't surprise me at all. We were out of touch with each other for about twenty years and she's done so much and has adopted so many permaculture ideas that she applies on her farm. I'm really enjoying being back in contact and learning all about what she's up to.
Edited to add this video...
For those of us stateside who may have a further interest there is a Yahoo Group called American Working Farmcollie Association. These people are very knowledgeable about their dogs and methods. There is also a registry - http://www.englishshepherd.org/. Unlike the American Kennel Club they are more focused on behavior than looks, as you can see by the wide variety of images there.
Kate Humble: My Welsh Sheepdog's Tale.
Here's the link to the BBC website's page about it - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b077xpn2
Part one is due to be broadcast on Friday 22nd April at 19:30.
Here's the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b077xpn2/kate-humble-my-welsh-sheepdogs-tale-episode-1
She is the star of a new TV series, Off the Beaten Track, which sees Teg and her owner Kate travel from the very tip of North Wales, through the remotest areas in the country, to the South coast. The duo explores how the dramatic landscapes shape the people who live and thrive on it, and how the people in these rural communities survive modern living in these isolated pockets.
This four-part series shows the slices of Wales you never normally see, in all their natural glory, with no holds barred; from the crazy weather conditions to some of the most spectacular landscapes this world has to offer.
Production still of Kate and Teg with Will Evans driving cattle up Cadir IdrisJoin Kate and Teg as they lose cattle on a drive up the mountain, naked swim in an ice cold lake, experience the harsh reality of living off the grid, witness the very probable death of an ancient Welsh tradition, have a go at playing Ben-Hur, find the best spot for looking up on a clear night and uncover how much a farmer gets per sheep at one of the last traditional sheep marts in the country.
More details here - Kate Humbled by the Welsh in upcoming documentary series