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Teg - Training a Welsh Sheepdog - watch her on the BBC!

 
Burra Maluca
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Teg is a young Welsh sheepdog bitch, belonging to Kate Humble, who earlier this year was sent to my friend Adeline of Wilden Farm for training. I still haven't persuaded Adeline to sign up on permies.com, but I did sweet-talk her into letting me share some of her training photos. When these photos were taken Teg was 10 months old.

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


 
Burra Maluca
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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




 
Burra Maluca
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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


 
Burra Maluca
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Teg works close up and they respect her and push on




Holding them in nice and calmly while I come to shut the gate




It's a tight squeeze to get them all in but both dogs are doing well getting them to go in without splitting ones off the back




 
Burra Maluca
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A couple of months later, Teg is back for some more training.

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.
 
allen lumley
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Brilliant : I certainly learned a lot from watching that, and all I knew before was from the movie ''BABE" Big AL
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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What a wonderful tutorial! Thanks! A great illustration on the importance of a skilled trainer.
 
manuel correia
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fascinating and beautiful post - muito obrigado
does anybody have experience with sheep dogs working goat herds of 15 head or more?

manuel
 
Burra Maluca
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manuel correia wrote:fascinating and beautiful post - muito obrigado
does anybody have experience with sheep dogs working goat herds of 15 head or more?

manuel


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.
 
Burra Maluca
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OK, Adeline says that she has a contact in Finland who uses a Welsh cross Huntaway on a commercial herd, but can't remember what her name is... Also she has used the dogs on goats and you need something that doesn't back down if looked at!

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.

 
manuel correia
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thanks a million
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
m
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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The dogs in the above photos look very much like English Shepherds and from what I have read are an ideal breed for herding. A very intelligent dog with a strong farming instinct intact. Not a very large dog though, and not suited to be a solitary guardian. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are descended from them. Anyone know where a Welsh Sheepdog would fit in there? An English Shepherd would be my idea of a perfect homestead dog.
 
Burra Maluca
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I've been hassling her again...

For Manuel

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.
 
Burra Maluca
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Teg is back!

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.


 
Valerie Dawnstar
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Thanks, Burra. 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 absolutely agree that a guardian and a herding dog are 2 separate type of dogs. I thought I was responding to another comment about that but I can't find it. Totally possible I was imagining things.
I am really enjoying seeing these pictures and her commentaries on the dog's progress.
 
Burra Maluca
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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.
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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Thanks for the great info, Burra.

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.
 
Burra Maluca
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For all Teg fans out there, I might have some exciting news for you all soon. Watch this space!

 
Burra Maluca
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Finally, I can reveal to all of Teg's fans that the BBC are producing a three part series all about Teg. It's called

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.
 
Burra Maluca
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Episode one is on iplayer at the moment. I think it's available for everyone in the UK, but not sure of the details. I can't watch it

Here's the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b077xpn2/kate-humble-my-welsh-sheepdogs-tale-episode-1
 
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