Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!
Rams For Sale

Here are a few shots of the three rams we have for sale. Jake helped me get them positioned.

Here's the horn shot

Setting up the group body shot

Now let's single them out and photograph them individually.

That'll do, good dog Jake.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Changing of the Seasons

Winter has arrived here in Central Iowa!!! Last weekend we enjoyed 50 degree weather this weekend a snow storm and windchills near to below zero. I have never been so ill prepared, sure hoping that Mother Nature will be nice to us this winter. This afternoon I will be busseling around moving livestock, setting up heated water tanks, pulling water buckets from dog runs and replacing them with easy to deal with dishes.

Before I set to work I thought I would post and long delayed update.

Last weekend we had a blast at the Yellow Rose Cattle Dog Trial over at Platte, SD. If you ever want to take in a trial this is a great one. It is held in an indoor arena with really nice but challenging cattle, along with some fun sheep for the open handlers to prepare for the Denver Stock Show and Rapid City, the figure 8 is a hoot. In addition, they host a Cowboy Christmas Craft Show and a little Cattle Congress with guest speakers. Many people, great shopping, awesome baked goods and smells, we ate way to much.

Wayne and I shared the handling job on Jake, he ran in the Open Cattle division and I ran him in Open Sheep. Both of us are pleased with our performances, the sheep proved challanging, out of approx 25 handlers, some big names, I think only 3 were able to navigate the Y-Chute, Laura Hicks, Pete Carmicheal & Bob Johnson showed us how to do it. Jake and myself made it through the Figure 8 and onto the Y-Chute making what I thought was a serious bid for a top run just to find a brick wall and timeing out, but we were in good company.

Wayne is kicking himself for not approaching his cattle run differently, they ran just over 30 dogs, taking the top 10 back to the finals. The most difficult obstacle was the Maltise Cross, he realizes know that if would have just settled for a low point count and moved on the the pen and exhaust with was worth an ample amount of point he may have been able to get to the finals. But, instead he and Jake worked hard to try to get that Maltise Cross mastered. But, that's ok, Wayne was pleased with his dog, and we were able to get on the road heading home, it was a 6 hour drive. According to Bob Johnson the finals did not get done until 10pm, we were home just after midnight.

We also took a couple of young dogs with for the ride. Weasel (Riley x Jake) was injured last week trying to take on one of Wayne's cattle dogs through the fence, she found herself being drug under the panel but didn't fit. Took all the hide off her front legs and tore her bads up severly. She's back nearly 100% now, no longer needing crate rest but she still have house privilages and she's riding it for all it's worth.

Toby (Bea x Jake) also rode with. On Friday evening Wayne had the opportunity to take him in on some roping steers, we also saw his litter mate Meg take her turn, she is owned by Val who lives near Platte and sets the cattle via horseback for the trial. BTW, Val does and awesome job!! Meg has been helping Val move calves off the feed bunks so she had an idea of what to do with the cattle, but Toby, he has never seen a cow in his life. You wouldn't know it though, off to work he went, first driving them with Wayne and then frustration Wayne by flanking around and driving them back at Wayne. Guess it's time to get a stop on the boy, and a left and a right...could we get so lucky to have it come easy and naturally...naa it's gotta be too good to be true.

I think we need to repeat that cross, sooner as opposed to later, so if anyone knows of someone in the market for a pup we will be taking deposits for the next litter. I'm hoping that we did not miss Bea's heat cycle, if we didn't she should be breedable in the next few weeks giving us February/March pups ready to go home in May/June.

BTW, my book by Tully Williams arrived, you gotta order it though I could see it being way over many peoples heads and I wonder if they would know it.... There was one dog that really caught my eye at Platte, it was a nice smooth coated female by the name of Abby owned by Bob Wagner. Some research revealed that he purchased her from Juan Reyes...he just so happened to be running a male just over a year old that could very well turn into this years Nursery National Cattle Dog Champion and I would not be surprised if he didn't make a run at the Open Finals, the dog's name is Zack, watch for him.... But we will see, I might be mistaken.

What is even more impressive to us, we watched older dogs that have more expirence with cattle get stopped in their tracks by those roping steers. In most cases a second dog had to be sent to help. Not with ours, thinking that they would be a much needed challange for Jake Wayne took him in before the pup, Jake went right to work with them, though he did emit some of his trade mark barks warning them before he would hit a nose, I kinda wish that would go away...


Here's a fun picture for you, Ricky (Vicki x Jake) and one of our female Dottie x Tough Australian Cattle Dog pups those little white slugs I posted about a number of months back, oh yeah...they were born on the same day.

This is a Male

This litle red girl is a Snot, she's going to be a heeling machine, and has a heck of a temper

This is Mouse...he has earned house duty, his brothers and sisters think it's fun to make the mouse squeek, so he's been in playing with the big dogs. He's not a wuss, steps right up, but he has a soft bite and is not able to fight his way out from under the biting monkey pile.

I was going to place him in a pet home thinking that he was going to be too soft, but boy is he smart, and he is showing some traits that we want to explore further. Besides what else do I have to do but pick up after the little pack I have been typing he has brought me my boot, a towel and now the bathroom rug.

Here's the little female again, you thinking 'Tude??

Different methods of getting Vicki Stopped!!!

Anyone want to take on a little red hot shot.

Big brother is going to pay for something he did!
Time to run, gotta get ready for our big snow storm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Readers are plentiful, thinkers are rare" (Harriet Martineau)

Have you ever looked at your pup and asked yourself, is he/she the one?

Sorry I have not posted in a couple of weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking and keeping it internally. As I continue to train the dogs I find that keep asking myself the same questions, "What is this dog not doing naturally?" and "How can I help him learn it?"
These questions lead me into a direction away from the training field and generate other questions, "Why does one of my dogs naturally understand when another does not?" and "Can I select my breeding pairs in a fashion that will produce pups that naturally understand so I don't have to teach them?"
Bare with me here, I know that some people think I'm crazy, just go out and buy a dog that is a product of dogs you like, train it and be happy. I have a problem, I'm not finding many dogs that I really like, I might like bits and pieces of what they dog, but I don't like the entire dog. I have dogs that I like, but I don't think I would like them if someone else had them. I look at each one individually, try to identify their short comings and strong points and then try to figure out how the puzzle fits together in an attempt to construct the perfect dog. But, what is a perfect dog???

A number of years back I read an article in the Stock Dog Journal where the author presented a chart of different stock dog traits, as I recall he indicated which traits were inherited, which you could improve with training and which you just had to accept. At the time we were focussing on our Heeler's, I had not even thought of training them and trialing them leaving that to Wayne, so the article was just novel and really did not mean a lot to me.

But, that article has been nagging at me recently, I've been asking those questions that the chart tried to answer as I am working my dogs. I began the quest to find that article again, unsuccessfully mind you. I wrote the present editor of the Stock Dog Journal, Nicole Rhodes, she steered me toward Tully Willams, a breeder, trainer and stockmen from Australian and this book:
You gotta read the preview pages, and I gotta get it. On the first page of the preview you can find the website of the author, Tully Williams:

I've been to that site before, I don't know why I have taken in all the information that is there, (get the title of this post now?? "Readers are plentiful, thinkers are rare" ) Guess I was reading that day and not thinking.
On that site there is a "Products" page, among other that have a lot of insight. I am patiently waiting for them to get back to me, I want the campanion DVD...yes a DVD that shows you what the author is talking about in the Natural Instinct section of the book!!! Gosh, I hope that I won't be disappointed in Book and DVD that I am in the process of purchasing!!!
I also wanted to share a poem from the site:

"Old Blood"

Find me a real dog, bred down

Many lines from the great old Yolong Russ

A dog of brains and ability, self-reliant

Of cover, and balance, and the searching cast
Hard dogs and tough One good line, the last

Unfashionable now

When soft dogs, weak dogs, and brainless

Turn-tailers proliferate

The steady strength and cover despised

In ignorance, inexperience

The good dogs have thinned, died out

Still, a remnant remains, a handful Natural dogs, and clean

Real sheepdogs not quite yet

A relic of the forgotten past

As a priceless pup demonstrates

The old blood, throbbing in its veins

By Tully Williams

It is interesting that a poem can strike such emotion in me, I can't help but wonder, is that what I am seeing in my dogs, bits and pieces of that relic from the past?

My quest, though not changed just better put all the pieces together into one great working dog, or rather, it's the goal of what we want our lines to consistently produce. It's the Holy Grail of Stock Dog breeding, but I wonder how many have truely looked deep enough into their dogs, or if they just accept the hand that is drawn and train their way through with no questions asked.

Also, how many dogs were given up on that had the right piece of the puzzle, but they did not have the rest. We are so fixated in finding the best dog available that has most of the pieces, should we be instead looking for the not so perfect that possess the missing pieces?

BTW..Julie, if you read this... don't neuter that dog!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No Fences

Yesterday the fields surrounding our little piece of Iowa Realestate were harvested. It took them all day and well into the night. We awoke to a clear view all the gravel roads that we have not seen for months. I took advantage of the situation and turned the ewes and lambs out to scavange for a few hours. There are no fences, the sheep are pretty good at staying in the fields, if they leave the field you can typically find them grazing the green of our driveway or along the perimeter of the farm. When vehicles come down the gravel road all the sheep high tail it toward the house.
They are hard to see, but there are sheep out eating dropped ears of corn out in this field. They are spread from one side of the picture all the way to the other, and some grazing on the grass in the driveway.

See....Jake just brought them all in!!
Hopefully by spring JJ will be able to take over the duties of bringing the ewes in while I watch from the house armed with my camera and a cup of coffee.
It's sorta strange that things I do with Jake, things that I never would have imagined doing when I was exclusively working with the Australian Cattle Dogs. I would have never just turned the ewes loose, heck this past spring I turned the ponies out with them, Jake had it covered.
Someday I would like to be able to have these same tasks handled by one of our cattle dogs.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Training updates...actually having fun!!!


I sware someone stole Ben and replaced him with a look alike that does not act alike. Ben is one of those push you to your limits types. He tends to want to run on his own agenda and could care less as to what you are interested in. But, over the last couple of weeks Ben has changed. Out of nowhere he began to execute a lie down like a pro, heck, I don't even remember teaching it to him and he darn sure was more interested in busting things up vs. lieing down prior to now.

I took Ben out into the apple orchard today, normally he comes in tight but not today, today I was fighting keeping him on contact, in some cases the pasture was not big enough. He did blow into the flock once, then was thinking about it a second time but instead stopped and lied down on his own, kinda weird. Where did this dog come from??? I'm hoping that he sticks around, he was actually kinda fun to work with.

Chip, Wayne's cattle dog was next. We did a little driving, a little fetching, worked on letting him track the heads in hopes that he will figure out that he can control both speed and direction from one spot. Overall Chip did a good job, it's slow going, but it's going.

JJ got to move the sheep from the orchard over to the square pasture. This job is usually saved for Jake, it can get pretty hairy, the sheep know all the hiding spots in the yard and on occasion have caused all kinds a havoc. JJ did a great job, in part because he was willing to listen to me and stop followed by taking the proper directions. We were able to thread the sheep in between the barns and into the court yard, around the gate and in.

I then took JJ out and worked his flanks and drives, asking him to flank towards me, away from me, in front of me, into pressure, off pressure, basically every which way but loose. I would mix in long drive, short drives, drives away from me, drives past me, drives that I helped him with.

JJ seemed to be enjoying it and got more comfortable by the moment with driving sheep, releasing and flanking around either direction to pick up a new drive line. We did a couple of little outruns where I flanked him on past the lift point and would ask him to drive the sheep across the field, then I would let him lift, fetch to me a little and then flank him off of the fetch to then stop him so that he could cross drive the sheep. Boy if I can get the handle on this little dog at the same distances I have Jake he's going to a blast to use, both here on the farm and at the trials. One of these days I'm going to have to get him started on cattle....

Bea was next. I ran her through the same program as JJ but not quite as intense working more on letting have some fun driving, but never letting her fetch to me. She still has it in her head that she should fetch me the sheep and leaks badly if I'm not careful. As I see her thinking of fetching less and less I will go back to letting her fetch a little, the key is that she is going to have to fetch at the right times and be willing to be flanked out of a fetch when I ask for it, that is her sticking point.

I'll try to post more updates when I come back in, next up is Jake. I want to do a quick run on the figure 8 that we will be excuting at the next trial to see how much work I'm going to have to put in to sharpen him up between now and then. We will be running the same pattern that is run at the Denver Stock Show, we won't be making it to Denver but it's always fun to go and run with the guys that will be going at the warm up trials. I can crash and burn just as easily 4 hours from home (Platte, SD) as I can 12 (Denver), besides it will be cheaper...


So, I took Jake out, sorted off 4 head, had him settle them up near the top of the pasture and called him back to me. I then sent him off onto his outrun, he came up a little short which I would expect based on the draws which actually set things up perfectly lifting the sheep right down the middle of the pen, some quick flanks and the sheep were spun around one cone and then acrossed the pen and around the other, with a major giving Jake the wrong flank commands. Ok, so there's the hole, me!!! If I can keep the correct flank commands firing out we will be fine, hah!! I guess I better appoligize to Jake now.

The next dog out was Weasel, she did an awesome job for me. Each time I work her she shows me great things. Her future job is to be a goose control dog, but not just any goose control dog, she will be expected to have enough handle on her so that she can be used for round ups, pennings and to be able to drive geese off of nests. I'm just going to take things slow and easy with her.

After Weasel I pulled out Dixie. Dixie is also destined for a life as a goose control dog. I don't know is she will have the power that Weasel has but she's going to be a blast to handle. She is behind Weasel in training just now beginning to understand her flanks, shaping them is going slow but coming along.

My last dog was Ugh, he's another one of Wayne's Cattle Dogs. Today was the first day of his restart, he didn't take it very well. Oh well, gotta have one dog out of the bunch that does not excell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


"There is nothing more likely to lead to error than to begin with the part rather than the whole."

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones

The above quote just keeps nagging at me. I ran acrossed it the other day when I was doing some research on Operant Conditioning. Someone had mentioned that we use all 4 parts of Operant Conditioning when we are training our stock dogs, well that comment made me realize that I had no clue what operant conditioning really was. I'm not even going to pretend that I know what it is, no preconceptions, but after reading it sure seems as though it is often misunderstood. So, off I went to Google it, and wow did a whole new world open.

I've been trying to work through some training issues with a few of my dogs, and keep asking why are they not changing, well the answer lies within those many pages that explained Operant Conditioning. I've gotten to the point where I understand what I want my dogs to do in regards to the livestock, I understand how I expect them to respond when I give them the command, but I was missing the bridge with some of them. I could get them to do what I wanted but not when I wanted it, or maybe they would offer the right thing but still not give up on the old undesirable thing. I was failing at being a complete trainer...and we come full circle "There is nothing more likely to lead to error than to begin with the part rather than the whole". This trainer (me) was getting hung up on the part, the method in which we communicate and teach along with the results is part of the whole,'s not just dogs and livestock.

As I reflect I find that that quote is not limited to dog training, it relates to all and any training, learning and understanding. It relates to dog breeding and selection, it relates to decision making.

I'm not going to try to explain it, google it for yourself, read more then one source and prepare to be awed at least I was, sorry to make another quote "We don't know what we don't know".

Monday, October 12, 2009

This just in, update from Cecil's (Jax) owner

Jax when he was about 5 weeks old

This e-mail just arrived, we love it when we get good news about our pups!!!


To preface this... It is our land lord's contractual responsibility to provide quality fencing. We maintain it. One strand of hot wire at 32 inches up is not enough, and it just trained our cows and calves to not respect fences. Now we are up to a 3 strand hot barbed wire and true gates, the middle strand is grounded, so they really get a wallop when they try to nose through the wires. The bad part is that the little calves still find a way and then can't get back in. Too bad we didn't start this way in the spring. A Big Boo for bad, lazy landlords.
However.... Good for the pup!

Exciting news here! Our little Monster is really something! I used him this weekend, while it was cold and nasty here we had to do some serious cattle management. There are 2 bulls, 50 cows and calves, weighing in about 500lbs on the average. Mind you, our cattle are used to dogs, but a few are tough customers, and require a lot of heart - even from our seasoned dog. So... The alfalfa field, behind the rented native grass pasture, was being invaded on a regular basis, so when I drive in to check cows, they start bellowing to their calves, half a mile out there on volunteer wheat and alfalfa. In this weather they can bloat and die quick on the frosted wheat and alfalfa, so I have been out there every dang morning, and usually take Bell, our seasoned BC dog, as I don't have a good down on Jax yet.

Bell was sore and carrying her leg from working at the sale barn a few days before, so I reluctantly loaded up only Jax. I figured I could keep him on the long line and if he got out of hand, down him by force. Well, I am so happy to say that it wasn't necessary! No, he didn't down the first or second or third time I called to him, but he found his own way. We started in the back corner of the circle - with 1 rotten cow and 22 calves. No one bloated, but still, out on our neighbors volunteer wheat.

Jax unloaded with huge interest, I got out with him, to give him direction and confidence he might not get if I stayed in the pickup. I decided to leave the string off, since it would be unlikely that I could catch him at a full run anyway, and if he missed a flank and got in the middle somehow, I wanted him to be unencumbered.

He is a big pup at 32lbs already- and covers ground well, still a lot of foot to grow into though, and we laughed at his ears flapping all over as he hauled butt out there with just a hiss and "get them up!" . He got within 3 feet of the cow, and looked back at me, running behind him, and I repeated the command, and he took a bite of her cannon bone- quick as could be, then went to wearing left, to keep them on the path - something he did all on his own! A couple calves were starting to slow and looked for a way through the repaired fence, and he flanked on his own, ducking through the fence, and ran hard at them, pushing them back towards the group. Jax slowed and looked back at me, and then seeing me still jogging towards the main group, I backed him up with another hiss and "get them up" and he took off again, wearing right to left at speeds I didn't know he was capable of yet! When they got near the fence, my husband had opened the gate and Jax changed his position - again on his own - to the far right to drive them through the fence. I was in total awe!

How does a 5 month old know to do that - and I am so tickled with his confidence! He did check with me a few times, and that is fine, he never changed his body position, and didn't let them stray while he thought about what I might ask of him. He stayed focused and I never called him back until we were done - with a That'll do! Good Dog Jax, Atta Boy!

He was pretty excited, but a bit winded, with tongue out and willingly laid down facing the herd- about 20 feet inside of the pasture, unknowingly - or instinctively protecting the open gate. He didn't come right back to me, just laid there - looking at them and then me, then back to the herd. I was winded too - been a long time since i had to run 1/2 mile to chase cows!

A little later Jax helped me with moving the same cows to another watering point - through a gate they weren't familiar with, so we really had to work to get them to stay in there - some of those rotten, tough-customer, dog hater cows put their heads down at him, then realized a human was behind the dog, and turned, without Jax realizing he wasn't entirely responsible for the cows movement and hesitation. I worried about them - and don't like being afoot for them myself, but for Jax's confidence, it was essential. Don't want to break his egg or bubble!

So, now, the focus is on downing and I am assigning come bys and away to me when he looks like he is going to do it anyway, but not focused on more than down and get back this week - at least intentionally.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy 4 week birthday, 1 day early!!

Hereeee's Ricky.........

The little bugger is ruling the household. I was concerned about how he would handle other dogs, being a singleton....well, he attacks his dad, barks at the TV and chases JJ, and he's just 4 weeks old!!!

Ricky is out of Vicky by Jake, I can tell already that he's going to keep me hopping. He's already demanding more food then mom can deliver.
Watch for pictures of Dottie and Ugh's Australian Cattle Dog pups. Some of them are still crawling around like little slugs even though they were born he same day as Ricky. Ricky runs circles around them, I'm sure they will be payback's in the near future.

Training updates from yesterday

Fly and JJ

I was able to work quite a few dogs yesterday. The day began with setting up the farm for a vet visit, health papers for the sheep and rabies updates for dogs. This weekend we will be in Winterset Iowa to produce stock dog demonstrations. I try to share more later.

After the vet left a good friend, Johnny stopped up to help me load the sorting & head chute and wood gates into the trailer. He has a border collie that I have helped him with and also allows us access to his cattle to train dogs. Anytime he comes up we end up working through the pack, he lets me know what progress he is seeing, not only in with the dogs but with myself.

We began by taking Fly out to the pen, Fly is a little 3 year old spayed female that I took in on trade for Riley from a farmer. She has some drive and feel but lacks confidence, I am hoping to find her either a pet home or a low requirement hobby farm home. I worked with Fly last spring and put some basics on her, she can be handy in the back pens, has some direction on her a stop and a walk up. All I can do with her at this time is continue to use her, and be there to help her.

Next dog in was little Rosy, what a little crackerjack she is at 5 months of age. She just gets to discover what the sheep are all about. She just loves to get them stopped, hold them at balance and then walk right on in, which in turn creates an explosion and it happens all over again. After a couple of repeats all of a sudden she ran backwards just as the explosion began, this resettled the sheep, if she had an expression on her little face it would be, I didn't know I could do that!!!!

Toby at 5 months (Bea x Jake)

Toby was up next, he is Rosy's brother. Toby is more like Jake, and is more careful around the sheep, that is until he get's excited, then he goes to playing and bitting. The opportunity presented itself where I could show Toby that he could get around the outside of the sheep and control them just a effectively as holding them to a fence. He was like a kid with a new toy, all of a sudden this little dog that was a bit hesitant to have the sheep move was driving them and then flanking around to drive them a different way.

Each of these young pups spent just a short amount of time in the pen, just long enough to let them discover some new useful thing they can do, allow it to reinforce and then pick them up and take them out.

Now on to Jake, Jake is the older male that arrived back in August. I've been working him now and then, with my focus on retraining his triggers, and adjusting his pressure sensitive thresh holds. Much of my work with him is just daily encounters out in his kennel. Back up when I walk in, kennel up when I say so, understand that when I growl and bang the soda bottle when you are running a barking that you need to stop and not amp up more. It's amazing how this work away from the stock can improve your relationship while out with stock, so many don't understand just how the two environments intertwine.

"Cow Dog Jake"

Johnny is also very interested in Jake, he is considering crossing his female to him and wanted to see the dog first hand. It was love at first sight, on both of their parts. I was even able to trust Jake enough around the sheep to allow Johnny to take him for a spin. The worse he did was pull wool once when he got in too tight but immediately stopped when Johnny corrected him. I doubt that Jake will ever be a sheep dog, but we really don't want him to be, he was bred to a working cow dog, I just need him to learn that there are other things that I need him to do then just run in and bite stock to make it move, and the sheep are the best training tool to help get the lessons learned. To be completely honest, I think he has been here before, he actually had some training with Ben Means, Ben also is his breeder. His square flanks started to show themselves not long after I began holding him to a higher standard, his complience to his other commands and corrections keep improving also. The pace in which he is improving is too fast for a dog that has never been taught, is more like a dog that has forgotten and feels stongly that he does not need to do it that way.

A note about Ben Means, Ben is a trainer, breeder and the author of a stock dog training book from Oklahoma. He is respected by many in the working dog community, I feel privledged to get the opportunity to work with a dog that he not only bred but also trained as a young dog. As I work with Jake I am running into Ben, I can feel and see his influence on Jake. Each time I work with him more of the dog that Ben was trying to develop reveals himself. Each of us that work with a dog put our mark on that dog. Sometimes what we see years later is not a true representation of the trainers that put their heart and time into that dog early on, the mark has been blurred and covered up. But if it was done right, the mark is still there just waiting to be uncovered and brought back into focus.
This may seem foreign to some, but I've expirenced it before when riding/training horses, the trainers I worked with could "Feel" my training when they rode my horse and then could help me determine if what I was doing/creating is consistent with their training. Each time you run across something that someone else put in that is simular to what you do you will know it, the just knows what to do, or maybe it won't be quite the exact response that you expect but it will be simular. You can then learn from the dog, maybe that other trainer can teach you something through that dog.

Ben (JJ's littermate)

After we returned Jake to his run and got through all the discussion about Jake's future, btw Johnny is willing to dogsit and use Jake to help him with his cattle any day, go figure. We moved on to Chip, an ACD. Johnny didn't see the point of me bringing Chip out letting me know that he really does not like the dog and has never seen him offer anything. Well, Chipper showed him. Working with Jake has helped me to find a way to get through to Chip, Johnny sat there speechless as Chip went to balance, flanked off pressure and eased in toward the sheep stalking like a cat, just to release and flank to balance again. Granted after his little display ended aburptly with an explosion take a hold of a leg that led to a take down, but it's a work in progress, ewe is fine, muzzle went on and we ended on a really good note. I saw some huge gains with Chip in this short little work session, he initiated on his flanks and going to balance on his own, I didn't have to convince him to engage. When I put the muzzle on he continued with the same level of initiation showing that he could still focus on the sheep while dealing with a big distraction.

The last two dogs into the pen were Dixie and Weasel the two Border Collie females that are full sisters to JJ. Both girls are still lack in maturity but both also showed that they are learning. I found a great opportunity to bolster Dixie's confidence in close proximity of the sheep, boy did that change the way she handled herself, it was almost as if a piece of the puzzle fell into place and she suddenly understood something that was escaping her.

Jake and JJ

I mentioned that we will be demonstrations this coming weekend in Winterset, Iowa. We will be leaving first thing Saturday morning, I'm still trying to decide who is going and who is staying home, I'm trying to limit myself to 5 dogs, which will make our return home Saturday alot easier. We leave the sheep down there and then go back Sunday with the dogs again for more demonstrations.

Jake for certain is going, he's the cornerstone to the demonstrations with the ability to show spectators what is possible. Quiet calm work up close, an ability to work out at large distances while processing commands in a fashion that resembles playing a video game and using the joystick to position your player. By no means is he perfect, he's still not a finished dog, heck he won't be finished until the day he retires, just like us our dogs can always improve and learn something new.

I think I'm going to take Bea, she is the dam of Toby and Rosey. I don't have her working at big distances but she is handy working at hand or in small lots, she also has a different way of traveling compared to Jake, more upright and less slinkey.

The third dog is Toby, people always love to see the pups work, he is also the last of our pups that is available for sale.

I think the fourth slot is going to Chip, at this point I don't plan on using him in the demonstrations but he needs to get off the farm and deal with other external pressures. I will give him the chance to engage the sheep sometime during the day, but not while spectators on placing expectations on me or the dog. If he proves that he can handle it the pressure of working away from him he may get the opportunity to strut a little stuff.

Now the fifth hole is the tough one, do I take Weasel, spectators connect with her, you can see in the way she handles herself that an explosion is just under the surface, and I've had her erupt at the first demo we did with her. During the eruption I hear little comments such as "that's what my dog does", and she gave me a great opportunity to show people how to handle it.

Another option is JJ, he is in between Jake and Bea in ability, but I don't think he will help to teach people anything, that Bea or Jake won't already cover.

Yet, another thought is Fly, does Fly and the manner in which I handle her to help her be useful offer anything to spectators. Cow Dog Jake could also go, but I just don't trust him enough yet, if he does break on me and take a ewe to the ground it is not going to be pretty, best to leave him home.

There are few very important things that I look for when I do these demonstrations, the first it to exhibit low stress livestock handling, the second it to demonstrate ways to teach your dog that is not at the expense of the livestocks well being and third is demonstating that there should be a good dialog between you and your dog. All are important to us and we work hard to operate at home the same as we do in public, but we have to remember, there is more pressure on both us and on the dogs when we are away from home. Yes, the dog and we have to learn how to function when exposed, but it is not fair to take a dog that is not ready to handle it. Your just going to set you and the dog up to fail. Each time we set our dogs up to fail they loose faith and trust in our relationships, the decision to put you and your dog out there should not be taking lightly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Looking for keys that are lying about

Rhonda, one of our Leaning Tree Cattle Dogs moves a bull through the lot

I often ask myself why I spend so much time on the internet, it seems like it is lost time that I could be using training dogs. But then out of no where an answer comes to me from this source, it instantly turns that time spent into time invested. Today was one of those days.

Last week I mentioned the older male Border Collie that I have been trying to problem solve. He has spent the last week hanging out in the kennel, no sense taking him out for me to end up getting run over again or to injure sheep. While instant messaging another handler about this dog the key to solving his problem landed right smack dab in my lap. I couldn't wait to sign of, get sheep into the barn and make a new attempt. This renewed resolve brought about success, this dog that just last week I fear hopeless showed me that he could change.

This dog that was laying in wait to get them before they got him showed me that he could take the bull by the horns (rather ram), stand up to pressure, take the threat of a hit, counter with a bite and properly release. By no means is he fixed, but I think we just took a huge step in the right direction, but it all began with finding one key, the key that openned the door to a success, which I can only trust will lead to future successes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ouch....that really hurt!!

It's been a few years since I've taken a hit like the one I took today. The last time was a few winters ago, I had Sandra Dee and Sheila out in the pasture, using Sheila to hold sheep, I had my back to the sheep trying to get Sheila to stay put, unknown to me Sandra Dee had latched onto the tail of a ewe, the ewe was in hot pursuit to safety (me). When she hit me she spun me and dropped me into a snow drift. That hurt my pride more the me, I guess I ended up with a pretty cheap chiropractic adjustment.
Today it was way different. A few weeks back I took on a new dog for training, he is a border collie that is 5 years old, has been used on cattle and feels that sheep are to be eaten. Things were going pretty well when all of a sudden he broke taking off after some sheep, the sheep circled came toward me and past. I stepped into the path of the dog to get him shut down, but he didn't stop, he ran smack dab into my leg head first about 4 inches below my knee and just to the side of my shin, luckly the muscle of my calf took the brunt of the blow. But boy, it hurts!!! The muscle and my shin bone are sore to the touch and when I move my leg.
After that wonderful event Wayne worked with Chip, which eventually turned into me working Chip. The little guy did some nice things, the highlight of the session was when he stopped on his own causing the sheep to slow rather then getting sucked in which results in excitement and chase, good dog.
Can't wait until tomorrow, will my leg hurt worse, or will it be better then today....I'm counting my blessings that he didn't hit my leg straight on. BTW, the bugger never slowed down, atleast that I saw, and then not long after that he ran headlong into the fence when a ewe jumped over him to elude him. This dog is going to take some time, he get's so wrapped up in "Get the Sheep" that he can't see anything around him.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Where have the last 10 days gone??

Vicky has an announcement!!! Read on...

I did it again, fell behind on my blog...and training has slowed to a snails pace.

The trees are beginning to change color and the weatherman is predicting a drop in the temps, fall is coming to our area fast!!!
I've been busy trying to get the Club newsletter put together, this is my 4th day working on it.
Oh yeah, Vicky's announcement....We have a new baby boy, Sunday Vicky succeeded in whelping, it was not all great, we lost two, a really big tri color female and a little still born male that Wayne ended up pulling, but both we and Vicky are tickled with this one little bundle of squeeking joy.
But that's not all, about 6 hours after Vicky presented us her little male pup, Dottie got into the act producing 3 female and 2 male Australian Cattle Dog puppies.
Last evening we had some entertainment, I purchased 5 new pullets that needed to get rounded up and put in the hen house, well, they were not to keen on being caught up. Chickens everywhere, so I employed Jake, amazingly he had no problem getting the feather renegades corralled and back to the hen house, though he did reveal an issue with his flanks. Until your dog works really light or fresh livestock you don't always see a push or a slice, Jake was far from producing square flanks. Reflecting back, the reason behind our failure to master the sheep at the Minnesota State Fair was just identified. Time to get a little more serious about require perfection not only while training but also while doing chores.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wayne is back to working his dogs

Wayne took Chip, one our young Australian Cattle Dogs out to work on the sheep. The work was slow and steady, but progress was made.

Chip finds a place to hold up the stock, he was not told to lie down, he just planted it there.

Wayne moves in to bump Chip out of his trance, imagine that, a clampy cattle dog...

Chip moves off, not quite a flank but not quite a drive

Wayne moves in again and Chip stops

Chip then offers a drive

But...then decides that he needs to stop again, clampy little bugger

Wayne encourages Chip to "Walk up"

Wayne allows Chip to drive the sheep along the fence

Then in a circle around him

Now Wayne is walking with Chip during a drive

He has them all on his own!!!

At this point Wayne asked Chip to flank

The Sheep move off the fence, Chip continues down the fence on his flank

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another cute little mare for sale

When we arn't working in the leather shop or out training dogs we are playing with horses. A few weeks back we ran across this cute little bay mare, she is as sweet as they come, now she just needs to find someone to make her theirs:

Two Eyed Magic Trick (APHA 956015)
DOB 4-13-08

Sire: Fine Shine Bartender (QH) by A Fine Bartender out of Watch Joanne Shine

Dam: CS Doin Black Magic (buckskin/Overo) by Doc Cupid Chance (Red Roan/overo out of Mu Rocket Moon (Black/solid)