|The ewes just waiting for a border collie to tell them where to move next!|
|Taff - ready for work!|
Our dogs have sorted themselves into a hierarchy, which is most easily seen when we're on a walk away from the sheep. Taff, our oldest border collie (and my main dog), is the top dog - he's always closest to me. Ernie, the youngest, would like to be top dog, but he still looks to Taff for direction. Mo, who actually belongs to our daughter Lara, is in the middle age-wise. Mo is a free spirit. He ignores Ernie (his younger half-brother) and he looks up to Taff. When he's not working, however, he'd rather be chasing butterflies or bird shadows.
From the standpoint of work, Mo is easily the most talented dog of the bunch. As I've learned more about how to work in partnership with our dogs, Mo has excelled in all aspects of our daily work - from moving large groups to loading the trailer. Ernie, on the other hand, is the first dog that I intend on training myself. He'll be an outstanding dog if I don't mess him up. Currently, I try to train Ernie on sheep 5-6 times each week.
Taff is a complicated dog. He's easily the most loyal dog I've ever owned. We call him the Buddha collie - he's also the easiest going and most relaxed of any border collie I've been around. From a work standpoint, however, he has his faults (some of which he had when I got him; others of which I'm sure I've created). He works far too close to the sheep most of the time, which can create problems.
When I first got Taff four years ago (when he was four), I left him home one day when I didn't need a dog. He proceeded to destroy my rubber boots, which I'd left in the garage. Since that time, he's gone to work with me nearly everyday. Recently, however, as Mo and Ernie have come with us (and as they've taken on more of Taff's work), he's been grumpy. He pouts and sulks when another dog gets to work. So today, Taff was the only dog I took with me. He gathered our flock of 200+ ewes and helped me move them onto fresh pasture. When we finished, he was anything but grumpy - he bounced and skipped all the way back to the truck!