Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Take Your Dog To Work Day

The ewes just waiting for a border collie to tell them where to move next!
As a shepherd, I guess every day is "Take Your Dog to Work Day" for me - I'd be lost without my border collies, and my sheep would be coyote bait without my livestock guardian dogs.  Lately, I've been taking two or three border collies to work with me, but today was Taff's turn to be the only dog to go to work!
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!

Speaking of working dogs, we continue to work with Vegas' puppies to prepare them for their lifetime of guarding livestock.  At this stage, we're trying to socialize them with sheep.  Their only interaction with humans is at feeding time (which our youngest daughter Emma handles) - we don't hold them or cuddle them at all (which is extremely difficult as cute as they are).  We've kept a handful of gentle ewe lambs at the house to help us in this training - the sheep aren't afraid of the pups, but they aren't aggressive towards them either.  We hope this interaction will prepare these puppies for their guardian responsibilities.

1 comment:

  1. OH MY HOW CUTE! We have an Aussie Retriever mix that doesn't know what being a dog is. Too bad she can't come just watch your dogs, but alas we would have a dog fight on our hands!