Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ernie's Progress - Day 6

I have to admit - I cheated a little bit yesterday.  I had to move around 70 lambs up a private road, through a farm gate, up through a row of raspberries and into a new paddock.  The farmer on whose land we're grazing wanted to make sure that the sheep didn't get into his rhubarb or blueberries, too - so I needed to make sure I controlled the sheep carefully during the move.  I chickened out and didn't use Ernie - I decided that I needed Mo and Taff instead.  While I think I made the right decision, I was disappointed that I didn't yet have enough confidence in Ernie to trust him.

I did use Ernie to move a small group of sheep we have at home last night.  We moved them out of a paddock in the back yard, through two horse paddocks, and into a third pen.  The group of sheep includes a bottle-raised lamb that doesn't obey the normal stock-handling "rules" - he has no flight zone whatsoever.  This lamb stayed back, and I was able to get Ernie to "look back" and go back for him.  Ernie was somewhat intimidated by the horses and mules, but he did ultimately get the sheep where they needed to be.

One of our challenges has been Ernie's unwillingness to come off stock at times.  When it's time to quit (which I indicate by saying "that'll do" and walking away from the stock, Ernie will sometimes self-deploy, charging in at the sheep and refusing to listen.  He hasn't been doing this at all this week as we've been doing real work - it's been easy to call him off.  Yesterday, however, he ran a ewe through the fence.  I was able to get him to lie down, and we returned the ewe to the paddock.  He then let me call him off.  I think his self-deployment was related to the pressure he felt coming through the horse pens and gates - probably similar to the pressure that I sometimes put on him in training situations.  In essence, I think he's trying to beat me as a way to release tension.  In the coming weeks, I'll need to work at helping him releasing this tension without getting himself (or me and the sheep) in trouble.

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