Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I agreed to go let out Cathy's dogs and feed her chickens this bright snowy morning while she's away, so that I could grab another opportunity to work Craig and Taz. The snow, plus a freelance project I've been working hard to finish, has meant that I haven't been able to get the dogs out very much lately, and Taz and Craig have been a little out of sorts. They've never been the best of buddies, but lately I have been witnessing an escalation in the tension between them, and I am wondering if Taz is beginning to get "in touch his inner stud dog" (in the words of wise Andrea in a discussion about this here). In any case, clearly a work session would do all three of us some good.

They get along so well when there's
any possibility of sheep to be worked...

After I got Cathy's dogs and chickens squared away, I set out to work the dogs. The first thing I noticed is that all the gates were open in the pastures. I closed them behind us and grabbed Craig, since I know how much he likes doing practical work. Well, here I saw that Cathy's husband Bill had left all the gates open in the pens as well. Normally this wouldn't be such a big deal, but since the last bunch of lambs were born Rufus the guard llama has been getting meaner and more suspicious of other dogs (and who knows how he feels about people these days). According to Elaine, Craig has a history of llama hate, after an unfortunate incident with Steve and Lynn's llama. Eesh, this isn't good...

Rufus looks ready to show us we're not welcome!

Well, this was just great! How was I going to get the sheep out with a big hairy llama in the way? After pondering the situation for a few minutes, I came up with an ingenious plan. I grabbed a handful of hay and fed some to Rufus, who instantly began feeling better about me being there. Then I held out some more hay in front of the sheep. Okay, sheep are sheep, and they're not going to come running to you just because you're holding out a bunch of hay.

But goats will! Oooh, we haven't worked goats in forever. I let three independent little guys out and we made our way out to the arena. I let Taz and Craig bring them toward the larger pasture together, but the goats were not being very cooperative. None had the slightest interest in staying anywhere near his goaty buddies. They also had no interest whatsoever in going through the gate to the pasture. I tied Taz up and let Craig bring them, and it was no small task. He'd get them moving toward the gate and then one would squirt to the side. He'd take half a step to cover, and another would squirt off to the other side. He'd back up and bring the first one back, only to have the last one run over to the place he just left. It looked impossible, but I let Craig get on with it with a minimal amount of commands, and then he pushed them on through. What a good boy! He knew it, too :-)

Craig understood what he needed to do to move those goats!

We did a few small outruns (there was NO driving to be done with these goats today!), and I put Craig up so I could give Taz a chance. Taz did really well, too! His flanks were super wide and he didn't seem to cut in at the top. Unfortunately the goats kept running back to the fence after the gather and fetch, so it was hard to judge how "correct" Taz was in his positioning, but he seemed to get the job done efficiently and orderly. His fetches were straight and he had to keep off them or they would squirt apart. A great lesson for him, and a good refresher for Craig, I think.

Taz paid attention...

...and learned some lessons about
the differences between goats and sheep!

Those goats proved challenging, but the dogs really seemed to thrive when working them. All in all, it was a great morning!


Julia & Brad said...

LOL, what a fun post! :-) Luckily your dogs actually 'see' goats--Onya completely ignores them when they are in with the sheep...wonder if she would notice them if there weren't any sheep around?

Laura said...

Craig ignores them, too, if there are sheep mixed in with the group. But if no sheep are available, goats will do in a pinch (as will ducks, chickens, and house flies...) I bet Onya would see those goats pretty quickly if they were the only game in town!