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Collie with issues becomes collie with issue

The reason behind Nell’s recent rise in status within the pack, in her own eyes at least, became clear.
Beautiful border collie puppies at four weeks of age

"We have to look into the camera. Mum says we'll have to get used to it."

Four weeks ago Nell gave birth to 5 tiny, but perfectly formed, puppies. That girl’s full of surprises.

I’m fairly sure that the sire is young Remus.

The evening before I discovered Nell to be, as I thought, “coming into season”, was dark, wet and windy (one that stands out in a winter of dark, wet and windy evenings) but Nell and Remus refused to come back to the yard with everyone else.

I could see them cavorting and chasing about in the gloom and thought how nice, if inconvenient, that Nell had finally found a playmate. I’d have put money against Remus being a likely candidate, but there’s no accounting for taste and Remus does love to play.

How could I have been so naive?

Children relaxing in the corner of a hayfield, amongst trees and old farm machinery

These children may not be quite as innocent as they look! (Click to enlarge).

It reminds me of this lovely photo of Andy’s. It shows three children (including his daughter Ruth on the right) in an idyllic setting. They’re away down a hay field, sitting amongst the daisies and buttercups, looking the very essence of sylvan innocence. There's even some dilapidated old farm machinery in evidence to add to the atmosphere.

Some years later it was revealed, by one of the children involved, that at the time they were almost certainly being taught how to smoke. I digress, but I’m sure you can see my point..

4 week old puppies

Nell's puppies are enjoying the sunshine

Nell produced her first puppy, cleaned it up, and then sat, looking mournfully at it, with an air of, “Oh dear, now what?” (Though, to be honest, her natural expression is something akin to Eeyore’s at the best of times.)

Once all five puppies were safely delivered, Nell was looking far happier and in control of things. In fact, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the puppies had been delivered by a stork; I’ve never seen such a clean, dry and tidy maternity unit so soon after whelping.

Tricolour male border collie puppy

Nell's little boy, Hugo - though not so very little

Nell’s proved to be an excellent mother; still keen to come out and run with everyone else (she rather stands out at the front of the pack in the top photo), but prepared to abandon the fun to return to the family when she feels she’s been away for long enough.

In view of Nell's nervousness, as a precaution I’m making a point of handling the puppies more than I normally would at this age, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

I’m not worried that the puppies will inherit Nell’s anxiety; their early lives will be very different from their mother’s, and they’ll be brought up (more like dragged up) by a variety of half-brothers and -sisters, grand parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and interested by-standers (canine and human).

Tricolour border collie female pup

Hugo's sister (as yet un-named)

I can’t register the litter with the ISDS because I can’t be certain that Remus is the sire, but health-wise I’ve no concerns. Nell’s eye tested Normal, and whichever dog is the father at least we’ve kept it in the family. All the candidates (Eli, Ezra and Remus) are CEA Normal, evidenced either by their own DNA results or those of their parents.

It's hard to believe that Mel and Eli are almost certainly great-grandparents, but harder still to think of Ezra and Kay as grandparents!

The Nell Quintet are now spending their days in the garden. Will all April sheepdog training course members please make a point of saying "Hello"?

Imaged depicting sheepdog trial competitor with dog

An Introduction to Sheepdog Trials (Part 1)

A training tutorial for budding sheepdog triallists

The latest addition to our sheepdog training video tutorials is part one of a great new introduction to sheepdog trials.

Close up of a sheepdog bringing a group of sheep towards the camera

As well as learning a lot from the tutorial, you'll see some great sheepdog trial footage!

We know from the emails and feedback we receive that many of you would like to compete in sheepdog trials

Competing in your first trial can be quite an ordeal - particularly if you don't fully understand what's going on, so for our latest sheepdog training tutorial, we decided to help beginners to understand just what goes on at a trial, what's expected of you, and how to ensure your first trial goes as smoothly as possible.

Part one of the tutorial explains the general layout of a typical trials ground, and what's expected of the dog, the sheep, and the handler, as well as pointing out potential problems and giving valuable tips to help you succeed.

One of our longest tutorials to date, this first episode is over twenty four minutes long. Part two will follow in a few days time.

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Why not have a look at our online sheepdog training tutorials? For a very modest monthly or annual fee, you can watch our very latest training sessions in your own time, and if you have a mobile device, you could even watch them out in the field where you train your dog.

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Border collie puppy Gretchen showing typical sheepdog style

Gretchen’s talents come to light all at once

Hayley's sister Gretchen develops new skills.

For several weeks now, young Haley has been confidently working sheep (confidently for a puppy, that is) but her litter sister Gretchen has shown a far more passive interest in herding.

Border Collie sheepdog puppy Gretchen looking a little undecided

Gretchen looks a little awkward as she waits for the rest of the pack to decide what they're doing next

Until now, that is. Suddenly, Gretchen's become obsessed with sheep - and cattle too! We don't have cattle of our own, but now that our landlord's animals are back in the field next door, Gretchen will go to great lengths or rather, great heights, to get at them.

Just like her pal Jack (who still shows only fear in the presence of sheep) Gretchen's discovered climbing. She can scale a wire netting fence like a seasoned tar scaling the rigging of a sailing ship.

When she noticed two cattle inquisitively peering over our fence yesterday, she was over it in a flash but fortunately I managed to catch her just as she launched herself at them!

Of course, this is a mixed blessing for us. We want Gretchen to be a keen worker (and she's certainly going to do that) but now that she's learned that she can climb out of yards and fields, keeping her under control could become a problem.

Allowing a puppy of Gretchen and Hayley's age to get to the livestock unsupervised is asking for trouble. If the puppy gets threatened or attacked by the stock, it may lose some or all of its confidence for work.

There's also the risk that Gretchen might injure herself. A few weeks ago, she sustained an injury to her leg and we were puzzled as to how it happened but now it seems likely she got it through climbing.

For now, when the dogs are out for their morning and evening runs, we'll restrict their activities to the opposite end of the field!

On her planned visits to the sheep, Gretchen is displaying a natural ability to flank both ways around them. She will also (reluctantly) stop when I block her path convincingly enough - and she seems very confident when working. I'm really looking forward to training with both pups soon!

Border collie sheepdog and stock dog training