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.

For a lot more information about introducing a puppy to sheep, look at our Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials (see below)

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!

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