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20th May 2011
Mel's pups are having a wonderful time now. They're into absolutely everything and making lots of noise. Every time we want to train a dog, we have to catch the pups and put them away because they want to join in.
It's not good to let pups loose around sheep because they may become frightened and the fear can live with them for a long time.
Puppies for sale!
We have some younger pups (male only) available from another litter. These are also from superb sheepdog trials lines and will be ready to leave in a couple of weeks' time. These "high-drive" pups should make excellent sheepdogs, of course, but they also excel in agility, flyball and working trials.
We don't normally export puppies overseas - but if you have a proven successful record in a dog activity, we may consider your application. You must be prepared to collect the puppy from us though.
DVD News - meet Max.
As you know, we're working on our next Sheepdog Training DVD production just now (that's why the blog entries are so scarce at the moment). Amongst many other things on the new video, I want to show how to cope with a dog that's really aggressive with sheep. A lot of beginners give up with dogs like this because they don't know how to control the dog (and protect the sheep).
It's not that difficult when you know how to do it, but of course, you must protect the sheep. It's a good idea to use sheep which have thick fleeces, so that the dog will grip the wool, rather than the sheep's skin.
I was looking around for a young dog which would fit the bill and eventually found Max. When Max's owner said he'd "grip for fun" they meant it. He was horrible.
Max (see pictures) is under one year old and loves people and other dogs. When he plays with puppies, it's a joy to watch. He'll roll onto his back and pretend to be the victim while the pups jump all over him.
When I took him to sheep though, he was very nasty indeed - gripping the sheep at every opportunity. Fortunately, he responded very quickly to training and we have recorded his progress from the start. Now Max looks as though he'll become a really useful dog. He's beginning to flank out wide and stops (reluctantly). He won't walk away from the sheep yet, but that will come very soon how that we have him under proper control. More news of Max soon.
Reduced training course dates.
Because we are so heavily committed to production of the new DVD, we have reduced the number of training courses throughout the summer. This will not affect anyone who has already paid for either a Sheepdog Training Course, or a Sheepdog Experience, all of which will be honoured as normal.
13th April 2011
Making good use of the plastic plant pots - "Apparently never sleeps" is in the foreground, with a Demon Twin in the background.
Mel's puppies are now spending their days outside on the lawn - weather permitting. It's hard to believe they'll be five weeks old tomorrow! Mel's beginning to weary of their demands (until there's puppy food around) and spends much of her time on her bench above the puppies' bedroom, well out of the way
We've had an interesting few weeks with Vince (Vinnie) and his younger brother, Nip. Vince, at 2 years old, had been here for a while and his training was making good progress when we bought Nip, from the same mating but a year younger.
Nip quickly established himself as the stronger character and after a week or so had Vince, Jed and Slip in his thrall. At the same time Vince appeared to be losing his enthusiasm and confidence in his work, so he was given a couple of weeks off, in case he just needed a rest.
Last week we sold Nip (much to Andy's regret, as Nip was showing tremendous promise) and Nip's followers spent a couple of days looking entirely lost, like rudderless ships, before rejoining the main pack and taking back their old places. Then I started to work Vince again, and he seems completely back to his old self. I'm not suggesting that either dog was aware of their sibling relationship, but I don't think Vince was being over-trained so is this improvement because he no longer feels undermined by Nip? Any parent knows the effect of bullying or peer-pressure on children, and personally I think the influence of pack structure goes far deeper than we can hope to understand.
31st March 2011
At last - the Spring weather tempts us to linger outside
The last couple of weeks of dry weather have been a welcome relief after an unremittingly wet February. Of course, after spending the early part of the year worrying about wet ground and losing our grazing in a sea of mud, we're now worried that the dry spell has stunted the grass growth!
Still, at least we've been able to catch up on some outside jobs - mainly of the digging up and tearing down variety - and the extra hour in the evenings has meant we're able to relax in the orchard with the dogs (and a glass of wine) before we put them to bed for the night. It's a sort of compensation for the dogs because we haven't been training as much as we should. I'm beginning to wonder whether all this training is worthwhile anyway. The other night I moved 14 sheep between fields using two Chihuahuas whilst carrying two wine glasses. And I didn't spill a drop. Alfie (aka Spice Weasel) has always maintained that collies are an inelegant solution to sheep handling - nothing that a small dog with a big attitude can't manage perfectly well.
Andy's favourite bitch, Mel (aka The Smoodler) has produced her last litter of puppies for us. There are only five, so the plan is to keep them all (well, there's still a little space left in the spare room before we start keeping dogs in the office). They're three weeks old now, so at the stage when they start staggering around, falling over each other and practicing their most ferocious barks and growls. They're fascinating, and I could watch them all day. It doesn't matter how many puppies you see in a lifetime, the novelty never wears off (if it does, it's probably time to quit) and a new litter is like finding treasure. I'm already collecting plastic bottles and flower pots, for when they become more adventurous, and will make a foray around charity shops for puppy-friendly soft toys before too long.
The weather was so nice, after the last Saturday training day, that we couldn't resist the temptation of sitting in the sun with the dogs instead of working. We bought a ridiculous number of roasted bones (at least three more than the number of dogs - collies + Chihuahuas) and scattered them around for the dogs to take their pick and settle down quietly to some serious chewing. There's very little trouble between the dogs when we do this. Kevin and his sister Midge, of course, couldn't settle for long and were dancing about in and around the older dogs and generally getting in the way, but it's all very good humoured and no-one gets seriously possessive. I'm sure it's good for "pack bonding" too. On this occasion there were four visiting dogs, barely known by our resident core group, but they were all good mates by bed time.
We're very lucky that we're able to introduce visiting collies so easily into the pack. I suppose the core pack understands the rules, while the visiting dog really wants to fit in. Also, with Andy very much the pack leader, Eli (the second in command) assumes that if Andy says the newcomer's OK, then it's OK, and the rest of the group just agree with Eli. Any grumbling usually happens at the bottom end of the hierarchy, but is quickly finished so long as we don't interfere. Those dogs who are naturally bound to work their way up to the front seem to do so quietly and without noise and fuss. I suppose these are the natural leaders, who don't have to prove themselves with bluster. Much as with leaders of men, of course..
11th March 2011
From Pet to Sheepdog - in One Session!
On our training courses, we see all kinds of dogs. There are the hardened sheepdogs whos attention locks onto the sheep from the first moment, and at the other extreme, we see the occasional dog which doesn't show a scrap of interest in sheep all day.
Jack preferred to go in the 'away' direction but by the end of the day was going 'come bye' without being told
Of course, we do everything we possibly can to spark the herding instinct which I believe is in all collies (and indeed, to a greater or lesser extent in most breeds). Our heroic little dog, Kay is an expert at working sheep around a disinterested dog but even that sometimes fails. On these occasions, the trainee is often more interested in playing with Kay than any entertainment the sheep can offer.
While it's very hard struggling to protect the sheep from a dog that's over-excited and very determined, it still gives me a lot more satisfaction than seeing a dog depart for home having shown not a glimmer of interest in sheep.
So when Mike arrived from Sheffield for a One-to-One training session with his two and a half year old collie, Jack, I was slightly apprehensive. Jack had barely set eyes on a sheep before, let alone been allowed to take any interest in them.
Having read the blurb on our training web page, Mike was fully aware that we couldn't guarantee a result, but of course, when people are paying good money, I like to deliver if we possibly can.
The first few minutes with Jack in the training area, were not great. At first Jack took no notice of the sheep at all but quite soon, he had a little bark at them, followed up with some exploratory 'dive-bombing'. Mike found out just how much energy is required when your dog must be kept off the sheep, and encouraged to go around them too, so when I suggested we give Jack a few minutes break, Mike was more enthusiastic than I'd anticipated.
We rested dog and man for a while and on the second attempt, Jack was much more workmanlike. His enthusiasm had increased dramatically and he was circling the sheep enthusiastically but only anti clockwise. Jack was pretty determined that 'Away' was definitely the way to go but between us, Mike and I were able to convince him there was another practical route.
After a few more minutes' break, I opened up the hurdles and Jack was keeping his sheep together in the open field. He got better and better, bringing the sheep up behind Mike very nicely and even dashing out to collect any errant sheep that thought it would go its own way.
So in the course of a morning, this pet dog which had barely glimpsed sheep, let alone worked them, was keeping sheep together, stopping, walking up and flanking both ways. Once or twice we noticed Jack go clockwise around the sheep on his own initiative.
What a lucky boy I am! Not only do I get to train sheepdogs, I teach people to train their dogs to work sheep. When it's a pet dog that makes this much progress, the job satisfaction is immense.
3rd March 2011
Finding a Trainer
As far as we know, there's not really a nationally recognised route to becoming a qualified pet dog trainer (though there are NVQs and the APDT) so it's theoretically possible for a well-meaning dog enthusiast to book themselves a community hall for the evening, and charge an entrance fee.
At least, that's our interpretation of various emails that arrive here from people with pet collies with supposed behavioural problems.
More alarmingly, it seems that, if a dog's problem is too complex, time-consuming or challenging for that trainer to cope with or understand, the eventual response is to "Leave, and never again darken my doorstep."
It's not exactly helpful, is it? Though I can imagine that sometimes trainers might feel it's easy enough to train the dog - but teaching the handler is quite a different matter!
The same applies to sheepdog trainers, of course.
We've recently been very surprised to be asked if we could recommend a named sheepdog trainer who, apparently, was trained by us.
It's not that we'd ever try to deprive anyone of making a living, and it's not even that we're worried about competition. Quite the contrary, in fact. We're keen to see sheep herding become as popular for collies as Agility and Flyball are, so the more who are involved, the merrier in our opinion.
Our concern is for those people who may attend classes with this trainer and be put off the whole activity by a bad experience. The individual in question has certainly attended a handful of training sessions with us - but with just one dog. Admittedly, the dog became fairly competent but in a very limited way. The dog showed a natural aptitude with sheep and was virtually a model student.
Anyone who knows dogs is aware that every single one is an individual and nowhere is this more critical than in sheepdog training. Moderate success with just one (easy going, naturally talented) dog surely cannot qualify the trainer to teach others.
Anyone who's attended a group training session with us (or anywhere, I'm sure) will be aware that there are as many different problems as there are dogs, and that dogs vary widely in their response to sheep - from the indifferent to the indefencible.
To handle an unfamiliar dog, and guide its handler to making progress with it, while protecting the sheep from unnecessary stress and injury is skilled work and demands a background of considerable experience.
All we're suggesting is that, if you find a trainer near to you who offers sheepdog training, you check out first what sort of experience they've had and roughly how many dogs they've trained. I wouldn't insist they're successful sheepdog triallers, but they must be able to work with a range of dogs. A personal recommendation is always best of course, but not always possible.
The risk of training with someone of limited experience is that, in the event of your dog not working well right from the start, you may be told that he/she will never be any good. This isn't fair on either of you, but it seems to be common practice amongst pet obedience instructors and we'd hate to see it spread.
A good sheepdog trainer should be able to explain clearly what methods they use, and then prove the methods work by demonstration.
28th February 2011
It's been a quiet week at Kings Green, quiet and very wet, but Midge and Kevin had a good afternoon with their long-lost sister, Reiver. (Not that she was actually long-lost, we knew she'd gone to live with Jazz (a daughter of Glen) in Buckinghamshire, and will, in time, be competing in agility.)
Every litter of puppies has its own group personality. We once had an entire litter that was obsessed with destroying the rhubarb patch. It took several years to fully recover, but no puppy before or since has given it so much as a second glance.
Kay's litter was a climbing litter, and we've never known puppies scale the heights that Midge, Kevin and their siblings have been tackling since just a few weeks old. Their sister Bo won her place in her new owner's heart by climbing a five-bar gate - and then continuing up the front of his jacket!
Apparently Reiver keeps the family tradition alive, so I hope that bodes well for her agility career.
Reiver has grown into an elegant young lady and she has her father Eli's coat - long, flat and shiny black. She seems sleek and sophisticated compared to the incorrigible tomboy Midge. Reiver has long legs, while Midge has inherited her mum's rather stubby ones, and Reiver's action is smoother. I'm looking forward to seeing her around sheep (she'll be coming back for that when the weather improves).
I was hoping for a glimmer of recognition between the puppies, but I'm not sure there was. I didn't have the impression there was a "long time, no see!" greeting, or any excited comparing of careers and lifestyle. I did, however, feel that Reiver was being led astray by her brother and sister (or was at least giving the impression of the innocent victim). They showed her where to find the muddiest bits of field, what to do with sheep poo and then - joy of joys - several ways of dealing with a dead mole.
There's a definite family resemblance that I don't remember being so marked in other litters. I wish I'd taken a photo, but the light was awful (is my excuse) so I'm grateful to Deb for this one of Reiver. I have to admit that when I first saw it I wondered why she'd sent me a photo of Kevin!
21st February 2011
SKIPTON SALE - To buy . . . or not to buy . . .
We very rarely go to auctions - when it comes to sheepdogs Andy suffers from 'twitching arm' syndrome, so it's the only way I can restrict him - but I'm always interested to read the reports afterwards. It seems that every Skipton sale sets a new record that can't be entirely explained by inflation.
February's record dog, the tri-coloured bitch, Dewi Fan, from John Bell of Selby, was sold for 6,000 guineas (£6,300) to an overseas buyer. I'd like to think it's a result of UK breeding being recognised, as well as an appreciation of the value of a good working dog. Probably worth its weight in gold, a good dog saves the shepherd's time and temper, and avoids sheep stress.
Though if I could afford to spend £6000+ on a dog I wouldn't, because it would be completely wasted on me, but for an experienced or naturally talented handler with some money to spend, it must be so exciting to pick through and mark the catalogue before the day.
Last year a local farmer came to us with a dog he'd just bought at auction. He was so pleased with her that he wanted to be sure he was working her correctly, and not confusing or abusing her with his inexperience. She was a lovely, smooth coated, prick-eared bitch - just the sort of dog I like; I'd have tried to buy her too! Needless to say, because he was so concerned to get it right he and his new dog got off to a flying start, and because he was prepared to be patient, and not to blame the dog if things went wrong, the dog's confidence in her new handler was growing daily.
If I'd sold this particular bitch I'd want to know who she was going to, and then how they were getting on together. And that's why we don't sell dogs at auction, either.
I wonder what happens to those dogs who aren't so lucky? The stage is set by the terms and conditions of sale (in Skipton's case, the wording is "...no warranty is given that any dog will give equal performance for its new owner with regard to work"). You'd think that was just common sense, but if a buyer is disappointed and takes the view that it's the dog's fault, what sort of life will that dog have until the next auction? And how will its life chances be affected if it fails to perform well on the day?
Auctioneers, and sellers at auction, are not unique in stipulating that dogs are sold on a non-returnable basis, but the dog is the innocent victim when it goes wrong simply through a lack of experience on the buyer's part.
The few dogs we sell can be sure that, if the new handler doesn't suit them, or vice versa, they're sure of a home with us and, if they're brought back within 30 days, the full purchase price is refunded too. The only condition applied to this is that they keep the dog for at least 14 days, and preferably 21 days, before making the decision to return it. Dogs don't start to work "straight out of the box" and if they did, they wouldn't be nearly so fascinating to work with.
Maybe it's just sentimentality, but I hate losing touch with a dog; Andy and I are always delighted to hear about dogs we've trained or sold. I hope John Bell can enjoy the occasional email from a delighted new owner!
14th February 2011
Variety was the spice of this weekend!
For anyone who works with livestock, one day is pretty much the same as another - you don't get days off - so I suppose it's just a habit that every Monday morning I reflect on the weekend that's gone. This weekend was fascinating; over the two days we saw four dogs who couldn't have been more different from each other.
On Saturday morning - beautifully sunny and unseasonably mild - we were introduced to Milo. At the age of three Milo's career to date has been as a pet, but a change in his family's circumstances has given him the opportunity to work sheep if he wants to. We didn't get a photo of Milo, so just imagine a classic, fluffy, black and white "calendar collie" and you won't need one! Milo's Kennel Club registered and certainly bred for his looks, so we were worried that perhaps the work instinct had been lost along the way.
We needn't have worried. After a puppy-like "bouncy" start, and some excited, but harmless, "dive bombing" of the sheep, Milo settled to his task and we were soon able to get him out into the open field to work the sheep. This was made all the easier by Milo's handler quickly picking up what he needed to do, and where he needed to be, to clearly show Milo what he wanted. Dog and handler went away justifiably pleased with themselves.
We suggested Milo's owner should get in touch with the breeder and let her know how well Milo is doing. Breeders of show bred Kennel Club registered collies come in for criticism for breeding dogs that can't fulfill their original herding task, and it's great to see that supposition proved wrong.
So much for "unseasonably warm"
Sunday was back to business as usual - pouring with rain - proper sheepdog weather! Lass and Kayla travelled up from somewhere unpronouncable near Builth Wells in mid-Wales and the irrepressible Shep joined us again from Ditton Priors in Shropshire.
Kayla is a collie x Beardie and she's lovely, with a face rather like a wire-haired terrier. Kayla's a real charmer and a delight to train, with a lovely steady pace, but her shepherd owner wanted help with widening Kayla out from the sheep, both close at hand and on her outrun. We worked on these points and Kayla responded beautifully. All she needs now is lots of work to perfect her technique until it becomes second nature.
Kayla's kennel mate, Lass, is a smooth coated black and white bitch with superb control over her sheep. Her outrun is beautiful, she stops well, flanks calmly and wide and she's an asset to her handler so why, you may ask, did she come here for training? Well, Lass would get behind her sheep and start to bring them, but if the flock stopped, Lass stopped too. She refused to apply any pressure to bring the sheep on.
Before Andy can tell what's causing a problem he normally needs to see it happen, but our training sheep are so dogged that they move away from the dog very easily: all Lass had to do was walk behind them to keep them moving. He needed something to stop the sheep - and who better than Kay? Andy asked Kay to walk forward to meet the sheep that Lass was bringing up, and Kay applied just the right pressure to stop them without scattering them. Lass immediately lay down, watching her stationary sheep and refusing to bring them on even when Kay was no longer holding them.
From her body language Andy suspected that Lass's problem was purely a lack of confidence, so Andy and Lass's owner clapped their hands, made excited "shushing" sounds and shouted lots of encouragement and praise. Lass's ears immediately pricked up, she got to her feet and, with further encouragement, began flanking back and forth to shift the sheep. It worked! With her success Lass's body language became far more positive and she went about her work with much more enthusiasm. With further encouragement, Lass will gain confidence and be an even better sheepdog than she was already. Confidence really is everything to a sheepdog.
A lack of confidence doesn't appear to be Shep's problem.
Rough coated Shep has been here a few times before, so we knew what to expect. Shep's huge and powerful and he gave his owner a really hard time, pulling frantically hard on the lead even when he was a good distance from the sheep. As the pair got closer, Shep was leaping up and down quite uncontrollably. Once he was released Shep rushed into the sheep, scattering them like snooker balls, but then Andy was surprised and pleased to see his owner get him under control. After a while, Shep began to work quite well.
To an onlooker (always a priviledged position!) it was clear that his frantic approach to the sheep was "winding up" Shep. By the time he was released he was so desperately excited that things were bound to go wrong. Andy stopped the session to discuss the problem and how it could be avoided. In the meantime, held securely on his lead, Shep soon accepted that he couldn't get to the sheep; he sat down and began to relax.
For Shep's next outrun Andy positioned himself between dog and sheep and asked for Shep to be released. By just dropping the lead the release was so smooth that Shep didn't even notice it. Andy gave Shep a command to send him off, and he went around the sheep calmly. Andy was then able to control Shep by using the quietest, almost whispered, commands. Most of the time Shep responded instantly, and the whole session was much more calm.
Shep's owner's homework is to maintain this calm approach, and to refuse to be led into the cycle of 'pull or be pulled' that has become a routine for the two of them. Shep's respect for, and confidence in, his handler will increase as a result.
It's so important to try your utmost to stay calm, even when everything around you seems to be out of control. A calm dog will keep the sheep calm, and a calm handler has the best chance of maintaining a calm dog - it's better for your blood pressure too. It's no coincidence that sheepdog trials aren't won by excited dogs.
9th February 2011
Another Beardie on our Group Training Course!
Thanks to Hugh Emerson for this picture of Bess working, and thanks too to fellow course member, Liz Harper, for the camerawork.
We were delighted to see another Beardie on our sheepdog training course today. Hugh Emerson brought Bess from their home in Cheshire to see whether she was interested in sheep. Bess certainly didn't disappoint him.
Bess got off to a fairly bouncy (puppy-like) start but soon settled down and was holding the sheep together very well. Before the end of the day, Bess could control her sheep in the open field and walked up on them very nicely considering she's only 10 months old and it was her first sheepdog training day.
The other dog on the course was 12 month old Floss with her owner Liz from Warwickshire. I have to say, Floss was excellent. apart from a slight attention span problem, Floss was superb. She gave the sheep room, stopped easily and showed power when required. Both these dogs could make wonderful sheepdogs.
The Whites of their Eyes" - Kevin and his sister Midge look quite fierce but they're just relaxing together by the pond.
"Demo" Dog Kevin:
Because we only had a total of two dogs on the course, we needed to give the trainee dogs a rest from time to time, so I used Kevin to demonstrate how to control the dog's direction using the positioning of your body and hand signals. Kevin's quite steady on his sheep, so he's ideal for showing beginners what to do. Since his first introduction to sheep, Kevin has been a pleasure to train. He's one of those dogs with natural ability to control sheep in a relaxed way.
Time to let off steam
After a day confined to barracks while other dogs were training, Kevin and his sister Midge let off steam in their favourite way - chasing each other around the pond and play-fighting. We love to see the dogs (of all ages) relax like this and try to encourage it. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is true for dogs as well as people, and it's good for their fitness and physical development (of course), as well as their character. Despite being litter mates Midge and Kevin are very obedient both around and away from sheep, but we make a point of training and spending time with each of them individually. If you can't give puppies individual attention then litter mates (or even unrelated puppies kept together) can be a nightmare!
5th February 2011
A great little Beardie:
We don't see many working bearded collies but today we had a super beardie on the group training course. Izzy is from a Shropshire farm and was a delight to train.
Working Bearded Collie Izzy was a credit to her breed on today's sheepdog training course.
She was fully focussed on her sheep, showed plenty of courage and easily gathered sheep from a fence. We were very impressed with her.
Flanking well, stopping well and walking up nicely on her sheep, Izzy is now ready to learn to do outruns and gather sheep from a distance.
With some owners coming from as far afield as Essex and the south of Hampshire, the course went very well. Six dogs took part and with Kay in close attendance, we managed to get all of them working sheep although one was a rather late starter and showed no interest until after lunch! The weather was windy but dry and very mild for the time of year. Everyone seemed to have a very enjoyable time but sadly, one owner left at lunchtime, even though their dog was making excellent progress.
Midge's guest appearance:
After the course, one of Kay's six month old pups (Midge) decided to come and demonstrate her skills with the sheep. She suddenly appeared in the field after escaping from the yard and I was delighted when she put in her best performance to date, right in front of the course members. Like her brother Kevin, Midge is a natural and with next to no training can already handle the sheep with confidence.
4th February 2011
Tomorrow's group sheepdog course will go ahead as planned. The forecast is for grey cloud but doesn't mention rain, so lets hope we get a dry day. It will be quite windy, so the dogs are going to have fun!
Kay will be on hand to keep the errant sheep in order during the day. She's an invaluable assistant during sheepdog training lessons.
The privately booked group course on Sunday will also go ahead as planned. We recommend warm, waterproof clothing, and good boots (the ground will be slippery).
The new kennels are built and the dogs seem to like them. We need some bolt-on water bowls and then once we've made a few minor adjustments, all will be complete in the dog housing department. It's certainly much easier for us. Access is a dream compared to struggling with the tumbledown mesh gates we had on the old acommodation.
31st January 2011
The best sheepdog in the world:
Years ago, I said that if I thought it was possible, I'd say Mel (below) can read my mind. Since then, Mel's convinced me she really can. I owe so much to this wonderful dog. (Click the image for a larger version).
She's getting old now, but time and again, Mel has astonished me by correctly predicting what I want her to do, even in situations she'd never experienced before.
We have a regular group course on Saturday (5th Feb) and a privately booked group course on Sunday. Weather permitting, both courses will go ahead as planned. Check the current 3 day forecast for our area. We recommend warm, waterproof clothing, and good boots.
Repairs and renewals:
Our poor dogs have been putting up with really dilapidated accommodation for the past few years. Of course, as long as they are dry and draught proof, the dog's don't really care where they live but some of the pens are in urgent need of repairs. We decided to do the job properly and buy brand new kennels but even on the internet, I couldn't find any that were even close to our own preferred type.
One of our first kennels was a wendy house which I converted to provide four sleeping areas for the dogs - two at ground level and two more above. This system has worked so well for us, that we had the new sleeping areas made to our own design. So far, we have four dogs in the new quarters and no complaints.
Having two "bedrooms" which are isolated from each other, means the dogs have companionship but are able to get away from each other if they prefer. We find it works very well as long as one of the dogs is prepared to jump up into the top compartment. Both boxes are large enough for two dogs to sleep together in if they prefer (they often do).
Kevin and the other pups are doing really well. Kevin seems to be visibly larger every morning and is turning into a really handsome boy. When we get the new kennels finished, Kevin will have his own sleeping quarters.
Another sign that spring's coming?:
In the last blog entry, I mentioned that I heard birds singing and wondered whether the birds think spring is coming. today, Gill noticed a sparrow with a bundle of sheep wool in it's beak. The sunshine is glorious at the moment, but I didn't realise the sparrows were so optimistic.
25th January 2011
Tomorrow's Group Training Course will go ahead as normal. At the time of writing, the weather forecast is good with white cloud and 6 celcius expected. Check the current 3 day forecast for our area. Unless we get more rain, the ground will be reasonably dry but bring warm clothing and good boots.
Pearl's retirement home:
It's wonderful to hear from Pearl's new owner that she's settled in really well. After years of very loyal service, we decided it was time for Pearl to take things easier and with perfect timing, along came a request from a very suitable couple in the home counties who had seen her on the Border Collie Sheepdogs - Off Duty! DVD. Pearl (see picture - right) is reported to be very happy. She has lots of attention (which Pearl has always craved) and at eight years of age, she made the change from living permanently outdoors to being a house dog, seamlessly.
Pups for sale:
We have just one of SpotTum's litter sisters still for sale (2.5 months old). She's 'showing' well on sheep and must go to a very active home or farm where her talent will be appreciated. Use the contact details below if you'd like more details about the puppy.
Was that a hint of spring?:
The household rubbish collection in this area is often quite early, so we like to get ours out by around 7 am. When I was taking the bags out this morning, it felt very mild and the birds were singing. It made me think spring must be coming, but of course, the British climate is very unpredictable. After the snow and heavy frost, it would be wonderful to have an early spring - but perhaps not this early!
16th January 2011
New Young Talent
Kevin and SpotTum are two very promising puppies.
Despite the wet, miserable weather we're experiencing in the UK at the moment, things are looking pretty bright for us as far as future sheepdogs are concerned.
Kay and Eli's pup, Kevin continues to impress us with his natural ability around sheep. He has only seen them four times and already, he flanks calmly around them and will stop on command. Let's hope he continues to make such good progress. We'd really like to find Kevin a permanent place in our team.
At five and a half months of age, Kevin's one of those lovely pups with big feet, silky coat and skin that's much too large for his body at the moment. He's very obedient for his age and loves people.
SpotTum . . . (OK, we were short of a name for her - and noticed she has a pronounced black spot on her white tummy) was keen to chase sheep right from the time she was eight weeks old. She's not as refined as Kevin, but shows remarkable staying power, despite being unable to effectively keep up with the sheep.
She impressed us yesterday when she slipped through the rails to get amongst the sheep in the pen. Far from being frightened, SpotTum circled the crowded pen confidently and whenever a sheep dared to look at her, she immediately nipped its nose.
As soon as I can I'll put a command on that so that I can control SpotTum's nip. It's very useful for a dog to bite when it's confronted with difficult sheep, but of course, we must keep it under careful control at other times.
Pups for sale:
We have two of SpotTum's litter sisters for sale (2.5 months old). Both are 'showing' well on sheep and must go to working homes or farms (not suitable for pets).
Just as the ground was beginning to dry out a little, it's now raining heavily again. Hopefully, it won't amount to much and the ground will continue to dry. We're training as normal at the moment.
14th January 2011
Everything's SO WET!
OK - Just for Greg (see Facebook comments) this is a pic of our lovely great dane - Lily. She doesn't work sheep, but we love her just the same!
(We're hoping to keep the sheepdog training courses going).
Just at the moment (especially after last night's heavy rain) training our own dogs is on hold. The ground is so sodden, it's hard to walk around on it, let alone train a sheepdog.
We're keeping the sheep off the training areas in the hope that we can keep our sheepdog training courses running but it's a good idea to come back to this page and check from time to time.
The sheep are having a pretty miserable time of it, too. We're running out of fresh grass and even though the sheep are not expecting lambs, we're feeding concentrates to ensure they're in top condition.
11th January 2011
This Kelpie's pretty COOL !
Working Kelpie Sheepdog Molly was totally focussed on her sheep during her sheepdog training course.
I needn't have worried. Molly was a credit to her breed. She showed none of the lack of concentration that beset Red's training sessions, and with a little guidance, Paul was able to get her under control and working sheep nicely.
Molly worked all morning and never lost concentration on her sheep. She has certainly restored my faith in Kelpies as reliable working sheepdogs. Paul is moving to a new job at the end of January where he and Molly will be caring for eight hundred ewes in Gloucestershire. Read the full story.
5th January 2011
Things can change quickly
There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when a puppy first takes an interest in sheep.
On the 31st July last year, one of our bitches produced a litter of pups. Kay's litter was sired by Eli, a young dog who's producing some exceptionally good puppies for us. We kept two of the youngsters to train as sheepdogs and now (after what seems like a very long time) I'm wishing we'd kept more!
At any time after 14 weeks, we like to see some interest in sheep but we certainly don't worry about it if there's none.
By twenty weeks, a lack of interest becomes more noticeable even though we know that every dog is different and we've heard of it taking four years for a dog to "get the urge".
Of course, we had high hopes for Kevin and Midge. Being Eli and Kay's pups, we simply hadn't considered that they might not be interested in sheep, so when they reached the ripe old age of five months and still didn't show even the slightest interest in sheep, I must confess I was beginning to wonder.
We often use Kay to control the sheep during our sheepdog training classes.
Last Monday, I took Midge to the sheep while another of our dogs, Mo, worked them. Midge stood by and watched, so there seemed to be some hope but still, she gave the woolies a wide berth.
On Tuesday, I was using one of our trainee dogs to pen the sheep prior to getting the dogs out for their evening run, when Midge and Kevin who had been loose in the yard, came to join us. They had escaped through the wire netting and ran around the outside of the buildings, to see what was going on.
Before I knew it, both of them were circling the sheep and Midge was even diving in and grabbing some wool.
On Wednesday, I put some well-dogged sheep in our training arena with Kevin. I was fully expecting him to quietly make his way to the hurdles and climb out of the "danger area" but no, Kevin looked at the sheep for a moment and then trotted of in a wide arc to go around them. He circled them a few times anti clockwise so I moved towards him to block his path and send him back the other way.
Eli's proving to be an excellent stud dog.
He was a little confused and it took about three goes at this before he realised what I wanted, and from then on, he was flanking freely.
I used Kevin to move the sheep up and down the arena several times, and he was so steady and confident that I even moved the sheep so they were against the hurdles to see whether he could get them off again. Kevin didn't even hesitate, he just flanked steadily and confidently wherever the sheep were - I was astonished!
A short lesson is plenty for a young dog, so quite soon, I took Kevin back to his pen and came back with his sister Midge who was much more aggressive with the sheep as well as being more determined to go anti clockwise. I very much liked the way she worked though - and even managed to release, then re-pen the sheep with her.
I'll keep you posted with progress of these two. Please feel free to comment, either using the Facebook box below, or our contact form.
1st January 2011
ME? . . . a BLOGGER?
Andy with Kay during the shooting of the introductory sequence for our successful sheepdog training DVD - First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training.
As one who's tried so many times to keep a diary - and usually failed before the end of the first month, it's something of a surprise to find myself setting about the ambitious task of creating a blog.
The entries may not appear every day but I'm hoping there will be a minimum of one entry per week. There are so many things going on every day here, it would be a pity not to share some of them with our visitors.
The Kelpie v Collie training blog attracted a huge amount of interest, so Gillian and I thought it would be good to start a proper blog on the first day of 2011.
Dogs are amazingly hardy creatures. During the recent severe weather, our dogs had tremendous fun and were oblivious of the sub-zero temperatures. From left to right, Tyke, Lily (Dane), Mel, Cass, Eli and Fran.