Thursday, January 1, 2009


Yes, I'm perplexed.
It started three days ago, and I'm really hoping this isn't how the New Year is heading.
We had to bring in a round bale of hay a few days ago for the sheep, and I brought Chris out to put the sheep up in the catch pen so we could hold open the gate for the tractor to come in with it.
Granted, Chris had been in her crate for awhile that day, so I let her out to empty herself and run off a little excitement before getting to the task at hand. She seemed fine, and willing, and so like any other time her services are required, I opened the gate and asked her to join me. As soon as she got in there, the first thing she did was try to shoot off for the sheep. That is not a Chris move, she usually just comes in and waits to see what I need of her. I called her back, and she was in full gather mode, making a sweeping out run towards the bottom of the pasture where the sheep were, so I was glad to see that she took the recall, which actually sounded more like "WTF ARE YOU DOING!!!" more so than That'll Do! Groveling, she landed back at my feet,and waited to see what the consequences of her actions would be. Had we been training, Id have simply put her in the kennel, and worked another dog and gave her time to think about her indiscretion, but I could hear the tractor coming up the road with the hay and I needed to get the sheep put up. So I just gave her a growl and a stern look, and sent her to gather the sheep and put them in the catch pen. Some days when we bring in hay, I will just have her walk down to where the sheep are, and hold them while we put in the hay, but I like to try to keep it interesting for the dogs, so we aren't always just doing the same thing. Chris has done both holding and putting them in the catch pen, so I knew she knew the drill. So I went ahead and sent her. While she faultlessly gathered the sheep and brought them up and put them in the catch pen, and just for extra brownie points I'm assuming for her little screw up, she even went so far as to put them all in the lambing shed for me, I was trying to figure out what triggered her to take off like that. OK. Dogs have much better hearing than we do, so while mulling it over while Bobby was setting in the hay bale, I decided perhaps she had heard the tractor getting closer, and thought that we needed to get the job done toot sweet. It would be Chris's mentality to be thinking that way.
As soon as He had the bale set up and had left the pasture and closed the gate, I went over and opened the lambing shed door to release the sheep. Per as my usual, I simply allow the sheep to exit the shed on their own and call Chris and we leave them to it. For what ever her reasons, she refused to call off the sheep, and instead, lay there in front of the shed not allowing the sheep to exit. Three times I had to recall her, each time, having to become and sound more and more serious and stern. Chris is very obedient and VERY sensitive to my voice and tone, and so this again had me perplexed.
I went over to her and grabbed her scruff and gave her a shake and a growl, and again reiterated, THAT WILL DO! Reluctantly and some what cowed down, she came away with me. As we reached the gate to leave the pasture, she was all wiggles and happy again, as I had praised her for coming away with me, and all seemed well.
Maybe at this point,I should have left well enough alone, and called it a day. But me being me, I couldn't leave it, and decided after a few minuets to bring her back out on the field,and do a little work. Happily,Chris entered the field with me and this time she pretty much knew better than to pull the same gig on me again, or, she was back to being herself, who knows at this point what she was thinking, she was just happy to get back out on the sheep. I had taken a few deep breaths, and calmed myself to where I knew I could be trusted to not loose my temper, or bring any bad vibes in with me, after all, I wasn't angry about what had happened, moreover confused, and had the attitude that we would just do a few simple things and end it on a better note.
Her outrun and fetch was a bit to fast and heel bent for leather, but I didn't say anything as she darn near ran the sheep over top of me, and once we had them all up to me and calm, I just started having her fetch them and flank a bit, and work on pace and patience. Chris has a very nice sense of balance, but not this day. She kept over shooting her balance point, and had the sheep so confused they didn't know which way to go. It wasn't pretty, and definitely wasn't one of her better sessions, which again, had me wondering the the hell is up with this dog?? She has been working so nice over the last several months. So, OK.This isn't getting us anywhere, she is obviously having a bad day. We all do sometimes, so I'll allow her that, and lets just quit harassing the sheep, cause now I'm beginning to become frustrated and impatient, and I can feel it coming on. We end the session on a good note,just having her fetch the sheep to me while walking up to the gate, and I call "That'll Do" and I see a very slight hesitation, indecision? from Chris to call off, but she comes.
Instead of worrying myself about this weird chain of events, I just chalk it up to her just having a bad day, and figure our next work will be better.
Enter the next day. The same thing is going on. Chris is way to amped up, is not taking her commands in a timely manner, is off balance more than she is on, and this isn't work, its harassment! Sheep flying around instead of calmly being pushed from A to B. I down the dog,and study her body language and expression while she is laying there. Nothing appears to be out of the ordinary. She looks for all intensive practical purposes to be just fine and dandy. Just laying there panting and calmly waiting.....
So, since the sheep are already with me, I simply had her flank around and drive them down the field a bit to get them away from the gate to which her flank, though not being to tight which I was glad to see, was still way to animated and speedy, and of course, the sheep just flew down the field as soon as they were turned in that direction, with Chris thinking she would happily just cram her head up their butts and take them all the way to the bottom of the field.
Nope,not gonna happen. I called her off and we exited stage left, and closed the gate behind us with me scratching my head and wondering WTH? Chris happily jumps into the stock tank to cool off, and I once again take a few seconds to study her. From her attitude she appears to still not notice that some thing has gone drastically wrong. She seems to think everything is just hunky dory. She appears to be very satisfied with herself, and doesn't show herself to be the least bit disturbed that for two days now we haven't been able to get any correct work from her. And she does know the difference. All this sets my mind to thinking. Am I being to layed back now, in not exhibiting the tense and rigid, expecting exacting obedience for every command demeanor during training that I have tried so hard to dispose of? Is she testing me? Has the little twit lost her mind??
Enter this morning: I have sheep due to lamb soon and I needed to inject them with Covexin 8 so Chris and I went out to gather them and I just needed her to hold them in the corner for me while I drew up the doses and injected the ewes. Seems easy enough. Its not like she hasn't done this before. Do the words "Get Back!" mean anything to this dog?? They use to. Grrrrrr. Well, I wasn't about to play this game for a third day in a row. "I" certainly didn't need injecting, and the way she kept creeping up and pushing the ewes in tighter and closer on me while I was turning my attentions to the syringe it was going to happen as I was jostled around and crammed in tighter and tighter with the ewes and so Chris and I left the ewes in the corner, and I went and got Bear and put Chris up inside in her crate. Bear has a good sense of what needs to be done, and has been very quick to catch on when I have had work for him to do and I'm finding him to be quite pleasant to work with. He is very bright, and reads his sheep well and knows when and where to stop putting pressure on the sheep, and will adjust himself accordingly with out much if any input from me. I'm liking this dog more and more as I find little odd jobs outside of training to use him for. Ive found that he really enjoys real work, and even though he hasn't done some thing before, he catches on very quickly and likes being a team player. I am excited to see how we do at the Jack Knox clinic this month, and how much he can pick up on and learn. Needless to say, Bear was a great help, and we got the job done with no mishaps.
For now I'm going to give Chris a few days off doing any sheep work, training, or anything resembling either and or. See how she does then. We have been getting out most every day for the last couple of months, and maybe she just needs a break. We have a lesson on the 3rd with Robin, and we'll see how she goes for that. Maybe she will show Robin something that I'm not seeing.... Till then, I'm not going to drive myself crazy about it, but I sure would like to get to the root of the problem.


Dancing shepherdess said...

Hmmmm, 'tis a puzzle. Perhaps the Gods are suggesting you taking Bear to work for a bit, or, perhaps Chris is coming into heat? or, perhaps your life has just been TOO predictable? When I read everything, I wondered if sometihng odd had been out in the field. Lucy and her training buds have experienced that (with evidence of such, as in dead bodies- not sheep). I had an odd thing happen with Lucy not too long ago- I would do just as you are doing- put her up for a bit, and do a walk about at the back forty of your fields- just to clear them of anything weird.

Anonymous said...

As I read your post (and not being a sheep/dog person~just an interested party) I got the impression that Chris sensed something alarming in the field. Especially since she didn't want the sheep to come back out of the shed. I agree with the previous writer, when she suggested you walk about in the back forty as a precaution to see if there might be something strange out there. Dogs sense of smell is much greater than a human's, so perhaps she knows something you don't know.

Anonymous said...

This blog page was created by and is written by my beautiful daughter, Darci. She has always loved to write since she was a small girl. And animals she loved more than anything. Brought home with her one day a gorgeous Afgan Hound - "can we keep him, huh Mom?" Like it was a stray!!! Found the owners and the dog's name was "Napinthee" (remember Darci?) Another little doggie (a Yorkshire Terrier - adorable little pup) for whom we couldn't find an owner and YES we kept her. Darci named her Puddin (you know, Yorkshire Pudding!) My little girl loved hanging out at the horse stables, which got her in trouble with Mom on more than one occasion! FINALLY, she has her own horses! I'm very proud of my "little girl"...and I truly enjoy reading her blogs very much. Happy New Year sweetheart!

Darci said...

OMG MOM!! You figured out how to post! Thats geat! Cept now dont you go embarassing me now and telling everybody what a naughty little girl I was! ( She says as she grins and shakes her finger in her mothers general direction) LOL
As always mom, you are my biggest fan.