Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Training of Billy

I suppose at some point I'm going to have to start calling this dog Bill, a proper, grown up sheepdog name. But for now, he's still Billy to me. I got Billy last fall when he was about 7-8 weeks old, from Carol Campion. He was delivered to me at the National Sheepdog Finals in PA, which i hope will be a good omen for his future career. He was bred by Kate Broadbent, sired by Joni Swanke's Lew (Henderson's Spot x Joni's Bell), out of Kate's Gin (Haley Howard's Moss, litter brother to Henderson's Bill, x Kate's Scotia Rose). Full pedigree is here. Carol purchased Gin from Kate and whelped her out in CT and i was lucky enough to get a pup. I'd seen the litter advertised and managed to resist for good while as i really didn't need another puppy, but finally contacted Carol and through some fancy footwork, she managed to free up a male pup for me.

I fell in love with Bobby Henderson's Bill at the 2003 Finals in Sturgis, even to the point of putting my name in line for a pup out of a Nursery bitch i happened to see being bred at the trial by Bill. Too bad that didn't work out - the bitch was Dennis Gellings' Jan and what a tremendous bitch she's turned out to be! Dennis runs a pup out of that litter named Jake and he seems a good one as well (I haven't seen him much - Dennis is out west). Over the years i've tried several times to get pups out of that Henderson line but they've all been out west (Bobby spent a bit of time in the west and some of his dogs have ended up there) and have never been able to get the transport worked out - too hot, too cold, too much snow, not enough free time to get to the airport because of lambing, etc. So maybe it was fate to finally end up with Billy.

He showed up at the trial with 2 of his littermates, who were being delivered to Kate for herself and Joni. It seemed to me like Billy just decided he was "my dog" almost immediately, just gave me that sort of a look. When we got home, i was doing some rehab on Zac's pulled muscle that involved long slow walks around the pasture. I'd leave the wilder dogs in the truck and walk with Zac, old Belle and Billy, and he just followed me around at heel, happy to just be with me. I've certainly never had a puppy like that before! Over time he's gotten more into tearing around with the other dogs, and worked Moss constantly, but he's still my boy. He's an old soul kind of dog, calm, solid and very, very intense but just as sweet as you could ask for. At work, he's mostly seemed pretty unflappable as he's grown up. I started putting him on sheep now and again at about 4 months old and he's always been calm and easy, though as he grows older i see a bit of a stubborn streak in him. That's not such a bad thing, i like determination in a dog. You can see some video of him as he grew up on my Youtube site.

Now, as Billy nears 12 months old (on July 21st), i feel he's pretty much ready to start his training and i'm planning to keep a series on the "training of Billy" here on the blog and hope to have video as well. I've been taking him out about once a week or so lately, just letting him get the feel of sheep and move them around. He has a fairly natural outrun, with a nice pear shape to the right, a bit straighter and tighter to the left. Flanks are similar. Balance is decent and he tries really hard to keep his sheep together and not let anyone get away from him, though sometimes he does let them if they take off when he's on a come bye direction. He's confident at stopping running sheep. He likes to really push onto his sheep, really enjoys moving them. He's got a fair bit of eye so we'll be watching that. Power looks to be substantial, love that! That's pretty much where he is now and i'll update again soon. The current plan is to work him on some fresh wool lambs i've bought for him, so he can learn as much as possible from the sheep rather than from me.

1 comment:

CharlieDog said...

Awww! I wish I had a Billy. We have the same birthday though!