Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from...

And a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2009 Broken Back Ranch SDT Report

The Broken Back Ranch SDT, hosted by Steve Godfrey and held in Cowpens, SC, went really well this past weekend. The katahdin sheep were fit and relatively even from group to group. Kent Kuykendall did a fine job sorting the runs and it was great to see him at a trial for the first time in several years. The field had changed from the previous year, with a much shortened outrun, which was unfortunate. The crossdrive however, may have been the longest one i've ever seen at a trial, whew! It was interesting seeing seasoned Open dogs on that crossdrive. You could almost hear them saying "geez, are we ever going to turn and head back to the post?" as many of them lost confidence a bit about 3/4s of the way across. The turn around the handler's post was actually a turn around a hay bale, set about 50-75 yards in front of the post. Where many dogs had trouble with it last year, very few did this year. It was a pretty good course and a decent challenge.

On friday, the Nursery dogs tackled the full course twice, without the shed of course. The turn around the hay bale was confusing for some of the dogs but most managed to get it done and there was some nice work. Bill ended up winning both Nursery classes, but just barely. I thought his second run was really nice and smooth. The long drive brought out his eye and he got a little stiff on his flanks by the time we were ready to turn at the crossdrive panel, but we got it done in good fashion.

Zac was up first for me on saturday in the Open. He ran very well but i wasn't keeping lines quite tidy enough, with some wiggling around at both panels. Our turn at the hay bale was beautiful though, nicest one i saw all weekend. Pen was good and the single should have been. Zac helped me get a nice hole and i called him in. He committed nicely but somehow got off track as he came in and pushed into the two sheep i was trying to let leave, splitting them. The judge had already called it (i'm sure he'd have liked to take it back!) so we got the single but were hit heavily on points. It was a decent run and just out of the placings. I ran Bill in my second spot and he did a beautiful job! The whole run was very, very nice with good lines, tight turns and clean pen and single. The only problem with the whole run was that i let the sheep slip above the crossdrive panels and then pulled them through. It was a huge error on my part but i just saw it wrong. It was a real shame as it cost us 8-9 points and a 1st or 2nd place finish. Bill ended with an 85, in 9th place and a 93 won it. That was disappointing but he sure ran sweet.

Bill was up first for me on sunday. Unfortunately, we drew a ewe that didn't want to cooperate very nicely. She was workable but not one to win on, throwing her head up high and racing around the course looking for an escape. Bill did an admirable job working her but we just couldn't get her to settle down enough to get really good lines. And at the pen she was a real problem, breaking around the open side or around me and determined to not go in. After some really good work, Bill did manage to get her penned, just as time was expiring. It was a good learning experience for Billy, and i was really proud of him placing 3 out of 4 runs. His shedding this weekend was much improved too.

Zac was up a little later in the day and had a very good run. The fetch was a bit wobbly but i think he was trying to settle one of his sheep, get her broken into behaving along with the others. The drive and split were very clean and then we had a little trouble penning, when that ewe started acting up again. She led the group around the open side, then around me, just a bit out of the pocket on both sides, but Zac caught them and got them in and i got the gate closed with about 1.5 seconds to go. Final score was a 91, good for 4th place.

All in all, it was a very good weekend for the Shoofly boys. I was very pleased with how well they ran and how consistent they were. I'm looking forward to 2010 with them as my Open team.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Catching Up

I can't believe it's been almost a month since i posted last. It's so easy to just pop out a status update on Facebook that i guess the blog is getting less attention. Mostly we're getting lots of rain and trying to get things done in between drippy days.

The puppies are getting big. At exactly 4 months old, Tug is 22 pounds and Moon 20 pounds. They're pretty good pups, mostly behaving themselves and not getting into too much trouble. Teething is in full swing and their ears are all over the place, up and down, front and side. It looks like Tug will be prick-eared and Moon floppy eared. I'm still holding out hope on Moon's ears going up, because i think she'd be even cuter that way, but it doesn't look good.

I tried both pups on sheep at the farm a couple of weekends ago, when they were about 14 weeks old. Moon thought the sheep were kind of fun, and found herself heading them off a couple of times when they'd run off, but didn't quite know what to do when she got there. Tug was really funny, barking and bossing the sheep around. He definitely didn't know what to do with himself but he was certain sheep needed to be told off! I wasn't too surprised considering how young they were. We tried them again, along with brother Ranger, at Julie's the following weekend. Ranger was terrific, confident and really working nicely, balancing and keen. He looked a lot like his dad Zac. Moon was a lot more keen to work and was right in the middle of the sheep, having a ball. Tug was still bossy and barked some, but he was completely fearless about the sheep, right in their faces. He'll stop barking soon enough and be fine. I'll hold off on doing any more with them for a little while. I usually don't even try puppies until they're 4 months old. But it was nice to see them all keen and confident. They were all quite different but they all want to work, that's for sure. I have video i'll post sometime, after conquering some technical difficulties between camera and computer.

The other dogs are mostly doing fine around here. Gael's gone to visit a friend for awhile and seems to have wiggled her way into being the best buddy of an 8 year old boy. I always thought she'd like her own personal kid to play with and it seems like it's so. Jet, Zac and Bill are doing well, splitting the work load at the farm and wishing there was more to do. We're off to the last sheepdog trial of the year this weekend in SC. Zac will run Open and Bill will be in both Open and Nursery. Jet will be my backup dog and run only if one of the others isn't performing well. We'll be heading to KY mid-month for an early Christmas with family and i hope to get the dogs over to Vergil Holland's for some training.

Here are some pictures of the puppies doing their thing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moon and Tug at 12 Weeks Old

I love these pictures of the puppies at 12 weeks old. They really capture them both. The first, of Moon, was taken by Christine Henry at the Watercress SDT a couple of weeks ago. Moon sits like this a lot, deciding what she's going to get into next. The second, of Tug, was taken by Denise Wall at the same trial and it's so "Tug". He's a real thinker, looks at things and calmly contemplates what's going on. I think you can really see the grown up dog he's going to be.

Thanks guys for these great pictures. You're both so talented and i'll treasure them for a long time to come!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rural Hill SDT

...or, Billy is a Big Dog. :-)

(photos by Denise Wall)
It was a really good weekend at the Rural Hill SDT in Huntersville, NC. I skipped this trial last year since Zac was hurt and didn't decide to go this year until the last minute, and i'm glad i did. I decided to just run the boy dogs since Jet has never run well at this trial. Actually, that's putting it mildly. Her worst runs ever have come at this particular trial, with some pretty spectacular wrecks in my memory. Some trials just don't suit some dogs, and past weekends at this one with speedy hair sheep, a flat field, and a strong draw to the set out pen have brought out the worst in Jet. I felt like it would be better to run Bill in the Open and get experience for him than to cross fingers and hope for less than ugly with Jet. She probably would have been okay this year since the sheep were very good and the draw not so bad, but Bill needs the time on the trial field.

Friday started with the first of two Nursery classes. Bill ran reasonably well. I sent him right and he was a little tight but okay. Before lifting, he took in a big sniff at the top, earning a good screech from me for it. It's that time of year, when it seems 90% of bitches are in heat. And 100% of two year old males are definitely in heat! He sniffed again going around the course but his lines were good and we ended up with an 82, one point behind the two dogs tied for 1st and 2nd at 83. It's aggravating seeing him sniff out there but i try to remind myself that he's young and full of hormones, and should mature out of it. Zac did for the most part and he was quite bad about it. After the Ranch and ProNovice classes ran, we did another Nursery class. Bill won handily by 6 or 7 points. I sent him left this time and he ran out beautifully. I'm continuing to run him in the Nursery even though he's qualified for the Finals so he can get more trial experience. One thing i plan to do as much as possible is to send him once each direction when we have two runs at a trial. I'm glad i did this weekend since it changed my mind on which way to send him in the Open. It seems Bill has switched from being better on the right to going better on the left. I'll be curious to see if the right gets better again. He did take one quick sniff on the second Nursery run, but seemed to get it out of his system as he didn't do it on his Open runs.

Zac ran in the Open early on saturday morning and laid down a really nice run. I thought he was a little tight at the top end, but otherwise the rest of the run was really good. We lost 1 on the outrun, 1 on the lift, 0 on the fetch, 5 on the drive, 2 on the shed (he looked back at the wrong group as he came through) and none on the pen, for a 91. At the end of the day we ended up 3rd. 3 seems to be Zac's number, as we've finished 3rd several times this year. Bill ran near the end of the day and did a great job. I sent him left and he ran out wide and deep and landed perfectly. Fetch and drive were clean. We had some trouble shedding since the sheep were hard to split and Bill's still not really strong on it yet. But we did get it done, then ran out of time as we got to the pen. Final score was a 78. If we'd had time to pen (the sheep were very easy to pen, walking right in), he'd have been well into the placings. As it was, he was just out.

On Sunday, Bill ran mid-morning and did a beautiful job. Outrun was again perfect to the left, lift and fetch very good with Bill doing an excellent job settling the sheep on the fetch. Drive clean, and then a very, very nice shed and clean pen. Final score was an 89 which held up in the placings for a 7th place. Zac ran in the heat of the day and was just too on the muscle for the sheep he'd drawn, upsetting them and not having very good lines around the course. After 5 good runs at the trial, i was a little disappointed to not finish on a better note with Zac but that's dog trialin', as they say!

All in all, it was a good trial and a good weekend. I was very happy to see Bill improving with each run and being so consistent in his work. I hope it's a harbinger of good things to come! Next up will be the Broken Back Ranch trial in SC in December.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Liking Our Dogs

A couple of recent incidents involving a couple of friends have me thinking about our dogs and what we think of them, specifically our competitors' dogs, not so much our own. I think it's pretty obvious that we're all a little "kennel blind" when it comes to our own dogs - it can be hard to admit faults in our own dogs. I actually don't think that's such a bad thing. I'll never be one to put someone down for liking their own dogs, even if it's a little overboard sometimes. I can think of a lot worse things in a person than over-liking their dogs!

What i've been thinking about though, is our opinion on others' dogs. A friend and i talk about it all the time -- "no one likes anyone else's dogs". Stop and listen to people talking sometime, or even just pay attention under the tent at a dog trial, and you'll think every dog running is a piece of junk, and hardly worth feeding. Start asking around about male dogs with an eye towards finding a stud dog, and you'll wonder how anyone ever breeds anything. I wonder why this is sometimes. Is it just human nature, to focus on the negative so strongly? I know i'm as guilty as the next person, tossing out my dislikes when asked about a dog, and having to remind myself that it wouldn't hurt to focus more on the positive things in that dog first.

I guess the point of all this is, we need to look at our own dogs in as honest a light as we can, for both the good and the bad. And we need to maybe think more about what these wonderful dogs are giving us instead of focusing on the bad parts, in both our and our competitors' dogs. Every dog has it's faults, EVERY one of them. But there's a lot more good parts than bad ones. It wouldn't hurt to think about accentuating the good stuff, both in how we look at them and in how we breed them. It's also probably a good idea to remember "no one likes anyone else's dog" when you hear the offhand (or not so offhand) comment that makes you feel bad about your own dog. I think maybe it's just human nature to be negative about it, so don't get too caught up in what other people think or say. It's what you think that matters the most. And maybe the next time you feel yourself popping off a negative comment about a dog, you can stop to note the good things about him too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Watercress Farm SDT

We're back home after a terrific weekend at the Watercress SDT in Limestone, TN, hosted by Jan Thompson at her gorgeous farm. I mean really, WOW, what a beautiful area. I wish i'd gotten pictures and i'll grab some to post here if i see any pop up on the web. The changing leaves were at their peak and we were surrounded by mountain after mountain. I walked to the top of the field the evening before the trial started to look at the course, and was knocked speechless when i turned around to see the incredible view with the sun laying across the golden leaves on undulating mountains. Whew, not to be forgotten.

Jan and her fabulous crew of helpers did a wonderful job with the trial. I can't think of a single thing i'd suggest to make it better. The field was large and challenging, the sheep were fit and fat and healthy. All in all, every detail was attended to. We were even treated to one of the best handler's dinners of the year to top it off. This was Jan's second year of hosting the trial. I didn't make it last year but I won't miss it again!

Friday was the Novice/Nursery day and i ran Billy twice in Nursery. He ran pretty well in the first go, though a little tight on his outrun. That was surprising as i thought he'd run pretty wide since he was going his wider direction and the field was very open to that side. Fetch and drive were good and the pen should have been good, but Bill took an extra step to push the sheep out just as they were going in. Twice. We finished 3rd for the go. Since he'd run so tight the first go, and Bill has plenty of qualifying placements for the Finals, i thought i'd just train a bit on the second go, trying to widen him out on his outrun. He wasn't having any of that, even though i stopped and redirected him several times, he wasn't bending. Around the course was decent enough but no placement since we were in training mode. I found out later there was a very nice engraved whistle as a prize for the overall and spent some time kicking myself for not trying for that. Lesson learned!

Saturday was a dreary, yucky weather day, cold with misty rain most of the day. I ran Zac around 14th or so. He ran out pretty well but ended up tight at the top, pushing the sheep offline to start the fetch. The fetch ended up pretty good once we got them back on line, pretty tight to the line and Zac had the group really nailed together. As we turned the post, Zac started fighting me, not taking the flank i was asking for and once he took it, i saw why. The lead ewe in the group took off like a bat out of hell up the field as soon as Zac took the pressure off of her. It was very odd and i'd have never predicted it from how they were acting on the fetch. Zac worked his butt off to catch her, well up the field and well past the first drive gates. We got back on the crossdrive line and finished out the drive in good control. Next was the shed and i was quite thrilled with Zac's performance there as we took 2 lambs off the group of 4 in fine fashion. He's gotten to be a really good shedding dog and it's a lot of fun for both of us. On to the pen where we worked to get the group in only to have time called as the gate was about 6 inches from shut. It wasn't an easy group of sheep and i was really pleased with Zac. Jet, on the other hand, was a little stinker when i ran her later in the afternoon. I knew she'd pull up short on this course, but the little you-know-what pulled up in *front* of the sheep, pushing them off backwards! I was very unhappy with her and then she didn't want to flank on the fetch once we got going in the right direction, so i went into training mode, thinking i'd try to salvage something from the run by getting her listening for the next day's run. I ended up walking off on the drive, once i felt i'd made my point with her.

Sunday was a much nicer weather day, sunny though still pretty cold. I decided to substitute Billy in for Jet in my morning run to give him experience, since i really didn't expect Jet to do much better than the first day. He ran out nicely to the left (oddly enough, the side he's usually tight on) and lifted well. After the lift, he pushed into the sheep, splitting them and knocking them offline. Actually, i think he did it twice before getting it together and into the range where i could have some impact on him. The second half of the fetch was nice, the turn and first leg of the drive good, and then Bill refused to flank right to turn at the panels. He didn't want to come off the pressure but the sheep started booking up the field, getting very deep before he finally caught them. We put them right back online and finished the drive very nicely. The pen was very clean and then we were on to the shedding ring, where we were to take a single off the back of the group of three. The sheep were very hard to split and we manuevered them around a bit trying to get a good shed, with Bill seeming to be "getting it" on the shedding, really keyed in and trying to help me get a gap. I was happy to see that, i think he's on his way to being a good shedder. Since the back single wasn't coming easily, and the sheep were so difficult to split, i decided to take the front sheep as she kept leading out and leaving a nice gap. We got slaughtered on points for it but the run wasn't going to be really competitive anyway. I didn't want to keep fiddling with getting it right since Bill was trying so hard, and wanted to do something to give him a sense of accomplishment. He came in nicely with good enthusiasm and was quite pleased with himself. I was very happy with him overall. I want to make sure he's having positive experiences since he's just moved to Open, and this was a good one.

After a long wait, Zac was finally up as the second to last dog of the day. I sent him off left as i had the day before and he kicked wide and deep, obviously having learned something from the first time out there. He landed perfectly and the sheep drifted off the top, straight towards me. He kicked to one side and i kicked him back over, and from there the sheep never veered offline a bit. It was a nice, calm walk straight towards me. I'd gone out hoping to work on having a nice flow to the run and Zac was giving it to me. I'd put him over on the pressure side to show the sheep they shouldn't veer off, being very careful to not let Zac overdo it and make the sheep turn off the fetch line, and then he'd scoot behind to make sure they were continuing towards me without stopping for a graze. Turn around the post was smooth and tight, and the first leg of the drive continued on as the fetch had, dead straight and a comfortable pace. With the late afternoon light, it was really hard to tell when the sheep were through the driveaway panels, and i was getting nervous knowing we had such a good run going. I wiggled the sheep just a hair to try to see if they were through and decided they weren't, driving on just a little further, and then saw a bit of shadow from the panel on the inside sheep's backside, so started the turn carefully. The group squeaked right around the panel and were through. The crossdrive was straight and online and just as we got to the panel i started protecting the bottom side a little too much and the sheep barely slipped around the top panel for 6 points gone (the first points we'd lost). It was pretty hard to see as the shadows were playing tricks around those panels, but i think nerves were getting to me. I don't get nervous usually, but having a good run will do it to me. I knew my run was good enough that it would place if i finished clean, even with the missed panels, so i kept the pressure on. Our return leg to the pen was very good, the pen clean as a whistle. On to the shed with about a minute and a half to go. We flanked back and forth a bit, trying see who might be the better candidate to split off and i decided on a lamb that was hanging at the back by just a hair. I wanted to string them out but they weren't having anything to do with that and were clumped up very tightly after having just spent 8 minutes leaning on each other around the course. I got in position and brought Zac slowly forward until the front two started forward, and calmly called Zac in - "this one" (weird since i never use that particular command). Zac came in strong and a bit far, and then was very exuberant trying to hold the single, and we lost 2 points on the shed (for coming through too far). Final score was 92, I was blown away, that was the best run i've ever had in terms of flow and control and lines. I'm still enjoying it today! We ended up in 3rd place, behind Christine Henry and Bob Washer, but really the placement didn't matter. The memory sure will.

It was a great trial and a nice weekend. The puppies even had a ball, meeting lots of people and dogs, and having great wrestling sessions in their pen with brother Ranger. Next up, the Rural Hill trial in 2 weeks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lexington SDT

We're home after a somewhat successful weekend at the Lexington SDT, hosted by Dave Clark and Cheryl Branibar. Dave and Cheryl are delightful hosts and i don't think there's anyone out there who works harder to make sure we all have a good time. The field is gorgeous, sheep healthy, judging good, set out even and well done, and the handler's dinner superb. They try very hard to cross all the t's and dot all the i's and it really showed. Thanks so much to both of them!

Friday was a misty, dreary day, and much colder than normal for this time of year. We met to run two Nursery classes in the afternoon, each with 8 dogs so qualifying two youngsters for the National Finals next year in Middletown, VA. I was running Bill and he did a very nice job, especially on his first run, which i thought was smooth and flowing and really sweet. He ended up second in the first class and won the second, so now is officially qualified. I'll keep running him for experience, but it's nice to have the qualifying done so we can relax on that. I was very pleased with his enthusiasm, coming off a bad experience at the Edgeworth trial last weekend. He seemed none the worse for it, and perhaps even learned a bit from it as he was more willing to take some redirects over the weekend.

We lucked out on the weather over the weekend. It was very cold but not raining as had been forecast going in, whew. I ran all three dogs in the Open. Bill was first up both days and i was really thrilled with him. He ended up running when the sheep were especially cranky, and handled them and himself very well. The outrun was horribly tricky, with many experienced Open dogs crossing over or not finding the sheep. Bill certainly had trouble as well, but got out there both times. His first outrun was relatively clean, just one stop and redirect and on he went. The second time, he ran deeper and came across the pen full of sheep at the top of the field, which perplexed him. After a bit, i got him to go on around where he found his group of sheep. I thought that was a very good learning experience for him. It was a bit rough around the course, as it was for everyone, but Bill got around both days with fairly decent lines. We had a quick shed to finish the course saturday and then timed out at the pen on sunday. I really loved how Bill worked and held it together, and the authority he was showing over his sheep. Confidence was just shining through and i couldn't have been happier to see that!

I ran Jet second on saturday and she pulled up terribly, terribly short on her outrun and it took forever to get her over to lift. It was very frustrating, to say the least. Zac ran third and had a beautiful run, coming at a time when the sheep were being extra cranky and tearing around the course like crazy. He ran out well (after trying to cross behind me on his send command, which cost us dearly on points), nice lift, straight, calm fetch and drive. Pen was clean and when i looked down at my watch to see how much time we had left, i realized it hadn't started counting down! (probably because i was fiddling with resetting it, etc after Zac tried to go the wrong way). I was pretty certain time was short, so started rushing around on the shed and couldn't get it set up before time ran out. Turns out i might have had time to get it set up, but it was pretty tight. Overall, it was a very good run and i thought the score would be close to the leader at the time, but we ended up 7th instead, quite a way off the leading score. I think i must have been seeing the lines a little differently than the judge but that's the way it goes sometimes. I'm certain she was judging the lines tighter than i'd thought as well (note to self: be pickier next time, dummy!). The cross behind me surely didn't help much either. Anyway, it was a nice run and i was proud of how Zac handled and settled the sheep.

The runs on Sunday with Zac and Jet weren't anything to write home about. The sheep were racing around and really tired of the whole thing, and neither dog managed much with the groups we'd drawn. It was kind of a shame to see the sheep get so bad, since the rest of the trial was so well planned and executed. Not many dogs actually got to do a lift since the sheep were racing off the top end so hard, and that's a shame since that's when the dogs need to set the tone for the run. I'm not sure what would have made it better, perhaps running four sheep instead of three - i've seen that help tremendously at a couple of recent trials. It would mean another trip or two around the course over the weekend for each sheep, but that might not be so bad if it could be a calmer trip and not a race to try to beat the dogs. Moving the setout pens to a position behind the setout point, rather than off to the side, might have helped as well. The pull to the exhaust was hard but might have been okay if the draw uphill to the setout wasn't there as well. That's all just supposition though, no complaints here. It was a very good trial.

Now off to the Watercress SDT in Limestone, TN this coming friday-sunday!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trials and Catching up

I thought i ought to catch things up here, it's been nearly a month since i did. The last post about the dogs was right after the trial at Don McCaig's. The weekend following the trial we had a group lesson at Julie's, and little did we know but one of the dogs had picked up kennel cough at the trial. About 5 days after the lesson, Meg and Tug (formerly known as ZJ) started coughing, only 2 days before the WFAC trial. That sure threw a monkey wrench into our plans! With some careful planning and good common sense, we managed to get through the trial and to not pass it around to those attending, whew. Speaking of the trial, it really was awesome, and what great friends around here to come together and do such a terrific job. I ran all three Open dogs at the trial and they ran well enough. Bill was the only one to place, coming in 4th the first day. It's hard to run dogs and run the trial, so i was pleased enough with them. And Bill gets his first USBCHA points! Actually, if we need it, that could count as his first Nursery leg too - a top 20% placement in Open counts towards Nursery qualifying.

The day after the trial, the dogs that hadn't been coughing started up. Eventually all 7 managed to have kennel cough, but other than for Meg, it wasn't that bad, just a day or so each. Poor Meg coughed for 8 or 9 days and pretty hard. By the end of the week, everyone but her was done, so i loaded up Bill and Zac, and Joan brought along Brook, and we headed up to the first day of the Montpelier SDT. Zac ran very well but we couldn't get the shed. Had we run later in the day, i might have taken a cheap shed instead of getting stuck trying to do it properly. But we ran early and i didn't know proper sheds were going to be few and far between (not sure i saw more than a couple all day). Bill ran later in the day and got completely flummoxed by the heavy school sheep that just stood there with their heads down in the grain pan. He finally got frustrated and chased one off and grabbed it. I felt bad for him, he's just not seen anything like that before. Zac had similar trouble when he was young and got over it, and i'm sure Bill will too, but i sure hated seeing it. We spent some time working on it during the next week and he seemed to figure it out a bit.

So, on to the Edgeworth SDT this past weekend. I had all 3 dogs entered. I ran Bill first in both rounds and he didn't find his sheep either time. It was just too far out for him and without redirects and with only a beginning of a turnback, i didn't have a good way to help him. At the end of the trial, the Wilsons offered to let us help dogs that hadn't made it to the top, so i walked most of the way up with him and sent him to pick the sheep up. He was gimpy on one of his feet, so i didn't want to overdo it with him, but i wanted to be sure he got to find sheep. I doubt it will make that much difference but by next year, we'll have more tools in our toolbox for getting up there. I regret entering him but i doubt it'll cause any irreparable harm. I won't do it again with a dog that doesn't have the things i need to help him or her get out there.

This year, i finally got to run Zac at Edgeworth! He's been hurt the last 2 fall seasons, so hadn't run out there before. He had trouble getting out there but with some help, did get there at least. In the first round, i sent him right and it took 4 or 5 redirects, but he did get there. He lifted badly to the side but caught the sheep, and we got them online, and the rest of the run was really pretty. Lines were good, turns tight, good flow. The split and pen were extremely nice with Zac doing an exceptional job on the shedding. We ran out of time on the single, with it he would have been well into the placings. Zac's second run was pretty lousy. He didn't want to take the redirects and crossed over. He did take a beautiful turnback to finish on the left side (i'd sent right) nicely. The lift was straight and sweet but the sheep tore down the fetch like bats out of hell. It wasn't like Zac at all, he's a pretty pacey fetcher. I'm not sure if it was him or the sheep or a combination of both but it wasn't good. The first leg of the drive was similar, though at that point i finally had control on Zac so i know it wasn't him. Hearing was bad near the first gate and Zac took a wrong flank, causing the sheep to veer around. I decided to retire and so did one of the sheep - one of the rear ones finally had enough of trying to keep up with the running leaders and laid down. I had Zac catch the runners and settle them near the down one, and she finally popped up okay. Frustrating to say the least!

Jet had her usual good Edgeworth. She always manages to do pretty well there, and finished 2nd in each of the last 2 years, by one point each time. She ran out nicely wide both days to the right. She did pull up well short both times, on pressure (actually short of the balance point but covering it as she walked in). In her first run, she lifted well but the first half of the fetch was off, and then the rest of the fetch and the drive were nice. Her split, pen, single were really sweet. It's so much fun to shed with Jet - she makes holes with me and really partners up for the job, comes in like a bullet and holds like a brick wall. Her second run was the last of the day on saturday and the wind was blowing, making it hard for the dogs to hear. She still ran very well, the only real blip (other than being short up top) a bad miss on the crossdrive gates when she couldn't hear me. She ended up placing both days, the first time for that! She was 5th out of 60 dogs in the first round, and 9th out of 58 in the second. Go Jet! The trial was a lot of fun and i was very pleased with Jet and Zac for 3 of 4 runs. The first go featured a turn around a post about 100 yards from the handlers post to begin the drive, as well as a marked shed. I was very happy with the tight turns my dogs made at that post, and their shedding was gorgeous. I'll be looking forward to the winter trial at Edgeworth.

So next up is the Lexington SDT this coming weekend. Bill is entered in Nursery and Open, and Jet and Zac in Open. I'm not sure Bill will get to do all of that, he's got a sore foot so i'll have to see how he looks. I'll decide on the Open runs after seeing how he does both performance-wise and on his foot in the Nurseries. I want to back off a bit on him and not be pushing him on too quickly. I wasn't too happy to see him having trouble the last two weekends and don't want him having another bad experience, not so soon anyway. He'll be fine but there's no need to rush things with him.

Other than all of the trial stuff, i've been just having a blast with the puppies, Moon and Tug. They're great pups, happy and bright and funny. Tug especially cracks me up - he's a very playful little guy, just like his dad, and into everything. Moon is sweeter and more loving, and a better listener, wanting to do right. As much as i can't wait to see how they turn out as sheepdogs, i wish i could freeze them in place right now and keep them little! Meg has moved on to a new home. I'd decided to maybe keep her around longer but ran into a friend needing another dog, so decided to let Meg go to kind of help her out. But then she found another dog before Meg got over the kennel cough and was ready to go. While all of this was going on, a top handler stepped in and said she was looking and asked if she could see Meg, and bought her on the spot. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of Meg on the national scene in about a year and i'll be crying the blues for selling her! But it's a good thing for Meg and for the rest of the Shoofly dogs too. It's easy to get spread too thin and then everyone gets cheated, and i was sitting here with four dogs at or under 2 years old. Too many.

I think that about catches us up on the dogs. Hopefully i'll have lots of good things to report after the trials the next two weekends!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WFAC Results

Here's the official trial write-up. It all went great, couldn't have gone any better!

The second annual Whistle for a Cure SDT was a resounding success. Held as a fundraiser for Joan Knight’s team in the Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk, raising money for ovarian cancer research, the trial smashed our goal amount by a long measure.

We were concerned about the weather forecast for Shoofly Farm near Oxford, NC as the weekend approached but even that worked out well. There was an occasional light mist during the running on Saturday, with heavy downpours overnight, and then the clouds parted for a gorgeous sunny Sunday, our main day for trialing, with spectators, raffles, gift item sales and our big fundraising lunch.

Start time was noon on Saturday, with just the Open class for this day. It was what I picture a farm trial should be, with nearly everyone there pitching in to help, a very laidback atmosphere, just good friends getting together for a little friendly competition. The outrun was not very long at 225 yards, but it was certainly tricky for some of the dogs. Four sheep, a mix of ewes, lambs and wethers, both wool and hair sheep, were set in a far back corner of the pasture, mostly hidden to the dogs by the rolling terrain and trees. Dogs sent right needed to negotiate their way around the farm pond, while dogs sent left had a clearer path but tighter top end and greater risk of bumping the sheep off before the lift. Just after the lift, sheep and dog dropped out of sight of the handler, coming up over the hill just before the fetch panels. They were a bit cranky about turning the post, then went back up a hill for the drive and back down for the crossdrive. Penning was pretty easy and then off to the split, which was sometimes pretty difficult. The sheep were a mix of two flocks, with 3 of each group from the home flock and a fourth from a neighboring flock. At the end of the running, we had a tie for 1st place between Julie Poudrier with Twist and Denise Wall with May. Another trip around the course for each found them separated by only 1 point, with Julie taking the top spot. 3rd place went to Peggy Wilkinson with Liz, and 4th to Robin French with Bill. It was quite a good day for the young dogs, as 3 of the top 4 places were taken by dogs just at or under 3 years old.

Sunday dawned wet and dreary but cleared off as we started setting up. With some hay spread on the mud, on we went. The Open course was completely different for the second day, with a more straightforward outrun, though still somewhat blind for the dogs, and the pond to negotiate to the right. The sheep again dropped out of sight on the fetch, but this time only if you weren’t exactly online. Fetch panels were eliminated for this course, as the fetch line passed through a marshy area at the edge of the pond. Two small trees marked the area of the natural “fetch panels” and the sheep had to be convinced to step down in there. The drive was pretty straightforward with a hard dogleg on the return leg, then pen and split. The sheep had learned where the exhaust was by Sunday, and the pen and shedding ring were fairly near it, so handlers had to keep it in mind and not let their attention wander or they’d end up off course quickly. We again ended up with a tie for 1st, between Julie Poudrier with Pip and Peggy Wilkinson with Sis. After the run off, Julie and Pip (in his 1st Open run!) ended up on top. Julie with Twist finished 3rd, and Tony Luper with Maid were 4th. Overall Champion for the weekend was Julie Poudier with Twist, with Reserve Champion being Tony Luper with Maid.

The quality of the competition in the afternoon novice classes was impressive. The course and sheep proved to be quite difficult for the novice dogs and handlers last year, but this year it was smooth sailing for the most part, as dogs and handlers treated the sheep well. The Ranch class ran a course somewhat smaller than the Open class, without the marshy fetch area. Ranch Champion was Lauren Seabolt with Mac, 2nd was Christine Henry with Meg, 3rd was Amanda Winecoff with Scott, and 4th was Julie Poudrier with Lark.

Pro Novice was won by Liza Williams, with a very pretty run by her Jet. Second place went to Kelly Jerman with Spottie, 3rd to Barbara Shumannfang with Kat, 4th to Sally Glei with Sid.

The Novice Novice class was very nicely done by all of the competitors, with a lot of calm, steady dog and handler work. Charlie Hurt and Deacon were the winners, with Lisa Roberts and Kat 2nd, Charlie Hurt with Patsy 3rd, and Pam Helton with Slick 4th.

The awards for this trial were truly unique. A local baker, Dorothy Booth, donated them. She took pictures of some of the Shoofly Farm border collies and printed them on icing on cookies, with different colors of “ribbon” (icing) around each one, to place each class. It was something different and quite fun.

The trial part of the weekend was really wonderful. The sheep worked well, the courses were good, and the competitors did a fabulous job out there. Even more impressive to me were all of the amazing people who threw in to put on this trial. I believe nearly everyone who attended ended up doing some job or task, and I know everyone pitched in as much as they could to make it all a fundraising success. I’m going to try to remember everyone here, but forgive me if I miss you – there were so many folks doing so many things, it was hard to keep track. Thanks to Julie Poudrier, Laura Carson, Peggy Wilkinson, Denise Wall and Sandy Gunter for all the setout and exhausting and all you did before and during the trial to help; to Dan King and Christine Henry for judging; to Kate Caldwell for the use of her sheep and for organizing and cooking the delicious lunch, Jim Knight for the yummy barbeque and Bonnie French for the slaw; to Joan and Jim Knight for organizing and running the raffle and sale stuff, and posting scores and announcing; to Lauren Seabolt for arranging the awards and the clerks; to our scorekeepers Barbara Shumannfang and Laurie Schulz; and to Dorothy Booth for the awards. I’d also like to thank all the folks who donated such nice items to the raffle, and those who couldn’t join us and instead sent in-spirit entries.

It was a great weekend and for the worthiest of causes, and I hope we can do it all again and even better next year!

Open 1 (20 dogs)
Julie Poudrier Twist 93
Denise Wall May 93
Peggy Wilkinson Liz 92
Robin French Bill 90
Tony Luper Maid 90
Peggy Wilkinson Buzz 85
Denise Wall Moss 82
Julie Poudrier Kat 82
Denise Wall Kate 81
Robin French Zac 77
Laurie Schultz Nara 74
Joan Knight Brook 73
Dan King Vic 63
Robin French Jet 54
Tony Luper Blurr 46
Colin Campbell Scout Ret
Julie Poudrier Pip Ret
Dan King Fann Ret
Laura Carson Nick Ret
Peggy Wilkinson Sis DQ

Open 2 (19 dogs)
Julie Poudrier Pip 88
Peggy Wilkinson Sis 88
Julie Poudrier Twist 86
Tony Luper Maid 86
Christine Henry Bess 85
Christine Henry Rook 80
Robin French Zac 78
Christine Henry Tweed 75
Peggy Wilkinson Liz 74
Robin French Bill 73
Peggy Wilkinson Buzz 72
Denise Wall May 67
Robin French Jet 67
Joan Knight Brook 54
Laura Carson Nick 50
Tony Luper Blurr 47
Denise Wall Moss 44
Laurie Schultz Nara 29
Colin Campbell Scout 21

Ranch (8 dogs)
Lauren Seabolt Mac 64
Christine Henry Meg 59
Amanda Winecoff Scott 59
Julie Poudrier Lark 57
Julie Poudrier Phoebe 51
Caroline Reichard Jim 36
Emily Falk Rae DQ
Mary Luper Ben DQ

ProNovice (12 dogs)
Liza Williams Jet 66
Kelly Jerman Spottie 64
Barbara Shumannfang Kat 63
Sally Glei Sid 63
Christine Henry Kep 57
Caroline Reichard Roy 54
Christine Henry Kaige 50
Robin French Nan 42
Laurie Schultz Boomer 36
Emily Adham Manse Ret
Laura Carson Linc Ret
Kate Caldwell Sam Ret

Novice Novice (9 dogs)
Charlie Hurt Deacon 70
Lisa Roberts Kat 68
Charlie Hurt Patsy 64
Pamela Helton Slick 63
Liza Williams Piper 55
Kelly Jerman Jen 53
Kate Caldwell Rose 47
Pamela Helton Bonnie 46
Emily Adham Case DQ

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Gael is going to be a cover girl! Well, her ears are anyway. I sent in some pictures i liked to Nicole Rhodes, owner and editor of The Stockdog Journal, and she decided to use one for a fall cover. I really liked this picture of Gael looking out over what makes a border collie a border collie - the field and sheep. You can almost feel her saying "send me for them!".

Here's the link to the magazine webpage. Check it out and consider subscribing. Nicole is working hard to make it a resource for all types of stockdog enthusiasts. I especially enjoyed the most recent issue with an interview with Scott Glen and a review of one of his clinics.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Crystal Ball...

I was looking at Dan King's excellent photos of the trial this past weekend. This is a nice one that he got of Bill --

It reminded me a lot of one i have of Bill at 4 months old!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

20th Occasional Highland SDT, part 2

So on to sunday we go. Zac ran 10th and the sheep were quite a bit better than saturday. He ran out nicely, stopping short of 12:00 but the sheep folded off the top end beautifully and straight towards me. I was extremely pleased at how nice the lift was, as good as any i saw all weekend. Fetch was pretty straight. Zac was weaving behind the sheep more than i like but the method worked surprisingly well - i'd have thought the sheep wouldn't like it, but when i held him back to straighten out, they slowed and weren't coming as straight. Zac was listening really well, even way out at the beginning of the fetch. Turn at the post went fine. First leg of the drive was wobbly but we got them through the gates. Crossdrive was similar but again through the gates. The single was gorgeous, with Zac flying into a very small gap and taking firm command of the shed sheep. The pen was good. All in all, lines could have been more tidy but it was a very good run with those kind of sheep and at the end of the day, Zac and I were 3rd behind Lyle Lad and Barbara Ray. I was very pleased with Zac for the weekend. He looked good and was learning the whole time.

Next up was Bill - yep, Bill moved up to Open! His Ranch run was so good that i thought we'd give it a shot. I knew his shedding wasn't quite up to par yet but it was a good chance to get some experience. The outrun, lift and fetch were really very good. I had to give Bill a couple of whistles on the outrun as he came up expecting the sheep to be further down the field than they were (from his 2 shorter outruns the day before). He took them well and got behind nicely, lifted with authority and actually rated the sheep very well on the first half of the fetch, not pushing in too hard as he's liked to do. He definitely learned something from his runs on saturday! The fetch was strong and straight, very nice. Turn around the post was good but the first leg of the drive very wiggly as the sheep didn't want to move off straight. The rest of the drive was pretty good. We were to do a single before the pen, and this is where things came to a halt. Bill did a very good job setting up the shed and was good and strong on the sheep. I got one small gap and called him in, and he flew in so fast it actually surprised me. The single moved towards him as he flew threw and he snapped at her nose as he blew past. If he'd stopped in the gap, it would have been a spectacular shed but he kept going on through and the sheep got back together. That's okay and really just about where he is in learning to shed. I've been trying to get him coming in with enthusiasm and to come in and on through since his preference is to come in slow and use his eye. He'll get it all put together soon. Anyway, that was our only real attempt and finally we timed out. It was a good first Open run and he certainly looked like he belonged in the Open class.

On to Jet's Open run. She ran out marginally better since i set her up to run out sideways but still pulled up in front of the sheep and then wouldn't flank once she got them going - they went way the heck to the left of the field. So once she got in range, i took the opportunity to do some schooling with her, making her listen and flank and stop as told. It was a good chance to do it since it was the sheep bringing out her problems and we don't get on those kind of sheep often. I knew she wasn't going to place as the running had improved a lot, not after that outrun and first part of the fetch. We got around the course in pretty good fashion and completed the single and pen. Hopefully it will help some with several trials coming up soon.

Last up was Bill's Nursery run. The gather was again very good, turn at the post fine though one ewe was giving Bill some dirty looks, but the sheep stalled out about halfway to the first drive gates and the one ewe started acting like she wanted to pound Billy. I let him try to sort it out for a little bit, but when he started looking nervous about it and avoiding her gaze, i went out to help him get things moving again, and we exhausted our sheep. It wasn't a great note to end on and i hated seeing him looking confused. Since Bill was the last dog in the class, we'd been asked to push the big group of sheep back up the field for the remaining classes. Before we could do that, Bill had to hold the group while the sheep owner caught up a couple to treat/cull. That was a lot of fun for Bill though a little confusing with people all around flapping arms and waving hands to catch certain sheep. Then we had to shed off about 2/3s of the sheep to take up top and that was a bit of a challenge, holding them apart. With that done, we marched up the field and Bill really enjoyed that. The sheep were hot, tired and hungry, and very hard to keep flowing, so he got to push in and do some nipping and generally really boss them around. They kept doing this swirling thing that less broke sheep will do, where they pack really tightly and move in a wave, in a circling motion. Hard to explain but pretty effective for avoiding predators (the weakest get swirled to the outsides) and for stopping forward motion. Anyway, Billy had never seen it before so he got to learn about that and to figure out how to sort that out. I'd felt bad about the Nursery run but this was a great way to end on a better note, as Bill's brain was about to pop he was learning so much.

So, that was the 20th Occasional Highland SDT. It was a very good learning experience for the dogs, especially Billy and Zac. The field was gorgeous and the sheep a good challenge. It's a heck of a drive up there (note to self: don't take the trailer across Highway 250 ever, ever again!) but was well worth it for the dogs' education. Now on to putting on our little benefit trial in 2 weeks and then the big fall trial season.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Catching Up, 20th Occasional Highland SDT, part 1

It's only been a week today since i last posted but it seems like a lot longer. A lot has been happening. The puppies are now 6 weeks old and about ready to move to new homes. Turns out there won't be a whole lot of moving since Julie is keeping Ranger and i get to keep the other two! I've been pestering Darci since very early on to let me buy ZJ so i could have both him and Moon to raise up and train, and she finally agreed to it (THANK YOU, DARCI!) at the last minute. ZJ and Chris were scheduled to leave this past Friday, hitching a ride out west with Finals bound folks, but Wednesday afternoon we canceled ZJ's ride. Chris is on her way out there right now, where Darci is anxiously awaiting her arrival. I know that's going to be a very happy reunion on both parts. I'll get the pups this saturday when i go over to Julie's to do the monthly group lessons. Now i'm trying to come up with a new name for ZJ and having a tough time with it. Early on, i thought he looked like a Turk. Right now i'm tossing around Zeke and Creed. I'll have to spend some time with him to see what fits. Who knows, maybe he'll just stay ZJ.

This past weekend i loaded up the camper and the new truck, and the dogs and i headed into the Blue Ridge mountains for the 20th Annual Occasional Sheepdog trial at Don McCaig's near Williamsville, VA. The trial was a benefit for the 2010 National Finals, to be held in Middletown, VA. Donald has taken out some fencing and opened up a new trial field and it's very, very nice. The outrun is about 450-500 yards, flat 90% of the way out and ending in a steep little hill, where the sheep were set for the Open class. For the Ranch and Nursery classes, the sheep were brought to the bottom of the little hill, making the outrun probably 400-450 yards or so. The sheep for the trial were rented from a local commercial flock of polpays and not used to being worked in small groups.

The sheep were quite a challenge for the dogs. Open ran first on saturday and in the morning, it was pretty difficult to get the sheep off the top end and started down the field. Several dogs retired quickly, unable to shift the sheep. Jet ran 8th and when we were walking to the post, i felt pretty sure she'd move the sheep, but some good dogs had had some big trouble already. Jet's outrun was terrible, one of the worst outruns i've ever seen her do. She went right up the middle and wouldn't redirect for anything, eying the sheep the whole time. We managed to lose 16 of our 20 outrun points without even a crossover. I told someone afterwards that i was sure the judge must only be taking 1/2 a point for redirects as i was certain i'd blown 32 of them! Anyway, the sheep finally shifted and Jet got behind them, taking them well offline for the first half of the fetch. The second half of the fetch was good and then we hit the place where so many good Open dogs on Saturday met the end of their runs - the beginning of the drive. Group after group would stall out in this area and either fight the dogs or just simply refuse to budge. Clean grips were being allowed though nasty ones would earn you a DQ. Jet actually didn't have all that much trouble shifting the sheep here, though they did test her some. She's got a ton of power and used it well to her advantage, not needing to bite to convince the ewes to move along. It's so nice to have a dog with that "under the hood" when you need it. The drive was pretty good, and the split, pen and single also decent, though Jet felt she should peek back at the left group on the sheds. With all the difficulties on the first day, she ended up finishing 8th, even with the horrible outrun. I can't be too upset with her, she's been laid up with an injury and just came back to work. All i'd really done was a bit of driving last week to make sure her leg was holding up okay. I guess she decided she liked just driving around and not having to run out!

Zac ran later in the order and i was a little nervous about him with those sheep. He has a different kind of eye than Jet, not more but a stickier kind of eye, and can sometimes have trouble shifting sheep as he doesn't have the same raw power to back it up that Jet does. He ran out beautifully though he landed short - there were trees behind the set out point and he was drawn in to them. He lifted well but did have a little trouble getting them moving freely down the field, flanking defensively to cover the draw to the setout and stopping the forward progress of the sheep. But he managed to work it out in fairly short order and had a beautiful straight fetch. Many dogs were pushing the sheep well offline to the left, either not hearing their handlers commands or overworking the draw (as Jet had done), but Zac handled very well, taking every command i gave. I had planned to take the sheep quickly around the turn at the post and very tight, in hopes they'd not stall out, but a lagging ewe ruined my plan. Her 3 mates went right past the post while she held back and i had to put Zac on her. Meanwhile the 3 leading ewes got very deep behind the post, forcing an even worse version of the stalling out confrontation i'd been hoping to avoid or at least lessen. Zac was very good here, actually much better than i might have expected. He kept on coming forward and his eye didn't catch him up at all. The ewes just wouldn't move off and finally he started gripping. At first it was okay, pretty decent grips but one ewe tried to go over him and he grabbed hold of her neck and held on, while she went crashing into the fence and the judge called out "thank you!" to end the run. All in all, i was quite pleased with Zac's performance. It'll be nice to run him this fall - he's been injured the past 2 fall seasons. He got a little frustrated there at the end but my dogs don't see this kind of sheep all that often. He learned something.

Bill was next up in the Nursery. I was nervous about him meeting up with this kind of sheep for the first time so far out from me, where i couldn't be on top of how it went and back him up if he needed it. He ran out pretty well though i gave him a couple of quick call in whistles to keep him from getting around some trees that would kick him too far out. He landed really well behind the sheep and lifted with nice authority. He came on too strong after the lift as he likes to do, bringing the sheep too hard, which made the sheep pretty unhappy. Three took off strongly while one split off and stopped. I thought that would probably be the end of the run but after many long seconds, Billy somehow calmly convinced her to rejoin the others, now something like 100 yards away. I was pretty impressed with him there. The fetch was decent but the sheep stalled going around the post and Billy couldn't quite figure it out. He came calmly forward but didn't have quite enough confidence and ended up gripping and being called off. After his run, i took the opportunity to exhaust the next few runs with Bill to let him figure out the sheep. They were pretty hard to get off the field and it mimicked the problems at the turn around the post very well. Bill very quickly learned to walk strongly forward to get the sheep moving and his confidence grew a ton in just moments. He was practically grinning he was enjoying it so much after exhausting only three runs.

A bit later I ran Bill in the Open Ranch class and he was wonderful. Nice outrun, lift, much better treatment of the sheep on the fetch so it was pretty straight and calm. The turn and first leg of the drive were wobbly but not too bad, especially comparatively speaking. Crossdrive and return leg were good and the pen clean. It was just a nice, smooth run and ended up winning the class. I was surely happy with the little man!

Since this has gotten so long, i'll do a part 2 later on. Sunday was even better for the Shoofly dogs and Billy made his Open debut!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pups at 5 Weeks

I went over and had a really good playdate with the puppies yesterday. ZJ is about the cutest little thing i've ever seen, and he was feeling really active and playful. It's going to be so hard to see him leave next weekend. Moon seemed to decide she kinda liked me, was responding well and connecting with me. And Ranger continues to be just spectacular, bold and outgoing. His name will certainly suit his adventurous spirit. He reminds me a bit of his grandmother Spottie, always with a twinkle in his eye.

ZJ started out kind of tired, couldn't hold his head up and eyes open at the same time

Moon found a comfy place to take a puppy power nap

But Ranger is ready to go!

Come on, bring it on!

Go ZJ go!

Moon thinks these things look interesting...

We decided to weigh the puppies in a lamb sling and they weren't impressed

I'm gonna get you for this!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shoofly Moon and the boys

We decided today that Shoofly Moon sounds like some kind of southern belle name or something, kinda funny. The pups are getting to be wild things! Zac Jr was pretty sleepy most of the time i was visiting today but Ranger was Mr Busy, entertaining himself and anyone else he could engage. What a nice, confident, personable puppy he is. Moon was the most active i've seen her, wrestling and playing and attacking my feet. Cute, cute, cute. Julie said ZJ was the wild boy along with Moon this evening so he must have been saving up his energy. A couple of pictures - today Moon was the photo hog.

I love this picture of Ranger, it totally captures his inquisitive, engaging nature.

Moon blob. Cute Moon blob, but definitely Moon blob. Her seal impression.

They look huge in this picture!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Liked this one!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Puppies at 3 Weeks

The puppies weren't feeling very photogenic yesterday but here are a couple of pictures anyway. By next weekend, they'll be moving so quickly we'll have to have video!

Moon in her thinking pose.

Zac Jr being cute!

Moon and Ranger playing kissy face

ZJ thinking hard about getting up and running around

Ranger wondering what he can get into next - he's quite the personable little guy.

And Meg says she's ready, bring on a baby puppy for her to chew on!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Puppies at 2 weeks old

They're getting so big. Eyes are opening and they're trying to get around more all of the time. They've been really fussy so i took them this cooling pad today. Zac and his littermates loved the cooling pads when they were babies and apparently the new pups have inherited this since they curled up on it and have been blissfully quiet according to Julie. I may not be able to wait another week to see them again....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sheep Reading Clinic Notes

I did a small clinic at my farm a couple of years ago for a group of beginning handlers on "sheep psychology" or reading sheep. I'm hardly the expert i'd like to be on it, but i wanted to try to give these folks some things to think about. It was actually quite a good day in the end, i thought. After a morning session of talking about some things, i set up a maltese cross and the handlers tried putting sheep through it in pairs - no dogs, just 2 handlers working together. In the afternoon, after more discussion, handlers tried the maltese cross with their own dogs if they had one advanced enough. Those without dogs capable of it used my dogs. I mentioned this clinic just the other day to a person brand spanking new to the world of sheepdogs (hi Barbara! ;-) and decided to track down the outline from the clinic for her. After looking it over, i thought it might be good to post here, even if it might be a little cryptic. Food for thought anyway!

Clinic Notes, August 11, 2007

What makes a good handler? What makes a GREAT one?
Why is it so important to read your sheep?

Good handlers react quickly to keep lines straight, almost don’t know the line was off. Great ones are proactive, lines don’t get off.

Must think ahead, know what sheep are thinking. Thinking ahead about what sheep WILL do, not what have done and trying to fix mistakes – have already lost points. More important than point loss, the sheep are learning from the dog and handler to try to “disobey”.

Dog handling is about cutting off avenues of escape, or draws, and leaving only one option/direction to go. The best runs are ones where the sheep calmly DECIDE to go in nice straight lines. You make them make those decisions by taking the option of other paths away with your dog. Take the “escape thoughts” out of the sheep’s minds.

Reading Sheep: What motivates sheep?

Prey animal: Survival first and foremost – the only thing a sheep thinks about, at the root of ALL sheep thought is survival – is possible to backchain any sheep thought/behavior back to survival

Defense mechanisms = NONE.
Flight vs fight No real fight mechanisms, other than a bluff mostly (stomping, charging).
Teeth are made for eating grass – don’t have any pointed teeth, and no upper teeth.

270 degree field of vision (not clear, but wide), eyes on side of head
Excellent hearing, not so great vision

Flocking instinct/survival of the fittest/”sacrificial lamb”

Deal with threat to survival in order:
Comfort (uphill, sun, shadows, etc)

Draws and Pressure:

All that leads to “draws” and “pressure”, affect on flight zone
Flight zone – changes all the time, even in an 8 minute trial run
Other sheep – flocking instinct
Barn – safe space
Feed – to eat, usual feeding areas
Dogs – diff colors, tied out
Sun/shade - comfort
Uphill – sheep paths, gravity
Sleeping area
Dips in field where it’s cooler
Shadows – vision thing, spooky sheep can balk

Different kinds of sheep act differently:

High headed sheep
Lead sheep
Lambs vs adults
Lagging sheep - Why do sheep lay down on a run?
Dog broke vs unbroken vs range sheep
Wool vs hair, wool blindness, etc.

Dog and sheep interaction:

Aggressive sheep – what will make a sheep turn on your dog?
Fight or flight – won’t relax and turn tail on a threat – dark stranger syndrome
Why do some dogs make sheep comfortable “sheep like them”
So why isn’t a really mild dog always the best choice?
Eye – breaking off eye, putting it on
Square flanks – round flanks – “off” flanks, what and why?

Bringing it all together:

Dogs teaching sheep and sheep teaching dogs through positive and negative reinforcement, comfort vs discomfort, threat vs relaxed

Penning / Panels / Maltese Cross:

Mechanics – how to
What things are going to cost points, the ideal
What goes through the mind of the sheep and dog?
The balancing act of pressure on/pressure off, flanks