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

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend, Puppies at 1 week

Whew, what a weekend. Hot hot hot. Yesterday was lesson day over at Julie's and it was quite fun. There were a couple of visitors along in the afternoon and it was fun to talk dogs and hang out. Oh, and to visit with the baby puppies! They've sure grown, doubling in size in one week. Last sunday they were all right at one pound, with Moon being the smallest. This saturday they were all just about two pounds, with Moon being the largest and the white headed male the smallest. They're lifting their heads and pushing up on their front legs and really getting around. Their eyes aren't open yet but should be soon.

I got the chance to work Meg again and she did great (photo above by Dan King). She's a tough little nut but not too hard to get to on the sheep, and really works very sensibly. I love how strong she is to the head and how well she covers the sheep. She's been a real pill lately at home, so it's a good thing she looked so good! All in all, it was a good day.

Today was a long, hot day at the farm. A friend came over to work her dogs while she was in the area. It's always nice to see different dogs and styles and i enjoyed working with her, giving a couple of little tidbits of advice. She's done a good job with two nice dogs. After she left, i got busy with my new toys, a chainsaw and a power tree pruner (a.k.a. the chainsaw on a stick!). I'm trying to open the line of sight out there to increase training distances and also hoping to increase the course size for our Whistle for a Cure trial in September. It's looking pretty good!

So here are the latest pictures of the babies:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We Are Fat Puppies

Oh yes, we are fat little puppies, fat little puppies are we!

(And here's how we get that way! Note Chris' convenient feeding position)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


They're here! The puppies arrived this evening. Chris did great and was being a good mom. She looked like "what's the big deal" when i got there, as if having the pups was hardly a blip on her day.

The pups are nice and fat and bright. They're all really pretty. The first born was a male, pretty much classically marked. The second is marked pretty much just like Zac on the body but his head is white with black ears and he has a light grey smudge across his forehead above one eye. I think the little female is especially striking, a very black body with black ears and on the top of her head, but then her snout and forehead are white, like someone dipped her face in white paint. She looks like her name should be "Moon" to me. :-)

For more pictures click HERE to go to my Pbase site