Kelpie Notes

Cajun has been accompanying me on the pasture checks in the evening. After a spring of mostly small paddock work and training, it is time to stretch him out again as we were doing in the late winter when night penning.

This past week I had him round up sheep for a move. He is really beginning to travel some distance. He also searches for sheep as he casts showing more of a mustering style of work, rather than gathering.  I have not taught him this, indeed, I’m not sure I know how to, although perhaps using him in the situations I do has led him to try it.  And he would not try it, if he did not feel it was a natural thing to do, so to that end it is in his makeup.

Cajun (l), Gibson (m), BJ (r)
For me, no trial set up, or training regime, or practice can mimic the sheer pleasure of watching a black and tan dog sweep the prairie, glide over a hill, stand up to have a look ahead and continue traveling in search of sheep. Or to see him come around, spot sheep, slow up while lowering his whole body and push them up to the flock.

He has surprised me the last couple of times out by showing a degree of patience with lambs I did not think he was capable of. Perhaps the lambs being older is attributing to this. If surprised by a lamb in the grass or when he does lose patience he has a striking ability to pounce on lambs and hold them down but this is not a work trait I would like to encourage.

When out on the prairie my voice is lost to him, my whistles are are not as crisp and clear as they need to be in order to be sorted out by the dog at long distances. He is very much on his own and I if I had to guess I would say he loves the feeling as much as I love watching it.

The space is vast, the terrain is hilly, and the grass is tall. While it may sound like simply gathering sheep it is no small feat that sheep are found and gathered at all. The dogs cannot see ahead, they are often blind casting or heading into valleys and temporarily working blind. Being in the tall grass it is more difficult for them to keep their bearings but they always manage to. They’re hearing is also compromised by the rustling of grass. While seemingly simple, it is challenging work.

Gibb is now 10 months old and BJ is 7 months. Gibb is showing a very nice sense of balance and keeping things together. When I work him on groups of 20 plus he keeps an eye everywhere and is beginning to learn about moving less in order to do more (that just rolling his shoulders and catching the outside eye is enough to tuck in animals versus traveling over to tuck them in). I love that about him.  He does not have a clean break away when first casting around sheep or when splits happen. When we get into wrecks, he ramps it up a notch and his tail goes high. Time and maturity and preventing wrecks in the first place will solve that.

BJ is more odd to me in that her style of work is different to Cajun and Gibb, who are brothers and show similarities.  She tends to hold her sheep tightly and causes splits, which she enjoys. She is a sensitive dog too. She does not show the same intensity the boys do. I have decided to leave her be for awhile and pick up again when she’s older.

2 comments:

  1. Our little dabbling at herding at weekly lessons is fascinating, and really makes me appreciate the delicate dance of the training process. I enjoy learning so much about my dog and how to communicate with her. I'm glad we are practicing on someone else's sheep, though.

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  2. Oh good for you guys! It is very fascinating. You will appreciate the deeper connection you and your dog will have.

    "I'm glad we are practicing on someone else's sheep, though."

    Chuckle, chuckle.

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