Catching Lambs With Cajun
Using Cajun to catch animals isn’t something we practice on a regular basis. It’s more like a trick he and I learned as we went along and we only do so on the rare occasion it’s needed. The only reason we even started to try was because he started attempting it on his own. Initially I tried to correct him for it, thinking it was a bad habit to let your dog take animals off their feet, which it is if they’re doing so with ill intention. Then a wise and very well experienced stock dogging friend commented that, if used appropriately as a skill, it wasn’t a bad habit, it was useful one. Cajun has slipped a few other tricks into our working life and caused me to see dogs, and what each one brought to the table, in a different way.
Cajun focuses on lambs in a way that could go bad quickly if allowed to. That focus also lends itself to why he’s so readily catches them. Any lambs we’d be catching are large, spy ones I’m not able to catch on my own. If I’m using Cajun to catch an animal, it means we’re out on pasture, otherwise we’d just move the animal into an alleyway or pen and handle it there. When out on pasture we’re in big spaces and there are other sheep around. Lots of other sheep around.
I’ll indicate that we’re going after one particular animal and not gathering all of them by saying ‘this one’ and because I’ll be focused on the animal, he’ll get the message. It doesn’t take much for a dog to physically catch up to a lamb, when he does he’ll flip them off their feet and hold the lamb to the ground with his mouth, usually on the lambs neck. It does look worrisome - hence my initial shock and correction for him doing so - but he isn’t biting the lamb, he’s just pinning it down. I’m (hopefully) catching up to said lamb and dog right away and when I do, he must let go and let me have it. Because catching raises his adrenaline, he must lie down and soften again before we proceed to anything else.
He will try the same tactic with adult ewes but of course have a much more difficult time because of their size so it’s not an appropriate or safe skill. More often than not if we’re trying to catch a single ewe, he’ll block and cover it until it’s within reach of my crook. If we can’t manage that because the ewe is too panicked and just runs madly through the others, well then we don’t catch her. She wins, we go home. I’m actually pretty lousy at catching adult ewes with a leg crook so I'm very glad we don't need to do so very often. I can hook them but I have a hard time holding on given my light weight to their heavier weight plus momentum from trying to escape. Allen is very adept at it though, he just needs the animal within his reach and he’ll have it. Hmph, come to think of it, he and Cajun are rather alike in some ways.