Watching Over Tex

Upon his arrival we placed him with the group of dogging sheep (more on his arrival in previous post). The next morning, he barked and growled at my approach, doing a fast pace back and forth in front of the sheep, telling me to stay away. I marvelled at being with a dog who was keeping me away from the sheep. I got as close as I could and we studied each other. I moved around and he circled, then darted back to the sheep, barking and growling.


Then I set upon an idea. I walked into the group of sheep which was only possible because these are dogging sheep and they are very familiar with me.  The ewes on pasture would not have let me get so close, and that group is too big, so Tex could avoid me easily and still be with sheep.  But with this smaller group I could slip right in and if he wanted to be with them, he’d have to be with me too. When I moved in, he darted out to circle again, only now I was with his sheep.

I took it one step further, and instead of letting him get back to the sheep I kept him out of them, much like I might circle a stock dog around the outside, or push a horse out.  It was not hard to do since he didn’t want to be near me in any way.  No words were spoken.  We went back and forth in semi circle for ten minutes or so.  He was perplexed and concerned that I was with the sheep and he wasn’t. He stopped barking and growling and eventually stopped moving.  I invited him in (turned my back to him) and placed the food bowl I’d been trying to offer him earlier, on the ground nearby and then moved away.  He came in to the bowl.   Right there I’m sure we had a change in understanding. While he still would not let me touch him, he ate a meal with me close by.  When finished I picked up the bowl and left, feeling a little changed by the exchange that just happened.

Over the next day we continued to get to know each other and by nightfall he was allowing me to get close to him and to touch him briefly. It is not my goal to handle him, I’m fine if he never wants that, but it is to gain his trust.  He’s far more worrisome and likely to bite if he remains suspicious but if we have some amount of familiarity and trust with each other then he’ll know where he safely stands.

We had good intro’s with Tex to the other dogs and I started leaving him in the night pen overnight and letting him go out to pasture during the day. On his first day out to pasture with the flock I spent the morning watching. Tex worked a smaller pasture in his previous home, and I’m sure he near panicked at how much these ewes traveled. He would trot off on patrol and then circle back, always returning to the front of flock. He passed each of the other dogs several times, lying in the sun catching naps where they could.

After two/three days of this I was just thinking we had pulled off the smoothest transition of a new dog, and then the resident dogs beat him up over night.  The next day they were intent on keeping him away from the flock and pounced on him again.  One of the most frustrating things with having multiple livestock guardians is that they can influence who’s in and who’s out.  I think I need Tex to be with that flock, they think otherwise, and convincing them of what I want feels like a pretty big hurdle.

Not wanting to push the pack boundaries any further at the moment, Tex is now with Zeus and the rams. Zeus is very accommodating and they are getting along well.  Tex is healing from minor wounds from the scuffle and meanwhile, Lily keeps popping over and visiting.  My suspicion is Lily is the instigator of the trouble and I’m not sure what this visiting is about yet.

Tex and I continue to get to know one another and I still think he’s a gem.  He’s not a dog one can be quickly comfortable with as he’s always just a bit on edge.  He no longer barks and growls at me though, he’ll let me handle him lightly and will follow when it’s his desire to do so.  I think we're going to get along just fine. 



3 comments:

  1. Fascinating!!! In my experience it has always been the bitch in control....although I don't exactly know why it is this way with my dogs. I wonder if it is like this with most packs. My males give them the control and almost demand it. This has always mystified me.

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  2. Looking forward to the next installment..

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