Wednesday, May 5, 2010

you'll have to take my word for it

We have been moving the ewes-n-lambs group around a lot so far this year, just because of how things have worked out. Our pasture groups aren't organized where I want them to be yet, I have the littlest lamb to feed morning and night, sometimes the little ones need the shelter and sometimes they don't, yada yada.

All this moving has meant that Dusty is getting a lot of practice -- more than ever -- in shifting sheep, and this has made a big difference in his working behavior. Less throttle, for sure. More listening as well, with fewer corrections needed for aggregious out-of-control behavior (chasing, nipping). More open to suggestion, and checking back with me to see what is needed. I was surprised to see that commands we have been using in other contexts -- "wait" (by the door, before being invited in), "easy" (be gentle with the boys while they're running around), "with me" (stay by me when we walk to and from the bus stop) -- are translating into his working vocabulary.

Trying to capture this so I could show the greater world his improvement, however, has been nigh on impossible. Something always goes wrong. Take this typical video, where he is pretty much on task and then gets distracted by his soccer ball (don't miss my sigh of frustration at the end):

So today I enlisted Terzo's help, so I could try to direct Dusty while someone else manned the camera. The pasture with board fencing has the richest grass right now, but the lambs keep popping through the fence and wandering around the back yard, into the barn, around the trailer (and practically into the patient parking lot), etc. Every few hours a patient will wander in to my LSH's office and ask if we know our sheep are loose, and my LSH will shoot me A LOOK, and that's my and Dusty's cue to go put them back in.

The lambs are getting the idea that the appearance of the dog means they need to go back in with their moms, right quick. As you can see, Dusty needs do little more than show his face and they go home, wagging their tails behind them. Actually, I apologize, you can't even see that despite my cameraman's best attempts to run to keep up with us, because they scooted under the fence as soon as they saw the dog headed their way.

So yet again there's no concrete proof of how he is doing, apart from his frequent looks back to me to see if he is on task and wait for further direction. You'll just have to take it from me that every so often he manages to look like a real sheepdog in action.


  1. Bright Shiny Object!!!!!!!

    He's a gorgeous dog!

  2. Thanks, we think he is a beauty too which just adds to his overall charm.

    BSO, LOL! I love the way his whole body just veers toward the soccer ball as if it is a magnet.

  3. Good boy!!! How is he on Nigerian Dwarf goats? I have one escape artist.

  4. I am impressed! I don't think the Jack Russell of ours would comply so nicely...

  5. I laughed so hard on the second clip with the running! Hits very close to home. Every time my iPhone is missing I know someone is somewhere recording something. And what a good boy Dusty is being--it's nice to see them settling down and looking. Badger would love to play soccer with him, that is, if I can get his head out of the chick brooder.