It’s not that I mind puppies . . .

While I write this, Chester is sitting on the window ledge, watching the dogs in the yard and shouting out encouragement or disapproval as the occasion demands. Mainly disapproval.

I know I said we’d have puppies in January, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t puppies here now. The current banes of my life are a bumbling 5-month old called Tony, Mel and Glen’s youngest daughter Mog - she’s about 5 months old, and Maddie and Glen’s daughter Maeve who, it seems to me, has been here for ever, but she keeps getting bigger so she must only be about a year old. Oh yes, and Doris. Doris is a newcomer, and she’s about six months old now. Tony has a smooth coat, the girls all have rough coats (anything tidy would be a waste) and all four are tri-coloured collies; it’s so monotonous.

Me? I’m a warm mahogany with rich autumn gold highlights and a charcoal mask. Sometimes the collies have charcoal masks but, in their case, it is ACTUALLY charcoal.

It’s not that I mind puppies; it’s just that they’re uncoordinated – they have no idea where their great clumsy feet are going, and I challenge any civilised dog to keep his fur clean in weather like this, surrounded by a mob like that. Now I’m as practical about mud as the next dog, but I prefer to be the one who chooses when I’m to get covered in it.

Maeve and one of the boys, Eli, have always been best mates and this morning Mog wants to join their gang. Mog doesn’t know the rules of Big Dog games yet (I’m assuming they have rules?) so Maeve has recruited Mog against Eli. Mog hangs on his ear to slow him down, while Maeve swings about on his tail, and they all go hurtling around the place until either Mog or Maeve loses her grip and spins into the mud. It doesn’t matter which one lands first because the other one joins her in any case. Then Eli piles in on top and the whole thing starts again. The only clean bit of those dogs is the grin.

I’ll say this for Border collies – they really can smile. Of course, most of the time they haven’t a clue what they’re smiling about.

And as though border collies weren’t enough . . .

Great Dane Lily
Lily the Great Dane

There are two other dogs here that aren’t sheepdogs. Lily is a Great Dope (I mean, Great Dane) and Eris is a half-Deerhound lurcher. Eris (whose name is borrowed from the Greek goddess for strife and dischord – and I’m not surprised) thinks it’s funny to follow me about, ruffling my fur and pretending to bite me.  Lily wouldn’t dare to even pretend.

Deerhound lurcher - Eris
Deerhound lurcher - Eris

In fact, Lily’s very easily intimidated, especially if you have sharp little teeth and a natural air of authority (such as moi) or a beak. At mealtimes she’s usually fed, weather permitting, in the garden. As soon as the dish is in place the local gang of magpies and jackdaws (and a motley one who looks like a cross between the two) gather on the fence and gateposts, watching her. They seem quite casual at first, almost surprised to see her, “What? You here again, old thing? No, don’t stop, don’t you mind us.” But poor Lily looks self-conscious and less hungry, especially when the birds start to move in closer, invading her personal space. Eventually she gives up and steps back, which is the cue for the birds to move in and take what they want from her dish.

Credit where it’s due, Gilbertson & Page’s Dr John Gold has reared several generations of magnificent jackdaws, but they don’t get a mention on the bag!

I think Eris would have indigestion if jackdaws watched her while she was eating. Gill says that Eris has a sense of humour and that she’s the prettiest thing with a beard on the farm. I don’t have a beard – obviously.

As if we don’t have enough collies around the place already!

A nice man, who trains dogs for sheepdog trials, drove all the way from Powys a few days ago with some dogs for Andy to see. They seemed to spend the afternoon chasing sheep into pens and then chasing them out again, and getting very wet in the meantime. Thank heavens for the wood burner! Luckily, with Andy usefully occupied, I was able to spend my afternoon lying in front of it, to be absolutely sure someone would be there to see if it burned out.

Rough coated black and white border collie bitch Connie, looking at the camera with her tongue out!
Rough coated black and white border collie bitch Connie, looking at the camera with her tongue out!

The new dogs are two bitches, called Connie and Mist, and another dog called Glen. Won’t there be confusion (more than usual) when all the dogs are out together?  These three will be trained up to a useful working standard and then homed with sensible farming families. For now, they’ll be part of the Kings Green Pack and once they’ve learned the ropes will find their place in the hierarchy.

Mist and Connie will probably be quicker to find their place than Glen; collie dogs don’t seem to worry so much about status. Chester and I are right at the top (i.e. on the bed), so we don’t worry about it, either.

Female border collies causing chaos as usual!

The yard has been in chaos all weekend. Some of the girls have come into season (apparently that’s what happens when females live together in a group) and they can’t play with the other dogs out in the field. Don’t they make a fuss when they get left behind! And I’m afraid that there have been some lewd comments coming my way when I walk past the pens. Of course I can see their point, but it’s so undignified.

Glen’s singing has been a feature of the early mornings; ‘howling’, Gill and Andy call it, but Chester and I join in from time to time and I’m sure the neighbours enjoy the harmony. Glen’s voice is surprisingly soprano (girly) for a dog of his size, but we don’t say so.

There’ll be a litter of puppies around the place by the end of January but don’t get excited – they will all be collies.

I’m a chihuahua, get me out of here!

Alfie the chihuahua sitting upright, regally looking into the distance
Alfie just knows he's as good as any dog!

I think it’s time to put the record straight. The Border collies around here are getting the impression that they’re somehow important.

Just to explain things, I’m a Chihuahua called Alfie, and with my friend, Chester (a Papillon/Chihuahua cross – I prefer to think of him as a mongrel) it’s ME who keeps things together here at Kings Green Farm – the home of the Working Sheepdog Website. I really can’t see what all the fuss is about. Anyone who’s watched Andy’s training DVD First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training will know that Chester and I can move sheep perfectly well and even bark at the same time.

Collies are so terribly earnest, don’t you think? All that rushing about and panting? If they’re not herding something, then they’re looking for things to retrieve or jump over or into. It’s so exhausting!

Gill read me a description of the Chihuahua temperament; it included words like “self important” and “opinionated”. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – I’d be the first to admit that we also have our faults – but if you’re looking for a dog with brains, who’ll chase sheep through mud and then climb into your handbag to dry off (and who isn’t?) a Chihuahua has to be the dog of choice.

At least a Chihuahua knows when to stop.

Training area? What training area?

Sheepdogs drinking icy water in the snow
Thirsty work this!

Another picture showing the state of our sheepdog training area!

It will be some weeks before we can start training again, so those of you who are hoping to attend training courses, please keep in touch with the blog for the latest news.

Meanwhile, please let us have your feedback on the website, and if you have any sheepdog training questions, we will do our best to answer them.


Sheep in the snow
Sheep in the snow - not a happy time for them.

Sadly, we must suspend all sheepdog training for the near future. We have been snow-bound for a week now and more snow is forecast.

Unfortunately, we are on heavy clay and it doesn't drain too well, so we expect the ground to be unusable for several weeks after the snow thaws.

Please keep in touch with us here on The Working Sheepdog Website if you are interested in training dogs to work sheep, cattle or other livestock.
Andy & Gill