Mossie – born to work sheep!

Mossie - Born to work sheep.
This is Mossie – one of the survivors of Jill and Eli’s litter which met with tragedy in March.

One of the most naturally talented puppies we’ve ever had is Mossie. She was born on 29th January and can already get the sheep in by herself.

Mossie’s parents are Jill and Eli.

We don’t normally recommend allowing sheepdog puppies to work sheep because of the very high risk of them losing their confidence if the sheep challenge or frighten them in any way. Our sheep are selected specially for sheepdog training and are extremely unlikely to seriously challenge any dog, so when Mossie showed complete confidence around them, we allowed matters to develop.

At just 17 weeks. Mossie can get all of our 26 sheep into the yard. OK, it’s not pretty but she’ll keep them together and gets the job done.

Sheepdog puppy Mossie learns to keep her sheep together
Mossie learning to keep her sheep together.

One of the biggest problems with Mossie has been to stop her running off and fetching the sheep when she’s supposed to be at play with the other dogs but she’s improving every day now and seems to understand the difference between work and play.

Mossie is one of only two surviving pups from a disaster which happened to Jill’s litter. Find out more.

A glimmer of interest!

Today we sheared a few sheep and we let Doris wander around while we were shearing. Once or twice she went up to the sheep and barked at them quite enthusiastically.

If I went up to her to try and encourage her, she trotted away immediately but at least there’s a glimmer there and I’m now quite hopeful that Doris will eventually work sheep.

Don’t be fooled by appearances

Border Collie Doris gives the impression she's already a great sheepdog but she's not.
If style was skill . . . Border Collie Doris gives the impression she’s already a great sheepdog but she’s not.

Doris is a beautiful young border collie with a fantastic sheepdog trials ancestry. She was born in September 2009 and to look at her, you’d think she was already keen on sheep.

Far from it. Doris is in fact, very reluctant to have anything to do with sheep at all. Below is a picture of her leaving the training ring a week or so ago.

Doris leaves the ring during a recent sheepdog training session.
Whoops! There she goes! Doris makes her exit during a training session on the 16th May 2010.

She’s not afraid of the sheep. If I lead her to them, she’ll look at them with confidence but as soon as I release her, she’ll quietly make her way to somewhere else.

Never mind, we’ll keep trying to get her to work. She certainly looks the part!

Phew! It’s So Hot!

Was May supposed to be this hot?

jackdaws drinking at a water tank
Hot weather brings the jackdaws to the water trough for a wash and brush-up as well as a drink

We just ‘enjoyed’ a few days of exceptionally hot weather for the time of year. May is normally one of my favourite months but the past week has been seriously hot and I have to admit, I’m not good in hot weather. The dogs and sheep don’t relish it either, so training has been limited to the cooler times of the day over the hot spell.

It makes you wonder how dogs and sheep cope in hot climates. I can only assume they get used to it.

Today seems to be much cooler (more like the normal May weather) and it’s very welcome too!

Sheep Shearing By Numbers.

Last week I had my first attempt at shearing sheep. I’ve watched sheep being sheared many times before but never actually had a go.

Recently sheared sheep with unsheared sheep in the background
One of the first sheep I ever sheared – she seems to have survived OK!

I invested in some good quality Hauptner electric shears last year, with the intention of doing our own shearing in 2010. As you can imagine, sheep which are kept primarily to be chased by dogs need to be looked after well and they will certainly be more comfortable in warmer weather if they don’t have those massive woollen coats so I wanted to be able to shear the sheep when I wanted, rather than when a contractor was available.

Dogs that are untrained can be quite aggressive with sheep, and in this case, it’s advisable to have a reasonable covering of wool to protect them from bites, so I decided to shear a few sheep at a time to enable me to bring out the woolliest coated sheep to use with the occasional wayward dog, but using the shortest coated sheep in hot weather!

It’s not shearing time in the UK, so there was no chance of watching an expert but I wanted to see some actual shearing to remind me of the proceedure. I knew I should start with the underside of the sheep but wanted to know where to go from there and in what sort of order to shear the various parts of the sheep.

I did some research on the internet and was surprised to see there are some useful shearing videos on YouTube. I also downloaded the New Zealand Wool Board Shearing Pattern (would you believe). Having studied this carefully, I was ready to begin.

I thought I’d shear just one sheep to see how it went and then take it from there. We got the sheep in using Kay (below) and I selected the first ‘victim’.

Kay walking up on sheep
Kay’s the ‘star’ of our DVD – First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training

My first concern was to avoid damage to the sheep’s skin and I’m glad to say that any cuts were very minor indeed.

The secret is to keep the skin smooth – don’t allow it to wrinkle. The first sheep seemed to take forever to shear and I’m sure the sheep would agree too. She struggled, and I struggled, but eventually, the sheep got up and the fleece was there on the floor. I was delighted.

Spurred on by my success, I sheared another two sheep that evening but I was exhausted by the time I’d finished them. The following day I sheared another six before I was too tired to carry on. Pathetic I know. Professional sheep shearers can clip up to three hundred sheep in a day and I was out of it after six – but I’d bet they don’t shear their first sheep at the age of sixty one!

It just gets busier and busier!

Sheep at water trough
Even the sheep seem to appreciate the better weather.

Well, after a couple of false starts, it seems spring is really here at last!

The fields are greener, the hedges and trees are coming into leaf and not least of all, the sun is shining! I’m not a lover of hot weather (I’ve never enjoyed sunbathing) but the last few days have been perfect for me. Plenty of warm sunshine but a gentle cooling breeze to make life comfortable.

In weather like this, I can work. When it’s too hot, I find it extremely difficult. With the ground dryer and lots more daylight, it means the dogs get out more too, so that’s a big plus.

The only drawback with spring is that you realise you really must get on with all the jobs that have been delayed by the winter. Not to worry, at least it’s comfortable to work when it’s like this.

Working sheepdog wins Crufts Canine Freestyle championship

Who said you’ll ruin a sheepdog if you allow it to do tricks?

Border collie sheepdog standing on its hind legs with sheep close in the background

2010 and 2011 Crufts Canine Freestyle Champions Richard Curtis and Pogo. Pogo is displaying one of her freestyle moves during a sheepdog training session

It’s one thing knowing that a dog you’re helping to train as a sheepdog has won some of the greatest Heelwork to Music competitions in the past . . . but when that dog (and man) win Crufts (AGAIN) it’s quite breathtaking.

Our heartiest congratulations to Richard Curtis and Pogo (pictured above) for winning Heelwork to Music Freestyle on 11th March, then coming third in Heelwork to Music on 12th March and finally, second in International Freestyle on 13th March. An astonishing achievement on any account but this dog is on her way to becoming a really useful sheepdog as well – quite incredible.

The picture was taken when Richard and Pogo were here in December. I asked Richard whether Pogo would do some of her Heelwork to Music moves when she was close to the sheep. Richard promptly put Pogo through part of her routine before continuing to work the sheep as though it was an everyday occurrence.

Uggh! . . . More snow,

Just when we thought the ground was drying up nicely and there were even small signs that the grass was beginning to grow, down comes the snow again.

I hope this won’t be a setback for our first sheepdog training class on the 6th March. The weather forecast is not too bad, so all should be well.

The puppies are still doing well – even though they are the fattest pups I’ve seen in a long time. They are crawling around and taking an interest in things. Soon it will be time to start feeding them solid food.