First Posted on Ziggy Stardust Sheepdog Tales 1st September 2014
Continued website access problems have slowed me down so apologies for the delays getting this blog up to date, I am still chasing the story from May 2013 with the intention to provide short and regular training updates once I get there. Picking up where we left off then……
……. I now have a field, electric fences, hurdles, dogs, 8 barren ewes, flat cap and shepherds crook – all the gear and no idea!
Once the sheep had settled in I optimistically set up a nice circular training ring using sheep hurdles and with the help of Michael set about getting the sheep into the ring. Benny Hill style comedy re-commenced as we chased sheep round the field for ages, they would go everywhere apart from into the ring. Learning all the time now, we moved the ring closer to the boundary fence and by using a lengthy funnel arrangement and strategic placing of dogs on leads we eventually captured the flock.
It crossed my mind that the ambition of popping in to do a regular 10-15 mins of training with each dog was still some way off if we needed an hour to get the sheep into the training ring before we could start. Perhaps this wasn’t going to work at all!
Once in the ring Star was fairly controlled, just as she had been during the group lessons with Andy Nickless and we soon had her going around the sheep in both directions in a lovely controlled manner. It was clear she would be fine out in the field as well and would therefore be able to help us get the sheep into the ring. In fact having too many sheep in the ring made working quite stressful for her and once out in the field she began to progress more quickly.
Ziggy was exactly the handful he had been previously! I did some initial work with him outside the ring and the sheep inside to wear down some of his enthusiasm and get him listening to commands. I saw some promise in this and convinced myself that he would listen to Come By and Away and respond accordingly. Once in the training ring he would cross over in front of me and head straight through the flock, sheep scattering in every direction. Efforts to stop this would escalate into too many raised voices and increased tension with Ziggy less and less keen on doing anything, even Michael’s cool and calm approach shown in the video couldn’t overcome this. We were going to need a lot of these sessions and to get less sheep in the ring and/or get out into the main field soon!
So with only slight mishaps I started regular short training sessions with both dogs throughout May and June 2013 and gradually made progress. Efforts to split the flock into two groups of 4 didnt really work since the sheep would jump the hurdles to get back together, many bent and battered hurdles later I gave up and accepted that no matter how congested we would have to keep all 8 together for now. It was half in my mind to get rid of a couple of sheep to make the numbers more manageable for training purposes but events kind of overtook me on this.
Towards the end of June a phone call from the owner of the kart track where my field is located caught me by surprise, expecting hear of escaped sheep running amoc through the track or village or of an expired sheep dead in the field I answered the call with a sinking feeling. I didnt expect to hear “youve got a couple of extra sheep Adrian, I saw two lambs in the field this morning”.
I was 100% sure this was a wind up. How could barren ewes destined for slaughter back in May have had lambs? But it wasnt a wind up at all and so a trip to the field without the dogs confirmed that we now had a flock of 10 sheep with 2 healthy young lambs suckling away. I was terrified, what the hell was I supposed to do now? I’d always intended to have lambs at some point in the future but certainly wasnt prepared for their arrival in late June.
This scuppered any attempt at dog training for a while since I could not be confident enough in the dogs behaviour to be around such fragile lambs. Then in early July just as I was considering taking a chance again another ewe had an even more fragile single lamb. Clearly we wouldnt be making any more progress until after our summer holiday trip to France, especially with a mammoth task of sheep shearing still to do before then which will be the subject of the next blog.