Four months old, mid October, time to start taking the animals off grass. Charity got her first opportunity to help with real herding and sorting. She did a fabulous job but I was very impressed with her "off switch" here making sure the cattle through the chute were behaving until time to get the next batch. This is something I love about English shepherds. She was all revved up, but able to sit and and watch sensibly without us constantly having to watch that she was not harassing the stock in the in between times.
I think my favorite part of training a new pup is watching their wheel turn in their brains as they are trying something new. It seems to me that the pups that are all "instinct" will only follow that instinct...whether it's chase, run around to gather, or simply follow along with the other dogs. The pup I prefer is the one who has the instinct but is not so overcome by it that they don't engage their brain. I think Charity has taught us that. She is always thinking.
We've been wanting to add back in the independence and initiative of some of our former dogs. Our last chicken catching day (roasters going to the butcher) Charity gave us a glimpse that she would be just the dog we wanted--and of course I didn't get a picture. At three months, she employed her own chicken catching style. First a little chase, which we corrected with the aaankkkk buzzer sound, then she started grabbing their tail and holding them dog with her paw until we came to get them. It was a lot of trial and error but she got the knack.
We just found a litter of pups that are line bred on Shooter! Dan and I drove to the outskirts of Detroit to pick up the whole litter so we can place them in homes where they can be evaluated for use as breeding stock. They are coming down from Shooter's son Shep, who was one of the dogs who was most like his sire. Shep is brother to Charity's grandpa, Bluegrass Shooter who were littermates to Fawn Richards' Griffin. So we found more Shooter from a different branch. I will be posting more about these available 9 week old pups as I get them evaluated and
The pups were born in June and we decided to keep this lovely girl. Named for Charity Carpenter, the courageous warrior mother in the Harry Dresden series, Charity has impressed us with her good sense and work ethic. She truly enjoyed chicken catching day as a 3 month old pup, catching the tails and holding them with her paw for our retrieval. I realized that she is everything we expected her to be when, for the 5th day, I was unable to make her lie down for a treat. I was frustrated until I realized she was asking me, "Why?"
This spring we were ready to breed again. Flidais turned 3 and we knew that we wanted to add Shooter back into our bloodlines to balance her easy going ways. Thanks to the English Shepherd Club Registry database we were able to search out his progeny. Much digging and contacting led us to Wright's Angus Barclay in Utah. Barclay had just the pedigree we wanted with Shooter coming through Ulrich's Bluegrass Shooter and Cimarron Chantilly Lace.
Upon seeing, Barclay, I was strongly reminded of photos of Shooter's dam, Brighton, who appears in Barclay's pedigree 3 times. So, Dan and I had a week long trip to Utah with Flidais. See Barclay's pedigree below.
Shooter became a pretty popular stud dog. With our ability to evaluate and document his farm dog ability and his loyal family pet status added to the fact that he had pups that were rated OFA Excellent back in the day when fewer families were tested, he sired at least ten litters in a time when that was a large part of the population. We chose to neuter him.
In 2014, he began having strokes. He would still try to help us work and we often found ourselves sneaking around to try to hide our activities from him. Every once in a while he would find us and blunder through the middle of what we were doing. We let him. He had earned it. He lost vision for a few days after his first stroke but bounced back to live another year and a half. He died August of 2015.
We still had his Great Grandson, Waco and we knew that there had to be other Shooter dogs out there. That brought some comfort.
Waco and Flidais are both obedient dogs. They do what you command. When you say "sit", they don't ask why. They are not completely robotic, but they just don't have the initiative to act out of a sense of order. They have been very good dogs to start our kids off with. Waco and Ella are a great obedience team and he is her faithful companion and guardian BUT each time I find the chickens in my flower bed, I have to go give the command to move them out. They are very good at alerting when something is wrong but they don't act to fix it on their own.
Shooter was always on duty--even when we weren't.
He consistently took care of things when we were gone. I don't know how many times we returned home to discover cattle tracks all over the property but they had been kept in the yard and off the road with no one home to give the command.
As a farmer I find that the most useful attribute in a dog is one who always has your back. It is so valuable to be able to walk into the sheep pen with a bucket and not be mobbed. It makes feeding the hogs much safer if they are not pushing into you. A good dog can save your life from a protective mama cow if you need to do some vet work on her calf. Shooter NEVER let an animal approach us unbidden. My kids could walk into any pen with any stock at any time and he would not let any harm come to them. He also did not allow strangers to approach us from the rear... he put the fear of God into many a Culligan man for trying to enter our cellar without permission! And those pesky uncles who liked to swoop into the yard and tickle the kids learned to announce their presence first as well.
If you asked me what Shooter's best attribute was, I'd easily say it was his brains. He was a super smart dog. The tales have begun to fade in my mind, but I hope to try to put them on this blog to preserve my memories.
He was very good at guarding gates. My brother-in-law tells a story of a time they were logging just on the other side of the pasture fence. They accidentally dropped a tree on the fence and Shooter gave them this look of disgust, knowing (without being told) that he was going to have to guard that hole in the fence. Shooter sauntered over to sit in the hole and keep the cattle in--all afternoon.
Shortly after this incident, I set up a test. I opened the gate to the calf pen and went in the house to observe. Sure enough Shooter watched me go in and stood there looking at back at forth between the house and the gate. Once he knew I wasn't coming back, he went and laid down in the gate. He was there half an hour or so and I was seriously impressed. I thought I would push it further. I put some ground beef into a cool whip container and carried it out to the garage, totally ignoring Shooter. I was sure he would leave his post. And he did. He went to the garage, picked up the cool whip container and took it back to the gate with him!
Shooter was not a good obedience dog. If you told him to "sit", he would usually ask why. If you told him "down", he would need a really good reason. With "stay", he would sometimes take you at your word. If he saw reason in a command, he would comply fully and immediately. But he learned rules and enforced them. One of our rules was chickens don't belong in the yard. He was on guard at all times and would not let them sneak up to the house. The chickens very rarely snuck up here as he kept a vigilant eye. He knew I didn't want them up here making a mess, but rather in the back and in the pasture eating bugs.
Another rule was the territory perimeter. We have a very abrupt "bank" that drops down onto the road. The top of this bank is our perimeter in the front. He knew it and he almost always obeyed it. But one way he proved most valuable is that he would teach pups not to cross that line. He would take them for a walk around, peeing along the way. It looked as though he was posting stop signs for them.