Coversations? Really??

For discussion of the training and use of sheepdogs on the farm or ranch. Please try to avoid discussion of training for trials or other competition; there are plenty of other groups for that purpose.
denice
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Coversations? Really??

Postby denice » Wed Mar 01, 2017 5:22 pm

Conversations? Really???

It had been a rainy day, all day. I took care of morning chores then headed to the house just in time for the rain to return. My usual ‘inside chores’ awaited. I was able to squeeze in a few uninterrupted quiet hours to work on my training article for the sheep magazine which produced results I was pleased with. Always plenty of laundry and cleaning to be done it seems which followed the writing session in between checking on Zeva and her new pups. Several late afternoon phone calls kept me in the house. Looking outside to see daylight fading fast I let the phone ring, took my bottles of lamb milk heading outside to glance at the ewes in the pasture before feeding lambs. I am not allowed to leave the house alone. My squad accompanied me, Meg, Scott and Z. I walked to the pasture fence, ewe lambs not waiting for spring were out nibbling new grass shoots. Others were standing around hay bale preferring the easy meal. The scene in pasture of older ewe was nearly identical. Seems everyone is pushing for spring to arrive early. I did notice one ewe laying alone in a location that the girls usually do not hang out.

I had 5, maybe 10 min before all light will be gone from the sky, no time to second guess myself. I put Z and Scott in their crates, grabbed a head light calling Meg I headed for the gate. Meg beating me to the gate, as always, poking her nose through the inch gap urging me to hurry and open the gate. She knows it is time to work. Meg is a really good working dog, she lives to work but can be frustrating. She always is through the gate like her tail is on fire, headed on a huge outrun before I utter a word. Barely get the gate open and she has everyone on the way.

Tonight that is not what I needed, not what I wanted nor did I have time for that. I wanted that One single ewe standing by herself down the fence line 100 yards. “Meg,” I said, “see that one ewe standing by the fence? I only want her, we do not have time to bring everyone and sort. I need you to get between her and the rest of flock. Walk her up along the fence to the barn so we can pen her. I need to see why she is off alone, we only have a couple minutes. Got it?” She didn’t even acknowledge I was speaking. Didn’t glance up once. Meg was looking out in to the pasture like always does when she is going to sprint out like a rocket bringing the entire flock. I didn’t have time to walk out there close to that ewe before I sent her indicating that it was only that single ewe I wanted. I swung the gate open and off she went. A little petite outrun placing herself perfectly just behind to the side of that ewe blocking her attempt to join the closest group of ewes.

“That a girl, watch her” I said as the ewe gave a few attempts like a running back holding the football to get by Meg. Perfection, placing herself in just the right places, moving when she should, stopped when she needed to, countering ever movement. Applying the right pressure giving the ewe the only way out - up along the fence and through the gate. It all took maybe 2 minutes. Meg moved her into the pen so I could take over. Yep she was the ewe who had aborted. I had found a fetus that morning but could not identify the ewe it was from. A shot of LA, then Meg moved her inside for the night.

Amazing. Speechless. How the HECK? Honestly, cross my heart I gave her NO commands, not one since I called her out of the barn. I went through gate after her. I did not point, I walked toward that ewe only After Meg had her blocked from the rest of flock, then I only took about 10 steps. This is a 6 acre pasture with 50 ewes scattered around. How did she know I wanted the one ewe on the left as opposed to the one on the right side of the pasture along the fence?

Now I am a believer they understand more than we give them credit for. I believe they feel more than we give them credit for. But Sentences? Conversations? How did she process my ‘instructions’ so she knew exactly which ewe I needed? Her typical actions as she enters that gate was not even close to what she did that night.

I would almost like a different conclusion to how she accomplished Exactly what I asked for besides She Understood the Conversation.

As we walked toward the house that night I asked, “Meg how did you know what I wanted?” She did not divulge any secrets.

“Meg, that was perfect, you rocked it.”
Her look said, “Yep, I was damn good wasn’t I.”

Linda Poole
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Re: Coversations? Really??

Postby Linda Poole » Wed Mar 01, 2017 8:36 pm

Reminds me of Bud Williams' stories about good dogs he had over the years. Like the time one lamb escaped the loading chute to disappear into a flock of hundreds or thousands (can't remember now how many, but a big bunch) of ewes. He told the dog to bring back the lamb. And the mission was accomplished with no more direction than that.

I don't know how these wonderful feats of understanding and partnership work, but I do know it's absolutely awe inspiring. Thanks, Denice, for sharing the story of your good girl Meg. Never underestimate the potential of a good relationship!

high plainsman
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Re: Coversations? Really??

Postby high plainsman » Thu Mar 02, 2017 12:04 pm

Wow - what a great story! I couldn't get a lot of people to do that well: even if both of us were speaking the same language. :lol:

denice
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Re: Coversations? Really??

Postby denice » Thu Mar 02, 2017 5:49 pm

Yeah I don't how it all works either. I find when do not attempt to micro manage we do better work together. How they figure out things they do is beyond me. Too bad I am not that talented :roll:

Tomas
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Re: Coversations? Really??

Postby Tomas » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:48 pm

I have always liked what a flamboyant WWII tank corps commander, Patton, said, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." I believe it applies to dogs, as well.

That is a great story. Still remains, how did Meg figure-out from your conversation with her what to do, never mind how to do it? Amazing.

As you said, Meg deserves a "Damn I'm Good" pin on her lapel. -- TEC


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