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I am still looking for a pasture to keep sheep of my own on around here, but in the meantime have found someone with a small flock of ten Romneys who will let me come and work them on my own pretty much whenever I want. This is a mixed group of ewes and mostly-grown lambs that has only been worked by dogs once (well, twice now) that is in good condition. They currently roam over a large area that includes a half-wooded pasture of probably five acres and have access to a powerline corridor and rough trails through evergreen stands, the latter of which are mostly not conducive to training dogs. There are some smaller paddocks, maybe a half acre, that I can also use. There is a ram in the group that is friendly to people (he will come when you baa at him) but not when dogs are around.

 

The major problem I have encountered with these sheep is that they are not dog broke and will react not by running, but by standing and fighting. Fly, my trained bitch, cannot move them unless I help her, which means that all we can do is drive them, and that it is impossible to use Fly to sort them to remove the more obstinate individuals. Fly has always been weak, and appears to simply have no idea how to make sheep who don't want to move move. She has no grip to speak of. She has wonderful feel and is perfect on light sheep that other dogs can't get anywhere near, but is at a complete loss with sheep who won't move and I know that if I keep trying with Fly on these guys it'll just shatter her confidence to nothing. When Fly doesn't know what to do or feels like she's done wrong, she becomes sulky and impossible to accomplish anything with.

 

Jett, my two year old, has just been started and I don't want to work her on these sheep without tuning them up to avoid bad habits. I tried, briefly, to see what would happen and they are intimidated by her (for example, the ram will ignore Fly but will challenge Jett) but she is not experienced enough to know how to handle these guys. I know if I keep trying, I am just going to mess her up.

 

I have not tried Solo on these sheep yet. He tends to scare the crap out of sheep and has often been able to easily move sheep that Fly could not budge. He is also at his best when sheep turn around and fight him -- he is a better yard dog than a big field gatherer. However, he lacks finesse, is not terribly biddable, and is now arthritic enough so that if the sheep decided to flee he would not be fast enough to catch them. I think he might be able to work these sheep, but I don't know that he'd be a good dog to dog break them with.

 

Is there anything I can do with these sheep and the dogs I have to make the most of the situation? I have a young dog that I am dying to continue training and a serious dearth of working opportunities, and it is very frustrating to me.

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I agree with Caroline. I'd find someone who has the dog(s) who can effectively break the sheep and then go from there. My second choice would be to use Solo in one of the smaller paddocks where the sheep couldn't outrun him. Or some combination of the two. Unfortunately, even if you dog break them they may have/get Fly's number and challenge her anyway.

 

J.

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I agree with Caroline and Julie (and I *love* the word "enforcer"!). I have a friend locally who has quite a few Romneys, but even with her current dog, who is pretty adept at most jobs, she still calls me over (to being an enforcer or two) when she needs to move them around much. Biting--yes, definitely. And then they still stand there and challenge. It seems to take more than one chomp on the nose to convince them. They just seem to be pretty stubborn by nature. If you can find someone to get them tuned up, that would be best. But, as Julie notes, even if tuned up by some dogs, they may not necessarily respect others.

A

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How bout Solo to back Fly up? I've had Mick come in, lie and watch while Dew is working the sheep that challange her now. If they act up or she gets a bit spooky Mick will stand up and things settle down right away. I keep it in a small area so they feel Mick's pressure if need be. I also think if you get the sheep sorted the field/corridor/woods sound like a great place to help teach a dog some different things that training in a big field doesn't. Makes a dog think more sometimes.

Good luck and keep us posted. I'm looking for ideas on making my own little strange flock work.

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Hey Melanie-

 

One more thing to consider- even when dogs are experienced & fully trained, some times there are significant changes as they age both in how the sheep perceive them & how they approach their sheep. There's a sweet spot when a dog is old enough to have the benefit of miles & miles and years & years of experience, but still has the physical ability and mindset to take full advantage of it. An older, experienced dog that is fit is a wonderful thing. At some point after that, it's not uncommon for some sheep to come to the realization that a dog isn't quite what it was and for a dog to realize that there are benefits to self preservation. Of course, I have no doubt that you would never put either of your older dogs in a position to be hurt, but some times this stuff is pretty subtle. Hope you find a solution or a more workable group soon.

 

Best wishes.

 

Lori Cunningham

Milton PA

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Hi Lori, you're right -- Fly's definitely changed as she's aged. She's still fit enough as she's aging well physically, but she seems to be much less confident and she's had a number of bad experiences since moving to the west coast that haven't helped. The sheep out here are very different, and often very threatening. Fly is a WONDERFUL dog, but I haven't been able to give her the help that she needs to get over these problems so she has not been at her best.

 

I don't have the wherewithal to work Solo and Fly at the same time, partly because I don't think I could manage the situation well but also because Solo isn't biddable enough to work in that situation. He'd just charge in and mess things up and when I corrected him he'd probably bite something, not in a good way. When I said he lacks finesse, I mean he really lacks finesse. I am going to try him on these sheep next, but only alone and only if we can get them into one of the smaller paddocks first. I'll let you know how it goes.

 

I would love to be able to use these sheep to help Fly work through her problems but my main concern is really Jett. I am dying to train her, and she hasn't been getting much (hardly any) work since I got her back from her trainer while I scramble to find opportunities to practice. Finding pasture to rent around here is more difficult than I ever thought it would be (if you've ever been to this area you will understand why I thought it would be -- land is practically free and there are sheep EVERYWHERE) so we still don't have sheep, and there's only so many people around here I can prevail on for sheep time and only so often. I'm going to try to get some folks to bring along more experienced dogs and go from there with these sheep I guess. The owner is OK with that.

 

Thanks all.

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Hi Melanie,

 

Just in our experiences, Romneys have been a nightmare. We naively bought a few half-grown lambs several years ago. They were obviously selected for wool and not smarts and wouldn't move for anything. We even sent them out to be dog-broke by someone else with a strong dog but that didn't help. When we brought them back we lost one almost immediately to the coyotes and another was bitten all over her head--because they were too stupid to realize they needed to move away from the coyote. She and the remaining ewe were put into a pet home ASAP. We had one big wether left who would stand up to anything. Eventually he bought it with the coyotes too--he simply stood there stupidly and would not move.

 

Later on after we moved in with someone else to share pasture, this person bought some Romney ewes off Craigslist. We groaned and moaned! Again, even the adult ewes used to running with "normal" sheep who moved off the dogs decently, would not "learn" to move. They were horrible even for our adult, experienced dogs. And when they lambed, oh brother. They would go off alone with their babies, hang out, la-dee-dah, and pay no heed to their own safety. They were horrible to try to move or gather. Eventually they went down the road but a few half-Romney lambs remained. I could pick them out of the crowd in a heartbeat as the lambs retained the sluggish "duh" character of their moms.

 

Maybe these people would let you bring in a few sheep of your own from a "clean" source (i.e. no hoof rot, etc) and run them with their Romneys in exchange for your helping them with Romney chores. Eventually if the Romneys learn to move with the other sheep you might make some workable groups.

 

It seems like there are so many pastures and sheep where you live, that like you say, it should not be so hard. I hope something turns up.

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I am still looking for a pasture to keep sheep of my own on around here, but in the meantime have found someone with a small flock of ten Romneys who will let me come and work them on my own pretty much whenever I want. This is a mixed group of ewes and mostly-grown lambs that has only been worked by dogs once (well, twice now) that is in good condition. They currently roam over a large area that includes a half-wooded pasture of probably five acres and have access to a powerline corridor and rough trails through evergreen stands, the latter of which are mostly not conducive to training dogs. There are some smaller paddocks, maybe a half acre, that I can also use. There is a ram in the group that is friendly to people (he will come when you baa at him) but not when dogs are around.

 

The major problem I have encountered with these sheep is that they are not dog broke and will react not by running, but by standing and fighting. Fly, my trained bitch, cannot move them unless I help her, which means that all we can do is drive them, and that it is impossible to use Fly to sort them to remove the more obstinate individuals. Fly has always been weak, and appears to simply have no idea how to make sheep who don't want to move move. She has no grip to speak of. She has wonderful feel and is perfect on light sheep that other dogs can't get anywhere near, but is at a complete loss with sheep who won't move and I know that if I keep trying with Fly on these guys it'll just shatter her confidence to nothing. When Fly doesn't know what to do or feels like she's done wrong, she becomes sulky and impossible to accomplish anything with.

 

Jett, my two year old, has just been started and I don't want to work her on these sheep without tuning them up to avoid bad habits. I tried, briefly, to see what would happen and they are intimidated by her (for example, the ram will ignore Fly but will challenge Jett) but she is not experienced enough to know how to handle these guys. I know if I keep trying, I am just going to mess her up.

 

I have not tried Solo on these sheep yet. He tends to scare the crap out of sheep and has often been able to easily move sheep that Fly could not budge. He is also at his best when sheep turn around and fight him -- he is a better yard dog than a big field gatherer. However, he lacks finesse, is not terribly biddable, and is now arthritic enough so that if the sheep decided to flee he would not be fast enough to catch them. I think he might be able to work these sheep, but I don't know that he'd be a good dog to dog break them with.

 

Is there anything I can do with these sheep and the dogs I have to make the most of the situation? I have a young dog that I am dying to continue training and a serious dearth of working opportunities, and it is very frustrating to me.

 

I very much doubt that these sheep will ever be "dog broke". Romneys are by nature and breeding very defensive. They would rather die than move in most instances and any experience I have had with them it has taken an extremely strong dog with a lot of bite to get them off a fence and moved to another field or the barn. They are great wool sheep and crafters love them for their long kinky fine wool. They also have very good sweet meat but as far as dogs go I would recommend you stay away from them other than to tune a dog up for a trial on rough sheep. Sometimes it gets pretty abusive when trying to move these sheep. Like trying to push lead around a field. Try for some other types of sheep if possible and just work these when there is nothing else. Don't even try with a weaker dog. You'll just make her weaker and destroy her confidence. Bob

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I guess there is a difference in temperament between western and eastern romneys; our romney ram (registerable) is not hard to move. If pushed too hard or if he gets hot he will turn; if the dog stands without applying more pressure he will move on. We have found our ewes (romney x border leicester) and ram do not have much stamina and poor heat tolerance (due to the heavy fleece); and the temperature goes up (or their fleece is long) they are less willing to move fast or be worked long.

 

Mark

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Regarding sheep behavior, particularly with regards to handling by humans and dogs...

 

I always wonder which is more significant: environment or heredity.

 

While I can often detect certain behavioral things which go with this or that breed of sheep, I

always end up concluding that it's how the sheep have been handled in the past which controls

how they behave.

 

- charlie

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Regarding sheep behavior, particularly with regards to handling by humans and dogs...

 

I always wonder which is more significant: environment or heredity.

- charlie

 

I agree Charlie, and have a hard time maligning breeds. I think there are definate character traits in breeds or else

why have more than one breed, but how sheep are handled may have more to do with what they expect at 'handling'.

 

That said, I have run across a miserable suffolk or two. :rolleyes:

 

Mark, a friend of mine has a beautiful flock of Romneys and they are fun to work...yes slow/plodding and touchy, but manageable. We are eastern also.

 

Nancy in Ontario

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