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A man with a plan...

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At the moment I can hardly wait to start my puppy on sheep.

But I will (wait that is) because the little guy isn't even 5 months old :)


Anyway I am in the proces of preparing training facilities, and sheep for when that day comes. So what do we have?


Well a training field of 2.5 ha, on which at the moment 10 prospect training sheep are grazing. Half of them are yearling ewes who weren't with lamb, the other half are yearling wethers, all icelandic sheep (as some of you might know the only breed available).


As I found out, and not unexpectedly these are not easy sheep, especially to start a pup on. A killing combination of being flighty, but also if the need arises, prepared to fight. All are horned, and the wethers impressively so. Glàma, my softie had a difficult enough time to get them from the stable to this field.


I also bought a round pen this spring, mainly for the young horses but it also holds sheep. Set up round it has a diameter of about 10 meters, but I am thinking of incorporating a part of the fence, to create a bigger oval(ish) pen, that could roughly be about 10 meters wide, and 20 meters long.


So, the plan is to start dogging these sleep with Glàma as soon as lambing season is done (hopefully next weekend), the exercise will do her good. And I was wondering if it would be a good idea to put them on feed to tame them a bit. At the moment they are rather shy, not only as dogs are concerned, also people.


The other thing is, I have a good friend, who lives just 45 km away that was complaining about his training group (older ewes who were lambless, the perks of a bigger flock) are starting to get overdogged, they are becoming kneeknockers. He will keep them at the farm over the summer, so

I will use that oppertunity for the first sessions on sheep.

After that I hope we will be able to handle my own group, most likely first in the pen.

By the time he is well started the main flock should be back from free range, and I can start to play with different sheep, bigger groups etc.


Peli did already have some close encounters of the ovine kind, he got away twice and met the ewes that are on pasture with their lambs. He was pretty interested, (and somewhat overwhelmed), no problem to catch him, and no damage done.


I am pretty vigilant now not to let that happen again, keep him on a line in the vicinity of sheep. In a couple of weeks most of those sheep will have disappeared in the hills.


Well that is the plan (but you know what they say about best laid plans...).

For now I am doing my best to exercise patience and wait at least another couple of months before throwing him in with the lions, eh sheep I mean.

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Young dogs are always so much fun. There are few things better than seeing that instinct come forth, the light in their eyes that says HEY I am a Border Collie.


They do have a way of throwing our plans out the window :) If we knew the outcome it would not be so enticing

One thing you might consider that has made a world of difference for me and my dogs - I do not keep them out of the pasture when young. We now go for walks in the pasture while sheep graze. They are taught young to come when called and sheep become a slight distraction while they are young before their instincts fully kick in. Our walks through the pasture set the tone for when we do start working. They learn they are supposed to leave sheep and come back to me.


If I need to I do a few sessions on a leash or long line once they are thinking more about sheep. A friend suggested this to me years ago. I think it helps skip that silly puppy chase sheep ignore being called stage that is common in pups. I feel our training is set on a good foundation once they understand I want them to walk through the pasture with me and coming to me does not mean they can not go have fun just chasing sheep is not acceptable. Correcting those curious 5 or 10 initial steps early when I call for them is lots easier than later when they are intent on going to sheep

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Great plan :). My two-cents' worth:


1. If you can (and I know that there are various farm related limitations), make the pen larger. A pen of 10m is in my 'umble opinion too narrow. My pen is 30m in diameter and often total beginners are running around like crazy in the pen, and they relax out in the pasture, because they feel"pressure" from the fence. Since people often come to me because they have a problem to begin with, I always ask first where they had worked previously, and when I hear that it was a small pen (many people use pens much smaller than 30m diameter like I have to start a dog, I usually move out to the open pasture. More often than not, it turns out this was the problem.


2. I would be careful and try not to give the sheep any idea that dogs are push-overs, since you mentioned Glama has had trouble with the breed. If you see that the sheep are emboldened by her, I think you should seek a way to correct this (e.g does you friend have a strong dog so that he could work on them?) so that they are not bold towards the pup.


3. I wish I had a puppy :)

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Good news for Peli, we kinda rescued a young male dog, named Kátur (means "happy", seldom was a dog named more aptly).

Just a couple of days ago, but they already decided they are Best Buddies Forever.

Everybody else (especially Gláma) is also happy; no better outlet for the playdrive of a puppy than another dog who loves to play and wrestle.

Before taking him in we weren't sure to mediate him to another home or to keep him, I'm afraid that decision has been made...:)


NB. I like how you all take part in the brain storming. A lot of good points been made.

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Haha, the pressure is building...

Well til last weekend I had the valid excuse of lambing season (in which period you are allowed to be lazy about anything except lamb related activities).

I promise I will look into it as soon as I am near the lap top holding our pics.

I'll throw in some of Kátur too, he is quite a looker.

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Would your neighbor let you buy/borrow several of his overly dogged ewes? If you could get them and put them in with your wilder youngsters they would have a calming/steadying influence once they have bonded as a group. You could start Peli in your round pen with just the kneeknockers and then slowly add in the lighter sheep as you progress. Even in the larger spaces the kneeknockers would add stability to the group and would help draw the others (the potential fighters) along with them. By the time Peli is ready to manage just the less broke sheep (who will, of course be more broke by that time), he should have the skills needed to manage the flock minus the kneeknockers, who can then go back from whence they came (if borrowed) or rejoin the breeding flock (if bought).



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  • 5 weeks later...

Well, I couldn't stand it any longer, and as I was in the neighbourhood picking up a used part for my bale packing machine (or how do you call it, the thing packs round bales in plast film) at a friend's farm, I decided to take Peli along for the ride and try him out on my other friend's dogged sheep group.

I was quite pleased with the result. He is five and a half months old now so I didn't expect any miracles.

After a slight confusion at the start (" I am really allowed to play with them, really?" ) working gear kicked in and he showed nice moves. Circles both ways, not really showing a preference, changes direction immediately when pressed too by the handler (you know, if you go in opposite direction and meet him. And when giving him space when he is more or less on balance he drives them in the handler's direction. Does his best to keep the group together, and to the handler.

Though pretty keen, he didn't lose his head, and it was not very difficult go get between him and the sheep, grab his line and stop the session. All in all a nice first exposure, and I think he shows good promise.

My friend agreed.

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We were emboldened by our success, so yesterday I decided to try out my own group of training sheep with Peli.


I first worked them a short while with Glàma to settle them a bit. They are not very dogged, only worked them about 5 times before, and they are fast and flighty (10 yearlings, half of them wethers). But, and that is the reason I dared to take this risk, not fighters or stubborn.

My wife assisted, and during the workout of Peli held Glàma in the middle of the field to discourage the group from escaping to the far end. Also to be kept in reserve should the need arise, it didn't.


The session was good, faster and at the beginning more chaotic than the first, but he covered his sheep and got them under his control. What I really, really like is his attitude; there is no doubt in his mind the sheep will move for him. The group stood at the fence at the start, he does not hesitate to go in between and lift them of the fence.

Another thing I liked was how things pretty quickly got calmer (still a rather relative term).

Some wool was grabbed, but no sheep got hurt.


At the end of this rather short session (I worked Peli for less than 5 min) I almost keeled over because of all the running I did :)


Looks like I am getting away with using my own sheep, and not building a big round pen.

I think it will be best to keep on training maybe once or twice a week, I don't want to sour the sheep. We will see when (if) they turn into kneeknockers...

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  • 5 months later...

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