We come home to excited dogs every day. The challenge is to remember to take a deep breath and expect them to be calm. We used to greet them happily and excited too; which just raises their level of "crazy."
You can hopefully see the change in the video before. Had I started filming 20 seconds earlier it would have been more drastic. Piper was spinning circles on top of the dog house and jumping up and down like a circus bear.
It took patience and many deep breaths, but it is worth the time. Now, they start to calm down as you approach their kennel. Then they sit and wait for the okay before they run off to play. They don't charge past you when the gate is opened either. If you want to avoid a hyper-excited dog who is crazy when you get home, try and expect them to be calm and make eye contact before setting them loose.
It won't happen overnight, but encouraging a calm dog helps eliminate jumping on you all the time and being down right nutso. We're far from perfect trainers, but learning small things like this has sure made a difference. It allows us to keep 3 high-energy working dogs under control...well.....sort of. :-)
Tessa is a true working dog beyond what you normally see for Australian Sheperds. Her herding instinct and drive is as intense as they come. So much that she creates extra work for herself.
She should fetch livestock to us and slow up or stop so the sheep or cattle are between us. Tessa, however, likes to push them past me. This gives her the extra work of circling back around to recover the livestock and bring them back.
The first video shows this well. She does an outrun to go fetch the sheep. She brings the sheep up to me and then lays down. But she inches forward until the sheep go by me; Not Good. We worked today to fix that and in the second video you can see our result.
Thanks to Christmas presents we now have a GoPro camera. We'll have a lot more video to share in the future as it is much easier to shoot good video on the go.
I walked into the mud room where the dogs are told to stay and found someone had gotten into something they shouldn't have. All three of the Aussies were in the room but somehow I was able to deduce who the culprit was....
We shouldn't be surprised based on the water biting episodes, but Tessa does not enjoy long handled tools; which includes brooms.
Cole got a miniature broom to help around the house, and he recently learned that Tessa does not approve of cleaning floors.
The floors didn't get cleaned, but it kept Cole occupied and out of trouble for a while...and us entertained. :-)
We spotted a few calves with pink eye while fixing the float valve this past weekend. We were not able to shut the corral up fast enough while they were drinking so we were going to doctor them another day.
Then I realized we had Tessa, and Tessa always needs work to do. We tried to gather them back up and push them back into the corral.
This is not easy to do. Most had finished drinking and already left the corral for the day. They don't like to go back in unless there is food or water as a side benefit.
With ease, Tessa darted back and forth from one side of the pasture to the other.
She created an invisible wall. She stopped three different groups who tried to make a dash for the hills. Tessa is too fast, and too determined for that to happen.
The end result....5 calves doctored for pink eye and we decided to castrate the last 7 bulls (now steers). A productive, last minute decision to catch a few.
The video says it all; it's one of my favorites.
This is why I can easily cut twine and roll a round bale of hay down the hill without being mobbed by hungry cattle. I feel safe instead of nervous.
You'll see a few try and sneak in for an early snack, and Tessa quickly put an end to it. The final pan shows a nice arc of clearance...no cows close to where Tessa lies.
60 cows and 2 herd bulls stand back and patiently wait for me to get the bale ready. (Well, they don't wait for me to finish, they wait for me to call Tessa back. :-)
It's these small tasks that I hope to never take for granted. When we lost Rancher, I realized how many things like this the dogs help with every day.
We have about a dozen cows that manage to survive with very little help from us. They are impressive because of how hardy they are; they go most the year without feed. Only in the dead of winter do they cross the creek and eat in the feeding line with the majority of the cattle herd.
That said, the farm has not been setup to manage the more "spirited" cattle that survive like that. They are hard to catch and not gentle to work. This is actually why we started with our first herding dog, Rancher. Five years ago Rancher was bought and trained with the end goal of "herding" the creek bunch so we could work them any time we wanted.
While we lost Rancher nearly a year ago, his successor, Tessa, broke a barrier today. We were trying to push the spirited bunch across the creek to join the main herd...two of the high-headed, lead cows broke off and made a trampling dash for the hills. I sent Tessa "Away" to cut them off.
Tessa made a near perfect outrun. She circled extremely wide. This positioned her about 75 feet ahead of where the two cows were running.
The cows....they stopped. They pawed the ground and snorted like you'd see in a movie. Then they turned around and headed back to the group.
I was stunned and smiling like an idiot. I've only worked around a few dogs in the short years I've done herding. But I know enough to understand how special that moment was. Two cows of that temperament don't just "stop" for every dog. Tessa didn't even have to growl. She positioned herself perfectly, got low and stepped towards them...that was all it took.
We didn't have time to try and push them all the way to the corral. But stopping those lead cows, keeping the group gathered and pushing them across the creek was a victory five years in the making.
A teenager in dog years, but working as good as many adults. Thanks Tessa!
[I wasn't able to get much video, but after that amazing feat, I tried to snag something. This is Tessa pushing two of the stragglers back into the group as they started to cross the creek.]
Lorin had the vet over today to preg check, look at a few sore feet and do a few Bangs vaccinations. With Tessa, I don't worry about sorting the cattle even though I was at work.
Video below is from a few weeks back but shows how she gathers them up. She did the same thing today putting them easily into the corral.
Oddly, Lorin is convinced Tessa shows off for the vet. She usually works near perfection when he comes out. She was doing wide outruns and going tight on the panels to scoop them out of corners. The vet stopped to watch her work again and commented how keen she was.
He's right, she shows more eye and is more keen than most Aussies I've seen. She works with the intesity of top Bordie Collies and breeds known for their eye.
What's "eye" or "keen"? I'm still learning, but it's basically a dog that works with intensity and can move livestock with a look. Cattle, Sheep and livestock are able to know the dogs intentions based off their look. That is why some dogs can stand on the other side of a fence and with just a look...the cow will turn away. Tessa does that. Rancher did so many things great, but he could never look a boss-cow off a fenceline without movement. Tessa can stand still and use eye-contact to move stock.
It's been a long summer and obviously busy because we've not posted updates for too long.
We'll try and get caught up, but with the Aussies, things are going well. We've started working the puppies. Penny is showing quick instinct to drive. She's quite the heeler. When she's not barking or trying to chase livestock, she's trying to bite and grab Tessa's back legs.
Piper is still the more quiet and methodical one. Her instinct is to circle, while Penny charges straight in. As we were out feeding cattle today the whole herd was out in front of us. Penny rushed right into them barking and nipping to move them. Piper was circling out to the right and starting to bring them back.
Meanwhile, Tessa is amazing. She's definitely found a teenager phase and now "decides" on her own when she'll listen. Fortunately, that has been a very quick phase. It lasted about a week and has faded away. Her work now is pretty for me to watch. We're still working to improve, but her outruns and control are crazy-good; and she's not even two years old yet. The sky is the limit for Tessa. I'll get some video up; it speaks for itself.
The photo below is from a few months ago...all are bigger now...but one of our favorites.
Amazing....the last few weeks of Tessa's work have been simply amazing. My only regret is not enough time to post more after each of her past successes.
First, Tessa and I brought up the whole herd for the first time a week ago. We were able to work every head of cattle- except our small flighty bunch across the creek. It took Rancher and I until he was 3 to get to that stage. Tessa is there before she comes close to turning 2. What impresses me is that when an annoyed cow turns back on us to try and escape, she challenges it quickly and turns it back. Quite a site to see 60 cows and calves streaming from the back of the place and being pushed into the coral.
Once in the corral, she was fierce with her pen work. Getting in tight spaces and heeling, heading, flanking, and causing enough pressure to turn anything that took her on. Quite the site.
Then Tessa helped Lorin out for the first time when I was away. Tessa and Lorin have not worked together the best...but this time Tessa was a huge help bringing in a small group of cows to be preg-checked. She worked so well, the vet was asking us about puppies. Nice validation that it's not just me who thinks she's one-of-a-kind.
Tonight, the video bellow shows some of our medium work. We've got a lot to work on, but now she works steady enough that her brain can keep up with her speed. She's so lightning quick she can outrun her head; understandable for a young pup but she's starting to hit adult where expectations are different. We continue to be excited about her future and am thankful that after losing Rancher, we had a gem to follow in his paw prints.
My wife and I are happy to be a part of the family farm. I've always enjoyed the loyalty and companionship from good dogs and have taken up the training of herding dogs the past few years. I learn so much from the Australian Shepherds I've been with, and hope they enjoy their time with us as much as we love them.