Chispa discovers sheep

This post was originally posted in the Developing The Dance blog series at The Online Classroom. But, I thought it would be good to post it here as well, for your enjoyment!


Yesterday, I was out in the pasture, mending a hose that feeds the stock tank that waters the sheep, and Chispa discovered how to get under the fence and in to the pasture. Then, she discovered sheep poop (Raisinets, anyone?). And then…she discovered sheep. Bye bye recall.

Of course, I did what any person does in that situation (right?). I called her. Foolish. No way is that dog going to come to me, because…..SHEEEEP! Called again. Nope. That puppy is not coming. She is just a brain stem on legs that has one purpose – chase sheep.

So, then, the next step, basically, was just to insert myself between Chispa and the sheep, and do to her what she was trying to do to the sheep – herd her, and block her moves toward them. There’s no way I can CATCH her, of course. But I could at least keep her from getting to the livestock. Aside from the obvious issue of having a dog chasing them, it was hot, and I don’t need sheep expiring from being chased by an unruly puppy.

Finally, I herded Chispa in to a corner. She looked somewhat grateful, and tired, and hot, and so I picked her up and headed for the gate, mindful of Loki, the alpaca, coming up behind me. I definitely did not need an alpaca after me, or on top of me, or whatever it is that the alpaca do to protect the sheep when they are disturbed, and they were CLEARLY disturbed by Chispa’s antics.

Then, this morning, just before my 11am lesson, I heard barking out in the back of the property. I kind of tuned it out at first; I recognized the barking as belonging to the dog scheduled for the lesson. But, then I realized, that dog doesn’t normally bark like THAT. So I headed out. The handler was trying to recall HER dog, a very nice standard poodle, out of the back area. I assumed that maybe he’d caught sight of some workers out in the Christmas Tree field adjacent to our property. I continued walking back toward her to see what was up, and saw….

These guys moooooved in temporarily

These guys moooooved in temporarily

Yep, Rush the standard poodle was trying to herd some fairly nonplussed Highland Cattle. These guys have gotten out a number of times lately; another student reported nearly hitting one on the road to my house when she’d last come for a lesson.

And of course Rush’s owner was doing what ANY of us do in such a situation…calling Rush to no avail. And Rush has a gold star recall. Hands down, the dog can be called off of cats, squirrels, all sorts of arousing situations. But this, this was so novel, and those cows were BIG, big enough that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have turned away from them.

So, of course, I call George, who is in the house working, and because I want to see HIS reaction when he comes round the corner and sees these cows, I just say, “you need to come out to the back agility field promptly.” Heh heh.

So, there we are, George, myself, Diana, and Rush, and the Highland Cows. We’d by then realized recalls weren’t going to work, so it was time to do some herding. People. Herding a dog. Another brain stem on legs programmed to do one thing….chase.

And of course, I know nothing about Highland Cattle. Maybe they’re docile. Maybe they’re not. They have sharp looking horns though, and even though they weren’t moving much, I suspected they could move fast if they wanted to. So, herding Rush to keep him off the cattle, while keeping an eye on the cattle, who are just standing there chewing their cud, ON MY PROPERTY. Mind you, these cows had a bit of a trek to get up my driveway, behind the agility arena, and in to the back paddock area.

Oy. Ironically, first thing this morning, a reader of the puppy blog had emailed me regarding some confusing grammar in a handout for the puppy blog about recalls, and how they should be viewed as a way to teach a dog to stop using its rear end. You know, sort of like “eats shoots and leaves.” Punctuation is key. So, to clarify, recalls should be viewed as a way to teach a dog to stop, using its rear end. In a follow up question, the blog reader asked what I would do if my puppy DIDN’T come when called. While I’d like to give a “stop, drop, and roll” checklist of things I’d do, I think the story above illustrates pretty clearly what I DID do when my puppy didn’t come, when Rush didn’t come when called.

Everything is back to normal now – Rush managed to do some agility, although all of us, people and dog alike, were pretty jazzed up (hooray adrenaline!). The cattle wandered off the property and in to the neighbor’s pasture, where they are now contained. This, after George got in the car and went to the country store down the road to inquire as to the owners, who turned out to be our neighbors down the road who also watch dogs for us when we’re out of town.

And, on my list of things to do, sooner rather than later? Put Chispa on a long line and work on recalls around the livestock 😉

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