Host: Killili Working Kelpies
Written by: Courtney Robinson – Owner, Killili Working Kelpies.
So in a nutshell a sheepdog’s natural working instinct is to bring stock to you.
Have you ever let your brand spankin’ new, you beaut shiny kelpie or collie out down at the yards or out in the paddock, and the first thing it did was run directly in the opposite direction to you? While you stand there yelling blue murder, hollerin’ and jumping and trying to call it back to work with you on the tail. And every time you run in one direction to try grab it, it runs in the other and, you spend thirty minutes just trying to get that damn dog back. Usually when everyone is watching too . . .
Well, lucky you if you haven’t. And if it does happen to you one day, why don’t you think of it from the dog’s perspective? It makes working with dogs a lot simpler, trust me.
Go to where you want the stock to go and see what magic your dog can create by using its natural instinct.
A true sheepdog’s (when I say sheepdog I refer to generally a Kelpie or a Collie, a breed with shepherding instinct, not heelers or similar) first, and strongest instinct is to bring livestock to you. Or if there isn’t any sheep, cows, or goats for them to work it will probably be chooks, the kids, the cat, other dogs . . .
When we first moved to the farm we were well aware of how our dogs natural instinct worked, and were quite prepared to start their proper working careers utilising it.
George was at the farm for a about a week before I moved down, and he had saved a mob of cows that needed shifting especially for my arrival, because he knows how crazy I am about using dogs on cattle.
So I arrive at the farm and we have Meg, Jet, and Dan. Remember them from the first couple of blogs?
We jump in the ute and head out to shift these wily ol’ pastoral cows, and if I said it was easy, slap me on the back, and let’s have a good laugh because it wasn’t! What I would have loved to happen was that we see the cows, send the dogs back and easy peasy the cows walk willingly along behind the ute, and follow us into their new paddock.
What really happened was we saw the cows, we sent the dogs to get them, the dogs T-boned each other whilst running in different directions to get them. The cows ran, really fast and George and I had a yelling and screaming match over the top of each other, out our respective windows trying to get the dogs to settle down.
Actually I ended up sitting on the tail gate of the ute so I could screech at the dogs easier and became a ‘tail gate‘ driver . . . “Meg I’m gonna bloody kill you if you cross again, DAN SIT, SIIIITTTTTT, JET YOU IDIOT GO GET THAT ONE, GEORGE GO TO THE BLOODY LEFT, GEORGE YOU’RE DRIVING TOO FAST, GEORGGGEE . . .” There was a few F-Bombs dropped in there too. I’m sure you get my drift, it was chaos.
We did get those cows through the gate, but it wasn’t pretty. I lost my voice for three days and George has gone partially deaf from my shouting. Or maybe he just has selective hearing these days.
Phew, after recalling my first day on the farm, I need a beer. Hooroo. Court.
If you’re not sure what ‘crossing’ is when I was yelling at Meg not to cross, it is when the dog goes between you and the stock. Its a big no no for sheep dog trails but not such a big deal in true working situations. I don’t mind the dogs crossing when they are working on the tail with me, but in that instance when I was screeching at Meg, the cows weren’t used to being worked by dogs, or following the car so every time the dogs got them coming towards us, we would drive forward a little, and in theory the cows learn to follow us.
Every mob has a natural leader, so its very frustrating for that natural leader, and us when some stupid dog comes around and keeps ‘bombing the lead’ and turning all the cattle back on themselves. Equate it to if you are on a horse, it would be like kicking it in the guts and pulling on the reins at the same time!
PS – Thank goodness no photos exist from this day!!!