Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sheepdog trials

Archie is my dog. Before his arrival two and a half years ago I had never had a pet. So in my eyes he is quite special. Archie has rounding up sheep in his blood. His father is a collie, a champion sheepdog. His mother is a kelpie from a local sheep farm famed for their ram breeding - one of their flock won the Champion Merino Exhibit at the Sydney Royal Show this year.

Whenever there are animals around Archie wants to watch them. He stares so intently that we call this 'watching TV'. Archie has many channels but his favourites are Chook TV, Piglet TV and especially Guinea Pig TV. He has despatched several chicks and a handful of guinea pigs but he prefers to play with his food. They die of fright rather than being savaged. If a chicken escapes Archie is prone to rounding them up and staring at them. It is the smaller dogs that are more likely to kill them.

Archie watching 'Piglet TV'
When Archie was younger we took him to sheepdog training one weekend. The first day Archie wasn't sure what to do when it was his turn in the ring. Some of the other dogs had some prior experience but needed their skills honed. When it wasn't their turn they sat about or engaged each other in sniffing or barking. Not Archie. He was glued to Sheep TV all day. Nothing distracted him from what was going on in the ring. On day two he was a legend.

On our farm we do not really need a sheepdog. The sheep mostly come when they are called and will go most places for some sheepnuts rattled in an ice cream container. So when Archie returned from his training all fired up for some serious sheep moving, he was disappointed. Nearly all the time he was in trouble if he went too near them. He couldn't forget it but he learnt to restrain himself. That was a long time ago in dog years.

Today I had to round up both groups of sheep and put some into the yards so that eight can be taken away by friends, who want them to chomp their way through their grass. Both big dogs were off their chains but as the sheep were close to the right place I thought I would give it a go. Toby had no clue and so he had to be tied up. Luckily the pony riders on the weekend had dropped a lead in a convenient place.

Archie came when called and sat down where I showed him. He even stayed there when the sheep had moved down into a laneway. I called him and he came and then waited. For the first time in a very long time he seemed to understand what I was trying to do. The first mob was easy.  He became over-excited when moving the second mob and ran in the middle of the mob and split them but otherwise he was great. I'll have to try that again.

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