- Do you like a dog that is really on the muscle? I really like my dog to adapt to the stock he is working. If he needs to muscle up then he should, but generally no.
- Do you like a dog that needs a steady stream of whistles? No, for two reasons: 1) I really want my dog to feel the situation and work as natural as possible. With my Tate dog right now, when I set him on a drive line, he can usually hold the line with minimal correction - he naturally flanks back and forth when he drives so it works for him and 2) I'm just not that good with whistles yet.
- Are you a minimal or maximal whistler? minimal
- Do you like a natural dog that feels the sheep and just needs a little direction here and there? Yep, especially doing ranch work. I know that I will have to direct more on the trial field, but I want my dog to read sheep/stock not depend on me for everything.
- Do you like a dog that wants to partner up and be a really good team player? That would always be my goal. Even as I am starting my young dogs, I want them to know that I depend on them too - let them make a decision or two.
- Do you like a dog that really know what s/he wants and that you really have to manage? Border line - I want a dog to know what his job is, but not fight me on getting it done. We've got a dog, Liesl, that is turned very much this way. She is a really strong, strong dog and has a tremendous amount of stock sense, plus is tough and can handle working on the ranch, but she wants to do the job all by herself. She and I have had many "nose to nose" discussions. Mike (my husband who sold his ranch dog a couple of years ago) has taken over her training, and they seem to be doing well. She is still at the "can't turn your back on her stage" , but she is getting the idea that she needs to be a team player.
- Do you want push? I want my dog to be able to move sheep, even tough sheep in a manner that won't make them drop an "ounce" of weight i.e. with controlled speed. When working on the ranch, I want my dog to be able to go into the brush and get that stubborn nanny or ewe out and get her back in the herd and sometimes that takes a lot of push.
- Do you want a good listener? Absolutely necessary
- Do you want try? Absolutely necessary and I've been blessed with dogs that have a lot of try and heart!
- Do you want a dog that gets the job done, no matter the sheep, but it's a big job to get the dog listening? I don't mind giving a dog a chance, but if that dog is going to continue to not listen, then we need to part ways. I think sometimes there are personality quirks in people and dogs that keep them from connecting. And that's okay - that dog will probably work for someone else and that will make everybody happy!!
- Do you want it all? Of course!!! But I'm pretty realistic - you may not get it all in one dog, and each dog will be gifted and more talented in some areas. So, basically if the dog tries, listens, and wants to please, plus has a natural ability to handle stock with out me making his every move - then we can be a team.
A little story about Tate. The week before our State Finals (Nov 18 and 19) Tate and I gathered the sheep in our pasture - about 640 acres and it looks like this:
Brush covered with a mile of 300 foot escarpment bisecting the pasture i.e. you have to got up and down the mountain to get from the house to the pasture. I was riding Sugie our four year old mare and Tate and I struck the sheep at the back side - about a mile from the house. Sent Tate around and he had a nice outrun stopped on top and the sheep started toward me, but something spooked them and they shot past me. Sent Tate around and then I went into the brush. The sheep split and I stopped the big bunch and made count - one short and no Tate. I knew Tate would try to bring her back, but if she brushed up, he would stay with her. So took the flock back to where we picked them up, calling Tate. He didn't come, so I decided to take the flock on home calling Tate the whole time. When I got to the house, got Mike and our son to drive up in the pickup and I rode back up on top and we looked for Tate until it was almost chore time. We had looked about 2 and 1/2 hours. I knew that the ewe had brushed up and Tate would stay with her until I came or until he gave up. But long story short I had to leave him in the pasture. Just the night before our son had seen the biggest dog coyote he had ever seen on our place, so I was a little nervous about Tate being out all night. We did up chores, ate supper and way after dark, Mike had gone to the pens to turn the horses out in the trap for the night and he heard Tate bark (Tate is not a barker). So we got in the pickup and drove toward where Mike had heard Tate. I called and listened and then Tate barked again, so we went closer. Then when I called him he came to me. We didn't find the ewe until the next morning (about 100 yards where we picked up Tate the night before), but Tate didn't quit and he brought her home. It took him about four hours, but he brought her almost a mile all by himself. She had a few bite marks on her nose where he nipped her to turn her, but after a couple of days and a shot of penicillin, she was fine and we turned her back in with the flock.
So, though Tate has faults (what dog doesn't) he's got heart, try, partners up, listens, and will do anything I ask him. Plus, he knows his job and never quits! On the trial field, I'd like him to slow down a little on his fetch and flank a little wider around the post, but I think we will work all those things out!
Merry Christmas !!!