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New feathered friends
Towards the end of October i
decided that the Indian runners i had been using with Pogo were really
not helping us with our training. I had been told by everyone that
Indian runner drakes were the duck for the job so to speak. The only
trouble is no one told me how nervy, neurotic and flighty they are
which can mean that they excite the dogs. As you can see from the
previous photos i have posted on this page they were a colourful lot
but it was time for them to go. So they were offered a home as pet
ducks with a unused paddock to run around which would be heaven for
The hunt was then on for the next
set of ducks and i decided having had Khaki campbells before i thought
a Khaki cross indian runner would be a good middle of the road duck. I
know other duck herders that use this cross as they herd together well
but are not quite as fast as a pure indian and are a little less
neurotic. After some searching i thought i had found some but there
was only two drakes and i really wanted three. The reason duck herders
use males only is that the egg can break in the female if they are
running around a lot and result in the bird dying.
Eventually i found some Aylesbury
cross indian runner which are all white and as a bonus all from the
same hatch which is meant to mean they stick togther even more. I was
a bit worried about having a part Aylesbury as some information say
they are noisy but whether its because they are a cross these ones are
the quietest ducks i have had. The ducks were used to dogs walking
around as there was some on the farm where they lived so the only
thing they can panic about is when a human goes towards them.
Early indications seem to show
that these might be the best ducks for herding that i have had. They
are slightly slower as they are a bit heavier which gives you time to
think when working the dog. Also Pogo is not the fastest so she can
get round these with ease. Being part Aylesbury they also have a
thicker leg and their body is more dumpy which hopefully means unlike
the pure indian there will be less leg problems which you can get with
the pure up right indian runner.
Whizzy has had a go with them once
but im not sure she is cut out to be a duck herder as she can be a
little eager to play with them ! so i think for the moment i will
concentrate on using them to keep Pogos training up together.
Duck herding photos
Here are a few quick photos that
were taken of Pogo and her feathered friends doing a bit of practice.
Pogo's enjoying her sheepdog
You may have read some of the
updates on the k9 freestyle blog regarding Pogo and her sheepdog
training. She has been a little up and downin her training especially
when it comes to her lessons with the sheep. I am still trying to find
some land locally where i can keep my own sheep so that we can
practise a little more. At the last lesson she was a lot better than
the time before and almost stopped when i told her. She is a bit pushy
and likes to drive the sheep towards me quite fast. He main problem is
that she doesnt keep a long distance off the sheep which would settle
them better so we keep working on getting her to keep back.
At the end of June i got myself
four indian runner ducks as everyone tells you these are the best for
herding work as they keep together like sheep. Well compared to my
other ducks these are very fast which doesnt give you much time to
think. After working with them for a few months they are starting to
settle but i think i prefer working with the slower ducks as i feel
more in control. I think not all of these indian runner ducks are cut
out for herding as one has a problem keeping up with the others and
another is a getting a bit bolshy and can make a run for it sometimes.
Im still having great fun with the
herding work and am really looking forward to the time when i can
practise more myself with my own livestock. Having done well in the
sports of obedeince and freestyle i am always looking for the next
challenge which i think this is.
Whizzy's first attempts as
At my last lesson with Pogo i
decided to see if Whizzy could get in touch with her inner collie. As
you can see from this video kindly produced by Andy Nickless -
Whizzy at first was a bit scared by the sheep but after a while got
into the idea this was a fun new game.
I promised Pogo that I would her
her a present if she did well at Crufts so as she did do so well when
I got back from Australia I took on two ducks. It was quite a scary
experience when I took them out with Pogo with them for the first time
as I wasnt too sure if I would be able to get them back into their
travel crate again. Anyway I am glad to say that it seems to have
really helped her sheepdog work as it now means we can do a bit of
practice in between our lessons on the sheep. Our last lesson on the
sheep was quite amazing as Pogo worked the best she had ever done
which gave me an added boost.
Here is a video of out first
attempts at duck herding
Pogo's a bit of ****er
Over the last month we have had
another two lessons at Andyís place in Worcester where Pogo has had
her good moments and bad. It amazes me to see how powerful and
confident she is around the sheep when I think back to how submissive
she was as a puppy.
Although Andy is very encouraging,
I still have been find it frustrating that Pogo will circle the sheep
and one minute she is fine then in the next minute she has the odd
nip. When I say a nip it is just that, not like other dogs I have seen
working sheep who come away with mouthfuls of wool. So this was one
thing that is bugging me as I donít feel at all in control when I am
away from the sheep. According to Andy I shouldnít be concentrating on
this but more on getting her to stay further away from the sheep when
she circles. He keeps telling me how far back he wants Pogo in
relation to the sheep and I kept thinking how the hell do I do that !
So anyway the lesson started ok
with Pogo rounding up all twenty odd sheep and placing them into the
yard so that we could use a smaller bunch. It was good to do a ďjobĒ
with her rather than just moving around the field as I think it gave
me something to think about rather than worrying if she was going to
go in too close. Then I started working with her but still she came in
too close and to be honest I donít think she was listening to me at
all. This went on for a while and just as you think you have made some
progress she would then do something stupid like chase one sheep that
A rethink was needed at this point
and Andy suggested a noise aversion to try and mark when she was in
too close thus hopefully getting her to stay out further. I might be
ok at timing when im training obedience/tricks but my timing of praise
etc in these lessons is not brilliant. As Andy says he can see when
she is going to go in too close or have a nip and would have said ah
ah at that point not afterwards which is what I feel I am doing. So
we gave the noise aversion a try and it seemed to work with Pogo
staying much further away than she ever has. Now this was towards the
end of the lesson when she was a bit tired so I will be interested to
see how it works especially when she is in turbo Pogo mode at the
start of a lesson.
Anyway we are having fun at our
lessons and its still good to do something other than our normal
sports, Iím just hoping Pogos last school report of ď could do betterĒ
can eventually be improved on !
Back in the groove
After a bit of a break due to the
snow and then Crufts it was great to get Pogo back into some sheepdog
training with our ever patient trainer Andy Nickless. As it had been a
few months since we had been training i thought that Pogo might be a
little full on. She certainly came out with all guns blazing and took
a while to settle down. When she had got the initial excitement out of
her system we started to try and get her to perform some small
It certainly is an advantage to
have done some previous obedience training which meant that Pogo would
lie down and wait while i walked down the field ready to send her off.
Just like in freestyle where the dog prefers twisting in one
direction, the dogs can favour one direction when circling the sheep.
Pogo tends to go out a little wider when she goes anti clockwise and a
bit tighter on the clockwise direction so we worked more on her
clockwise outrun. She started to perform some really nice short
outruns which i was quite pleased with especially when i got my down
command in at the right time.
Teaching a beginner sheepdog i
think should become the new weightwatchers scheme as you dont realise
how much running around their can be. Then you have to be so on the
ball as the dog and the sheep do things so fast and i find myself
standing there not saying a thing sometimes when i should be doing
something. Also why is it when i have the Pogo behind the sheep coming
towards me and i am back off i cannot seem to keep ahead of the sheep.
A few times in this lesson i was almost knocked over by the sheep who
pefer to stay with you as they learn thats the safest place to be.
Saying that its all great fun and
Andy seems pleased with the progress that Pogo is making. As i have
said before its nice to do something different with Pogo without the
pressure of competing but i have to say the dog trainer in me still
has that feeling of her wanting to do better. I suppose its just the
same feeling i get when i teach Pogo a new move, im always searching
for that "dog training drug" which is the feeling when the dog has
done something you have trained it well for the first time.
Now that winter is gone im hoping
we can get back into doing some more regular training. I keep
promising Pogo if she is very good she might just get a extra special
birthday present which will mean we can practise to her hearts
Im getting addicted !
A couple of
weeks after our first one to one lesson I was back for a second lesson
at the end of November. As I had been away teaching in Denmark Pogo
had not had the same exercise as she normally does so I was expecting
her to be a little full on at the start of the lesson.
As Andy penned the sheep up so
that there was just a small group, I made sure that I
just made Pogo aware that even when the sheep were about she still had
to listen to me. I got her to do some heelwork and a few tricks but
mainly just to be attentive to me when the sheep were about. I know
you never want a good sheepdog to take its eyes off the sheep but as
she was not working the sheep I still wanted to make sure I had some
off well and was not as ballistic as I thought she might be. Her main
fault is that she can come in too close to the sheep so we started off
trying to get her to stay away from the sheep. The white stick you
might have seen in the video is helpful for this, not I hasten to add
to hit the dog but just to extend your arm to wave it at the dog to
stay out. She was a little naughty as she would go out wide then as
she gets behind the sheep, she still runs round but comes in a bit so
she can have a little nip if she feels like it.
her, the sheep decided to get into some thistles on the banks of an
old filled in pond. Well Pogo was not keen about going into the bog to
get them out and it took a while to get them moved, Iím not sure how
much it was her or me who got them moving.
Next it was
time to get her to move behind the sheep as they were coming towards
me. This was when I had noticed last time I didnít move very quickly
as the sheep always would seem to run past me. So this time I made
sure I moved back faster and tried to stay calm, getting Pogo to go
into a down to prevent her getting too close.
On the whole
she had a good session and I felt much more in control than I did last
time. Now its really just repetition it seems to get her to give the
sheep some distance. Its so amazing to see her working the sheep, I
still cannot believe she is doing it. Im enjoying it as well as it is
something totally different from any sport I have done before and
already I can see how doing this with her has in fact improved our
relationship even further.
Having had such
a good time with Pogo on the last course I was looking forward to the
lesson. Andy is a very patient and calm teacher so I was glad to have
his experience on hand. When you have never taught something before
you donít know if you are doing right or wrong so Andy was able to
tell me where I should be. Now you might think it looks quite sedate
wandering around a field with a dog herding the sheep, it doesnít look
like you have to do that much well in training a sheepdog thatís
When we started
the lesson I could sense Pogo was full of energy and her confidence
was quite high after her first experience, so it was with some
trepidation that I let her off. If the first half an hour had been
filmed I think it would have looked good set to the Benny Hill theme
music ! there was me trying to run around keeping Pogo a little
further away from the sheep as she was coming in a bit close. I can
see why there are no fat sheepdog trainers in the country as it was a
full on aerobic workout running around, dodging sheep and shushing the
dog out further
I must admit
after that first half an hour session I was thinking where had my
lovely under control sheepdog that I had worked on the taster day had
gone as Pogo was like sheepdog possessed. After a short rest we got
the sheep back for another session. This is where Andy tried to calm a
rather panicky handlerís voice and movement down to see if that
helped. What I havenít mentioned yet is the fact that I feel its human
nature not to want your dog to touch the sheep in anyway. So when the
dog does nip or rush off after a sheep the inexperienced trainer in
you panics and you start shouting down in a louder voice and running
around to stop the dog. That is where itís good to have an experienced
trainer on hand who can tell you thatís all normal for the first time
really on sheep.
So after taking
a deep breath I set off again and this time she was so much better.
The calmer voice and body movements conveyed to the dog so she worked
well, the stupid thing is I tell handlers the same thing in HTM but of
course when you are in the situation you cannot see it. By the way if
you are a teacher of anything I totally recommend learning something
that you have never done before as it gave me a new insight into what
it must be like for a new handler coming into the dog sports I teach.
Then Andy told
me just to stand still and not say anything to see what she did.
Having circled the sheep and stopped I was told to walk off to see
whether she would balance herself behind the sheep. Upto this point I
felt that Pogo was just doing what I told her ie run clockwise lie
down etc and unlike Andys dogs she wasnít really naturally balancing
them. So as I walked off it was amazing to see her move around of her
own volition, staying behind the sheep which I hadnít really been able
to do when I talked to her. As with all training sessions you should
finish on a high so I was more than happy to put her on the lead and
leave it until another day.
So what did I
learn from this session well firstly I think I should write out a
hundred times ď I must stay calmĒ before the next lesson! secondly no
matter how much training you have already done with your dog when that
natural instinct comes out its previous training can go out the
window. Above all though I think I saw just a glint of a sheepdog in
my little Pogo which made me very proud.
For as long as
I have had Border Collies there has always been one thing which I
wanted to do with them but I have never had the chance to fulifil that
goal as to train a sheepdog you need sheep ! I had often wondered if
my blue merle collie Pogo would be any good at sheep work as she would
often take an interest in livestock but I had never let her off to see
as you donít know what will happen.
When Pogo was
about three I looked into starting sheepdog work a bit more but the
people I contacted or spoke to all tended to say that she was a bit
old or I needed my own sheep, not exactly encouraging. Its also very
hard to find anyone who does sheepdog lessons at beginners level and
even more harder down where I live in Southampton. So as my initial
enquires didnít result in anything it wasnít until I found another
which was advertising a new training dvd for beginners that I started
to look at sheep work again. I was thinking that if I got some
experience then when I got a new pup I would start that one off doing
some sheepdog work but that might not be for a couple of years. Anyway
I ordered the dvd to gain some more knowledge and it was very
beneficial as it showed new dogs starting off and most importantly
showed what happened when it is going wrong.
the DVD I went back to the website and to my delight they were
advertising beginner sheepdog days in Worcester which were basically
where you to go along and see if your dog was interested. It said that
it didnít matter what age the dog was so in a moment of madness I paid
for a place with Pogo.
I was really
looking forward to the day as it make a change to be a student on a
course but I was a bit cautious as Pogo had never been off lead near
sheep before and with her previous obedience / trick training I
thought she might not do anything. I thought it best not to mention
the fact Pogo was four and a half as when I had mentioned this to
other sheepdog trainers they basically had said no chance.
Andy Nickless a
sheepdog trainer was taking the day and we each started off by getting
into a pen with the dog and sheep to see what they would do. Now I
know that whatever dog sport you do there is always a cross over of
skills as any dog related activity benefits from good obedience. Pogo
has competed and won in obedience as well as Heelwork to music so I
knew at least when I said down she would do it. What I didnít know was
that where I have taught her to run in a big circle clockwise and
anticlockwise on command for HTM that this would transfer so well onto
After a couple
of sessions in the pen Andy told me to that I could try moving the
sheep around the paddock which was a little scary as up to this point
she had been a sheepdog for about ten minutes in total. Well I
couldnít of asked for better and im sure many of the other students as
well as Andy didnít quite believe this was her first time on sheep.
Whenever you do well at something its like someone giving you a big
reward so with Pogo doing so well I was eager to have another go.