Orchard Hill English Shepherds
TRAINING Ember: Page 1
Ember is a very different dog from Mace, and has required a different approach to training. Ember is very soft, and easily discouraged.
She learns by watching and then practicing on her own. It's hard to encourage her when she's doing right, because she will stop and
come to you for praise. So, Ember has learned mostly by watching what I am doing, or watching Mace work, then joining in. She also
'practiced' on our horses from the time she was six or seven months old - much to my chagrin. I don't generally like the dogs messing
with the horses, but for Ember, it has worked well. She has learned how to make those big animals move, and how to put them where
she wants them (at their hay feeder in the winter!). As a young pup, she was in the barn with us and our free-ranging chicks. As we
worked, I noticed that she was nonchalantly searching around the barn. She was very quiet, and didn't seem to be focused on
anything in particular. Except for the fact that all the chicks ended up back at their night-time pen, you wouldn't think she was paying
any attention to them. Hmmm. She has a sense of order, and knows how to take responsibility. When she was about seven months
old, we needed to move cows and calves into an adjacent grain stubble field. I took Mace and Ember with me. Mace knew what to do,
but this was Ember's first exposure to cattle. I had her on a long line, more to keep her safe than to control her. The cows and calves
were in the brush along the creek. We had to weave through the brush to make sure we had all the cows and calves. I made sure that
Ember went out and around the cattle, pushing them up the hill. When calves would stop to look at her, we would pause and go slowly
to make sure the calves would turn and follow their mothers. You don't want calves separated from their mothers - everyone gets
confused, and confused calves are almost impossible to move in the direction you want them to go!
Ember has not been to any training clinics, and I'm not sure that I will ever take her to one. She seems to learn better with on-the-job
Here, Ember and I have stopped to let these calves decide
to turn and follow their mothers. Ember learned to be patient
and take it slow with calves.
Here, Ember has started the cows back toward their
feeding area. Mace and I are following along, but she
is moving the cows by herself. She's circled out to
the right to push the stragglers up with the rest of the
bunch. All of them were soon out of sight in the trees
to the left.
When she was about a year old, our cattle escaped their feeding area and left for their summer pasture. It was
early in the year, and the grass needed to grow more before being grazed. I took the dogs with me to put the herd
back where it belonged. Mace hadn't been working stock lately, so I put a long line on him to control his
exuberance. Ember was loose. As we got to the cattle herd, Ember barked and bounced at them and they started
moving. Oops. Not quite the right direction, so I called her to come with me around to the correct side. She came
around, then moved them up to their trail. She flanked out around them, tucking the stragglers in and moving them
back toward their feeding area. They were soon out of sight, but Mace and I followed along through the trees. We
came out into a grassy opening, and Ember was still with them. They weren't moving down the hill through the
rocks very fast. Mace and I helped her get them all moved down to the creek. Once they crossed the creek at the
bottom, Ember moved them up the trail and back through "the gate" while I trudged slowly up the hill. She did
most of the job by herself.
Ember obviously learned quickly from these first
two exposures to cattle work. Here she is a month
later, helping Mace put the cows through the same
gate when they had escaped again. Working
together like this has helped both dogs work
better. Mace's experience and power build Ember's
confidence. Ember's quiet, calm work helps Mace
stay calm too. I like having the dogs helping me - I
don't have to climb up that rocky hill on the left to
make sure the cows don't cut back that way
instead of going through the gate.