Sunday, February 24, 2008

Millie's Next Step

I had a loose plan for training Millie. She's been living in the main sheep field, sans sheep, for the winter. She needed to burn off some of her puppy energy, get in touch with her guardian instincts, and spend time next door to the sheep, now locked in the smaller paddock. This has worked pretty well. Charlie goes in with her occasionally, and she's learned about patrolling fence lines, marking territory, and general good behaviors from him.

I had planned to put a smaller enclosure in her territory, but the portable fencing deal I made fell through, and that really needed to wait for better weather. She couldn't go in with the sheep until they lambed - no upsetting pregnant sheep allowed! So Millie has been mostly alone in a very large field, with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and more to watch from a distance, and ravens to chase off close up.

Today as I was feeding and then getting set up to restore another shelter roof, I noticed a big white in with the sheep. I didn't remember putting Charlie in there. And while large, this dog was smaller than Charlie. Millie! She broke through the gate between fields, and was strolling around the sheep paddock. I watched from a distance as she checked the perimeter, sniffed the shelter, and did some digging for gophers. She was calm, the sheep were calm. All my new mammas are in a separate field now, so I thought I'd leave Millie while I was outside and keep an eye on her.

After a half hour or so I saw a white streak. Millie cornered a ram, and he was taking a stand. I calmly went into the field with a leash, merrily calling to Millie, saying "Leave it!" when she started being rambunctious, but mostly letting things play out. She did some chasing, but the ram kept stopping to take a stand. Millie let me walk up to her and clip on her leash. We then walked over to the group of sheep still lolling around the feeding area, sniff everyone, and slowly make our way back into her field.

I fixed the gate, played with Millie for awhile, and then got some really good food for Millie's lunch.

This was the next step I had planned, Millie just thought my timing was off. I'm very pleased at how well she did. She was much calmer than I expected her to be, and while she did chase, she didn't burst into the knot of sheep to disrupt them. She was playing, not trying to hurt them. I'm feeling more hopeful for her working future. She is more exuberant than I would like to see, but she didn't rush in and start chasing. She's growing up and learning.

I was also amazed at how much coat she's put on. Somehow I hadn't noticed that before. Her guard coat has come in, she now has a mane and a nice, full Pyr coat. And muscle. She keeps herself in shape!

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