Yesterday, MM observed that the turkeys seemed hungrier than usual. Wading through what they've been grazing on for the past week and a half, he noticed that the grasshopper population had been considerable diminished. There weren't the clouds of flying things apparent as there had been. The insects had either been consumed or sufficiently terrorized to have left. So....it was time to herd turkeys.
This is such FUN! It's a time to work with a Border Collie to do what Border Collies do best: crowd control. It's such a test of the dog's ability to listen to commands and react accordingly--or not! I'm in seventh heaven on these work duties.
Mostly, at this stage of a young dog's life (two and a half years of age), they've got it together and such was the case yesterday. Commanding my girl to go left, go right, go back...and intuitively exchanging "conversation" was thrilling! It's inspiring to watch and to work with a dog that simply corrals the stock at command, rather than chasing or attacking.
Voice controls for Border Collies come from the "old" countries--Scotland, England, Wales...where sheepherding was the anchor for the economy and farmers learned to work with dogs to bring about a relationship that benefited both dog and master. Whistles are also used, but while I've learned to use the whistle fairly predicably (well), I favor voice commands. Here are a few:
"Way to me" means the dog is to go to the dog's right.
"Come bye" means the dog is to go to the dog's left.
"Down" means belly on the ground or at least stop.
"Go back" means reverse direction...the dog is to go directly (straight) back from where it is and wait for a command
"Keep out" means the dog needs to go wider in it's cast
A "cast" is like a windshield wiper...the dog starts on one side and sweeps the field, clearing it of all stock and weaves back and forth to sweep. The dog can be "downed" any time during the cast if a complete gather is not wanted. Increments of all of these commands come into play, along with an intuitive working balance between dog and master.
That said, yesterday was a complete success! The turkeys got a ton of grasshoppers. The Border Collies got a ton of experience. Both masters got a ton of fun...and a good time was had by all. There's only one problem: the turkeys are quick learners and they are ready to go again...well...more than ready: they're flying out of their pen, heading for the south field, and bent on getting another load of grasshoppers in their craw! Both masters have other chores to do first and the dogs, having been on stakeout all night last night in the apple orchard (on deer patrol) need a rest!
Note: my pix of Cade working are a bit sub-par. It's difficult to work with the dog, running, coaching, encouraging...and simultaneously mind a 300 mm lens (need a tripod, really). But, thought I'd include them anyway to give you the idea of what "work" to Cade looks like.
|Cade on approach. In this case, she is driving--that is, pushing the stock away from her on command|
|In this case, she is moving onto the turkeys (on command) to "fetch"--as in bring the stock to me|
You must be kidding! These don't belong here!
These aren't cows...
What the.....? What are these things?