- Written by Tony Bierman
Since she moved to her forever home here at our ranch on Roanoke Creek, Josie has watched each morning as my boy Hawkeye and I moved our Pygmy goats from pen to pasture. But just about a week ago, Josie suddenly and almost magically went from being an uninterested, frolicky puppy to a serious, enthusiastic stock dog in training. She's currently four months, sixteen days young. Each day, she has paid attention as Hawkeye walked behind the goats with me, coaxing them up the hill, through the orchard and on to the pasture. Hawkeye stays on lead the whole time. He's too rough on the small Pygmy goats. Or rather, I'm too inexperienced of a handler to manage the interaction properly. Hawkeye and I will attend a herding clinic next month so I can get better. But, I digress.
Back to Josie. Since she started showing interest, I decided to give Josie her own opportunity with the Pygmies. So for the past three or four days, instead of Hawkeye it has been Josie on long lead, pushing the goats up the hill. Each day, she has moved the goats fine, but she has always looked back at me and complained about the leash. She looks at me as if to say, “I've got this, let me go”. I've been hesitant. She's still so young. And a year of working with Hawkeye has made me more cautious. He's a lot of dog. Mistakes with Hawkeye can mean there will be blood.
Well, today Josie wore me down. She jetted out to the end of the lead, barking at the goats to push them along the gravel path and on up the hill. I complimented her with a “good girl”. She turned her head and smiled, leaving the goats and coming back to me right away. She has an off switch! Wow, that's nice. But as usual, on her way back to me she took the opportunity to bark at me, taking the long lead in her mouth. “Let me do my job”, she seemed to growl with the flat cotton leash between her teeth.
Well, this time I relented. “OK”, I thought. “You're way too young. But, you've been doing great. I'll let you off lead for just a minute. But if this goes wrong, Caroline Betts is going to let me have it.”
So, I held my breath and detached the long, blue lead from her harness. Once I took her lead off, she was nothing short of amazing. No wasted time or energy. No messing around. Josie just knew what to do.
"It's about time", I think I heard her bark. "Watch what I was born to do."
She pushed the herd of nine goats to the exact spot I take them every morning. She used her voice mostly. The goats are dog trained, and Hawkeye has instilled plenty of respect in them. But, Josie was faster than any dog my goats have ever seen. Her methods were not just brute force. She darted in, barked to move them, and quickly darted back out before they could rear-up on her. Fast and decisive. Overwhelming. They had no choice but to comply.
“Good girl”, I told her. I was amazed at what I had just seen. Stoically, I tried to hide the elation from my voice. It had come so easily to her. “Now Josie, come here”, I told her. Without hesitation, she disengaged from the goats and came right back to me. I re-attached the long lead to her harness. Then I took her to get a big, crunchy dog biscuit reward. I praised her the whole walk back. Hawkeye saw it all from his kennel. And by the spring in her walk, I'm pretty sure Josie knew it.
"Look what I can do", she left unsaid.
That's OK, a little friendly competition raises all ships. Hawk may even learn a thing or two from her. Don't feel bad for Hawkeye. He still gets to put them back in the pen.
- Written by Tony Bierman
In the 1980s, there were some folks who missed the reliable and versatile farm dogs of their childhood. They knew the type of dog they sought was on the verge of extinction. And so an effort was launched to locate the descendants of the collie landrace. Sought out were dogs who retained the varied instincts and traits of America's once ubiquitous, but now nearly forgotten working farm dog. Luckily, a few scattered individuals still remained.
A few years later, the American Working Farmcollie Association was founded in 1998. Then as well as now, the association seeks to preserve the working instincts and traits found in all breeds descended from the collie landrace. To qualify for permanent registration with the American Working Farmcollie Association, a candidate must pass evaluations in at least two out of three identified working areas. Of course, double registration is encouraged. For example, a dog may be registered by breed as an English Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, Kelpie, AKC Collie or Border Collie. And then based on his or her working evaluation, a dog may also be registered with the AWFA. In this regard, the AWFA describes itself as the 'Good Farmkeeping Seal of Approval' for working farm dogs.
Another function of the AWFA is to help match farmers with working farm dogs. The AWFA provides technical support to help raise and train working dogs to become productive, successful farm partners. An eligible working farm dog may be English Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, Kelpie, AKC Collie, Border Collie, or a mix of these breeds.
In support of its mission, the AWFA maintains an excellent web site chock-full of useful information about working farm dogs. In addition to member registration, the AWFA website also provides breeder education, dog training articles, a list of breeders, and more. The site is both well-organized and easily searchable. As well, AWFA members can easily be reached for questions and advice by joining their AWFA Facebook group.
- Written by Tony Bierman
Where does raw goat's milk come from? Goats, of course. In the case of my seven dogs, their goat's milk comes from the happy and well cared for goats at Bonnie Blue Farm. Yesterday, Bekkey and I were fortunate enough to get a wonderful tour of our local goat dairy from affable proprietor Gayle Tanner. Gayle was there to greet us when we arrived, and promptly took us on a tour of her farm.
Being the dog nut that I am, the first thing I noticed were two calm, confident Great Pyrenees keeping watch over things. It was a pleasure to meet both the girls!
Next, we got to meet the stars of the show. I was amazed at how clean, well-kept and organized the goats were. It was immediately clear to me that Gayle kept a tight ship. All the goats looked so happy!
The absolute coolest part of the tour was when we discovered this secret, previously unknown entrance to King Thorin's Hall.
Just kidding! Sorry for the nerdy Tolkien reference. Seriously though, this is the entrance to an amazing cheese cave.
Inside the cheese cave are shelves and shelves of cheese wheels aging to perfection!
Gayle told us that some of these cheese wheels have 10 gallons of milk in them!
Amazing. We had a wonderful time. It was so educational, and Gayle was such a gracious host.
If you're lucky enough to have a local goat dairy, consider feeding raw goat's milk to your dogs. I give my dogs about four ounces per day, poured over kibble and topped with a farm fresh raw egg. Here's some more information about feeding your dog raw goat's milk.
- Written by Tony Bierman
I recently purchased a copy of Working Dogs of the World from a London bookshop.
This book was written by C.L.B. Hubbard and published by Sidgwick and Jackson Limited of London in 1947.
Table of Contents page 1
Table of Contents page 2
The beginning paragraphs of the section titled Collies
The Scottish Collie is probably the best-known Sheep-dog in the world, and certainly the most popular in the English-speaking countries. The race is extremely old, even among the breeds of Scotland, all of whose dogs are or ancient lineage. The modern Show-type Collie is, of course, a comparatively recent creation, but the old Working Collie is still very much like the type called 'Shepherd's Dog" by Dr. Caius in 1570, and by Buffon and other naturalists centuries ago. Indeed, the Working Collie shows much its make-up of the primeval dog.
"Delwood Barrie", a well-known Rough-coated Collie
"Lavender Lass of Bonniecot", a good specimen of the rare Smooth-coated Colllie
An old-fashioned Working-type Bearded Collie
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