Here is a fantastic video for our analysis, provided by dog trainer and blogger, Aki Yamaguchi, or “BCNerd” (love the name!). In it you’ll see three dogs, one an adolescent with the typical over enthusiasm for his age. There’s lots I can’t wait to say about what is going on here, but I’m going to tape my mouth shut and let anyone who would like to play use it as an exercise in observing and describing behavior. (Lots of you loved the idea of us watching and analyzing videos together, which I’m thankful for, because I love doing it too.)
If you want to respond with a comment, and I hope you do, I suggest that you include :
1) An objective description of what is happening. Practice making clear, detailed observations about what you are actually seeing. Hold off on making any assumptions about motive until you’ve done this first. Try doing it yourself before reading the comments. Another interesting exercise is to watch it once and write down everything you see. Then watch it again and notice if you missed something. (It is almost impossible not to first time around…)
2) Make your best guess about what transpired here. Although we can’t possibly ever know what’s going on inside the dog’s heads or what their motives are, it is perfectly reasonable to give it our best shot. Your summary can be very short, a chapter title if you like, but don’t hesitate to add whatever you’d like about motivation or interesting issues that this video brings up. I think this video stimulates some interesting questions about social behavior and cognition in dogs.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: More unseasonably warm weather. It is much appreciated, since we have several farm chores to do that require the temp to be over 50 F (painting for one). Otherwise, little Polly (not so little anymore) is at the vet clinic recovering from spay surgery, Nellie is trying to figure out how to get over the fence we’ve put around the bird feeders to protect the birds, Tootsie is thrilled with her new “Treasure Hunt” game that sends her off scenting for kibble strewn about a fenced woodland area while Willie and I do the barn chores. This, by the way, is not just for Tootsie’s enjoyment, it is also a management tool to prevent her from gobbling up cat poop in and around the barn. Sigh. It doesn’t “solve” the problem, but it sure manages my way around it, which is almost as good.
I’m easing Willie back on working the sheep now that I’m back home and King Charles is in with the flock. Rams can be extremely aggressive to dogs, and although Willie handled the last ram well, Redford still went after him several times. I’d rather avoid that now while I’m working on getting Willie’s confidence back. A sex-crazed 250 lb. battering ram is something a good dog needs to be able to handle, but I want Willie feeling a lot more confident before he has to face down with an animal with an anvil attached to his neck.
To avoid that, I let Willie move the flock around on the front lawn yesterday, but I took a huge leaf rake with me (the kind that looks like a big fan) and held it vertically at my side. (Recall the Grant Wood painting with farmer and pitchfork, that pretty much was me, except I’m not skinny.) I kept Willie with me, and only asked him to “Walk Up” on the ram when I was walking 20 feet behind him, rake held up over my head like some prehistoric dinosaur. King Charles took one look in our direction and walked meekly away. I’ll try that one more time and then see how he responds to Willie without my “head gear.” I’ll also use the sorting chute that Jim built me and work Willie on just some of the flock, along with visiting friends with flightier sheep. Wish us luck, he and I were doing so well together when I left for Texas, it feels like we need to get back into the groove…