Jig’s Journey ~ The Real Payoff

Most of these posts have been about training, and getting Jig ready for Nationals, but around here I need a dog for more than just trialing. There are jobs that need doing at various times. Sheep need to be moved from one pasture to another, sorted, loaded onto trailers…all kinds of practical jobs that dogs just love. I haven’t used Jig for a lot of that because when I’m doing chores I often don’t care how the dog chooses to do them, I just need the job done. I don’t want to micro-manage the dog. We’re a team. I have my part of the job, they have theirs. In her stage of training, though, I can’t afford to let things slide.

This morning, however, I needed to move each of the rams with their harems so that I could rotate pens. Grady and Quinn aren’t the best at moving the rams. There’s some kind of bromance going on there. Plus, I didn’t have a lot of time to get the job done, so I took Jig. Dave came to watch and told me afterwards, “Wow, she was really wired!” Yeah, he only saw her from the back. He should’ve gotten a look at her face: ears high, eyes so intense they were practically on fire. For Jig, working is like crack, and I haven’t worked her since Wednesday so, yeah, she was pretty eager. (Even though between Wednesday and today she let herself in through the gate at least three times to move sheep on her own.)

The first part of our job was simple, put the working sheep in the small arena. Done as soon as they saw Jig coming. Second part of the job, bring Jr and his girls from the long alleyway to the short one to pen them up. I stood by the gate and sent her. The ewes were about 125′ or so down the alley. I fully expected them to hightail it to the far end with Jig in hot pursuit, but she went to the fence to go around and bring them down nice as you please–where nice means politely, but at a high rate of speed. At least she checked up as soon as I told her to.

The third part of the job was to bring MC and his girls in off the hill. Again, she surprised me by doing a pretty decent gather. One of the flightier ewes decided she wanted to be dinner and took off, but Jig covered her rather nicely and brought her right back.

The fourth part of this job I knew was going to be the trickiest for Jig because of her desire to keep stock from getting away. I needed her to go into the short alley (16’x40′ or so), scoop up Jr and his girls, and deposit them on the hill. Even a month or so ago, that would not have been an easy thing. Today she went in and when Jr started to come out first (my rams have no desire to tangle with Jig) she did what I expected and immediately popped to his head to stop him. Here comes the blue ribbon moment–as soon as I gave a warning and stepped forward she moved off, went back around the ewes, and allowed everyone to proceed out of the alley in a controlled fashion, even lying down in the back of the alley when I told her to.

Of course, these jobs weren’t nearly enough to satisfy her. As I was closing and latching gates, she was going back through them to do more. We discussed the error of her ways, and she accompanied Dave and I back to the house. Well, she ran back and forth to the house several times while we followed.

I was thrilled to see the benefits of our training sessions coming through where I need them most: chores and practical work.