Thought I'd give interested folks an update on how Holly is coming along. We've been in the new place now for a month. We had our animals farmed out to other folks to ease the transition and give us time to put together some temporary shelters. We got the goats back just after Christmas and it was so cute to see how happy Holly was to see them. She genuinely likes them and greeted them with much tail wagging and exuberant kisses. They are currently in a small pen with a calf hut for shelter. If the weather isn't too bad I like to take them out for a walk to give them some exercise. Holly loves to go with. She seems to understand what we are doing and happily goes along making sure the goats stay with me. Her herding style is more up close and to the head. If she feels it necessary to make them move she jumps and bumps them on their shoulder but her demeanor toward them is friendly for lack of a better word. If she were a child, it would be like she was taking a younger sibling for a walk, having fun but guiding them the right way. Its so much fun to watch! The other interesting thing about her relationship with the goats is that they seem to see her more as one of them than they do Ellie or Jack for example, even to the point of accepting her leadership. For those of you who have experience with goats, you will know that especially if you have raised them from kids that they look to you as the herd leader and will follow you pretty much where ever you go (unless they are escaping and getting into the feed! LOL) Anyway, this morning we were walking in our pasture and I decided to take a short cut up the hill through the woods. I noticed that the goats were wanting to follow Holly who was picking her way through the deer trails with skill. Instead of being on guard and nervous around her they actually were letting her lead them home. For you with dogs strong in guardian tendencies, do you see that type of reciprocal relationship between the stock and the dog? Holly can and does move them but they seem to not be too bothered or frightened by her. She is 6 months old.Amy
Took Holly over to some friends yesterday who have a farm they just bought but haven't moved to yet. I've been trying to get her to be happier in the car and this was a short drive. These folks have GSDs and they always bring one of them with when they come to work on the place. Holly and their shepherd Rhett were getting along fine and playing. Then some other mutual friends stopped by with their children, one of whom was a 6 year old girl. Renee was immediately drawn to Holly (she loves animals her parents tell me) and I watched to see how Holly would respond to this strange child. She turned her attention from romping with Rhett to come and quietly sit in front of the girl, gazing up at her with an adoring look. While they were there we took a long walking tour around the farm. Holly and Rhett were having fun running ahead but Holly periodically would come back to check on Renee. When I would call her to come back, she would come but first check in with Renee. She just adored her and was so sweet and gentle. I see her with my own children everyday but to see her just glom on to this strangers child was neat. I told Renee that she must be a "dog person" and Holly recognized that. I'm finding Holly at 10 months to be an affable dog who loves everyone and just adores children.Amy
Wow Sarah, that story had me on the edge of my seat! What good dogs! I'm glad you've been spared the damage alot of folks have been seeing. Hope it ends soon.
We are having rain but nothing serious. Had two more baby goats and I'd love for the sun to come out and warm things up so they can go outside and play! Holly has really decided that the goat kids are hers to check up on. She doesn't stay by them constantly but everytime I go to the barn she is there. Today she insisted on checking them while I fed the moms. I swear she was counting because she looked and looked until she found the missing ones under the hay feeder LOL!
The does are becoming more accepting of her in there too. They were basically raised together so they should feel safe with her but motherhood has made them more cautious. I find it interesting how Holly uses body language to communicate to the does that she means no harm. I don't know how to describe it except that she uses a slow careful appoach. The does do occasionally want to butt her away but I've been "protecting" her. Today one of them went to butt her and I scolded the doe and pushed her away. The doe persisted and Holly gently but firmly corrected her. I did encourage her for putting the goat in her place as it was apparent she had no ill intentions and she was just reminding the goat that she is not to be pushed around. I'm sure I'll be able to put Holly on babysitting duty when the time comes to seperate the babies from mom. Its been fun to watch her instincts unfold.
My last update about Holly was to share how she was helping me tend the goats in the unfenced pasture twice a day. She's been helping me regularly and I've just been using her in a very unstructured way to help me move them (in other words, no formal instruction other than encouragement to imitate me or to discourage her if she becomes too rough). I'm trying to give her her head regarding what I'm asking her to do figuring she will learn faster and internalize the concept better. Her herding instinct is awakening. Her style is much different than a BC which I expected but its interesting to watch. She works closer and bounces at them, she doesn't bark but will often grip a front leg or shoulder shot them. The does she'll grab by the ear. All of the gripping is controlled and she doesn't hurt them. She seems to think that the kids in particular should remain near the does. If one wanders off she is on him in a flash. The does can wander with less concern. I figure the kids present less of a threat and they are also more reactive to her motions so she can control them better than the does who tend to ignore her. I've been encouraging her to get on the does to get them to move by slapping their flanks and telling them to "GET!". This seems to get her attention and she'll come and help me. Still alot of this herding looks a bit like play. And she is somewhat on again off again but I'm seeing more and more from her. I'd definitely say she herds from a different motivation than Ellie. Jack has good instinct much like his mother. More of her BC style and a bit more oomph. He could be put in a round pen and taught much like a BC. The drive is there. I've done minimal work with him but it wouldn't take long. Judah tends to leave the herding to the other dogs unless no one is around and I ask for his help.Amy Dorsch
Amy, giving her the time to think it out for herself is great. If you don't need a "hard" herder it is better in my opinion to let them find their own niche in helping you. She is doing so well!!! Being always on the farm (versus going places to herd other animals) ours got into the routine of helping when it is needed. Lilly will also grip a front leg or goose the rear end, just depends on the situation. Where you slap a doe and say "get", I say "Anck" and point to the doe that needs moved and the dogs will move her. When I fuss at the livestock the dogs go into action. I am sure that this would make it very hard for someone else to get her to work for them but there isn't a need. At least a child can't entice them into stirring the livestock up. When the cow was pushing at a ladder that I was on top of, I was very grateful that I could say "anck", point and get the dogs to move him out of the way. I was seeing myself on the ground covered with a gallon of paint, LOL.Sheryl