Sadie and Ralph - American Working Farmcollies


Sadie and Ralph, American Working Farmcollies


September, 2000 (At this time, Sadie is about 4 1/2 months old.)

Elaine asked: So you have a Jovial Jake X Felicia? Any other farm dogs that you intend to use in the breeding program?

Sadie and littermates
Yep, those are the parents. We named our pup Sadie. We're thus far delighted with her, with the exception of her penchant for bringing road kill to the front porch to gnaw on. As yet, she's the only one we have that would be bred. Our Aussie is a blue-eyed blue merle with increasingly poor eyesight - we had him neutered because of the likelihood of him passing on the eyesight defect. I'll be searching for a suitable male to either add before breeding time for Sadie or to "borrow".

Re farmdog behavior observed thus far - she's just over 4 months old - She tries so hard to be good and do what's right, but like any "learner" she makes mistakes. She's intelligent enough that we rarely see the mistake repeated once she understands what's expected, and that understanding comes more quickly than with any dog I've had before.

Training note - She's had no formal training, and none is planned. We teach basic commands from the moment we acquire a dog. Sit, no, down, etc. I talk to the dog as I go about my day. "let's go upstairs now." "Time to feed the babies." "Let's move the goats." "Let's get Katrinka." "Time to feed the rabbits." I try to use the important words frequently and to maintain a routine so that the dog learns who belongs where, how things are supposed to work, and what's expected of everyone.

Herding drive -

Dog shows herding instinct but only works livestock when needed. At this point, she understands what I want done about half the time - when she understands, she's very helpful. When she doesn't, we sometimes have a mess. The command "Sadie, down," helps in those cases.

She drops and remains still for a few moments, which is long enough for me to regain control of the situation. She helps move the goats between the lots, working quietly and calmly from behind most of the time, occasionally nipping at a heel like our Aussie does when one won't move. Last week, she went into the woods and herded a stray hen back up to the henhouse. I was still counting and hadn't concluded yet that one was missing.

Herding style -

calm, follow behind rather than race back and forth like the Aussie tends to. She'll "heel" a lagging goat, but doesn't challenge the buck for dominance face-to-face. That may come as she gains size and maturity. She'll often sit or stand in an open gate, keeping some of the goats from escaping while I fetch others. She wasn't instructed to do it, just figured it out on her own, then was praised and repeated the act.

Hunting? And not the right prey --

She'll tree a guinea when she sees it - same as the Aussie who's her "teacher". My Aussies have always insisted that guineas belong in trees unless they're nesting.

If a cat runs, she'll tree it. If it doesn't, she try to nuzzle it. A couple of the cats will smack and hiss, and Sadie keeps a respectful distance. We have squirrels, but they're not dumb enough to venture into the territory of two dogs and 11 cats. I suspect she and the Aussie have treed a couple in the woods. I heard them, but couldn't walk out just then.

This morning we caught Sadie with a dead guinea. I'm not sure whether she killed it, the Aussie did it, or they found it after a predator got it. I took it from her, scolded her severely, and she hasn't shown any interest since then. I left it by the front porch, and every time I walk by, I point at it and tell her "Bad food." She knows "bad" and cringes - both dogs do. Then I walk over to her dish and point at it, saying "good food." I'm not sure how well this will work, but she seems very motivated to please and be of use, and it bothers her when she's in disfavor. I don't think I'll leave the carcass lying around overnight - too much temptation.

Our last poultry incident consisted of a rooster that wasn't in his pen. Sadie had him pinned and was bouncing and barking at him. I told her "no, bad", and she skulked to the side and looked sad. The rooster jumped up and trotted off, shy a couple of feathers and telling us about it. A few minutes later Sadie calmly shooed the hen through the open henhouse door, and then waited outside, her tail wagging until I came out and told her she'd done well.

Guarding -

She barks at predators at night and will run into the woods after them with the Aussie. I haven't witnessed any confrontations. She does patrol the property, both with the Aussie and alone. While I'm doing chores, she makes her own rounds in the area, checks the fencelines, makes a circuit through the edge of the woods. She announces the arrival of strangers but isn't aggressive with them. We camped with her on festival grounds a few weeks ago, and during the day she was well-behaved and friendly, thus receiving many tummy scratches. In the evenings, when the grounds cleared, she patrolled our immediate area periodically until we brought her inside the camper with us for the night. She was watching through the fence during the sheep trials, and one dog left its work and ran over to bark in her face. She held her ground, growled, and barked back.

I have not sighted a predator of any sort on the place since she came, so I think that her presence is augmenting the efforts of the Aussie. We have a large population of opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and stray dogs in our area, and they're quite bold at times. We did have one casualty to an opossum, judging from the carcass damage, and that was on an evening when both dogs were inside until late. My daughter forgot to lock the little door to that henhouse - it's happened before, and we consider ourselves lucky we only lost one.

Character -

- Periods of puppy play and wrestling with the other dog, followed by quiet time spent napping or simply observing. Quite a contrast from the overcharged Aussie puppies I've had the last 20 years. She has plenty of energy, but is content to pace herself according to my needs and wishes.

- Corrects easily. - More human oriented than livestock oriented at this point, although she seems content enough when penned with the goats or lounging about with the Aussie and the cats.

- Wants to please. Hates to offend. Very submissive to human alpha. - gets along well with other dogs. In public, no signs of aggression. On her territory, she's beginning to show "ownership." She will bark at a dog and its humans as they walk by, will announce if they step into the yard, but does not pursue them into the road. - Very tolerant of children, plays gently with young ones, more boisterously with older ones - Our first month here, she followed a boy on his bike (with some enticement, I suspect) for about a half mile. We watched her carefully for several days, correcting her (and the boy) as needed, and have since noted that she stays within her boundaries. Those boundaries include a portion of two neighbors' places where our guineas roam and nest, with the permission of the neighbors.

Probably, this is more detailed than what you meant. I adore this pup, and hope that I manage to bring out her natural strengths. The guinea thing concerns me, but if the current approach isn't effective, I'll try a more aggressive route that's been successful with previous dogs. With Sadie, I'm more optimistic due to her particular combination of intelligence and personality.


October 22, 2000

Small brag - Sadie's about 5 1/2 months old now and well-accustomed to our routines. So yesterday, when she came outside to find the hens wandering in the orchard, she was quite disturbed. She hadn't seen me let them out, and she tried twice to round them up and move them back toward the henhouse. I did finally convince her that they were allowed to play in the orchard for a while. She kept an eye on them all afternoon, checking on them frequently. Toward evening I heard her warning bark and sent my daughter to check on her. Jen found Sadie sitting next to the woodpile, waiting for someone to help the poor hen who'd somehow gotten herself wedged in a hole beneath some logs. The silly thing probably dived in after a juicy bug. After Jen freed the hen, Sadie calmly moved her back toward the others, then joined me up in the garden for her kudos.

I'd love to get a picture of her helping Jen put the hens away at night. Jen lets her into the pen, and she slowly moves the hens toward their little door. When they're all inside, she waits by the hen door, guarding it until Jen can close and lock it from the inside.

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 16:43:18 -0600

Blame it on Elaine for mentioning bragging.

Our Sadie, from Foxcreek's Jake & Felicia, is nearly 7 months old and already the best dog I've ever owned. She's doing very well as a nighttime guardian with our Aussie. The two of them work well together and have worked out a patrolling pattern. We've had no predator losses this fall with the exception of two tomcats who got into such a nasty fight they both died from the injuries. Now, she tries to break up all the catfights, and most of the other animal battles as well.

She understands our work patterns and where everything belongs. That sense of order seems very important to her. If I change the order of my morning chores, she gives me lots of puzzled looks. A few weeks ago, I let the hens out while she was in the lower field with my daughter. When she came up to where I was working, she tried to put the hens away - three times before I convinced her that the hens had my permission to play in the field and the woods just that once. Since then, I make sure she's with me and sees me let the hens out to roam. Then she doesn't try to round them up until evening chore time. Her style then is exactly what I expected from the stories of other list members with these dogs - no barking, just quiet movements around the perimeter of the group to gently nudge them in the right direction.

We had temporary custody of a stray beagle recently. When it became apparent that the beagle was going to be there a bit, she led him out to the road, waited for him to step a foot on the pavement, then growled and nosed him back into the grass. They repeated the routine, then both of them trotted back to the porch. A boundaries lesson?

She's always swiping the kids' plastic drink cups from forgotten spots and bringing them to me or the kitchen - now if I could just train her to not spill them on the way.

She's also doing well with the goats now. They no longer intimidate her, which I think is partly due to her increasing size. I pen her with them in the small pasture by the barn during the day while I'm at the office, and she seems to get along well with them. I've seen no indication of her worrying them, and they've learned to respect her food dish. They all seem to approach it as a game now - the goats simply must try to swipe a bite of that yummy kibble, and she bounces around blocking their path. She's never injured them - I'm not sure she even touches the does when she's defending her food. The buck always ignored her and shoved her out of the way. One day a month ago she growled, nipped his horn scur and shook it a bit. It really startled him, and he backed up and just stared and stared at her. She only had to do that once more, and he became manageable for her. Occasionally if she's not hungry, she'll relent and let one of the does have a few bites, but she will not share with that stinky buck!

A few days ago, I tested her by putting some food in her dish, then allowing the goats to nibble. She started to defend it, and I told her "no, that's their food today." She just sat down and watched, looking unconcerned. I then went inside, but kept an eye out the window to see what happened next. She let them eat it all. I came out after a while, gave her more food, and said "For Sadie." She ate it and defended it as usual. Her house manners are good, too. No accidents. No jumping on the furniture or harassing the cook or diners.

I do love this dog.



Ralph is a purebred English Shepherd from Beebe lines. He is a littermate to Amy Dorsch's Hallelujah (Holly).
Ralph's Pedigree
November 3, 2002

Ralph is BIG. 31 pounds when I went to pick up wormer last week. He's taller than our Aussie now, though still has that lank puppy look. His muzzle is heavier than his sisters', more masculine, according to my father. Dad has Lady, another littermate. Last weekend we had the two pups together at Dad's place. Ralph's feet about a third again larger than Lady's.

We had one incident that weekend that I thought was so typical of farmcollie behavior. Lady came barking to us, without Ralph at her side, and led us to the poultry yard. Someone had left the gate unlatched, so Ralph was inside, putting all the ducks into the poultry house. Lady knows that dogs aren't allowed in that poultry pen at her farm. Ralph knows that poultry at our place belong inside a secure fence or building. Both were enforcing the rules as they understood them.

Ralph has a very sweet temperament and is very biddable. He's good with the livestock and small children. He travels well, minds beautifully. He's coming along nicely as a farm dog, too. We've had a few missteps and 'learning experiences,' but overall he promises to be a fine farmcollie. I don't think he'll have the strong nurturing instincts I've seen in Sadie, but he could still surprise me there. I'm seeing good things in other skill areas.

He's never been the least intimidated by the sheep or goats. At about 12 weeks, he held off three sheep who tried to barge into the henhouse behind me when I was working in there. One of the milk goats ram and roll all newcomers - Ralphie rolled, jumped up, tugged on her ear, and they've had an understanding since then. Not another problem between them. Our Sadie, taught him how to quietly gather and move the poultry - those lessons were so funny to watch. She'd take him out into the goat pen and they'd move the turkeys from the open yard into the lean-to. Within a couple of days, he'd gone from bouncing and barging through to quietly slipping among them. He also hunts mice and catches lots. He's caught one squirrel that I know of. Apparently it was quite yummy.

We're very pleased with him. He continues to promise to be a good complement to the skills and traits of our two other farmdogs. They make a good team.


American Working Farmcollie Association


Contact AWFA