Fer coadee (Scottish for "protector") is sixteen weeks old. We have her three days and four nights out of the week and Carol (the breeder/trainer) keeps her four days and three nights. She is still a pup but shows great promise.
We have been working her with the chickens and she slowly understands that the chickens should stay in the pen. One night we were putting the chickens in the trailer for the night and Coadee, seeing what we were doing, decided she could help. She ended up herding the chickens into the house with nary an effort. That part was effortless. No training, no nothing she saw we were putting them in the house and she went with it.
She helps weed too. At least I am learning what dog weeding is verses human weeding. While weeding the strawberries, I will pull chickweed and Coadee goes for the green. She has bitten me on occasion while weeding but I get into a rhythm of pulling and throwing. Coadee will chase after the clump of weeds bite them and come charging back. I hope that I have gotten the next handful thrown before she does indeed get back. If not, I ball my fingers up as she comes plowing mouth first into the greenery where my hand resides. With a jerk of her head, she rips green out of the ground by the mouth full. If strawberries happened to be part of the green patch, they go as well. This is part of her instinct; she wants to help her master. The veterinarian told us to make sure we take care of her because her breed will literally work them self to death trying to please their owner.
The English Sheppard is a protector, herder and hunter by instinct. They came to the new world with Scottish and English sheepherders. The dog’s ability and intuition made them a valuable asset to animal farmers. They instinctively want to be part of the action, so she watches what you are doing and tries to help. If I get a stick and throw it, she sits and watches the wood take flight and land. She does not chase it, but if I go get it, she grabs it from me and follows along as I walk. Coadee trots along stick between her jaws teaching me how things work. I was getting water hoses out of the barn, I felt a tug so I turned to see what I was hung up on and there is Coadee, hose dangling out of her mouth going in the opposite direction. I apparently was taking them to the wrong place for her.
This past weekend the chickens started to show signs of respect. As soon as Coadee comes out of the barn, the chickens that see her start to head back to the pen. Some layers just jump back in when they see Coadee. They are in the minority but it is a start. She is still nipping at them and we yell “don’t bite or no bite”. Then at other times, she just lays her big paw on the back of a chicken until we get there to pick it up and put it back in the pen.
She gets excited still when meeting new people so we try to introduce her to people while she is outside. I took her with me, over to Nick’s when I picked up chicken feed. I knew Dave (the farm manager) would like to see the dog. I did not get her out of the truck fast enough before Dave walked over to the passenger side. True to form, she got excited and I saw that the cloth seat was now soaked. I am learning.
Coadee is in that oral stage of development as well. Everything goes in the mouth at least once. Stink bugs she learned and leaves them alone much to my dismay. Wood, rocks, bark, bottles, hoses, chickens anything that you hold, anything that you wear, anything that you use or sit on, pretty much everything is something for her to sink her teeth into. Nevertheless, she is also an asset. I will be in the barn feeding the flock of broilers, if Coadee were not standing guard at the gate, they would leave and be all over the barn. I bring her in the barn and have her sit by the gate. I then go in to feed and water the group. She has taught me that her patience is very short, especially when a group of birds approaches.
She still does not bite them but she does make the feathers fly. By the time, I get her stopped, you can hardly see due to the dust-up from frantic escapes and chases. So, I learn once more. I shake my head and think who the teacher here is? I was sitting with her in the morning watching the chickens. When a chicken approached the fence I would get up and bring Coadee over, the chicken would turn around heading in the opposite direction. This went on all morning. The ones that actually got out Coadee chased down and I tried to teach her how to herd a chicken back into the pen. This went on all morning; lunchtime I went in made a sandwich, wrapped it in a paper towel, filled a bottle of water and went outside.
In that short period a jailbreak took place with the birds heading for the grapevines. As the layers saw Coadee, they ran into the open barn. I put my sandwich down on the chair, covered it with reading material and took Coadee with me to the barn. We go in and Coadee starts after one, chasing her out of the barn and towards the pen and trailer. A couple of seconds later I am chasing one out of the barn front to the pen. I look to my left and there is Coadee sitting in the shade eating my sandwich. She is in the shade eating a freshly made sandwich and I am standing in the blazing sun chasing a chicken.
Then there was the time I was working with her and it started raining. I had my rain-gear on and kept working pulling weeds. I soon notice that I was alone, I saw Coadee heading towards the barn so I knew she was there. I thought okay, she is going in to check things out, get some water or food and she will be back. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes go by; I am still out side weeding in the rain. I stopped and walked into the barn, over on the side in a pile of straw is Coadee, sleeping.
I sighed, looking at her stretch out frame and that beautiful face of hers and thought who was the smarter of the two of us, the one working in the rain or the one sleeping inside nice and dry.
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