“The definition of insanity is to the same thing over and over, expecting different results” Unknown(really, look at the link!).
Molly and I have had a strange relationship with cows. At first, she was an epic fail. Flat flat flat – when she actually tried to interact. Which made me start to wonder if she’d every actually turn on to cows. Then on a whim i used her a little in larger pen spaces with calves at April and she started to maybe sparkle a little. She wasn’t “on” the way that you always hear about dogs turning on to cows:
She just ran right at them. It was amazing. I was so scared
Or something like that.
At April, Molly was a little timid and defensive, but not freaked out. Just not so interested that I thought she’d ever get real presence.
Mea Culpa, Molly Moo. We tried things a different way and got different results. Everyone act surprised so i can feel better please. 🙂
First, the disclaimer – If I had been in the cattle pens alone i would have never done this as i’ve not started a dog on cows by myself. I had an experienced and well respected trainer/handler/friend in the cow pens and i didn’t intend to use her in the trial pens. More importantly, those were ‘his’ pens and would have not hesitated to kick me out if there was anything inappropriate going on that might skew the runs or similar.
We found in the cattle pens when we were running low on ‘fresh’ cows we needed a little dog pressure just outside the pen to get that last set to walk in without a lot of work (this is why we use dogs on stock remember, it is supposed to make less work). Since our dog choices were Abject Power and Molly, i told my handler-mate that the cows might not move off her but we’d give it a shot. All they needed though was a little pressure… and pressure off. Cake, right? Right.
With a little victory, and some breakfast I grabber her leash and started bringing her in with me to do my job. First not making it a big deal that she was there. Molly has a good Follow, which also means not to interact with the stock. We got cows out of the repen, moved them into the group of ‘used’ cows and then eventually when we needed a little dog pressure to move the last fresh set into the pen, we used her again inside the pen this time.
And we both had more confidence.
Then we upgraded to really using her (still on leash) and showing her what i wanted from her. The take pen work we’d been doing really shined. She took her flank and got to the back of the pen nicely. Still a little timid, but as the ‘used’ section grew, the cows started to try to stare her down. At this point i was out of my element. My first thought was to just let her go to head and be done with it. My handler-mate explained how to teach her to hold the gaze, win the stare down and release the pressure – essentially to be fair to the cow. Molly got good at this before my timing got better, but eventually she was staring down pretty consistently.
She did have one good tussle and rolled under a cow – no contact, but she was under and inbetween legs. You’d think that with that, little miss would have given up. However after that i started to drop her lead when moving the cows from the repen to the ‘used’ section and she had a real confidence about her. I started dropping the lead more, and she was really making herself quite useful.
She did a great job today and got porkribs for her hard work. We’ll try again tomorrow and see how things move along!