Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Sisters Nellie Bird and Mini Mint

Nobody sings it better than Aretha, but what does in mean when we talk about "respecting the dogs?"

I know it has different meanings for us all, but the past month i have seen many things i respect about my two little rocket bitches...Nellie and Mint. Both of these girls have quirky personalities off of stock, and march to their own drummer. I kind of like that too.

These 1/2 sisters( same mother Loren Holmes Puzzle) are quite different in their style and approach to stock. Mint has more eye, and her come in balls to the wall style can make the stock afraid.  More so when the sheep are in small groups.  Mint carries more tension, and again stock sometimes want to turn and fight.  When i use Mint to hold or catch a ewe at lambing she needs to be well off, and hold her down.  I would call Mint biddable, she wants to please, but she can be difficult to get a hold of. 

Mint moving pg ewes

There are many things that Mint does very well. She can move most anything, and excels at moving larger mobs of sheep or cattle. When you watch her gather and push 600-1,000 head of sheep or cattle, you understand why she may scare 3-5 head of sheep at a dog trial. You would also understand why she is so valuable to me as a ranch dog. When the sheep are headed for the neighbors alfalfa field, you have to keep them off.  We don't do that kind of work every day,  but when you need that from a dog they have to do the job.

Nell marches to the tune of her own drummer :)
 Mint is also the best dog i have owned for loading a trailer, or a pen/chute, especially if the stock are not broke. Mint knows just where to be, and when to push, and when to let up. Somtimes i let down my end and fail to help her, we are still working on our partnership. Both dogs are good with lambs, thou Mint really excells with them. Watching Mint work a young lamb is a thing of wonder, like a beautiful dance.

This week i wanted to try and fish some of the ewes out of the flock( in the pasture so no use of fences or gates) that had not yet lambed. This is a delicate job with many ewes, and lambs of all ages.  When you call Mint into sheep she comes 100%, and she loves to hold off stock that want to break back. We sorted out several groups, and never really disturbed the ewes or lambs.  I admit it was as much fun as doing well at a dog trial, and i love to dog trial :)

 Nellie is much more kind to her stock. She has less eye and they are not afriad of her. She is not as easy to bend on her flanks as Mint is, but she also does not need to be bent out as much. She can not hold or push difficult stock as well as her sister can, but she does not make stock difficult with her method.

Nellie is a wonderful lambing dog. Nell has a gift for knowing just what ewe you want held and ignoring all the other sheep.  She can hold a single and they do not attack her in fear like they can to Mint. If they do attack she is very savy. She does not come in with the "move or i kill you" vibe.  When a ewe attacks she usually jukes one way and stops. This is sometimes enough to allow the ewe to calm down and go back to her lamb, or allow us to catch the ewe with a leg crook. If the ewe keeps coming Nellie will bite the head, and then pause and stay on her feet.

Mint training on the range
 Nellie like to bite the heel, and i need to keep an eye on her, or she will do it too much. A nice low heel bite is fine now and then, but if you heel a sheep or cow one too many times, they decided it is not safe to turn their back on the dog. Not good.

 Both of these dogs want to partner with me, but when Nell gets nervous she will tune me out. Even thou Mint has a warmer mind, she seems to be able to listen through the tension better than her sister can.

The one thing these two do have in common is a keep working through anything, die on their feet, work ethic. I just can't own a dog that will quit, or needs to be begged to work.  Mint and Nellie have work ethic in spades. I have seen them both work cattle on the range for 10 hours, on very little water, and pads that are torn bloody from the lava rocks.  My respect for the dogs is the strongest when they do a difficult job that could not have been done without them. I respect all animals that "work" for a living.

Mint wait to go to work

Nellie is mostly coming into her own on the trial field. She has done well at some trials, but she still wants to blow me off at the top of her fetch. I think she gets nervous and wants to get a hold of the sheep before she can take my direction. I am looking forward to the Kathy Knox clinic next month to get some ideas about how to better handle this. She does have over 20 points toward the USBCHA sheepdog finals this fall. That is a load off of my mind, as ranch and kids obligations don't have me in many sheepdog trials before the finals.

Nellie on the range
 Mint is 3 years old and still in Pro/Nov. I must have been asked 3 times this past weekend( at a sheepdog trial) when i will move to her to open. I guess i will move her up some time this summer, thou i have 2 open dogs in Kell and Nellie. With plans to attend only a handful of trials this summer, i want to keep my timming with the older dogs in tune for the finals. Mint is consistently doing well at trials, but she has been a lot of work, and i am not in a hurry to make the jump to open.

We don't all like or respect the same qualities in a dog, and i know my dogs are not many people's cup of tea. At the end of the day, be it on the ranch or the trial field, you have to respect the dogs you run. I find the balancing act difficult between what i need/like in a ranch dog, and what i want in a trial dog. If you add in the mix my limitations as a trainer and a handler, it is the humbling and challenging world of stockdogs.


  1. Wow, Lana, this has been one of my favorites of your blogs. Loren's Puzzle is Anna's Tikkle's mother (I think - what brain I have has decided to take a vacation today). It is fun to read about somewhat related dogs.
    The pup Anna kept from Tikkle is Skamper, and I'm thinking she would have been a much better match for me than Dan is (or than Dan's sister, Raskle, would have been). So it sounds like that Puzzle line is a good one - tough enough to work hard and with some nice feel - mostly!

  2. Okay, so I got the "genealogy" a bit wrong but I meant well. I should have know better than to try and rely on memory since I often get these dogs mixed up.

  3. Respecting Dogs?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. After watching you guys this weekend @ Dry Lake Mint is my new dog crush. I super liked her a lot.

    Nice blog entry :)