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Saturday, December 19 2015

Linda asked for an update on Mesa, the next generation of cowdog, so here goes. She just turned a year old and not only does Mesa promise to be a nice working dog, who will in time replace Lily as primary working dog, she is a wonderful family member who fits well in the pack.

For this pup, we went back to the breeder of Lily (the perfect). Mesa is distantly related to Lily. The breeder runs a feed lot and uses his dogs to move calves back and forth to grazing pastures. His dogs need to be healthy enough to travel long distances with a rider on horseback, and have enough bite to handle cattle, but not too much because he's dealing with feeder calves that will be fed out on pasture and then moved on down the food chain to other buyers. He is primarily a cow man who uses his dogs as tools in his business. He doesn't breed dogs that aren't healthy or don't work because he doesn't have the resources to keep pets. His dogs must work the way he needs them to work or they are culled and sold.

 Mesa was a bit of a gamble for me, but then I'd gambled on this guy's dogs before and it paid off big time with Lily so I was willing to take the chance. I carefully watched Mesa to see how her personality would develop since this was an accidental breeding. The breeder wasn't sure if her father was the red dog which was a planned breeding, or the black dog who made an unscheduled visit. Since Mesa's mother was red, I did a quick google search on Border Collie color genetics and discovered that two red dogs didn't produce black puppies. The entire litter was black.  Both were good cowdogs but the black dog had just been sold because he had too much bite for a feed lot situation.

Since we are working cow/calf pairs that make an earnest attempt to kill the dogs, I wasn't as concerned with too much bite as long as the dog wasn't just a wild bully. We need a dog with enough balls to engage a cow, but enough sense to know when they don't have to engage. Lily has too much bite for my dairy goats, but has to use those teeth on the cattle. She has put some marks on our cattle, but now they pay attention to the little black dog. They don't have as much respect for Trace because he doesn't have a bite to back up that eye. Like Trace, Cowboy only uses eye and feinting bluffs, but the cows worked for him and I believe it's because he's black and thus a reasonable facsimile of Lily, the little dog that bites. So I took the gamble on the "Who's ya Daddy" litter and brought home the little ball of fluff that would be Mesa.

Because we have cattle, sheep, and goats, the dogs need to be versatile. We keep sheep and goats in the yard and so Mesa had regular access to them. She is still never allowed around the cattle except when sitting in a mule or a 4wheeler. I cannot emphasize enough that the cows around here will try to kill dogs. Mesa needs to be on her A game before she starts on cattle. When we wean calves next fall we'll start Mesa on those calves. Only after she has got some skills on them will she be allowed to work the momma cows.

In the beginning the plan was to let Mesa accompany us with simple chores on the sheep and goats and start formal lessons when she was an adult. Her early lessons were simply doing chores around the sheep without chasing them. Instead of trying to keep her completely away from livestock, we just let her come along for chores. She inserted herself from time to time when she thought she could be of help, but it wasn't until this summer that I actually started working her a little on sheep.

I pulled out Dorper sheep and put them in a big pen where Mesa could begin to practice gathering them, moving them to me, and then moving them into the chute. That's all we've done. No real commands, just body language, and getting the feel for each other and the sheep.  She figures things out pretty quickly and I don't notice her bullying sheep at all. In fact, I haven't seen her bite sheep. Most of these guys are flighty lambs but there are a couple of wily adults in the mix who will make things more difficult for a dog. She is light enough to handle the flighty ones but strong enough to address the wily ones.

We haven't worked a lot yet, just enough to keep it interesting for her and not pattern-train the sheep. Mesa will start formal lessons next spring with a trainer who actually knows what they're doing, as opposed to me who just does farm chores with the dogs.

Here are my observations about Mesa:

Very athletic and well put together. She is in charge of her body now and can handle sheep and goats. Not mature enough both physically and emotionally for cattle. Earnest worker who listens well. Softer than Trace but not as soft as Lily. Not hardheaded like Trace, very willing to figure out what you want to do with the stock and accomodate you. Like Lily, she is very into rules. She wants to know the rules and make sure everyone follows them. If someone doesn't follow the rules she wants to enforce the rules. Nice recall. Crazy little resource-guarding monster around the other dogs. Into world domination through either fawning behavior with humans or fangs with other dogs.  Does not have enough experience with small children to be trusted around them. Is relatively social with strangers and not shy. Still enjoys going to Tractor Supply and riding in the cart. Is genuinely disappointed if a stranger does not greet her when she's riding in the cart.

Watching her play with the Anatolian puppies gives me insight into her nature too. She is very tiny compared to them but holds her own quite well. When the chips are down and she is overpowered she comes up swinging with all she's got. She has a quick temper but is just as quick to forgive too. I no longer allow her to play with them unattended because they are such good friends that she forgets how big they are, and they are too young to understand they can accidentally drown their little buddy in the pond. That's my big fear.

Their rough play allows her to prepare herself for working animals much larger than her and realize that she can get hurt and still survive. It is a bit frightening to watch the Anatolians tag-team her. One will grab her head and the other grabs her back. They are relatively gentle and everyone is still having fun, but this play is a shadow of a serious killing game. A coyote wouldn't stand a chance with those two.

(Frightening stuff)

If they get too rough with Mesa, she goes batshit crazy on them and they adjust their bite accordingly and then everyone continues the game. Mesa is the only dog the Anatolians cut loose and play with. No one else wants to play with them and no one else needs to play with them. It is enough that they know which dogs live here.

 I do notice Mesa beginning to pick on Ranger, the Blue Heeler. She has decided that he is a bit obtuse (he is) and she wants to bully him. (not acceptable)  Yesterday she caught him bullying Judge. I snarled at him several times about trying to knock Judge down.

Mesa finally ran over and made it clear to him that bullying Judge would not be tolerated.

I question her motives. Was she defending her friend, Judge? Was she looking for the opportunity to be Sergeant At Arms and enforce my order? Or was she just looking for a free pass to be mean to Ranger? Who knows. She can be a little monster with everyone except Briar. She still tries to suck up to Briar, who barely tolerates her fawning behavior. From the beginning the big white dog has recognized her for what she was - another Border Collie bent on world domination.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:14 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Great post! This paragraphs reads just like a yearly job review, love it......Very athletic and well put together. She is in charge of her body now and can handle sheep and goats. Not mature enough both physically and emotionally for cattle. Earnest worker who listens well.
Posted by Erika on 12/21/2015 - 07:34 AM

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