I collected "Mac" yesterday; he's eight months old, just the right age to learn the basics; "come, sit, down" and "heel". Working with sheep comes a bit later when he'll be bigger, stronger and bolder. On the training lead he's obviously keen to work and even useful when moving the ewes. The first day has gone well; three 20 minute training sessions and he responds to "come" and "sit".
|"Mac" Photo: Jon Haylett|
Lambing out of doors without a trained dog is difficult. To do the job properly you have to catch the ewe after she has given birth to check that she has milk. A good dog will "hold" the ewe with its eye while you catch it with the leg crook ( the cleek). Of course during the rest of the year we need to move sheep between fields and to drive them into the handling pens for routine inspections and treatment. If you don't have a dog the ewes become truculent, no amount of arm and stick waving will drive them on so a dog is essential.
|Crook and cleek|
Shepherds have had to catch sheep ever since they were first domesticated and there are images of the leg crook dating back to biblical times. The sheep has almost 360 degree vision but if you approach from directly behind you can catch and hold it safely and humanely by the back leg with the cleek. The lambing stick, cromag or crook on the left is fine for catching small lambs before they can run fast but otherwise its just another walking stick.