1) There’s a place for a direct casting dog.
As a novice or hobby sheepdog handler, I think there’s a tendency to over-appreciate the wide working dog. Especially on the cast. It seems safer, calmer, gives us more thinking time. Less risk of Bad Things happening. And it looks very impressive when you’re just focussed on the dog sailing away over the horizon, rather than the livestock.
If our dog is running out fairly straight, there are a million and one methods of persuading them to go wider, from stopping and resending, to hurling clods of earth or pieces of poly pipe, to fanning the air with garden implements and chanting mantras (“Keep off! Keep off!). I can’t tell you which one I think works best, because I’m sure they are all effective, to different degrees depending on the handler and the dog. Personally, as a rank beginner, I’ve had a bit of success and a bit of failure with more than one method (except with Bill, who doesn’t do training). One thing I haven’t tried is training dogs to run fences- some people specifically train dogs to go out to the fence and run along inside it to find their sheep. This might work okay if you only ever work dogs in trials and at home in small paddocks, but I don’t think it would be very useful otherwise.
Yesterday’s “wish I had my video camera” moment:
|Mob at the gate of Red Dam paddock|
My ideal casting dog is Fred. Back when he wasn’t thirteen, deaf and pigheaded, he could reliably gather all sorts of tricky paddocks, over hills and into scrub without missing anything. I tried to video him once, but made the common novice parenting error of tying a young dog to the pram so I could operate the camera, and when I sent Fred the young dog tried to go too, taking the infant Farmboy with her. The quality of my subsequent filming was understandably poor. Anyway, you’ll just have to trust my description. Fred would start his cast not dissimilarly to Bill- fairly directly from handler’s feet- but he’d run out with his head up, looking and, I’m sure, smelling for sheep. If he suspected some outside the line of his cast, he’d kick out to include them, so his line would end up being something like an inverted pear, but with lots of little bumps. An inverted head of broccoli, perhaps.
Interestingly, Fred started life as a very straight casting dog, just like Bill. And apparently R’s approach to widening him out was… nothing. He worked him on the farm, and Fred figured it out.
I know I could teach Queani to come in on command, but I can’t be bothered, and of course many direct dogs are taught to move out, but Bill doesn’t do training. And with the two of them I have it basically covered.
2) I am far too feeble to lift an average merino ewe onto a quadbike.
And this is a necessary skill for any Novice Farmhand. I need to hit the weights.