UKC P420-830 DOB: 9/5/04
Hips: OFA Good ESP-185G48F-NOPI
Photograph used with permission of Bill Woods.
Update 3/7/12: Haylie has had a minor medical issue, and for our family, preserving her health and vitality through her remaining years is of primary importance. With this in mind, although Haylie could likely carry another pregnancy without trouble, we have decided after much thought to avoid all risk and have her spayed.
Having goats, a horse, cattle, and free-range chickens, ducks, and turkeys, I began to think a canine farm hand would be a wonderful asset. My Standard Poodles didnít quite have what it takes, so I started looking for a good, all-around farm dog. I wanted a dog that would provide some predator protection, rodent control, and herding help, as well as being a sensible house dog. I also wanted a dog that could be trusted to be outside with the animals without supervision. After doing a lot of research, I decided an English Shepherd would fit the bill nicely.
Haylie came here in 2004 from Judy Hughes at Z-Best Farm in Texas. She is the product of old working lines, with Butcher and Merz dogs forming the backbone of her pedigree. Soon after Haylie arrived, in true English Shepherd fashion, she set to work trying to help me with whatever I was doing. At nine months old, she was sweet and kind, gentle enough to gather chicks, feisty enough to drive a protective, barking sow away from her piglet-stealing owners, and fast enough to take out a marauding raccoon, sustaining only a small scratch herself. Haylie is always on the job, always concerned that she is doing the right thing. Sweet and sensitive, she is a best friend and helper. She is a joy to work with and a delightful addition to our household. Still, she can sometimes be a bit too courteous with the female goats, so in 2006 I decided to get her some backup.
Iíve had the good fortune to do temperament testing on three litters of English Shepherd puppies from Woods' English Shepherds. These pups were from Beebe and Wild Oats dogs, both well respected working lines. I evaluated one litter in June of 2006, shortly after Iíd decided to get another English Shepherd, and there was one male puppy who stood out from the rest, demonstrating all of the characteristics I was seeking. This puppy was bold, laid back, personable, tenacious, resilient and demonstrated a strong desire to work with people. Bill was kind enough to allow me the unusual privilege of purchasing the puppy of my choice, and at eight weeks of age, Tanner came to live with us. Since the day he arrived, this boy has been pure sunshine. He is cheerful and loving, and completely devoted to me. He is a very enthusiastic worker, providing that extra push with the more challenging animals when Haylie can be a bit too polite.
While Haylie is more adept at work requiring finesse, like retrieving loose rabbits, and Tanner is better at pushing more resistant stock, like rams and buck goats, both of these dogs are quintessential English Shepherds, displaying talent at moving a variety of animals, providing predator protection, and hunting vermin. The puppies they have produced have shown working talent, and a nice blending of Tanner's strength and Haylie's finesse.
English Shepherds, including my dogs, share a trait that is unusual among canines - once they have decided that their owner is their friend, they will watch him, trying to figure out what he is doing and how they can help out. It is important to keep this in mind when raising a pup. The new owner will need to cultivate that bond between himself and the pup if he is to benefit from the English Shepherd's desire to help out a friend. This is why English Shepherds are best kept in the house, where they can be at your side, instead of outside in a kennel or barn. They do not work for the work's sake, like a hunting dog or a border collie. They work to be of assistance to their friend . As a result, they are safe around livestock, waiting until you or they see a need before going into action. Inside the house, these dogs are excellent companions, always nearby, watching, enthusiastically cuddly when invited, but not needy. When properly socialized, they are friendly with guests, but will not allow unaccompanied strangers on the property.
Once your English Shepherd has figured out a task or routine, he will jump in and help out whenever he sees an opportunity to do so. There are numerous stories about stock escaping through a gate accidentally left open, only to have the English Shepherd, on his own initiative, go and retrieve the stock, putting it back into the correct paddock or pasture and keeping it there. The dog has figured out how things are supposed to be, and is seeing to it that everything is kept in order. Having a goat who is adept at unlatching a gate if it is not double-latched, I have experienced this with my own dogs on several occasions. My dogs also do not approve of fighting among the livestock. If animals are tussling, for whatever reason, the dogs will break it up, separating the animals without hurting them. (Interestingly, the dogs also seem to see breeding as tussling, which can be amusing.)
When the dogs are outside, they patrol the property, strongly "discouraging" mammalian trespassers ranging from coyotes to rats, and keeping the ground clear of avian guests from crows to hawks and eagles. When they're inside, the dogs can detect interlopers hundreds of feet away from the house. One evening well after dark, my dogs set up an alarm. I let them out, and they ran about 150 feet away and dispatched an oppossum that had come onto our property. There was no poultry or livestock near the oppossum, so I have no idea how they knew he was there. Frankly, I prefer them to educate predators rather than kill them, but I'm not always successful at arranging for the predator to get away alive. Still, I do not have predator proof poultry housing, and I haven't lost a bird to predators in several years.
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