Each year, the new lamb crop has to learn some things. Not to dive through the Electronet. How to flip up the lid of the mineral feeder. Where all the gates lie, the routine of opening up the hotwire to a new graze, and how we move from place to place in orderly fashion. That people are generally good, and that hoof trimming only lasts a minute and is not a big deal. That the guardian dogs pose no threat and should be ignored. And that the border collies should be respected and obeyed.

This last one, I swear, each individual lamb has to test out for him- or herself just once.

I’ll be moving the group of sheep, and one lamb will get the idea, this is dumb everybody, I’m not going there, I’m going to make a run for it in the opposite direction, I’ll just go real fast and outrun that stupid dawg. And Maggie will fling off in hot pursuit. There is no way in heck the fastest sheep in the world could outrun Maggie, even with a good head start. I don’t say a word, I just let her catch up and set them straight with a good, old fashioned cow dog face grip. The kind that would get me promptly “thanked” off of any trial field. Winking smile

Because one bloody nose now means a thousand times later, that sheep will make a better decision, to just do what the dog says. I can see the learning, after this lamb returns to the group, it’ll be real flinch-ey about that dawg for the next few minutes as it bleeds all over the backs of the other sheep. And even days later, I can see the ones with a freshly healing scab on the cheek, maybe getting a little wild-eyed, considering splitting and running again, for just a moment, and then eyeballing that collie and thinking better of it. Mmmm hmmm, wise choice, grasshopper.

By the end of the summer, these incidents are rare, and the group flows briskly and neatly in a tight group wherever I need to move them. And there is no more questioning whether that dawg needs to be respected. Just in time for flood season, when I would not be amused to have sheep running amok when it’s time to evacuate uphill.

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