Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sadness and distraction

I did go out to work my dogs this morning, but I was very distracted. A friend of mine received some very bad news yesterday, and it is weighing heavily on my mind right now. My attention span and organizational skills are a bit lacking right now, so our work session wasn't as productive as it might have been.

I worked Taz first. His outrun looked great--there seem to be few residual issues from last week, when he began hesitating and running very uncertainly when I sent him after I (perhaps unfairly) corrected him quite harshly. Last week, I sent him on an outrun where the sheep were sort of near the back fence of the pasture (not sure what I was thinking, except I guess that I wasn't). He ran nice and fast and checked in with the sheep and cast out to adjust his trajectory--all beautifully. But he started to come in just a teeny bit flat, so I told him to lie him down. I wish I'd realized he was probably that little bit flat because the fence was right there, but I didn't. He didn't want to take it, so I stopped everything and went up to him and generally made a big deal about how he needs to lie down when I ask him to. While I understand that it is important to enforce my commands these days, I think I overdid it a tad. He was very cautious the rest of that session, and I fretted that I had caused a big setback. Well, I needn't have worried. He was very eager and raring to go today, as usual, but he listened to me even better. I think it's all part of the process where he is sizing me up anew and finding that it is in his best interest to do what I ask him to do. I couldn't be happier about this.

We also did some walking around the pasture. I stopped him whenever he started moving quicker than the sheep, and he took the lie down immediately every time, and eventually slowed his pace to fall in behind the sheep and not require me to lie him down as much. Excellent. So I tried driving a bit, and it went okay, but this particular field is not very big and the draw is very strong, even for the lambs we were working. Taz really struggled with giving up the side he was holding them on. We eventually ran out of field and the lambs would want to run back home. Taz wasn't immediately taking his inside flanks and he was much too close to them, so we'll have to concentrate a bit more on that in future sessions.

My session with Craig went pretty well for the most part. I did work on driving with him, trying to keep him well behind the lambs and not ever go past their shoulders. I also worked on trying to anticipate the effect of his flank on the stock and be prepared to lie him down right away. He took most of the stops, but I was a little late with some of them. More work is needed here, too. I tried to work on turning around the (imaginary) post, but we weren't successful at all in getting the sheep to pivot around me in a V direction. I couldn't get them to not turn back in the direction they came, and then I got a little mixed up about whether I was allowing Craig to cross the course. (Unless it's with an outrun, I'm never really sure when the dog is in danger of crossing.) So I definitely need to practice that more, but I think maybe after another lesson, because I don't have the mechanics quite set in my head yet. Finally, we worked on whistles. This is the first time I've worked Craig on whistles anywhere but Bill's. He responded really well! It took a minute for him to realize what we were doing, I think, but he consistently took the come bye and stop and took aways with encouragement. I was all out of breath (for reasons unknown, I guess just being a little nervous using the whistle in a new environment), and many of the sounds coming from the whistle were way off, so I think Craig did terrific, considering what he had to work with. I know I need to get my whistles more solid before expecting him to take them consistently--so that is one more thing to work on.

So, mostly I'm left feeling like I have a lot to work on. Perhaps things might have gone a little better if I wasn't so distracted and sad.

Godspeed little Maddie!