Monday, November 12, 2007

Some general exercises

One of the trainers I work with has suggested I do the some exercises while working with my dogs by myself. For Taz, I'm working on sharpening his skills; for Craig, I'm working on sharpening my timing. Taz has already been doing many of the things these exercises consist of, but we're now guiding him to consistently work correctly. Here are some exercises for Taz:
  • Walk the sheep around the pasture. Lie Taz down every time he picks up the pace to go faster than the sheep are moving. "Acht!" at him every time he wants to go past their shoulders.
  • Work him in a tiny, tiny pen. He should square his flanks every time he moves when I ask for a come bye or an away. This means his shoulders move only sideways, never forward at all. He should be moving along the edge of the fencing. He should be taking each command, even if it's an inside flank. Graduate to the same level of response from him when I'm outside the pen and he and the sheep are inside.
  • Spend some time driving with him, but don't worry about distance at all just yet. Walk with him and ask for inside flanks and stops to control the sheep. Stay within 25 yards or so for now.
  • For me to remember, when I am thinking about which way to send him to get sheep out of a pen, remember to ask him to go on the side he won't cross me on. I should never ask him to cross when fetching them, only when driving them.
Craig already knows how to do these things. So, we should work on improving my timing when I ask him to do something. For Craig, I work on making sure he listens to me by asking him to do things that won't ultimately frustrate him. Here are some exercises for Craig:
  • Keep a distance of no longer than 75 yards between us when asking him to drive. That's the point at which he begins to blow me off (or maybe stops hearing me).
  • Do not let him get past the shoulders of the sheep. This requires understanding the draw and allowing him to work where he needs to to maintain a line but not go past it.
  • When I need him to "bump" the sheep back on line, give him a flank and then be ready to anticipate lying him down--sometimes, this means stopping him almost immediately after giving him the flank.
  • When guiding the dog and sheep around the post, pivot around the post with the sheep to give them somewhere to go. Craig is turning them back toward the direction they came from because I'm flanking him too far over and the sheep can see him. I need to stop him about a step earlier.
  • Practice whistles with him in the arena for five minutes or so.
  • Let him do some outruns to blow off steam; he loves doing outruns :-)
It's nice to actually have a plan when I go out there and not feel like I'm doing the same old drills. I like being able to mix it up and just build on the things we're learning in lessons. I can't wait to go out tomorrow and practice some of these exercises!