Scott called me tonight with a report on Taz's progress in the field. Hooray!
It has been particularly cold and snowy in Alberta for the past few weeks, and this has hampered Scott's work with all the dogs a little. He is still able to work them nearly every day, but I think he's having to wait for a little of the snow to melt before doing everything he wants to do with the dogs in training.
The first thing Scott told me is that he likes Taz—he thinks he's a nice dog; nice to be around and nice to work. He likes how Taz rates his sheep; he is powerful but doesn't come on too strong, and he doesn't have too much or not enough eye. He also said he "doesn't have a dishonest bone in his body," and he agrees with my earlier assessment that Taz was mainly just confused about what was expected of him. He hesitated a couple of times with Scott right at the very beginning of his stay there, but he hasn't done it at all since. His outruns are "nice and deep" now with Scott, though the snow has prevented Scott from working with Taz to lengthen his outrun very much, and Scott is now working on shaping Taz's flanks a bit more. This is exciting, but I am not surprised—Taz's outruns looked terrific after the last clinic I went to with Scott. Sadly, it didn't last very long then, but Scott said that is the difference between working with a dog for a couple of days at a clinic and working him every day for a few months. He now has the opportunity to truly make sure Taz understands the correct shape of his flanks so that he does it right most of the time because he understands what he should be doing, rather than because he is intimidated by an unfamiliar clinician—and also if Taz does slice his flanks, he will understand what he is doing wrong when I correct him and will know what he should be doing to make it right.
Scott said Taz sometimes will start an outrun out okay, but then take a few steps forward before widening back out. Scott wants to make sure Taz starts correctly and remains correct all the time. However, he also said that Taz is really not wrong very often—in fact, he is going to have to work on setting Taz up to be wrong so that he can make it very clear to Taz what he is supposed to be doing. The deep snow has prevented Scott from sending Taz without first setting him up properly so he can see what he'll do then—will Taz still run wide and deep, or will he get nervous and try to rush things? Sending Taz on the fly will give Scott the opportunity to see how well Taz understands what he should be doing, and Scott will have more opportunity to correct him for anything less than perfect flanks. In addition, Scott will spend next month putting Taz on whistles.
And that's about it for now. All in all, a pretty good report :)
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