Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Practicing and refining this way of control

Yesterday was an amazing day in Colorado—warm, sunny, and bright. I headed up to Bill's after work with the dogs, ready to work on control in the arena. Taz was up first. (I always try to work Taz before Craig, because he is so much faster than Craig. If I work Craig first, I get used to his more controlled pace, and then feel completely unprepared for Taz's speedy pace.) We just did lots of mini outruns, lying down at the top and off balance. He did great, listening well to my soft commands.

What a good boy!

However, I noticed he is still a bit reluctant to take the come bye flank. And when he does take it, he's pretty tight. He was pretty much running along the fenceline for the away side and coming in slowly around the sheep (who were plastered at the top) on the away side, but he was barely bending out on the bye side and hooking around the sheep (who saw him coming and started moving away from him) on the bye side. Was this partly due to the pressure of the draw? Not sure...I also did a tiny bit of driving, and I noticed he is a little more reluctant to take my softer commands when driving. Of course, I also slip back into nervous spouting mode when things happen quickly, as they do on the drive, so that's probably part of it. I think practicing short drives and concentrating on staying soft in tone will help both of us.

Craig was up next. Hmm. Things did not go as well here. He didn't listen to the soft commands so well. And by "so well," I mean "at all." I'd tell him to lie down, he'd appear to not even hear me, I'd walk up to him through the sheep and he turned his head away but didn't lie down. So, I'd repeat it. And then he would lie down. So I'd try again: send him, softly tell him to lie down when he reached balance, see no change from him, walk up to him, and have to tell him again. We weren't getting to the point where he'd lie down the first time I asked, and walking up to him never got him to lie down without me asking for it again. I tried not saying it a second time and just blocking him, but he didn't seem to understand what I was doing. Maybe I was doing it wrong. It certainly wasn't working with Craig the way it did with Taz.

Why won't he lie down?

Bill came out about this time and watched us for a bit. He told me I didn't sound very sure of myself. I explained what I was trying to accomplish, and he noted that I could speak in a softer tone while remaining firm in intent. Hmm, good point. I tried again with Craig, this time speaking with a bit more conviction, and he began listening much better. Much, much better actually. I could now stop him on a dime both on balance and off. I think this is one of the ways I'll have to handle Craig and Taz differently. Taz really seems to do much better with softer handling, but Craig is used to being told what to do in more of a no-nonsense way. So I need to be a little stronger with Craig, but I can still handle him without yelling. Excellent. More practice is needed, but I think we're moving in the right direction!

There, that's better!


Julia & Brad said...


Laura said...

I bet Onya would like to work again, too ;-)

Bill lives only 15 minutes from you--just pack up the baby and come on down!