Saturday, April 26, 2008

First trial of the season (Part III): Lessons learned

So many :-)
  • Transitions—begin thinking about them earlier. I tended to be so focused on whatever part of the course we were going through that I was not prepared or well-positioned to begin the next phase. I'll need to start thinking ahead a bit earlier.
  • When moving the sheep around the post when starting a drive—and also around the drive panels when starting a cross drive—flank the dog around in the direction the sheep need to go, but then quickly reflank on the other side so sheep think the dog is on both sides. This will help them set a line. On Sunday, I was able to do this with successful results around the post, and now I have to think about doing it after passing through the drive panels, too.
  • Lie both dogs down before changing commands. Taz isn't ready to take redirects on the fly consistently, and Craig has been trained with stops before redirects, so he will respond to such handling better.
  • But be careful not to lie the dog down too long. It's tempting, when things seem to be moving so fast, to take a minute to let everyone settle for a minute, but I have to pay close attention to what the sheep are doing to make sure I don't leave the dog down so long he has to scramble to cover them.
  • Take the draw into account. Throughout the entire course, not just on the outrun ;-) This means thinking about when to simply lie the dog down and wait for the sheep to come back on line themselves instead of always flanking the dog to correct the line. Sometimes I just need to "bump" the sheep.
  • Don’t forget to find landscape feature that is parallel to panels to use as gauge; check it if possible with dogs that run earlier.
  • Be careful redirecting Taz on his early runs; go from a softer tone to louder one. He may have been more likely to hesitate on his subsequent runs after I yelled at him to lie down so strongly during Friday's outrun. No need to bring out the heavy guns the first time.
  • Separate but related: work on my tone of voice—I get much too clipped when I’m tense.
  • Get both dogs solid on (my) whistles asap, especially in case it's windy. Train in all weather conditions so the dogs and I can run a course in any weather we get!
  • Try to introduce ch-ch-ch or shhh sound to excite Taz to move forward. Better late than never.
  • Wait until sheep really settle and set-out dog is way out of the way before sending. It's a fine line between waiting long enough and waiting too long, but maybe watching the dog's and sheep's behavior at the top during the runs before mine will help me decide the best time to send my dogs when I go.
  • Block view of the sheep being exhausted and waiting in the exhaust pen before the run for Taz.
  • Work on this exercise to help Taz focus on the correct set of sheep: Get two or three different groups of sheep on the field or in a pen. Tell him to “Look” to find one set of the sheep. Say “Good” when he does. Then step it up a notch and make sure he is looking at the sheep I am looking at. Say “No, these” when he focuses on the wrong set. Repeat until I'm sure he gets it. Apparently, although it seems to me like this might drive a dog batty, I'm told the dogs seem to like this exercise.
  • When approaching the course, walk to the post in the direction the dog will go for his outrun.
  • Some tricks to work the sheep at the pen to end a stand-off: wave arms, thrust stick in their direction or from side to side, stamp my feet, even kick dirt at them. (Is this only for broke sheep? Would range ewes take off I tried such shenanegans?)
  • Work on my own resiliency when things start to go wrong—no need to panic if something goes wrong. Just do what you can to fix it.
  • Retiring: don’t give up too soon; at my level, the judge will let me know if I need to leave.
  • Regarding Taz's tendency to hesitate and/or slice—there is no quick fix for it. I'll have to work on it in practice before I can expect it not to happen at a trial. This is Taz's biggest obstacle to overcome before he will be at all successful. So I need to get to work fixing it!

No comments: