Friday, June 13, 2008

Another training session at Bill's...

I am way late updating this, and now after reading some of the comments from my last post it really feels outdated, but I'll write the update on the session from Tuesday morning. I went to Bill's again, and I started the session in the arena with Craig, just driving all of the sheep along the fence line. We did okay, I guess, but it was a bit uninspired. After a few rounds of this, Bill came out and recommended we go down to the other end of the pasture. So, we moved the sheep down the field (Craig actually did this pretty well, needing minimal direction from me) and, once there, put them in the pen and let five or six back out. This actually went really well—Craig does best when he knows the job at hand and can get on with it. I did a pretty long drive away with him, toward the biggish target area of "straight ahead" (as opposed to panels) because I think some of the issue with Craig tuning me out might have to do with feeling too much pressure from me and the heavy sheep. So I made it a bit easier and the sheep were definitely a bit lighter over on this end of the field. Craig was able to drive them way out—maybe 75 yards (which, for me, is pretty far). We couldn't quite get a cross drive going, but I didn't mind. It was pretty far out, so I called him back and, since he looked really hot already, put him up.

By now Larry and Bill had joined me, and Larry offered to set again for Taz and me with his Mirk dog. Taz did okay. He went around Larry just fine, but he seemed a bit tight to me. When I discussed it later with Elaine, she asked me if the sheep had moved at all during his outrun. I reported that they hadn't. "Then he wasn't too tight," she replied. Interesting. I have to get the picture of what I think is a perfect outrun shape out of my mind when I'm working the dogs and start to pay attention to what the sheep are doing and what else is going on to affect the shape of the outrun.

Also, when I sent him on the away side, toward the pressure, he stopped at about 10:00 and started walking in on the sheep. I commanded him around to 12:00, which he took, and then he bobbled the sheep a little bit before bringing them to me. After the second time this happened, Larry told me Taz was actually correct where he was turning in. He told me that Taz was stopping there because that's where he felt balance was, and if Taz lifted from that position, he wouldn't bobble the sheep at the top—he'd lift them straight and clean. I was surprised. I mean, I know dogs don't necessarily have to lift the sheep at 12:00, but this seemed really short. Hmm. Larry said I wasn't necessarily wrong to command him around to 12:00, if that's the way I wanted to run him, and many judges really like that 12:00 lift, but I risk Taz losing some of his natural feel for sheep if I do that. Since Taz is quite a natural dog and I barely know what I'm doing, I obviously don't want to overcommand him in this way, at least at this stage of our training. And sure enough, the next time I tested it and Taz was dead on, lifting the sheep in a perfect straight line to me.

Taz did have some trouble moving the sheep off me when we turned them around the imaginary post to push them forward for Mirk to pick them up again. The sheep kept trying to bend around him to get back to the pen, but he was really helping them by overflanking when trying to push them forward. We haven't really done barely any driving in the past few months, and he wasn't easily taking the flanks in the first place, and then when he did take the flanks, he went too far and turned the sheep back to me. Switching tactics, I'd get him going forward and when I thought he'd start sneaking up one side or the other, I lied him down. After a bit, Larry came over to help me, noting that I was lying him down too much and causing some of the problems. He though Taz was correcting for the sheep bending himself, and my lying him down was hampering him. Sure enough, when I tested this out, Taz was often able to make the minor adjustments necessary to move the sheep forward on his own. Larry wanted to work on his inside flanks with me a bit as well, and so we did, using the familiar "here here" method to call him in before sending him around. He did okay, but I suspected he was starting to get a little overwhelmed, so I asked Larry if we could do a couple more longer outruns again before we called it a day.

Bill joined us and between Bill, Blue, Larry, and Mirk, there was a lot of commotion at the top. Taz, who had been hesitating a little all morning, actually turned away from the "course" altogether and went back to the pen holding the rest of the sheep. I sort of knew he was struggling when I told him to lie down before sending him and he turned his head completely away from me. Then, as soon as I said "away," he ran back to the pen. He did come back as soon as I called him, but he was definitely feeling a bit too much pressure. I walked closer to the sheep and resent him, and he took the flank this time. I was definitely ready to quit then, but Bill and Larry wanted me to do a couple more, so we'd end on a good note. The first one after that, he was too tight, moving between the 4-wheeler Bill was on and the sheep, but the second one was really nice—he was wide, picked up the sheep nicely, and fetched them straight to me. The perfect way to finally end the session. Poor Taz was very hot and a little fried, I think, and he drank for a loooooong time after that. So I think we did work too long and do too much, but it all ended pretty well.

I guess we'll see what happens at the trial on Saturday...

PS: I made Taz wear his t-shirt again, and it did help protect him from the spear grass...but he picked up all these foxtails instead:
It's gonna be a looooong summer!

1 comment:

Samantha said...

Good luck with the trial.

Those Foxtails and Speargrass must be a nightmare to get out. There seems so many of them.

Hope Craig is doing okay.