Friday, July 25, 2008

I did not yell at all during practice today...

...because both dogs were responsive and trying so hard for me!

I couldn't wait to get back to Bill's for more practice in the field, but my truck has been in the shop for the past few days (a cyclist crashed into it while it was parked in front of my house, if you can believe that), but I was able to pick my freshly painted truck up on Wednesday evening. So on Thursday morning, bright and early, I headed over to Bill's and we took five lambs down to the west end of the field. Actually, I kept Taz on a leash while I had Craig move them through each of the three sets of panels Bill has set up as a course on the east side of the field, and Craig did really well (we missed the last set by just a hair, but that was more a misjudgment on my part than anything). He moved them carefully and listened to what I asked him to do.

When we got down to the other end of the field, I tied Taz up and sent Craig on an outrun to begin our practice run. Last time we were out here, Craig did well but didn't want to take a come bye command to turn the sheep back toward me for the third leg of the drive. I decided today that we'd do the same "course" as we did last time, but this time in reverse, to see if the problem was the final turn or perhaps the draw, which does have a weird effect sometimes (it was in that same spot that Taz refused to take a come bye command a few months ago, shocking me because he had never before just let his sheep get away without going after them).

Craig did pretty well! He did not refuse any of my commands this time—he listened to what I told him to do and to my whistles. Our lines were not terrible (though one of the cross drives was pretty bowed; I need to be better about finding landmarks to help me keep track of where we should be), and we were generally able to get back on track when we were off. He had no problems turning the sheep back toward me whatsoever, so I do think the issue last time was the odd pressure of the draw in that spot on the field. That's not good either, but at least it's not a general problem with his driving. After a few fairly successful goes running the course counterclockwise, I decided to try it clockwise again. He did pretty well, but overflanked on a bye at one point on the crossdrive to begin bringing the lambs back to me a bit early. Rather than correct the line, I decided to let him bring them back, so we'd end the day being successful with the come bye turn heading them back to me. Two of the five lambs kept going off in different directions (from the other three and the other one also leaving the group, so often there were three little groups). So it was not the easiest group to handle, but overall I think he did great! I love working with Craig when he actually listens to me—it's just so much more fun to work with him when we are in sync!

With Taz, I decided to work on a few outruns to begin, since he'd been a bit tight and slicy last time out. Well, unfortunately, he was still kind of tight and slicy on this day as well. I tried to do a few Derek-style circles to widen him out, and he did get a little wider, but he continued to come in kind of flat at the top. Not enough to really upset the sheep terribly, but he did overflank as a result. I think it's been a while since I've read over my notes from the clinic and looked at Derek's training book and watched his DVD, because I didn't have a lot of success fixing Taz's outrun with this circle practice. It is so fine a line between doing this exercise correctly and counterproductively chasing him around that I am sure I was not doing it right. I clearly need to go over Derek's material again. I thought about calling him in to me when he sliced, the way Robin Q. suggested after her positive experience doing this with her tight-and-slicy boy Hamish, but decided against it for now, since we just started driving again and I didn't want to mess up his nice form there—and also, Taz isn't hesitating anymore, and I really don't want to risk starting that again. (I so need a trainer who can help me sort through all this—sigh!)

Anyway, since I wasn't sure how exactly to proceed here, and Taz was starting to get anxious about the circles (and I was, too, when it became clear the exercise wasn't working very effectively), I decided to stop the outrun stuff there. Instead, I had him drive the lambs a bit. He gladly switched gears and I swear I saw the stress melt off him! I let him bring them wherever he wanted to at first (which was pretty much a straight line ahead), and then began asking for inside flanks here and there. He often did not need a "here" calling him in before taking an inside flank, and a couple of times I had to give him a big, singsongy "Come bye!" but he never refused to go :-) and can now stop at 9:00/3:00 and transition to a cross drive. Usually, though, I let him go all the way around. Next time, we'll work more on off-balance stops. We only worked at very tiny distances today, but I sent him around a little "course" and he did it! I think he really enjoys driving so much more than outwork, and he feels his sheep so much better. I also noticed that after working on driving for a bit, when I sent him on outruns he was much further off the sheep and didn't slice much. I think he was carrying his feel for the sheep over to the outwork. Maybe I should start with driving for a while next time and then do some outruns? I want to direct his natural feel for sheep to the outwork, so I think it can't hurt to try things that way and maybe it will carry over a little more. Something to think more about anyway...

Unfortunately, I have another freelance project deadline coming up, so I won't be able to practice much in the next week. This especially kind of stinks because next weekend Craig is entered in Dan Keeton's trial, but we'll just do our best and gain some more experience and have a good time continuing to learn. We were pretty good team today, so I think it'll be fine :-)


Samantha said...

Good luck for next weeks trial with Craig.

Sounds like you had a really great day with both of them. :-)

Laura said...

Thanks Sam--it was a good day! I hope to get out at least once more before the weekend, and then it's off to the mountains!

Rafe said...

Yep, moving to driving was a good idea. I got to pen a few times last Work, just to feel confident after some Stress.

Stay Cool,