Saturday, July 19, 2008

More fun with arena driving

Taz drives the sheep along the fence line.

I took the dogs to Bill's this afternoon for another quick arena session. To mix things up with Craig again, I put a bunch of twine on one end of the arena and another bunch on the other. Then I had him move the sheep in figure 8 patterns. He did not understand what we were doing at first, and I got a couple of double takes from him, as if he were asking "Are you sure you want me to come bye? You just asked me for an away!" I did abandon the whistle for this exercise, though—I had a hard enough time convincing him that I really meant something when I was saying it! But I was insistent, and (after a frustrated grip or two) he began to trust me and we worked together to bring them in neat little patterns. I let him do a few outruns after a bit to relieve the pressure, and we stopped after about 20 minutes.

For Taz, I wanted to pick up where we left off last week with his inside flanks. I started again with some outruns, and he did fine. Then I decided to let him just drive the sheep around the arena for a little while, not really caring where he went. I did the fenceline exercise, and actually he did really well. I didn't even have to say here first when I asked for an inside flank or two. He seemed to understand the purpose, which is a major key for Taz—if he understands the point of whatever we're doing, he really doesn't even seem to need that much input from me. Unfortunately, because I don't have my own sheep, nearly everything we do is manufactured with no real purpose other than imitating trial work—I'll have to try to make up some exercises that mimic real work a little more, I think.

One thing I did notice with Taz, though, is that his lie down is disappearing. I find myself repeating this command over and over to him. I didn't want to tense him up while we were working on driving and inside flanks, but I was getting a bit aggravated that he wasn't lying down very quickly. Even when I took a step toward him, he didn't seem to make the connection to lie down. It's almost like he was trying so hard to work out the nuances of driving the sheep (and, like I said, he was doing really well with that) that he didn't have any brain power left to process my commands to lie down. I mean, I know that's ridiculous, and many would say he's just blowing me off, but I don't know. He didn't seem to be willfully disobeying me because he had other ideas, as Craig sometimes does; instead it was like he didn't even hear me tell him to lie down. I guess as he gets more comfortable driving, I'll start to insist on him lying down more and more, but I didn't really want to shut him down much now, so I let him go a bit. I hope this was the right thing to do...!

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