Sunday, August 10, 2008

Taz is fab with the "get back" exercises; Craig shines in other ways

Friday morning, I went out to Bill's to practice the exercises we learned at Cathy's earlier in the week. It's been a bit cooler this week, and it felt really nice not to be sweltering out there! I spent way too much time getting six of the lambs out where I wanted them without using either dog, just for the education of moving sheep myself. They really don't always move quite the way you'd expect them to...!

I eventually put the sheep in the arena and got Taz out to work first. Would he continue to be as responsive as he had been at Cathy's? Well, in a word, yes. We began with an outrun to pack the sheep tightly into a corner, and then I walked him up to hold them there.

When the sheep had settled down, I told him to get back with a quick wave of my stock stick. He backed out immediately, without flanking on either side, and then checked in to see where I wanted him to stop again.

We did this a few times. He seemed to be doing this correctly each time, with barely any pressure from me. That was great, of course; however, I have always heard that it's not such a good idea for a dog to turn tail on his stock, so I was kind of eager to move on to the next exercise. This next exercise was to have him flank around the stock in the corner without turning in at all. Taz did fine here, too. He moved in on the first attempt, but a gentle "get back" moved him right back off again. I suspect he understands this concept so well because of the earlier work we did with Derek—it's really the same idea. We did some circles around the stock, and he was again correct in his positioning.

Next time, I'll try to send him from my feet to see if he will continue to slice, or if this might really be a tool to help reshape his outrun. At the very least, I am hopeful that he will kick himself out if I tell him to "get back" (how different is this from "get out of it," though?).

Taz's tongue was starting to reach for the ground,
so I got Craig out. And I tried the same exercises with him, but frankly it wasn't happening. He would bring them to me fine, lie down,

walk up, and move off them when I asked him to get out, but he always wanted to flank one way or the other while moving off them. Even as Robin was typing out her advice to my last post, I realized it was counterproductive to try to argue with Craig about this. He wasn't going to do this easily, and I really don't want to fight with him. I want to try to work more in harmony with Craig, not less, and if that means not insisting on a technique that could prove helpful in the long run, so be it. I can better spend my time with Craig by focusing on improving my timing.

This means watching the sheep more! I spent the remainder of our time having him drive the sheep around the arena, but paying close attention to how the sheep reacted to his presence and where the sheep were looking when I placed him to change their direction or simply move forward.

When we were ready to go, he helped me put them away, which he loves to do. Craig is happy when he is doing a job he knows, and he knows he is doing it well.

Tomorrow morning we'll go out to Cathy's again to see what the next step is for Taz and perhaps see if she can give me some tips for improving my timing with Craig.

PS: One of Bill's dogs needed surgery for the removal of a foxtail a couple of weeks ago; after I heard this I decided we won't be training in the field at all anymore. I'm just too skeered to take the chance!


Samantha said...

Great pic's Laura, i love seeing working photos of your two. :-)

lol at looong tongue Taz!

That is pretty scary about that foxtail. I hope the dog is okay now.

Laura said...

Thanks Samantha! The pics are taken with a phone camera because that's really all I can manage while I'm out there with them, so I know the quality is not that great. Still nice to be able to show what they're doing a little, though.

And the dog is okay now--she was lucky--it is so scary (and expensive). Thanks for asking after her.

Samantha said...

That is good news. It would have scared me too.

Those pic's were really good for a camera phone. They came out well.