Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Amazing weekend in the mountains!

Last weekend, I packed up all three of my dogs for a weekend of house, dog, and sheep sitting for a friend. She's got six sheep in her little pen, and she usually works them on the lower edge of her vertical property, which she's carefully cleared of sagebrush and scrub. I was very excited about working new sheep in an unfamiliar (to my dogs) area. I was also a little nervous about having no backup in case anything went wrong, since this cleared area abutted the road without any fences. Control would be very important, and this is something I sometimes don't have as much of as I'd like with Mr. Taz.

I worked Craig first, since I definitely had more control over him and he was more predictable in his actions. We let four sheep out of the pen, and they immediately took off in every direction. Yikes! I sent Craig and he gathered them immediately and all of them took off at run down the drive toward the clearing (and the road). I lied Craig down and held my breath. And the sheep stopped! I exhaled with relief, and Craig drove them nicely down to the clearing. Phew! These were good sheep :)

Craig and I did a bunch of driving and a few outruns. I continued working on making sure he was taking shorter flanks. We did pretty well, and I relaxed a bunch. Craig was enjoying working in a new place, I think, and he was pretty tuned in to me and responsive. The sheep went where he put them, and the draw was back up to their pen, not the road. We worked once a day all three days we were there, and, as usual with Craig, he worked better the more we worked.

I hoped I'd have as good an experience with Taz. The last (and only other) time I worked Taz here, we lost the sheep in the woods by the house and had a heck of a time getting them back. That was a while ago, though, and I knew Taz has come a long way since then. And I was right!

On Friday, the first time I worked him, Taz listened to me well as we brought the sheep back down the drive, but he was going pretty fast. I took the cap I was wearing and slapped it against my thigh as I told him to take his time. Taz's pace is usually fast, and I've never had much luck consistently slowing him down. This worked like a charm, though. He looked at me in surprise and checked himself. He slowed himself down a bunch, and for the rest of the weekend, any time I said "time," he slowed his pace! Amazing!

That was not the only amazing thing Taz did. He was like the best version of himself this weekend—he did everything well. His outruns were wide and relaxed, his slicing was greatly reduced, he was picking up sheep in the woods with no direction from me and bringing them back to my feet, his driving was straight and sure, he was taking inside flanks, and he was stopping on a dime. (Well, not on a dime, exactly, but fairly quickly.) He did not hesitate at all. I never got at all frustrated with him—he was working so well, the emotion I was feeling was closer to elation—and both of us were relaxed and having fun.

I kind of can't believe it. Maybe it's the sheep, maybe it's the unfamiliar setup (so no history of either of us working poorly here), maybe it's that he is finally starting to put everything together? I so hope it is that he is really putting things together, but I don't want to get my hopes up too much there. I know it is usually one step forward, two steps back. He is still not quite ready for a pro-novice course, as his outruns are still fairly short and he can't really cross drive yet. But this weekend definitely gave me a huge confidence boost, and reminded me why I like to spend so much time in the middle of remote fields with my dogs surrounded by sheep :)


Allie Oop said...

Sounds like a good experience all around. Congratulations!

Laura said...

Thanks! We had a blast--it's so much fun when everything comes together like that!

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

What a cool weekend you all had Laura. Both Craig and Taz did fantastic by the sounds of it. You must be really proud of them. :-)

Laura said...

Thanks Sam! I am proud, and I'm excited about what will come next :)