So I've been considering sending Taz out to sheep camp to finally fix his outrun. As I've moaned about for flippin' ever, Taz's main problem is that he slices his flanks terribly and then overflanks at the top. I just can't seem to consistently widen him out at the top. I honestly think he doesn't fully realize that he is supposed to be wider and squarer than he currently runs. One reason for this is his on-again-off-again habit of hesitating on his outrun, making me a bit reluctant to correct him once he does get going. I don't think he is hesitating because he has too much eye—I think it's a confidence thing. But not a lack of confidence with the sheep—a lack of confidence in what he thinks I want him to actually do. I am not very clear or consistent when correcting his outrun (plus my timing isn't so hot), and I've lied him down too often—now I think he just anticipates being lied down so he often doesn't want to commit to going.
Taz is 4 now and I'm afraid the window for his learning to do this is beginning to close. I mean, he still learns very well, but he has some ingrained habits now and I'd like to fix them before they become something I'll just have to live with. I know he's got a lot of talent, and though I understand he'll never really live up to his potential with me, I'd like to get him a bit further than I fear I would if I don't get past these outrun issues. I have been told that it would be really difficult for me to get him to progress very much because I just can't work him often enough without having my own sheep. Working once or twice a week just isn't enough, for either of us. For others more capable, I'm sure it's possible, but not for me. I am, clearly, not a natural (rats!).
It's not like Taz would come back as a trained dog, of course. I'd just hope for his outrun to consistently get a bit wider at the top. I want him to build some muscle memory of what it feels like to do a correct outrun—to flank wider and come in a bit slower at the top. I'd like to replace his habit of running tight and fast with one of staying off his sheep a bit and allowing himself to feel them a bit more there. He has such a nice feel for his sheep when he is relaxed, but I have such a hard time getting him to that state (see my previous post...). I know I need to be able to run him more relaxed in order to achieve this—I need more training, too—and I am going to work on relaxing with my handling, too. I do think correct outwork depends a little less on handler instruction, so, again, I would just like for Taz to begin to replace the poor habits he learned with me with better ones. I want to get past his outrun problems so we can concentrate on driving, penning, shedding, and all the other fun stuff we work on here and there but never for very long because I know he needs to learn a proper outrun before we can move on. And I know how much the outrun and lift affect the sheep for the rest of a run. Of course, if I had my own sheep, and we had actual chores to do, his outrun issues might be resolved on the job, or maybe they wouldn't matter as much. But the fact is that I don't have sheep right now, and so Taz is always going to be more of a trial dog than a more all-around dog as a result...
This would be a big transition for Taz (which is a big reason I haven't considered sending him out before). He's very much a house dog, and I'll go ahead and admit that he is kind of spoiled. But he adapts well, gets along with other dogs well, and he has a great work ethic, so I think he'd be okay. Actually, I think he might love some time in training—getting to work every day with someone who really knows what they're doing.
Perhaps the real question is, how would I do without my little buddy for a couple of months?
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