Sunday, November 02, 2008

More progress!

On Saturday, I continued to learn how to compensate for Craig's reaction to pressure when driving. I used to get very frustrated driving with Craig because he seemed to always overflank, moving too far up the sides to the heads, resulting in a lot of back and forth and not a lot of forward motion. Yesterday, I concentrated on flanking him and then stopping him right at the point that the sheep turned their heads and then letting them drift back on line. It worked like a dream. But today we worked a few yearlings in the big alfalfa field, and the alfalfa was green and apparently delicious—making the sheep very, very heavy. My strategy to drive the sheep with Craig did not work at all, because the sheep did not drift very much once Craig stopped them. That meant he had to lift them over and over again, bringing them on and off line over and over again. He was guarding the pressure and unwinding when flanked, only to swing back to the pressure side as quickly as he could, overcompensating by overflanking in the process. Today, with the help of Elaine, I was able to keep him moving these heavy sheep forward on a line by flanking him to cover the pressure side, lying him down, which did usually result in the sheep turning back to the other side, then flanking him to the other side but then telling him "there," which caused him to stop and walk in on the sheep, pushing them forward several steps before they began to drift to the pressure side again, at which time I'd repeat the process. I know it probably sounds very elementary and simple, but it was a huge breakthrough for us! The key to this strategy is to always keep the sheep moving, but in a controlled manner. Another little tidbit from Elaine, which I'd never really thought about before: after lying Craig down, make sure I walk him up before the sheep start to graze. This is so obvious that is embarrassing that I didn't know to do this, but I had been keeping Craig down as long as possible in an effort to let the sheep drift as long as possible when they were moving in the correct direction. But of course this meant he had to keep relifting them. Moving him just before they put their heads down eliminates that and increases the flow. I did really well after I figured this all out :)))

Taz and I had a good day, too. I think I am finally beginning to see a pattern to his hesitating, and I need to move a little slower with him on driving, walking a little bit with him, far away, but moving just inside his field of vision when necessary. He was driving and cross driving nicely today, and I realized he does everything (inside flanks and outside flanks) very well when he's within, oh, 200 feet from me (maybe 100 feet—I am terrible at judging distances), but he hesitates on his flanks and he looks back at me when he's further than that. So I need to take things a little slower driving with him (by staying closer in for now and walking with him). Elaine also said that if he ever tries to come all the way back to me when I ask for an inside flank (he did this only once today), I should walk into him and lie him down immediately, and once he lies down release my pressure and ask him to walk up on the sheep. He did not hesitate on his outruns today, but we worked close in today. I really think his hesitation might just be distance related there, too (but the distance here is between dog and sheep). So I maybe just need to think about extending his outrun more gradually.

I'm going out again on Sunday. It's rare that I get to work my dogs so often—and, boy, does it make a difference!


Rosemary Carstens said...

Your work with the dogs sounds engrossing and rewarding--and what a neat way to get to "know" them better, their unique personalities. Glad to hear it's going well! Rosemary

Rafe said...

Good Work! I've been driving too, like it a lot. Kinda like Taz though, too far out and I need to look back to check in. Thanks for the tip about the grazers, Craig!