Friday, March 20, 2009

Latest progress report on Taz

Just a week and a half now until I go pick up Taz from Scott. I can't wait! Scott reports that he is outrunning pretty well. Scott says at 300 yards, his outrun is "dynamite." I'm so happy to hear this! Taz's problems with his outrun have always been a bit of a mystery to those who know his lines, because he comes from natural outrunning dogs on both sides. I am so so glad that Scott has been able to develop this part of his potential. Scott said Taz really only has problems if he's running near a fence because he wants to be sure he is wide enough. So if he's afraid the fence will cause him to run too tight, he'll stop. Blow him on once, and he'll continue on perfectly.

He's still not taking his whistles 100 percent of the time—Scott says some days he'll take them really well, but other days he often needs a verbal backup. Scott stressed that Taz works really well with praise and he doesn't like to be in trouble, so I think I'll have to be careful to keep my tone of voice even when I need to give him that verbal backup. As I wrote about last time, I don't want to let frustration creep into my voice, at least until he's solid on his whistles. Scott said he is surprised it is taking Taz this long to get his whistles, but that Taz really tries to be a very honest dog and if he's going to err on something he'll err on trying to do it right. He's not as confident as he first appeared, when he was trying to run through everything (and I suspect at least part of this confidence thing may be my fault), but Scott said Taz would "suit a lot more people than he wouldn't." At the same time, Taz has to understand what you're asking him to do; he's not a dog you can just intimidate around a course. He's got to understand it or he's not going to do it, and he'll look bad as a result—but it's just that he's a thinking dog, and I have to be sure he understands what I want him to do. (My poor dog must have been struggling so hard to interpret my all-over-the-place instruction as I worked to figure it all out myself—I think sending him to Scott might have been the best thing I could have ever done for him!)

Scott said Taz takes his voice commands real well, he leans into his sheep nice, and his fetch is looking very good as well. He is not driving a very long way yet, but Scott can "stretch him out maybe 150 yards or so" (which seems pretty long to me). He's not super pushy on the drive, but Scott is intentionally holding Taz back a little here because he doesn't want Taz to run me over when I get him back. He wants Taz to rely on me on the drive. He said with heavy sheep, a dog like Taz probably has to be asked up a bit more and I'll have to make sure he doesn't slide around on a flank; with lighter sheep, he keeps a nice pace and would require just little flanks just to keep the sheep on line.

Scott thinks the bond Taz and I have because we "grew up together" means we should do well together when Taz comes back to me. He cautioned me not to try to push him onto his sheep too much—just let him do his job and help where I have to. Don't let him come on too fast, and if it's a little bit slow, then it's a little bit slow for now. I asked Scott how long I should work Taz, and he said to work him until he hits a rough spot, and then help him through that spot, then keep things a little bit nice, and then call it a day. That way, he gets to finish on a good note, but he has to struggle a bit, too, and he understands that he's not allowed to lose his mind because he's struggling. This makes him mentally tough, and he builds trust in me to help him get through pressure.

As we were wrapping up the conversation, Scott said that he tends to focus on the negative when talking about training, and he reiterated that "actually, he's pretty darn nice." Of course, I love hearing that! Scott really gave me a lot to think about this time. I hope I can remember all this when I am working Taz again!


BCxFour said...

This is an awesome update!

I am going to Scott's clinic at Fido's Farm Saturday and Sunday. Does he have Taz with him there? If he does I can try and take a few quick pictures of him for you if you would like?

Laura said...

He doesn't have Taz with him, but I so wish he did so you could take photos! Thanks so much for the offer, though. Have a great time at the clinic (I'm jealous), and I'm looking forward to a report on your blog!