Monday, April 06, 2009

Taz is home!

I am back from the great Tazimodo adventure! And what an adventure it was!

I left early on Tuesday morning to head up to Scott's place in Canada. I got a speeding ticket in Montana, but the cop knocked 5 miles off my clocked speed so that my fine was only $20. And then he told me I could just pay him and that would be the end of it. It seemed a little shady to me, but he returned with an official-looking printed receipt. Works for me! I made it as far as the tiny town of Shelby, Montana, spent the night in a hotel, spoiling Craig, letting him sleep outside his crate and hang on the bed with me while I watched tv. I know I shouldn't have, but he hates Taz and I knew he was about to be pretty bummed that Taz was coming home.

Enjoy it while you can, buddy . . .

The next morning, as I was getting ready to get on the road, I noticed my check engine light was on. I am so clueless about vehicles that I thought it meant that I should add oil. (My truck does have a slight oil leak.) So I did, and the light stayed on. I then decided it meant that I should change my oil, as that was overdue. So I did that, and the light still stayed on, so the oil-change guy just disconnected my battery for a few minutes and then the light went off. But I knew something was wrong. No time to think about it now, though. I crossed the border without incident and finally arrived at Scott's place around two.

The first thing Scott did was show me a video he and Jenny made of he and Taz working. And holy cow—Taz looked great! His formerly slicy flanks were wide, and his outruns were deep all the way around on both sides. His pace was steady; he was relaxed and feeling his sheep well. His driving was straight and sure. He was even beginning to shed. He's still not taking all his whistles—sometimes he takes them just fine, but he often hesitates just a split second before taking the whistle, as if he's still figuring out what they mean. It's almost like he's translating them in his head or something. Scott reiterated that I should back the whistles up with a voice command until Taz is a bit more solid on them.

Then we went outside to work. I couldn't wait to see Taz—and see him work! Scott told me to be low key, so that Taz wouldn't get all excited and lose his mind before going to work. Taz was definitely happy to see me, but he was pretty much running to be with Scott. That was a little weird for me, but I was happy to see his enthusiasm for working with Scott. Taz obviously has not spent the last few months pining for me ;-)

Scott spent a lot of time working Taz with me, showing me everything Taz has learned (I am most impressed with his flanks. They are amazing—a complete 180 from the hard slicing he used to do!), and then I worked him myself for about half an hour. Even though I thought my whistles sounded enough like Scott's, Taz apparently didn't, and he wouldn't take mine at all. Taz also wouldn't take my stops, even on voice command. I did a few outruns and did some driving, and though things didn't go quite as smoothly for me as they had with Scott handling him, it was fun to work him. I spent the night at Scott and Jenny's place, along with the super nice George Stambulic, and after a yummy breakfast Scott gave me a lesson in the morning (and Jenny took all the photos you see here). Scott showed me that I had to make sure Taz took my stops no matter what at first, and then he could earn his way to just stopping on his feet and even taking a few steps through a stop when the situation called for it. But until he earns my trust, he has to lie down every time. Scott gave me lots of tips for handling him, lots of praise, clear communication, lie him down immediately if he doesn't do what I ask, enforce the stop. Scott told me the stop is the key to everything.

I am pretty confident I can take over now. I think Scott did a fabulous job with Taz. Taz understands the basics; he knows what he should be doing. He understands that a correction means he made a poor choice, but he now has an array of better choices at his disposal. Scott told me to start out with the sheep closer in, so I can more easily control the outcome, and then gradually over the next month or so move further and further out. Basically, I need to let him know that the rules are the same with me as they are with Scott, and the same things are expected of him. I can't wait to get started!

Next post will be about the rest of the trip—the Icebreaker sheepdog trial in Utah! In the meantime, though, I have to say that I am loving having my dog home again :-)))))


DeltaBluez Tess said...

Wow, sounds like you had a blast!!

BCxFour said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome! I am so happy you have him back! How is Craig liking his reappearance?

I cant wait to hear about the rest of your trip and if the 'check engine light' ever amounted to anything?

sheepkelpie said...

I am so happy your boy is home, and he's a big boy now. You will have such fun with him!

Laura Carson said...

How fun! Glad you're home safe, and really excited to hear how things are going with Taz.

It sounds like you and I are car-care twins separated at birth. I just get in, turn the key, and expect it to work - no matter what I do or don't do to it. LOL Ok, so at least you add oil.

Kathy said...

Sounds like Scott did an awesome job with Taz. But then we didn't expect anything less. ;o) Can't wait to hear about you working with Taz more at home and to hear about the Ice Breaker trial. Oh, and yes trust and respect are two big things in working with these dogs.

Darci said...

Awesome! So glad to hear you had a good trip and the car didnt dump ya in No mans land. Great pics, and it sounds like ya got some great dog time and advise to get out there and have some fun with Taz! Looking forward to more updates!

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

Sorry i am late reading this...
That is great news that Taz is now back home with you. He looks fantastic Laura.
You have such a fun time ahead with him. :-)