Sunday, July 12, 2009

Progress at last!

I started a new job last week, and it's been completely knocking me out! But I don't want two more months to go by without a post, so I better get on it.

I had a great weekend working the dogs in the mountains. Elaine and I went up to the ranch of a couple of friends a couple of weekends ago, and it was wonderful to work in such a big area! I was able to set Taz up a bunch with me between him and the sheep. This kept him wide enough, without hesitating, though he still sliced at the top. Baby steps, though—I wanted to be sure his attitude was back and he wouldn't hesitate before starting to really correct him again. We also got to work newly acquired range ewes, and that was a blast. Taz moves them pretty easily. Despite his lack of confidence, he has plenty of power.

Handsome, too!

I worked with Craig a bunch on these sheep, too, and he really handles them well. I used my whistle a lot, and I realized that I've been getting very sloppy with it. My come bye whistle was fine, and Craig took it every time, but I had to be careful with my away and my stop whistles—they sound a lot alike when I blow them quickly. Consequently, Craig did a lot of stopping and staring at me when I blew them. I slowed both down, and he took them again, but this is something I'll have to be pretty conscious of for a little while, I think. The following day when I worked him (no longer with so many whistles, as I was advised by a very competitive open handler not to overdo the whistles when just working the dogs), he began blowing me off, this time not because he wasn't sure what I was telling him to do, but because he had other ideas. So I had to let him know my commands were not optional. And after I gave him the business, he was perfect. He listened to every command immediately and very willingly. It exasperates me that Craig and I sometimes have to battle like this before he wants to listen to me. Why does he have to be reminded that he must listen? Is it a respect issue? A willful older dog issue? I am going to institute a zero-tolerance policy with him from now on—the first time he doesn't take a command I give him, I'll tell him off and put him up. Then we'll try again. Perhaps I've just been letting him get away with too much before I start telling him off...

I was also impressed with the way the open handler working with us approached training dogs. He was much more relaxed than I ever am. He said he doesn't do any drilling, just sort of loosely asks the dogs to do different things while walking around his 30-acre field. He insists the dog does everything he asks, but he doesn't ask for straight lines or tight turns around panels or anything like that. Of course, he helps the dog when it's clear the dog doesn't understand how to do something or he's put the dog in an unfamiliar situation. Hence, the dog trusts him and really tries to do everything he's asked to do. I tried to mimic this approach with Taz, but I don't quite have the body English down to really help cue my dog to what I want from him and so it's a bit awkward. Still, I think I'd like to do a bit more practice work like this—it puts much less pressure on the dog and on myself, and it's a whole lot more fun.

Taz is all in favor of having more fun!

I've been out with Taz a few more times since then—unfortunately not as often as I'd like, with that new job I started last week. I still have a ton of freelance work to do as well, so I just haven't had much time to get out, which is a bummer, since I have a trial next weekend. But I'll get on a better training schedule soon. Anyway, last weekend, I went out to Fran's with Larry and did some more outruns with Taz, concentrating on the come bye side. With Taz still slicing at the top, even with me sending him when I was closer to the sheep, I began correcting him with a "Get out of that!" when he started to slice. But I did so reluctantly, as I really was afraid Taz would begin hesitating again, like he's done before when I corrected him at the top. Still, I had to do something, as he was slicing really hard at the top, and he knows better than that. He wasn't slicing at all when he was with Scott. I know I can't let him get away with it either. But the hesitation often followed the corrections, and I wouldn't really know if he was going to hesitate until the next time I worked him.

We went out again today, and I was relieved to see that Taz wasn't wanting to hesitate, even though I'd been correcting him for slicing. I was more confident in my corrections today, and Larry helped me with my timing, so the corrections were more effective. I also started sending him from my feet again. Taz kicked himself out every time I got on him, though he often didn't need it until the very end of his outrun. But that last bit would be a dramatic flattening of his arc. Larry suggested I give him a sort of preemptive correction, before he reached the point that he would typically start to slice, to remind him to keep wide. I tried that a bit, and it seemed to work. Hooray!

I also did a few longer outruns with him (maybe 200 yards), on both sides. His away side remains so much better than his come bye side—he is perhaps a little tight at the top, but he doesn't need any corrections on that away side. He just seems to feel his sheep much better on that side. I will definitely send him to the right at the trial next weekend. I'll likely retire after the OLF next weekend, since I haven't worked on any driving with him whatsoever lately. But if I can get a decent outrun, lift, and fetch, honestly I will be completely overjoyed! We can worry about everything else next time :)

1 comment:

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

Hiya laura,

I am just catching up, i went on holiday for a week and it has taken me this long to start catching up with things on here.

This must be your trial weekend, good luck, i hope you have a great time.

Also i hope the job is going well. Life does sound very hectic and busy for you at the moment. :-)