Friday, September 04, 2009

Getting there...

I worked Taz last Sunday at Fran's with Larry and his dogs. I don't bring Craig to Fran's usually, as her barbado crosses are just awful about running and know the game all too well, and they can beat Craig. Craig works them well under some circumstances, but other times he either rides on their hips without covering or he just gives up and ignores my commands in favor of just guarding the draw, since he knows that's where they will turn toward and he may not be able to cover otherwise.

We started out doing (what else?) some outruns perpendicular to the draw. We set it up so that I could work on Taz's come bye flank, which is by far his weaker side. He is tighter and much slicier on that side, and he's more likely to hesitate there as well. We did a couple at about 100 yards away, and he was not tight, but he was coming in flat. He kicked out a bit when I told him to get out, but not enough. So we shortened things up even further, and he was fine. Split the difference, and he was better, but still coming in a bit tight at the top. Since he was coming in tight, his fetches were also offline, and he wanted to wait and flank to keep the sheep away from the draw, rather than walk up to bring the sheep to me smoothly. All in all, not pretty. Then Larry suggested we switch our positions so that Larry was holding the sheep closest to the draw, and this made all the difference. Taz was still slicing in a tiny bit at the last minute, but he was much wider and much deeper than he had been. His lifts and fetches were much better as well. Larry said it was pretty clear Taz had been working the field (which he knows well), rather than the sheep. Once we switched things around, he worked less defensively and was much more responsive to me.

Buoyed by this, we then decided to try a longer (250-yard) outrun on the bye side. Well, he fell apart on this—not wanting to go, scalloping back, and then finally loping up to the sheep and not lifting them off Larry with much enthusiasm. Hmm. Too much, I suppose. I sent him on an away, just so he wouldn't spend all morning on one side, and he looked great once again—wide, deep, lifting his sheep correctly and generally feeling his sheep very well. No hesitation at all, even on the long outruns, and he looked like he was very comfortable. It is really strange how his outruns on the away side look so good and his come bye side do not. Larry wondered if something had happened to him to make him so nervous on that side, since there is such a big difference. I don't know though—Scott never mentioned that he was one-sided, so it must have been something that happened after Taz came home. But I have no idea what it could be...

We also worked a bit on driving around the course set up on Fran's field. Taz did really well at this, the best driving he's done with me yet! He wasn't taking my whistles consistently today, so I just talked to him. He read the sheep well and did not rush or overflank, as he had when we first brought out the sheep and had tried to drive them up the field to work on the outruns. Instead, he listened to me and did everything I asked :) It was fantastic! We were in control—the pace was nice, we made the panels, and we transitioned from drive to cross drive to fetch (third leg of drive) without overflanking. He was fabulous! I am very encouraged at this. Come bye flanks on a long outrun notwithstanding, I think Taz did pretty well today and we worked together nicely :)

I'll go out to Cathy's tomorrow for one last chance to practice a bit before the trial, and then we'll be on our way to beautiful Steamboat Springs. With any luck, Craig will hear everything I say and Taz will show everyone a bit more of what he can do!

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