Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taz is still awesome!

Things are still going really, really well with Taz. I haven't been able to work him very often since I went to Scott's. Well, actually, that's not quite true—I worked him nearly every day the week I got back, which was great. I got a good chance to really practice what I'd learned while everything was fresh in my mind. But then I was away for a week visiting family over the Thanksgiving holiday and I managed to work Taz only once, on the day I got back to Colorado, before it got obscenely cold for the next week and a half. Temps were in the single digits, except when they were in the negative digits, and every couple of days it snowed a few inches. Not exactly optimal working weather, especially when you don't have your own sheep. The weather finally broke a couple of days ago, and I took Taz and Craig out to Cathy's with Elaine this morning. I was a bit afraid I'd forgotten a lot about how to get the best work out of him during our time off, and all the dogs were wild and not listening very well when we got situated onto the field. They'd been cooped up inside for way too long and were ready to go. Surprisingly, though, as soon as Craig brought the sheep over to the field we were using, he and the rest of the dogs settled right down.

I am just so impressed with how Taz is working. He is still working wide and relaxed and stopping when I ask him to. He does slice a bit at the top every now and again, but when I get on him for it, he immediately responds. And he doesn't need much of a correction—just a "hey you" will push him out or get him to check himself. (Finally! Always those who know how to handle dogs would tell me how responsive Taz is to corrections, but he never was with me. Now, I am finally seeing him respond to my body language and small corrections in a big way, too. Hooray!) It still takes me a few times to see when he is slicing. Like today, I saw he was slicing a little but wasn't quite sure it was very much and didn't say anything the first time, but then I saw he did it again, so I corrected him, but was a fraction of a second too late. The third time, my timing was better and Taz not only kicked himself way out, but he also didn't slice on his next several outruns. Also, I am trying to be much quicker to offer him some guidance when he starts to not do what he should. Like during the fetch, he was guarding the draw as much as he was bringing the sheep to me, and I tried to be a bit more proactive in giving him some direction on where he needed to be to bring the sheep to my feet (rather than five steps to the right because he was overcompensating in his zeal to guard against the sheep breaking back to the draw) than I maybe used to. And he is generally looking pretty darn terrific as a result. We are, I hope, finally starting to communicate as partners. It's still early days, of course, but it feels like maybe we're starting to understand each other and work together a bit more. It's a great feeling!