Monday, January 26, 2015

Reacting More Quickly

RESDA sponsored a clinic with Bill Berhow, recently, held at Bill's place. I was able to book one day of the two-day clinic, with a working space for Spot. The weather held up beautifully and I really appreciated the great opportunities to work Spot with Bill a couple of times during the day at Zamora, but also to watch and listen to everyone else's training sessions and commentary. I love auditing clinics and this was the best of both worlds. Amazingly, there was no wind. Those who have been there, know how big of a statement that is about a day spent near Zamora!

The clinic was small on purpose, so that we could take our time, not rush, and get everyone's dogs worked and questions answered without hurry. It was (almost) more like a picnic than a sheepdog clinic. We went way back in the property which is my favorite spot always, to work dogs.

When it came time for Spot's turns, he did pretty well. I was concerned that he was not quite getting it on his driving at that point but after the day at the clinic we seemed to have turned the corner, or gotten over the latest speed bump with the next step of his driving. We were able to work on a bit of steering and not just following the sheep where they wanted to go. We worked a lot on Spot's driving with inside and outside flanks. He started to really pick it up. Having so much real estate to work on made it a lot simpler to show Spot what I was going for without running into a fence or a really strong draw for the sheep. His other work was good even though he was excited.

The main message for me, however, was that I need to react more quickly on Spot's stops. I thought he was stopping pretty well but what that amounted to was he stopped on the second, third, or maybe even fourth command or whistle. Bill told me that I need to react if he does not stop immediately on that first whistle or command. Don't let it slide! I will need those crisp stops further on down the line and I need to get them now. Ok, nuff said!

At the end of Spot's second turn, something different happened. We had the infamous "Penny" ewe (she who will not be penned...) in our group of sheep and as usual she was somewhat frustrating for me to handle. She had led her group up on top of one of the small hills and Spot having not much experience with hills, had kind of lost track of where she and her little band had disappeared off to. We waited to see if Spot would find them. He looked back and forth behind the hill, every so often popping up like Mickey Mouse club ears and that goofy face...but he did not see Penny. Finally with a little help from a partial recall whistle from me, he came around in front of the hill and then saw the sheep.  We waited some more. He disappeared behind the hill and then came on over the top behind the sheep, lifting them absolutely dead on which elicited a gasp from everyone who was watching. It was too cool. I had Spot fetch Penny's gang down the hill to us and I quit the session. Spot was so good, figuring all that out, that I wanted to quit on a high note.

I'm really grateful to RESDA and Bill and everyone else who helped, so that we could have this clinic opportunity. It was excellent timing for Spot and me. :) Below, Spot and his friends eagerly await their turns in the clinic.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Happy New Year

Chiefie and the rest of us are looking forward to 2015, the Year of the (blue) Sheep!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Coal on Christmas

Here are Coal's Christmas 2014 pictures. He has been a good boy, and even though you get coal in your stocking from Santa Claus if you have been a bad kid, I have always felt blessed to have such a good Coal in my life. :) Even though he is a little monkey at times!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Spot's Progress, 12-26-2014

Spot's photo from Christmas Day, 2014
Patience is the Key

I haven't posted on Spot's progress for a while. It feels like we are in another one of those "plateau" stages again. I have to just be patient and keep working with him, and I am sure we will take another step forward at some point, very soon. We've been through these plateau periods several times in the past year or so. Patience is the key; sigh! Sometimes patience is difficult to muster! :)

Overall, Spot's doing well. He can do a nice short to medium gather without the wheels falling off. But, if I send him too far, those wheels may go flyin'! It's all stuff we have to work through and figure out together.

The driving is coming along, slowly. He is getting it about driving, but the steering part, is coming a little more slowly. He is getting the idea of the inside flanks, if I am super careful about setting them up with relation to the draws, the sheep, and me. I do put a solid stop in between each command...he needs it. The outside small flanks are almost harder to do because he wants to take them as a full flank all the way around to the heads, to gather. I am trying to work on all of this without getting too picky on him and flustering the both of us.

His recall is good. The whistles for stop and steady are in place; the whistles for the flanks are not all depends on the situation.

I use him for whatever small "chores" that we may have...which are not many. So sometimes I make up a chore just to do something different. Recently I was super pleased because I sent him into a smaller paddock for a group of about a dozen half-grown lambs, out a gate, then brought them through another narrow-ish field, and through another gate out into a large pasture. Spot took every stop and flank that I asked him to take, while escorting those lambs out to the field. It felt super to make that happen without any kerfluffles! :)  So there IS progress, once I start to add it all up. He is a good boy and tries hard.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Morning Fun

Dogs love water. I love doing chores on holidays and just hanging out with the animals. The guardian dog, Neve, got extra treats with his breakfast. The Scotties got some apples in addition to their alfalfa. The boys decided that playing in the little seasonal pond was great fun.

A branch had blown down from the tree that hovers over the seasonal pond. It must've blown down last night or yesterday when we had some winds blow through. The weather has changed from warm and wet to cool and sunny. The branch was in the seasonal pond and the dogs thought it needed a lot of attention. Ryme and Coal decided that it needed to be dragged out of the water and it was funny to watch them tackle that job together.

Ryme says this baby is mine!

Ryme and Coal work on dragging the branch out while Spot supervises

Ryme and Coal are still working on that branch!

Even Chiefie gets in there to help!
Ryme and his prize, dragged almost to "shore". 

Christmas is a time of gratefulness and sentiment; and connecting with family and friends. I'm always grateful when I can spend some time out with the animals, and give my dogs a chance to just be dogs having fun.

I did work Spot after all the water fun, but I didn't take any pictures of him. We will have to try another day when someone else is out there with me.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cool Pics of Coal from Dunnigan Hills

Wow, I was really surprised and pleased to find these three gorgeous photos of Coal in my message in box. They were taken at Bill Berhow's Dunnigan Hills Fall trial a few weeks ago by K. Nichols.