Saturday, December 17, 2016


On a whim, I pulled a notebook off the shelf this morning, in which I had taken notes on a sheepdog training clinic and subsequent lessons, from ten years ago. It is so interesting to read back through my notes on the clinic and the dogs. The advice from the Welsh  clinician resonates so true today.  Even though  as a beginner, I didn't know  much about some of the things he was talking about (like shedding), I wrote them down anyway...and I am glad.  :)  It is also neat to re-live the memories of working a dog who is now gone (Bid) and remembering how Bid and I learned to increase our confidence and skills together early on.

"Your shed and pen start on the crossdrive"

"You learn more from a bad run than from a good run."

"Don't force and fall out"

Build the outrun so the lift is in the far end of the field, and you walk. This way the dog is going to the 'same store' every time - and knows where everything is 'on the shelf'

When training new skills, just because the dog does something on today's course does not mean he can do it the same on next week's course in a different situation. The first time the dog may respond and do the new skill on just one command; the next time it may take (for example) a stop and redirect in order to get it.

These were really good clinics and lessons, with the information delivered in a practical manner, and giving the dogs a real job to do. Good times! :)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Favorite Pictures of 2016

I chose a few pictures from each month in 2016 and put them together into a (very low-tech) little "movie". Enjoy. :-)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Shedding Sequence

Here is a little YouTube video of a recent shedding sequence with Spot.

This was part of the work we did at a Derek S. clinic. I'm really pleased with how our shedding is coming together. We have a lot of the finer points to work on over this winter, as I have time to train with Spot. But it feels as though we have a shiny new toolbox of tools to use. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


I don't think it is any secret that I love the UC Hopland trial. The weather was beautiful, except for the fog that delayed the trial on Sunday and Monday mornings. It was great to see everyone since I have pretty much sat out of trialling for a year. I had a good time volunteering and did not mind donating my weekend days to be there for the Open on Saturday and Sunday. It is my privilege to help out with such a class event. Ryme and I served as backup exhaust like we did last year, but this year we were barely needed. Things ran so smoothly that we mostly just sat on the sidelines and visited, like regular spectators. :)

Ryme and I were busy helping! LOL (photo by Marnie N.)
The trickiest part of the trial seemed to be the lift, and the first part of the fetch. This section required very careful handling and very correct approach by the dog. We watched one team after another fall apart and RT but there were also some very good runs where the teams handled it very well. Good dog work and stockmanship were both very well rewarded by the healthy UC ewe flock.

On Monday, Spot and I ran in the PN. The start of our trial was delayed from the original time of 8 AM to almost noon, by the heavy fog that hung over the field and made it impossible for judge or handler to see the course. Finally the fog lifted after we had just sat around drinking coffee and people visited with one another all morning.  Spot was the third dog up in PN.  I have debated with myself about posting these videos but I have finally decided to go ahead. There are some good parts and some not so good parts of our run but overall I was very pleased. Spot ended up with 60 points which was more than any of the other teams received. First place. I was astounded. He earned it, though. That lift and top part of the fetch were beautiful. There are places where I should have handled more and places where I handled incorrectly. But I am thrilled with the way he listened and performed in his first trial in a year. The videos are in two parts. The first part is up to turning the post and the second video is after turning the post.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


I come from the Illinois prairie. Flat green land created by the ancient glaciers, as far as you can see. But like many, I am drawn to the hills. Part of my fascination with the sheepdogs has to do with the connection with the land that comes with them. Without sheep, no sheepdogs. Without land, no sheep. Some types of sheep are just made for hills. It's what they are about. Some sheepdogs are made for hills and it's what they are about too. I am told that Spot is one of those hill dogs.

Hill dog Spot on the top of the field of dreams

Once upon a time I was told that Chiefie was the ideal hill dog; it is too bad that I was too green in my sheepdog career to fully give him the chance to develop. Regardless, I thrive on my occasional experiences out on the land when working dogs or going to or from working dogs. I'm also told over and over, that "hills make a dog" and I truly believe that phrase as I've seen it happen with all of my dogs, not just Spot, as they grew into their work.

If you look closely there is a person and two dogs on these hills. One of my very favorite places. :)

I have started PT this week for my leg issues. I was given a questionnaire to fill out before my interview with the therapist which was to evaluate just how affected you are with your physical issues. One of the questions was about whether you could walk a mile or not. I answered yes. I can walk a mile. At least I can walk a mile on these fields in the photos. :) I probably wouldn't like to walk a mile on pavement but I could if I had to. Would I hurt afterwards? Probably. At least when I am walking on these hills it is for a good purpose and something I am working hard for. It makes me want to keep up with my PT assignments so that I can better enjoy these hills and the dogs.

Flying Mule posted this video about Hefting in Scotland which is a short piece about land management and sheep. I found it extremely interesting and it is what gave me the thread to tie this blog post together (which I have been thinking about for a while but couldn't come up with a theme).
Watch it. It's good. :)

Hefting in Scotland

If you watch the video then look at my photo above with the tiny person in it with the two dogs, it will look very similar to what is in the video. The main exception being, of course, that the land is green in the video and it is brown in the photo. But, the sheep trails are the same, whether in Zamora or in Scotland.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

That Confidence Topic, Again

Spot update: we have had a few more weekend lessons with our trainer, and we've had our ups and downs with that. The bigger gathers were going well until they weren't and so I have gone back a little bit to try to re-build the confidence again. In the past few weeks, I've learned that I need to maintain a great deal of confidence in myself that carries over to Spot. He feeds off of me directly even when hundreds of yards away from me, behind the sheep.

We sent Spot up a big, big hill for a larger bunch of sheep that were not held by a stock handler. The sheep took off, climbing up the hill and Spot was out on the bye side, gaining ground on them, but would he be able to cover them before they went over the hill top and got away from him? I found it necessary to block out the talk from those sitting behind me and just focus on what I wanted to see, which was Spot bringing those sheep back over the hill to me. It was like in the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated movie, when the Bumble and Yukon Cornelius disappear over the ice cliff into the abyss. What would happen? We could not see. We just had to wait. Well, as in the movie, Bumbles Bounce! I focused and visualized the sheep coming back over the hill and down the ATV track that runs down the hillside. It took a while. But soon, I saw sheep's ears appearing at the top of the hill, then sheep and then a black and white dog behind them, coming down that track. Whew! Good Boy, Spot. I was a believer.

It has not all gone that well. A couple of lessons later, Spot had trouble lifting these same sheep off of a spotter. They are dorpers and dorper crosses, big and fat, very dog broke and wise, and they know to cling to the stock handler. Spot was just not sure. I had to walk partway up the same big hill and urge him onto them. It has been a mixed bag. Since then I have been working on building his confidence again, as best I can. I've been having him push sheep off of feed. And sending him for sheep that are breaking away towards a draw. And calling him in on the heads after I have let a few go to create a draw.

In our latest lesson I just did what I call meat and potatoes. Spot did a few shorter outruns and I just let him bring them. I now know he can run out there at the big distances with the big boys on the hills, so shortening the outrun to keep him confident is not a bad thing to do. We did some driving. He was good. His flat walk is a thing of beauty. :) And then, we shed. The trainer's sheep are almost impossible to shed. But in our last lesson we got not one, not two, but three sheds. I will take that as a sign of our combined improving confidence.

Shedding at Zamora. Photo by Marnie N.

It's a long walk out to the field where we have been working. I'm not sure of the distance, but maybe a mile. I'm pretty proud of myself that I have been able to walk out there and most of the way back. Maybe not all the way back but at least half way back. I've been riding my new stationary bike too. All of this is certainly a confidence builder, for me. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Back To School

Back to School, or, "Confidence comes with Experience"

All the kids were going back to school early last month. Spot and I also went back to school, too, in early to mid-August. We've not been attending daily like the kids do, but we have put in some regular weekend lesson sessions over the past few weeks. It is really helping Spot a lot in his confidence and experience level. My main goal is to get him more experiences so that we both feel ready to trial, when the time comes. I am not sure, other than Hopland, when that will be as there are so few PN trials to go to.

All the cool kids are playing with this iPhone app, called Prisma. It has some stunning effects! :)
I had thought that Spot was pretty good about taking sheep away from a stock handler ("spotter") but when you add in a lot more distance and hills, the ATV, some in-your-pocket sheep and a couple of extra dogs at a place that is not "home", it got a bit more tricky. We have been working on building Spot's confidence to lift sheep off of the stock handler. I've been enlisting any friends I can get to help me when practice on the home fields, but at "home" Spot does not seem to have any trouble with it. He is getting better and better about lifting the sheep at the lessons so I am sure we will work it out. But that is one of the things that we have been working on, over the past few weeks. His fitness level also wasn't up to par when we first started back to work in early August, after the pneumonia, but it is much better now. Next time we will be experimenting with chicken broth to try to entice Spot to drink some of the Energy Edge after his lesson. So far he has not wanted it just mixed with water the way Coal was eager to take it.

The driving is getting better and better as the experience level increases. Spot's outruns on the hills are still not quite as confident as I would like but they are coming along. I am hopeful that we will both feel prepared when our turn comes to finally go to the post after a year off of trialling. We're also working on his shedding and I think I got ahead of myself a little bit in the lessons with that but he IS shedding. I want to go back and work on some more beginner shedding, just calling him through a larger group, before we try to whittle it down too much to 4-5 head in a more trial situation scenario. The days are getting shorter for practicing at home, so I am really grateful that Spot's training has come together so well when soon we will have much less time to work sheep while winter is here.

The Boyz at Carmel, our favorite place