Sunday, September 28, 2008

NCWSA Workday in Pescadero

Yesterday was the NCWSA annual meeting and fun workday at Willowside Ranch in Pescadero, CA. The Willowside Ranch is always such a lovely place to travel to and work dogs. The only down side is getting home (through San Francisco) in brutal afternoon/evening traffic. I am resolved to find a different route home for next time! But back to the dogs...

Coal got to work geese first off and while he is not as into it as working sheep, he did fine. It would be nice to have more frequent opportunities to work the geese in order to retain his interest in them.

We signed up for 8 minutes per dog on the big Open field. I took Bid out first, and he ran just before lunch. I was quite pleased with his outrun, lift and fetch. We are really improving our communications there and I believe the fetch was straight to the post just like our trainer has been urging me to do. The driving was not as good but OK; Bid still does not like to take his Away flank at a far distance when I need him to in order to make a panel. More stuff to work on.

Coal ran after the lunch break and quick club meeting. I sent him from the same post position that I had sent Bid, which was a "big-boy" outrun for Coal, but I wanted an assessment of where we are. It was worth all of the windshield time. He saw the sheep most definitely, but was tentative and flat at first, so I called him back and re-started. On the second try, the outrun was lovely and wide, and the lift beautiful. The fetch, perfect, if a bit slow. I'll have to work on different "gears" for this dog, which is an aspect of technical handling and training I have never gotten to in the past. He's not ready for a full drive, but it's coming along.

Many thanks to NCWSA, and the Willowside Ranch owner and managers for another nice working dog outing in a lovely spot.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Couple of Good Dogs

Today we went to Zamora again for lessons with our trainer. What we did was walk way out into a different section of the property (over a mile) onto a large hilly field that I haven’t been on in probably a year. There were about 75 sheep out there and they had drifted off to the far fence. Since the sheep were so far away, we decided to send Bid, rather than Coal, for them. We thought it was a little too far yet for Coal. I wasn’t sure if Bid saw the sheep but he ran out well, and disappeared for a while from sight behind the hills. I waited and waited, and then eventually I saw him coming up along the fence line and by golly he got the sheep! It was so cool! Afterwards I was informed that this was probably a 600 yard outrun. Wow! Bid is working really well. After our gather we did some driving on the hillsides and then worked on our shedding. It’s all coming along. I was really pleased but didn’t want to push Bid because his chronically achy front feet are again a bit sore. The ground is so baked and hard, and there are huge cracks in the ground that a dog or sheep could get stuck in. So we tried to be very careful.

On to Coal. A group of probably 30 sheep were kind of hiding out partially behind one of the hills. I don’t know how far away they were, but not as far as Bid was sent; maybe 200-300 yards or so. We were pretty sure Coal did not see the sheep although some of them were visible (to us) between the hillsides. So we worked on Coal taking my “look” command. Finally we got Coal fixated on the right place; he ran out a long way then bent out beautifully around sheep and brought them. Our trainer said that little exercise alone was worth a week of training in Coal’s understanding of things.

We also worked with Coal and the sheep being on one hillside and us being on the other, facing one another. This creates an illusion of distance yet you can see what’s going on. We did some driving, lots of flanking, and actually introduced the turn back. At one point there was a packet of sheep behind a hill that Coal could not see, and we were able to turn him back to gather them from that far distance. I was really wowed; but it took a lot of concentration from both of us. Coal needs to get more obedience at a distance, and that is just a project that I am slowly plugging away at.

All in all it was another big outdoor adventure for a couple of good dogs on a Saturday morning!

Friday, September 19, 2008

One Day at a Time

So far, so good, with working Chief. We had a better session Thursday evening because I had a more appropriate group of sheep out for Chief. He needs a bigger and slower group than what I had been using. Coal got to sort the moms with little tiny babies off and we penned them separately, which is excellent work for him. Then Coal and I set the remaining large group in the field (about 40 head of mixed ewes, larger lambs, and the big ram) and I went to get Chief. This scheme worked so much better than the Nascar-oriented seven head that I had out for Chief last session. We were actually able to do some little fetches and flanking. It is getting dark faster and faster so it's harder to get the three dogs worked in the evening. Fall is definitely here and soon I will have no choice but to work only one dog in the very early morning before going to the office.

But for now, Coal is taking so much chore load off of Bid that I can concentrate on just what I want to train for with Bid. That is really nice. Last night Bid and I worked on two longer outruns and the little handling details for the fetch and post turn from our last lesson.

Coal is entered in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair the first weekend of October. That should be fun. Then Coal and Bid will probably both run in the RESDA Fall Trial, the last of the season. Entries are not open yet, but I plan to enter Bid in the Pt. Pleasant annual fall trial and whatever else comes onto the calendar locally for USBCHA Pro-Novice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Pics of Chief, or Fingers Crossed

I realize I don't write much about Chief. Here are some more recent photos of him. In the past couple of months he's been on the injured reserve list once again, but recently seems to be sound enough to put back in the training lineup. So, Tuesday night I tried working him briefly on the sheep. He walked out sound after working and even better, walked and ran sound this morning and evening at the park. So those wonderful Chinese herbs as well as the more traditional Western herb/supplement formula are doing the trick, along with time off. Fingers, paws, and all are tightly crossed for continued soundness!

Even though Chief doesn't get much "press" in the blog, he is an integral part of the family group. When we are out together, Coal never lets Chief out of his sight; they are close buddies. I am very thankful to have Chief around to watch over the rest of us.
This last photo is really silly and not in keeping with his character, but just too fun not to include.