Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Does the Dog (Horse) Need?

I really enjoyed reading these blog posts (links below) written by a gal who took her ex-racehorse to a Buck clinic over four days. Her horse has some issues but she worked through them and not always in the manner that she thought it would play out, at first. The advice is to be adaptable and flexible to what the animal needs from us to succeed.

Part I

Part II

These blog posts are well worth the read.

On a similar topic, Ryme and I had a lesson with our trainer this past weekend. We haven't had any lessons since probably oh, October...which is not what I had planned but just the way things played out. Ryme was lame during December, January, and February. And then February and March were a blur what with lambing, work, the two big open trials, and me being sick. So here we are in April with good intentions.

What we did with Ryme was not necessarily what everyone else would do with their dog. But it worked for him and I think he gained confidence from the session. We worked a huge group of sheep - maybe close to 100 - I did not count. Those large numbers really help to keep a dog relaxed which is what Ryme needs. First I worked him close up  and showed off our skills with flanking, small gathers, and stops. The stop is critical for Ryme. Most of the time he stops pretty well. But he was showing at the lesson that he might start to slide through it - so I have to be vigilant. We took a break and Ryme got water and a little rest.

Then we were going to do a couple longer outruns. As I watched the (still large) group of sheep get pushed farther and farther away by the trainer's dog, I got a little panicky about the distance. The sheep were settled at what I would definitely call an Open trial distance. I was a little apprehensive but we started off with a come bye outrun, first. That can be Ryme's "hot" side...but I needn't have worried. He handled the whole thing beautifully. Wow!

 For the other outrun, I sent Away. Some terrain has to be negotiated on that side and it became an opportunity to stop, redirect; stop, redirect...and work on that. Ryme got around the sheep beautifully with that help even at a long distance. What did the dog need? He needed some communication, some help. It would have been neat to see him do both gathers with me silent...but that wasn't what he needed.

Ryme has needed a lot of extra time to mature. He still will never be a really thinking dog with a great feel for sheep; he just doesn't have it in him.  On the fetches and drives, I have to manage him but he allows himself to be managed. What he does have is a strong work ethic and desire to work sheep and desire to work with me. What he needs among other things is a fabric of communication with me.  I am just trying to make him into the best dog he can be, whatever that is.

As was said in the blog post about the lady's ex race horse, that horse was a gift for what he could teach his rider. A person can learn so much if they are open to it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Three Kinds of Dogs

Three Kinds of Dogs:

1. Dogs who have great feel for sheep and are very natural but have a hard time taking direction from you.

2. Dogs who have little feel for sheep and can be directed where you like but must be placed here and there by the handler.

3. Dogs who have great feel for sheep and who also do as they are told.

Which do you prefer? What do you think?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Nice Workday

This time it was NCWSA's turn to have a workday, at Oak Springs Ranch. Beautiful day/weather, really lovely sheep (about a quarter of them Katahdins and the remainder Dorper-Dorset crosses which is a really nice cross for young dogs)... a happy group of people. Lots of visiting and catching up done in between runs.

I was just a low-key helper, doing the check-in part...and Coal and I helped set out for a couple of runs. Coal would have liked to do more. He is not getting enough work, these days. I am still getting over that bad flu; it is hanging on with a vengeance. Before the work day started, I had a chance to pick up a set of sheep off a spotter, with Ryme. Ryme still has a hot spot on his come-bye flank when he is at a distance from me and if he is a little unsure. But otherwise he was obedient and nice. I keep working with him...

Spot update: he continues to try to fit in and please me. He now jumps into the Dodge so I don't have to pick him up. Yay! When we go in the pickup, he runs up and down the doggie ramp. He is really too big to pick up any more so these are both very welcome news. And he has (most of the time) quit the daily dumping of the water bucket in his kennel. It's the little things, yeah. :-) We have let him have another turn on the sheep and he demonstrated the nicest little turn in and walk on in balance that you have ever seen. Fingers crossed. I will keep letting him have a turn whenever we can arrange it and he will tell us when he is ready for more. He is not yet eight months old (not quite) so not really ready for "training".

Yay, there is another day left today in the weekend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Like Zamora without the Ditch

I went and spectated at the MacCormack Ranch sheepdog trial one day this past weekend. What a slice of heaven that ranch is! The trial field was almost just like Zamora but without the ditch.

Endless rolling hills of green fields.... but unlike Zamora surrounded by wind turbines. Those things are first they bugged me but after an hour or so I guess I got used to them. I'm glad it wasn't super windy because then I think their movement would have been really distracting. Anyway what a beautiful trial. Lovely sheep, fantastic field...well organized but simple and no frills. If you wanted to camp out there was a separate camping field within walking distance of the trial field, nice and flat and easy access.

I am hoping this trial can be a regular event in our area. I have not seen the results but I know Bill Berhow won the Saturday trial with his Coal.

Since I was getting over the flu I was glad I had not entered. My Coal and I are not feeling too confident (well he may be but I still am not) about running in open right now. So it was good just to watch and think about runs as they happened and not be standing at the post. I left early to go home and take care of myself but it was a nice day spent among trialling friends.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Recalls and Recuperating

Border Collies in Action Gifts for Owners of Herding and Working Dogs - The Shepherds Pup Video

I've been recuperating from a bad flu this week. The time spent at home and not at work gave me lots of time to be with the dogs but no energy to do anything with them. I re-watched the great video, "The Shepherd's Pup" (see link above) for the zillionth time it seems, and got even more out of it than ever before. Spot and I are working on his recall. He's the first dog I've gotten who wasn't a baby puppy. So I'm a little concerned about him bonding enough with me so that once we do get on the sheep that he will listen to me. He is recalling pretty well with low level or no distractions. But put another household dog in the picture, or sheep within view behind a fence, and he may just not come back. We're workin' on it...a solid recall is my number one goal with him at this point. He's really a mush and wants to please. But then sometimes we all need more explanation or work before we get something down pat. There are lots of Spot's ancestors and relatives in that video, which was fun to see. Some of the resemblances are really striking.

Spot does seem to be bonding with me more and more. And he's doing lots of things that I ask, now, that he was reluctant to do, at first. He runs up and down the ramp into the pickup now, for example. I still take him on lead to be sure he does it right. After all we are trying to save those young joints from wear and tear!

Recovering from the flu is just one day at a time. I am thankful to be getting better each day but I have to be careful not to overdo it. I can see where a person could get in physical trouble really fast with this bug. Stay well, everone!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Mention It

Seems like there is a oneforthebook jinx regarding sheep and lambs. If I take a photo of a lamb, it dies. If I blog about sheep, something dies. If one of us posts a photo of a ewe and lamb on Facebook, well you know the story, don't mention it....I know this is crazy but don't look for any sheep related blogs any time soon! :-) At least not related to OUR sheep...any time soon...

We put Spot on the sheep, briefly, this past weekend. Just a check-in, as he is only seven months old. He is too immature for "training" but I wanted to check in and see where he is with things. He is very keen. The setup was not perfect so the outcome was less than I might have liked to see but he was not bad. Only one wether jumped the fence into the neighbor's pasture. No people ended up in the mud.  It's all good! :-)  Spot is really starting to "click" with me and it feels like he thinks he is my dog now. He is sweet. He was willing to hang out when I first bought him but now I think he is more attached. That relationship will be useful once we do start to work sheep more regularly.

How did you spend your Easter and April Fools Day? Me: "with the flu". February and March were just a blur. I am hoping that April will have some clearer and healthier moments.

Thanks to Lora at Rocking Dog Ranch for the link to the Ask-A-Vet-Sheep blog. Very pertinent topics!