Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Learning Curve

Right now Spot and I are in that magic phase where almost every work session reveals something better, some improvement, some change where he is offering something I want; we are on that lovely learning curve of the beginner dog. I know from past experience that this won't last; we will have setbacks and training issues to solve and work through. But for now I am grateful that each outing seems to reveal a little bit more of what is layered inside him.

Our latest session was out in a smaller pasture. I am still using the long line on him. His stop is just not that reliable and I don't want to get into a chase-argument-disaster if I can't stop him when I need him to stop. Especially when I am working out there by myself with him. It's just a safety issue at this point. He is so eager... oh my goodness. He will stop if everything's almost perfect (sheep slowing down or halted, me on balance, etc.) But if it's not perfect that stop might happen or it might not. It's been hot here lately, and even just a few minutes of work session gets the dogs very warm. His tongue can be hanging down to his knees and he still wants to go on. I have to enforce rest breaks with water and shade for all of the dogs.

Out in the pasture I can do more fetching. Spot really likes the fetch part and I am hopeful that it will turn out to be very good. I have worked and worked on fetches with Coal and I know now how important that phase is!

A couple of times, when things blew up, I was able to put things back together and make lemonade out of lemons, as our trainer told me to do. If Spot busts through the sheep or singles one off (which he did twice in this session), then I need to move such that we turn it into a big cast/gather...and let him succeed in his mini-outrun and fetch from there. It opened up a long fetch for us that was really fun to work with. He will get it.

Ryme did the sorting, as usual. I brought everyone into the barnyard but one of the silly lambs hung back. I stood there and waited. Sometimes it is interesting just to let things roll and wait to see what happens. The lamb looked at Ryme. Ryme looked at the lamb. I just waited. Pretty soon Ryme trotted quietly out through the gate and around the lamb and brought her back into the group and laid down opposite of me. What's next? you could almost see the cartoon bubble over Ryme's head.

Coal and I worked on shedding, on the whole group. And driving the whole group to the corner which is a great exercise that Alun Jones started us all on, years ago. Coal is looking a little bit crisper in his work which is what I have been striving for! It's all about meaning what I ask for and getting it when I do.

In other news we sold our ram. The transfer went so smoothly that I have no antics to write about! We had prepared so well that it was a piece of cake. We were so glad we had halter-broke this ram lamb and trained him with a grain bucket to lead with us, a few times, last year when he was just a little guy. He hadn't had the halter on in many months but when we cornered him and gently looped the rope around his neck, he froze and let us halter him. It was not a scene out of a 4-H lamb show or anything but at least we could move him quietly and somewhat under control out to the buyer's truck. Very cool. I'm glad he's going to someone who will use him, at least for this season. I'm glad he's not going straight to the killers at least this time around. He's a nice guy and while we don't need him it's nice someone else will use him. If we ever get another ram lamb, which we probably won't, but if we do we will definitely spend a few minutes here and there acclimating him to a halter and lead. It made things so much easier. Again, a learning curve.

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