Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do You Get Emotional?

I liked this short article from a blog I have added to my blog list for a while, to see how I enjoy it longer term. The topic of this article is, Do you get emotional when working with your horse?

It's really good advice and a good read. Thanks to Kathy F. for the link to the article.

As they say when things get emotional the best thing to do is to put your dog up and go get a cup of tea. :-)

Do You Get Emotional?

I am really trying to modulate my voice with Spot (and the other dogs) and keep the commands light and inviting, and the corrections in that harsher tone (but not use my commands as corrections, either). Whew! Hard work, but all worth it.

Spot and I have had three sheepdog lessons in a little over two weeks' time. That plus my vacation time, to work him more, has resulted in us really getting started together as a team. Today when we worked, it really felt like I was "workin' a dog". Yes! I am very grateful.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Interesting Video of Double Gather

See this link for a video showing a 1000 yard double gather by a sheepdog named Spot. :-)

Sheepdog Trial Challenge, Hawke Hill

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turned the Corner

In the last couple of weeks, Spot and I have (finally) turned the corner in getting him started as a sheepdog. Yesterday, we turned the corner on the lack of daylight, with the Winter Solstice. It's a good time to think about where you have been and where you want to go!

Spot and I have had the good fortune to have a couple of lessons with our trainer on a weekly basis. This has helped us to really get started, along with great friends who are helping on our home practices. I thought we were started before, but we really weren't. We have another lesson scheduled soon, and from there I hope we can still have lessons regularly although it won't be weekly. Spot is stopping much better and is much more mindful of where I am and what I am doing, both on and off the sheep. He's 16 months old now and while still acting like a puppy in many ways, he shows he is ready for more and more as the weeks go by. We're ready to start baby fetches and other little moves to continue his sheepdog training. It's all dependent on the stop though. He is so fast and so ultra-keen. It is a huge relief to be able to work him more reliably! Talk about another learning experience. The other day I read a quote from someone that said, "train the dog in front of you, not your last dog"; so true!

We're now officially into the week of Christmas, so I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year!   We are still dry and brown everywhere, with no rain...the below picture shows green grass but only because the park is irrigated by the city. All I want for Christmas is some rain...

Ryme and Chief on a walk at the park earlier this week

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I picked up hay yesterday so the truck was loaded. Today I was to deliver the hay to where our sheep live, so I could only take one dog with me in the cab of the truck. I took Ryme, since sometimes he gets left behind and misses his turn, and Friday was his birthday and all. So Ryme got to spend several hours with me alone. His facial expression had that soft puppy look with ears back, soft brown eyes and wanting to please, the whole time we were out together...not the hard look that he gets when he is stressed. We worked sheep and hung out with friends...and he was "soft" in his face the whole time. I hope he enjoyed himself. I had a good time just hanging with Ryme and working with him. We are still chipping away at "take time" while driving.

I'm grateful that the hay has not gone up in price again despite our drought. It's still $17.99 for a bale of alfalfa which is a lot, but it could be much more. We were trying to feed some grass hay, but with all the horses in our area, the good grass hay has gone into the twenty dollar range. So we went back to alfalfa for the sheep, as that is the cheapest. Due to the unusual cold, we are giving the sheep a bit extra.

It's so cold I have put a corduroy blanket on Chiefie, since he is 12 years old. He seems perkier with the blanket on even though I feel guilty for making him look like a silly house pet. So be it...if it keeps him more comfortable. The house is not exactly warm! The dog blankets are left over from Augie and Alix. It seems fitting in a way to pass the blankets on down, like hand me downs.  I used to put the blankets on Augie and Alix daily during the winter, when we had caregivers in the house and the dogs had to stay outside as a result. Augie and Alix were in their 'teens and I worried about them being too cold outside.

Spot got some work today with help from some very good friends, for whom I am very grateful. There are glimpses of something fantastic if we can work through it.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

5 Years Old

Ryme turned five years old yesterday. It's hard to believe that time has sped by so fast.

He's a challenge for me, as his view of the world is not quite as it should be, for a good working border collie. I keep trying to work with him and he clamors to work with me and the sheep. He's a great ranch dog and excels at sorting. We're trying to teach him to hold sets for others to practice outruns; it's a slow process as Ryme does not always lie still to allow the working dog to take the sheep away from him. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, so we're only doing it with experienced dogs where it does not matter if things fall apart, and with friends who don't care whether things are always perfect. I'm also still working on his driving, even though plans to trial him are pretty much gone. Ryme does try though, so I don't give up on him. When he has worked, he is happier and that much I can do for him. We're lucky that he has places to go and work. It's not all what I had in mind for him five years ago but it's been a learning experience.

This has been a hard week, with work and the daylight hours so short. The weekend is most welcome, for all! The boys all got to work today and everyone was pretty rough around the edges what with time off, plus the unusually cold weather and the brisk wind to puff them up (and the sheep). Chiefie enjoyed a ride in the warm cab of the truck to the feed store to buy hay and dog food. And at least we got a little rain overnight. We'll bundle up and see what tomorrow brings and maybe with it some smoother dog work.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I'm always grateful but recently the gratitude list contains these thoughts...

I'm grateful for four days off of work so that I can put in some extra time working my dogs, especially Spot. I was also grateful just to have some down time.

I'm grateful to have good places to work the dogs on a variety of situations and different sheep. We're very lucky to have excellent places to work.

I was happy on Thanksgiving to go work dogs for a few hours and then come home and roast a turkey. The boys and I shared turkey dinner and I was very grateful! We followed up our dinner with watching that holiday favorite movie, A Christmas Story! I love that one.

The four days off work and training dogs each day created an optimum situation to try to make some progress with Spot. The weather was clear and I had new booties to use on his feet so he would not tear his pads and be sidelined from that as a result. Each of the four days we went out and worked sheep.

Day One (Thanksgiving), he seemed like he was trying to work with me and there was a little progress. He stopped sometimes. For the first time ever it felt like we were more of a team working the sheep and less chaotic.

Day Two, it was less fun. It seemed like Spot and I were just putting in the effort but not with any results and not really working together. I tried not to be down about it. I knew that there would not be improvement each and every single day.

Day Three, we had a breakthrough! Spot actually stopped and laid down at the end of his cast, on balance. For the first time ever! I felt like I'd won the lotto. For someone looking at us for the first time they might think we were not too good. But for Spot and me it was a major step forward.

Day Four, no breakthroughs, but just a continuation of what we have been doing. Some casting around the sheep, which is just gorgeous...and a few stops. Spot is clearly trying very hard to work with me. What more can I ask? He is super, super, super keen. He is trying to fit in with my abilities and limitations. We're both trying.  We have some yearling wethers who are quiet and are working just great for Spot. I'm very grateful for them!

As for the other dogs, we had a great practice on lambs that showed all the holes in our Open dogs. Oh my! Nothing like getting your false sense of security shot out from underneath you, so to speak!  Coal gets mesmerized by lambs, even older ones, so it is always a battle to get him to work lambs properly. I'm very grateful to have those lambs to work on.

For Ryme I am trying to get him driving better and at a little bit more distance from me without him blowing up. It's slow, just like everything else. But we're working at it. Even though it's a lot for me to work multiple dogs, I'm grateful to have dogs to work. They are all different and keep me digging deep to find what each one of them needs as an individual.

I'm also very grateful to have kind friends who are willing to toss around ideas, help me to set up training situations for my dogs, and set up training dates to help keep us all going. There's a lot to be grateful for!

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!