Friday, January 31, 2014

I Think We Have a Winner

We've been doing product reviews for for a while now. This time, they sent us Fromm Chicken with Carrots and Peas Recipe treats for dogs, to check out.  The boys have taste tested a few flavors of the Fromm treats in the past and I know it is good stuff. We use Fromm dog food on a regular basis, too.

Ryme is my firewall taste tester. He is the most picky of the bunch. Normally he will eat anything eventually but not before it is rejected, spit out, and then examined thoroughly. Coal and Chief will eat anything and Spot is not too far behind as long as he is not distracted by something shiny or wooly.

But this time we have discovered Ryme's favorite of the Fromm treats. These chicken and carrot treats did not get rejected at all, in fact Ryme took his experimental treat on the first try and ate it and wanted more. That is saying a lot, for a dog whose (up til now) most favorite treat was a lowly Milk Bone.

I think we have a winner!

The boys liked these grain-free treats so well, that I bought another package, the next time I was at the feed store.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What You Wish For

There's an old saying: "be careful what you wish for". It can mean that you might unintentionally get things that you thought you wanted but didn't really want or like, once you got them.

On the flip side, it's good to wish for things in the sense of working towards small goals that lead to progress in something.  I've become a big believer in chunking down a large problem or goal into mini bundles that can be accomplished and marked off with metrics. Love those metrics; can you tell I work in the corporate world?

For a while now, I've been saying that I will "look forward to just walking into the field and working Spot". That is, I would wish to be able to just open the gate, step in and work my dog without a lot of prep. For months we have been sorting off the puppy sheep and setting out hay for them to hold them. We would close all the extra gates in the pasture so that the sheep couldn't outwit the puppy and run away. Sometimes it would take me 20-30 minutes and a lot of walking in order to be able to set this all up for Spot in order to work him. Other times my training buddy would help me by doing some of this prep too, which was much appreciated.

I can now say that I can walk into the field and work Spot with no prep. It's exciting to be able to say that! I can open the gate, down him, and take off his leash and we can work the whole group of sheep. I'm not going to do it every time as I don't want to overly work our fresher sheep that are intended for our more advanced dogs. But maybe once a week on a week night when I am pressed for time, I will just walk into the field and work Spot. Tonight was one of the first times I have tried this (I tried it last week too). It's a small step on our road to progress.

Sometimes my job is very monotonous. I talked to my boss about the monotony of it. His advice to me was to "celebrate your successes" as much as you can, to break up the tedium. I can't say that working Spot is anything approaching tedium (it has been more of a roller coaster ride or a runaway train at times!) but certainly it is good to always celebrate your successes. So here's a celebration of being able to just open the gate and work my dog. Whew!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Still Working...

Spot goes on a short cast

We're still working the dogs and crossing our fingers that we might get some rain...note that there is no grass in any of these pictures. Meanwhile Spot (now 17 months) is making a little bit of progress, although it seems like slow progress at times, and one step forward with a couple of steps back. Overall though we are taking some forward steps. I'm working him without the long line all the time, now, although we go to and from the field on leash. We can do short little gathers from either side although he prefers to be set up on the bye side. I'm trying to rearrange myself and the sheep so that Spot will want to run to the away side on his own choice. Stopping is still an issue and probably will continue to be; he is so keen. But I am insisting upon it as I am able. In our last session, Spot actually drove the sheep about 30 yards, after I coached him on getting the sheep out of a run-in shed. The setup was just so perfect to start an impromptu drive, that I went with it. What fun; he stopped just fine during that little driving excursion and then when he seemed like he might cut out around the heads of the sheep, we stopped and started over with a little gather. Cool. :-)

 Ryme waiting for his sloowwww walk up
Ryme is still working on his more deliberate approach to the sheep. We've worked on it now for about two weeks and I think I am seeing a difference. I am staying pretty close to him but also trying to add in some distance here and there to see where we are with it. Definitely this tactic is giving us happier, quieter sheep with Ryme behind them! Ryme also has an appointment to get "tutored" next month, now that we have the funds for it. I am hoping this might help his attitude toward things but it certainly won't hurt to have a few less male hormones around here.

Checking the forecast anxiously several times a day does not make it rain. Too bad. But neither does gloom and doom make it rain, either. We're trying to remain at least somewhat positive yet come up with a plan for what we will do. Some sheep are getting sold to preserve pasture space for others. Dog training will go on.......and we pray for rain. Those farmers and ranchers whose living and work is being affected by this water crisis, are in our thoughts daily.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fast Forward

I keep thinking of topics to blog about, but there seems to be no time...A topic lately is fast and forward.

Ryme gets a training plan

I asked a friend to watch me working Ryme recently, to see if she could see anything to make a suggestion that might help us to work together better on the sheep. She held sheep for Ryme to gather with her experienced dog. Right away, after just one short gather, she had a suggestion. Train him to get up more slowly from a down; he is getting up really fast which makes his lift too fast and may be part of what leads to him blowing up on the trial field. I have noticed that he gets up often times with a skip of the rear leg. I  believe it is partially due to his chronic tenderness in that leg but it doesn't mean I can't try to train him to get up more slowly. I am working on it and seeing some little progress. The bonus is, that this also works as rehab...the chiropractor says that Ryme's rear leg is really winter-ouchy and he needs some slow exercises from down to sit and sit to stand and so forth. It will be more than worth it to invest some time in working with Ryme to see if he can get up more slowly when he is working sheep. Just no sprinting; now that may be difficult to pull off but I will try!

Spot runs into some progress

Spot and I had a lesson with our trainer last weekend. Everything was fast forward there. We were assigned three much faster, younger sheep than Spot is used to working. That put everything into fast motion! I felt like I was working a totally different dog as Spot did not want to stop at all! Finally with perseverence we got it together but it felt like at least three steps backwards. But it is good to know that Spot is not ready to graduate to big-boy sheep, yet. I am grateful we have the puppy sheep for him to work on at home, and we can get some solid behaviors in place.  For now we can:

  • ·        Work without the longline *new*!
  • ·        Go into the pasture on leash but work off leash for the training session *new*!
  • ·        Go from one setup to the next with "that’ll do", a slap of my leg, and no leash *new*!
  • ·        Do a pretty decent short gather, especially on the bye side *new*!
  • ·        Fetch a few steps with lie downs inbetween

Distance is our best friend! The more distance I can get between Spot and the sheep and me, the better…and the better he looks and behaves. I am saying the flank commands as Spot does the behaviors. I don’t think he knows his sides yet but it should happen soon. It feels like I am now working a dog. Yeah!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Of Dogs, Birds (and Bacon)

Some amusing things have happened lately; at least some of them were amusing after they happened, if not so amusing during the experience!

I stopped by my favorite little local pet store to buy some doggie food and chatted with the proprietress, Sue. She told me about her two new pet birds who they have had for only about a week. The amazing thing is how social the birds are, not only with Sue and her husband, but with their dogs. They have four little tiny dogs. It amazed me to hear how one of the birds actually enjoys dropping food down from their perch to one of the tiny dogs who waits below on purpose to catch the food. The bird walks over to the edge of its perch and drops a blueberry, a piece of apple, and so forth! Then the dog eats the blueberry or whatever, from down below. I thought this was amazing inter-species interaction. It's not like the bird is just clumsy and drops its food; it is dropping the food on purpose down to the dog. Wow!

Pondering this story in my head, I arrived home soon after. It was evening, and after a long day at work and feeding sheep and running errands. I came inside the house and went back to the bedroom to change clothes. Ryme suddenly started pouncing at something and he then flushed a (wild) bird out from under my bed! Oh my! I quickly got Ryme out of the room and opened up the patio door to the outside. The bird then promptly walked into my closet. (No I hadn't closed the closet door - dumb.) So I herded the bird out of the closet and out onto the floor again and then it saw the open door - thankfully! It hopped on outside and I thought I saw it disappear into some taller cover. Whew! Bird disaster averted! And no this does not happen often to me, and no I have no idea how a bird got in, nor do I know what it was doing in the house all day.

A few minutes later I was still trying to do those things that you need to do when you get home in the evening from work, like start preparing doggie dinners and so forth. I heard a ruckus out on the deck. It was Spot, pouncing on and playing with the poor bird. After I gave Spot what-for, the bird hopped away and I hoped it sought some better cover in the dark, this time. I have not seen it since.

About this time it felt like I was living in a zoo and not a home! Where is the order? Where is the doggie obedience? It went out the door with the hopping, lost bird, I think!

Speaking of lost order, the last tasty tidbit is regarding a certain hunk of (four slices of ) bacon that a certain 12-year old dog ripped out of my hand over the weekend. I was not exactly dangling it over the doggie's head going, "here, doggie, doggie", either!

Is this the face of a Bacon Grabber???
I guess the bacon just overwhelmed 12 years of obedience and order. I ripped those four slices of bacon right out of his mouth although he got about one-third of it swallowed before I got it back. It is not a great way to start your day, standing there with a hunk of half-dog-chewed bacon in your hand and looking incredulous. I can't imagine the disarray that there would be if I had two pet birds on top of this zoo that dropped food to the border collies...oh my!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NCWSA Workday and Annual Meeting

We had a nice day today, helping out with the NCWSA annual meeting and work day. Coal and I helped with setout. The event was filled and everyone seemed to have a good time. I was really pleased to see so much interest in NCWSA.

Handlers were given a set number of minutes to work their dogs as they pleased. We set out the sheep as if they were in a trial. It was a good chance for people to practice in that situation.

The photo above shows how dry it is in our area. That pasture should be nice and green, by now. We are still hoping that some rain will come our way soon!

Because we were finished by about 3 PM I couldn't resist swinging by our sheep flock on my way home from the work day, to give Spot a training session. Spot did all right. It is slow progress, but still we are making progress. Spot is trying really hard and is so focused.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bringing in the New Year

We brought in the New Year, as usual, with working dogs. Coal has a bruised foot (presumably from the hard ground due to no rain) but Ryme and Spot got to play.

I did not get any pictures of Ryme but I am trying a couple of different things with him, just to see if they will help him. It's all experimental with him. I watched Aled Owen's video again, "Time Well Spent" on New Year's Eve and I saw different things in there that I had not noticed before. I also recently re-watched the Derek Scrimgeour video, "The Shepherd's Pup" which gave me some ideas for all of the dogs.

Spot is 16 months old now, and solid muscle. He is goofy off of the sheep; sweet, and lovable. On the sheep he is all business but is including me in the equation now. Things are going a lot better with our sheepdog training sessions. We are able to make progress, which is great. It is still a challenge for me and I am very grateful for all the help from our trainer and support from friends.

Coal and Spot

Spot, 16 months
I hope everyone had a great New Year's! I do not like the fireworks that persist in my neighborhood every New Year's Eve (and all during the Fourth of July) but otherwise, it was good. Poor Chiefie fares the worst during the fireworks but thankfully it did not go on more than a couple of hours.

Happy New Year to all, and here's to a great 2014.