Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ribboning Them Out

This guy is learning to shed.

Ryme is very happy about learning to shed!
Ryme is very slowly learning to shed. Only recently I felt confident enough to try it with him, ribboning out the Scotties and the white training sheep, and the two ewes with their lambs, all of them forming a sheep style conga-line that winds gently, waiting for an opening, making it bigger myself, then calling Ryme through and having him lie down. Then the next step, when sorting sheep to work, ribboning them out again, calling him through, having him take this group this way and that group, thatta-way. It's all so cool and unexpected. I am just thrilled by the willingness to work with me and improve his skills. It's not perfect, don't get me wrong but it is a milestone that was completely and totally unplanned.  The other night he chased down the group that was supposed to be let go but I forgave him and called him back onto his work and it was all OK. He doesn't know. I know he doesn't know. It's a learning process for both of us, which is what is so cool about it.

Yes Ryme still barks too much and he is sometimes a pain at home. But his work is getting better and better. The key to trialing him in any venue will be stopping him at the top. I don't know if our shedding will ever get good enough for trial standards but for now, it's farm-standard and just fine.

Wonders never cease and things with these sheepdog continue to amaze me!

Monday, April 21, 2014

This 'N' That...

Yesterday we had a small RESDA novice workday to help novices learn more about RESDA trials and what is entailed in running a RESDA course. We had more mentors than handlers, though, as we ended up with about five or so mentors, and only two students/handlers! It was still a nice day though and I enjoyed collaborating with my peer RESDA handlers. It was so neat that while we all have different types of dogs, we come from different paths to this activity, and we all handle and train somewhat differently...but we were all pretty much in agreement as to the discussion most of the time. I found that really cool although I guess five people who volunteer to be sheepdog mentors on a weekend morning are bound to be somewhat cool folks- lol! :)

Our two students were at very different levels as were their dogs but I think they both enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately one of the dogs got stung by a bee on her foot so her participation was limited really fast. The one lesson was, always have Benadryl available in this time of year or whenever there may be bees hovering about. The clinic format started with introductions, questions, and then walking thru the RESDA course step by step, without the dogs. Then each student ran the course with their dogs and one of the mentors judged the runs. We followed this with suggestions for improvement and the dog who did not get stung by a bee, did a second run and showed improvement. After that two of the mentors ran their own dogs through the course and tried to show what we are talking about and looking for. It was not as easy as it might have appeared! :) All in all a good format with plenty of time for questions. I hope we can do it again with a better turnout.

This evening there was time and daylight to get all three of my dogs out to train a little bit before dark. Spot was being fast and furious and somewhat exasperating but I was glad I did not give up. At the last we were able to set up a little drive, and he drove the sheep, with me walking parallel, for a little while.  It's not anything earth shattering but there is always that very cool moment when you realize you are driving with your pup for one of the first few times...and how great it feels.  Spot is a project, that's for sure! :) But we're trying.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spot Update April 2014

Spot is still with us even though he hasn't been mentioned too much in the blog lately. While at times I feel like contacting Barnum and Bailey to see if they might need another circus dog, because he is such a clown at home, Spot is slowly but surely coming along in his training, now age almost 20 months. I was thinking of it as just chipping away but today the thought came to me that instead of chipping away it is more positive to say that I am getting a toe hold. All I need in most cases with Spot, is just a teeny toe hold and that gives me the foundation to build from. It is taking us a while to get our act together but we are making progress. Each little toe hold that gets chipped away gives me somewhere else to go. And we know I have to keep moving! :) 

While there are many 20-month young dogs who are ready to run in a trial in nursery this is not the case for us. We are still back in the beginning to intermediate stages of getting started, but it is getting better and better. Luckily I don't have much of an agenda, time-wise, with him. As long as he is trying - and he is obviously trying very hard - I will keep at it.  He has such great potential if I can just hang in there, give him the right opportunities, and not mess him up.

He can do a beautiful (short) outrun, lift and fetch. His feel for sheep is amazing. His stops are getting more reliable especially if on balance; I am working on getting him to stop in other places. Sometimes he will, sometimes he won't - which goes for my big dogs as well! :)  We have some lovely quiet sheep who have been great to train on, but I have to challenge myself to work Spot on some of the other sheep just so I get he and I both used to it when the quiet sheep move on. They are destined to go and be useful to start all over with another young  puppy so soon we will be saying goodbye to them, and hello big sheep/ Scotties! To that end I put Spot on a bigger group mixed up of quiet sheep plus Scotties tonight. They were faster than what he is used to but we managed it. I think we will be OK.We have a lot of time and miles to put in, Spot and I.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

RESDA Slaven Trial 2014

The latest RESDA trial was at the Slaven ranch near Zamora on their home flock of commercial ewes. It was a traditional RESDA fetch course but held out in a large field. When we first arrived at the field, it was not too windy but soon after the trial course was built, the typical Zamora wind picked up for the rest of the day. Drat! But that did not squelch anyone's enthusiasm.

This year the RESDA club has not been using pre-drawn running orders, but drawing for run order out of an actual hat at the trial site that morning at the handler's meeting. This makes for an interesting time of it as you need to keep track of what number you drew and pay attention to which number dog is running so that you know when you go. For those of us addicted to little sheets of paper showing running orders, it is cold turkey at its finest! But it seems to be working. For whatever reason this change was chosen, it sure does make one think and pay attention. I for one liked the pre- drawn running orders but if that was a huge source of stress for some folks, then I am also okay with drawing out of the hat. Whatever works!

Mainly I entered my two boys to get them run time experience on the commercial ewes, and to have a chance to test our training in a trial atmosphere.   Beyond that, the number one goal is to get them stopped on the fetch! :) I am glad to report that all of the above worked out well for both Coal and Ryme.

Coal was up ninth and he started out with a fairly good run, only to find when we went to the first panel, that the sheep from the run before us were still on the field, having failed to get into the exhaust area successfully, and the judge called our run quits when the two sets of three sheep joined to make one group of six. We would have a re-run at the end of the trial. Drat! It was going pretty well and I know that reruns sometimes don't go so smoothly for some reason.

Ryme was quickly up twelfth (or at least the inbetween dogs time seemed to go fast) and he did a beautiful outrun, lift and fetch. I was really thrilled with this as the three sheep were being let out of livestock trailers, not set, and just allowed to drift until they settled (or not in some cases). Ryme has not seen this particular scenario but he handled it well. We had to make several tries to get the first panel. We were working on the second panel and had made a couple of tries at it without getting it. I noticed that his tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth. It crossed my mind what our doggie chiropractor said to me last week, (and she has said many times before) that Ryme "has the body of an old man dog" so I elected to retire. In RESDA you keep your points earned up to that exercise and it did not look like we would gain many more points. There were no chutes and only two pens for the whole trial. It was more important to me to save Ryme for another day, and let him be successful instead of running him ragged to where he might blow up. It was a good feeling to be so confident with him!

There were 20 dogs in the trial. So Coal and I ran again as number 21 and we had the first set of sheep out of the second trailer load which was nice. It was a good set of sheep who were willing to work together and work with us. One was an older ewe who was pretty compliant but there was also another ewe who was kind of a runner, which made things interesting. The third ewe was trying to decide which of the other two to buddy up with! No chute -- like everybody else -- and timed out at the pen, for fourth place in the overall which was a great way to end up the day.

Results and some photos are posted on the RESDA website.

The first place winner was far and away the best run, Rhonda and her Craig dog who won this trial also last year. Craig just handles these sheep and this trial field beautifully!

It is probably time for a Spot update (he has not run off to the circus yet) so maybe that will be the next post, or at least coming up soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Well, I'm only a few posts behind. Our sheep got sheared a few days ago and it's always kind of a festival-like atmosphere on shearing day. I guess we are channeling the days gone by when neighbors helped each other gather and shear, and then had a meal together following the work. These pictures show the same Scottish Blackface ewe - before and after she got sheared.


Her poor lamb screamed almost all the rest of the day, looking for her mom, who she did not recognize without all that wool. Even though mom was standing right next to her, the lamb continued to throw a fit. I guess appearances are everything, even to a sheep!

Our shearer is great and we are so lucky and grateful to have him to do our crew each year.

Our friend George was there and shot some video of the shearing this year. Here is a video link to some of the "Shearing 101" information that was shared that day:

Shearing 101

It is a nice feeling to have shearing completed for springtime. The sheep obviously feel much better!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

McCormack Ranch

Wow, I was lucky enough to volunteer as a clerk last weekend at the McCormack Ranch sheepdog trial. I went last year and spectated for a day and wanted to go back this year to take in some more of the gorgeous ranch. I was asked to clerk for a day and said yes! The McCormack Ranch is such a fantastic site for a sheepdog trial, and then you add in beautiful, healthy, and challenging sheep from the ranch, and great judging and a hard-working makes for an all-around great trial.

I didn't take any pictures because I was clerking...but others have posted photos on Facebook so most folks have gotten to see at least a glimpse of the endless rolling green hills. I saw some really great dog and handler work.  I was actually surprised at how much grass there was, and how tall it was. The last couple weeks have brought us some bonus rains and those combined with recent warm sunny days must have really brought on the growth in the grass.

It was a long day but a great time! There were 13 Nursery dogs to run on top of the Open class so that was a bit of a haul but we got it done...the last run of the day, was the best nursery run and the winner of the class, so that made it all worthwhile. Congratulations to the winners!

Here is a field of California poppies near one of the fields where we work sheep...and Ryme enjoying some of our own green grass, lately.

Friday, April 4, 2014

R & R

A New Year's resolution for 2014 was to try to take more photos. I've been trying to snap a shot here and there -- even just with my phone if that's all I have with me --  thinking I would use it later in my blog. I think the blog entries are more interesting if they have a photo or two to go with them. Agreed? :) 

I've been saving the photos in a folder by month on my computer. Here it is already April and I have two photos from March random snaps that I have not used, and they are both of Ryme. So it is clearly time for a quick Ryme update.

Ryme is a rather big guy!

Let's get back to the sheep, Mom!

Neither photo shows his face but I am pretty sure that is because he was looking away from me towards sheep! We were practicing on some sheep at distance and I'd taken a break to enjoy my surroundings.

Ryme got neutered on Valentine's Day (Poor guy) and he has sailed through that procedure without incident. So, we are not quite two months' into it... and I think there is clearly improvement in his overall outlook. He seems a little bit calmer, is working better, and is tolerating Spot a bit more. In the last week or two I have even ventured to let all four dogs run in the pasture together and there have been no incidents. I am still keeping them separated at home or in close quarters; I don't want to risk it that Ryme might attack Spot again. The success of this procedure and the other input that I have been getting from others makes me think that I may also neuter Spot this year sometime. I am not sure yet, but that may happen.

Ryme ran pretty well at the RESDA trial last weekend. There is still plenty to work on with his confidence building and repeating in a trial performance what he can do at home to a greater percentage. But I think it is all pretty positive at this point in time. Neutering has done nothing to quiet Ryme's vocal nature, however! It would have been too much to expect. :)

Ryme is still my go-to dog for chores, sorting sheep, moving sheep from point A to point B. Best ranch dog ever. I've started a little bit of ranch-style shedding with him lately as well when the moment presents itself.  So that's the Ryme update: still a very unusual dog but I'm trying to give him a niche, and work to do.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No April Foolin'...

Our March product review from Chewy is a little late but I guess I will just chalk it up to being April Fool's Day. :)

The boys got to try out the Nutrisource Lamb Treats which are a soft and moist chewy treat. It took me a while to put two and two together but what they reminded me of the most was when I used to buy Solid Gold Tiny Tots jerky treats for agility training. I think the price on the Nutrisource treats is much lower than Solid Gold, too.

The Nutrisource Lamb treats are in the shape of little dog bones so they are small and would be very convenient for obedience, agility, tracking, and that type of training...or clicker training of any kind. They could easily be broken in half or maybe even thirds for those little teeny rewards when you are clicker training.

I don't do much of that type of training any more but I have to say that the boys were all on board with these treats. They are pretty aromatic and not one of the boys turned these treats down on the first try.  They seem to be very palatable and the other use I can think of, for them, would be to entice a dog to eat who has been sick or injured and doesn't have much of an appetite, but needs to eat. These treats should bring on an appetite, that's for sure! :)

We do use Nutrisource dog food on a regular basis, so I do like their products. It is a family owned company who still manufactures their own products (i.e., not outsourced to Diamond etc.) as KLN Foods.  I have been using their grain-free dry dog foods as well as their chicken and rice and lamb and rice foods, off and on, for the past year or so. I am very happy with their products although I do mix their foods with the Fromm kibble that I buy, as well.

Thank you Chewy for sending the boys another great product to try! :)