Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Working Team

My Working Team, caught together in a rare moment

This is my working team: (l-r) Coal, Ryme and Spot. It's too bad that Ryme is looking away from the camera, but of course he is looking in the direction of the sheep!

Coal is now eight years old (which is hard for me to accept and believe) and he is my Open trial dog, that is, when I can go to a few trials. I am regretful that I could not trial him more, but that's the way things have been in the last few years. He is a life changing dog for me and I am so grateful to have him. Coal is always willing to try whatever I have in mind, and he has a lot of want-to.  He has placed in a few USBCHA trials, and I think the highest we have ever been is second place in Open. His downfall is his extreme amount of eye, which I constantly work to try to deal with. He is a merry little monkey off the sheep field and always makes me smile. There is not a bad day for Coal - he always has good days!

Ryme is almost six years old. He is my best guy for ranch work and chores. He loves to sort sheep and do any kind of close work. The wheels sometimes fall off if I try to work him at too much of a distance. As a result, most trialling scenarios have not worked out well for him. His temperament is not good and he is not trustworthy around other dogs and people that he does not know. So I am really careful with him in public. With people and dogs he knows, he is very friendly and playful. I am just trying to give him the best life that I can. He has a chronically bad rear leg so we are very careful with that. Right now I am teaching him to shed. This will help us a lot with chores and it also provides me with another learning experience of teaching a different type of dog to shed. It also gives us something to work on when I train. Yesterday there was a little ram lamb who was trying to get bossy; I put Ryme on him and Ryme snapped at that little ram right at his nose. The ram decided he'd better move along with the rest of the flock. It's nice to have a dog who will do that!

Spot is two years old and he is my hopeful. It has taken a long time to get him going, in comparison with all the other pups of his age group. He was so keen and so strong that it was difficult to get him started in the right direction. But now we are on our way and Spot is learning to drive. I'm using Spot for any small chore that comes along (or that I can make up, literally). I wish we had more sheep chores for him to do. Right now I am just working on his driving and lengthening his outruns...working on that elusive stop on the fetch, so I have it just in case.  I'm really excited about his prospects and am fairly certain - at least at this point - that he will make a trial dog. His temperament is excellent and his stock sense is very good.  Spot has a TON of want-to and is (now) willing to work with me to make that partnership happen.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

On Thanksgiving Day, I always like to try to take pictures of the dogs. I had a hard time getting them to line up in one frame, today, but below are the two choices that I came up with. Neither photo is too great but they are better than nothin'! :)

Dogs who would rather be running around playing, or more importantly, working not care to sit still for silly photos for mom.

We had a great day, working sheep, doing chores, and just hanging out. I got to play with two litters of puppies, and I made two new recipes that I've been wanting to try. One recipe is from The Beef Jar, a blog that I enjoy reading.

The dogs got nice raw bones late this afternoon and they are more than thrilled that I had the day off and they in turn got a break from their work day routine.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Some Nice Rain and Some Thoughts

We've had some nice rain this past week...a couple of days of lovely wetness. It is very welcome in these parched parts. Maybe soon we will have as much green grass as in the above photo with Coal (from two years ago). For today, however, the rain seems to have stopped and the wind has really picked up. Time to get the summer umbrellas off the back porch and stowed until spring.

The dogs are so bored because of their inactivity during the week; however I am finding that when I do get them out to the sheep they are not as wild as I might have guessed. Coal and I are a bit rusty, and his stubborn side is showing, which I am trying to tune up before the Dunnigan trial. But the younger dogs seem to be taking it in stride that we have hit that midpoint of winter where the days are short. Another month, and the days will start to get longer, again.

Spot's training is coming along. He is picking up on the whistles, the driving, and everything I am throwing at him. What needs attention (again) is the stop at more of a distance, now that I have probably mixed everything up in his head. I've been trying to make up chores and jobs for Spot to do, whenever we can. He is so willing to work with me, which is very exciting! And for which I am very grateful. Thanksgiving is next week so it's probably a good time to come up with a gratitude post. Food for thought. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Remembering Green Grass and Water

These pictures are from approximately two years ago at this time of year, when we had actual rain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Coal

photo by L. Heringer
This photo made the BCIA 2015 calendar. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just Work Him and Have Fun

Don't train on him by rote, just work him and have fun.

That's the latest in Spot's progress. He's progressing so fast and so well that the latest mantra from this week's lesson is to just work him and don't train on him. Don't push him, don't try to fine tune him yet. Let him work, find practical jobs for him to do, or make them up as you go. Get him out and about wherever you can on whatever different sheep you can (yeah, right, that is always the tallest order).

Our lesson this week started out with me showing what Spot and I can do with a small packet of sheep. We gathered, we drove, we fetched. We had a great time ... and then we were challenged to do much more.

We drove the small group of sheep much farther than ever before, up over a hill. I tried to keep up on the hill. A couple of times Spot tried to head the sheep but he stopped when I asked him to, and waited for me. When we reached the top, the sheep drifted to another pen full of sheep while we caught our breath from the hill climb, and Spot got a drink. Then we took all the sheep out of that pen and drove them away, and brought them back and re-penned them.

Then we took them out again, and we got to do long outruns on the hills with all those many sheep. Oh my. It was such a thrill to see Spot doing what he was bred for, working sheep on the hills. I am so grateful, yet I know we have both worked so hard for this connection.  "Hills make a dog." Such a true statement! He learns a lot by doing. We do have some things to work on. :) The stop on the fetch at a distance, for example, and whistles, and more. Can't wait!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Covelo Work Day

RESDA sponsored a sheepdog work day last weekend at a ranch in Covelo, CA. It is a long drive but definitely worth the trip! We went last year and when the opportunity came up to go again this year, it was a must-do on the to-do list.

The green grass in the pasture was ankle deep which was a shock both to our systems and to the dogs. We are used to dried up brown, hard dirt with a few springs of brown here and there. To walk and work in nice lush green grass was a real treat.  I guess they have had rain up there that we just haven't gotten yet.

The sheep were older Dorper lambs who had never been worked in small groups, so that was the major challenge.  They also had their heads buried in that lush green grass and did not want to move. That changed what I was able to do with my dogs but I am still very grateful for the chance to get out on different sheep in a different place.

Coal did a nice outrun and fetch but then was pretty much unable to drive the lambs very far without some help and encouragement. Most of the dogs were similar, and had to kind of weave back and forth to get the lambs to move once they had planted themselves in a location. In contrast, Spot was able to pick them up and drive them without the sheep hesitating.  Spot did a nice outrun then picked up the sheep and drove the sheep away from me as straight as a string with no weaving.  That made my weekend to see!

I was super happy with all three dogs that I took to work as I felt that they all tried hard. The drive back and forth to Covelo is a long one and we left early enough to get home (or at least out of the area of the winding and hilly roads) before dark, the weekend of the time change.

It was also great to see many of our handler friends and have a visit in such a pleasant location. Oh and the fact that there was surprise barbecue and fixin's made it extra special.  Thank you to everyone who helped!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wordless Wednesday, a Day Late

The Beef Jar blog has some nice Wordless Wednesday posts so I am going to try to follow suit. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Spot's Progress, 11-05-2014

I haven't posted about Spot's progress in a long time, it seems. There for a while in the late summer/early fall, it seemed like we were treading water, again. I was just waiting and hoping, for another breakthrough in his understanding, and meanwhile we just kept plugging away at the work with the sheep. He wasn't doing anything bad, but it seemed like we weren't getting any better.

My patience is being rewarded. :) In the last few weeks, Spot has really started to come on again. He is just about two years and two months old, plus. We are making progress in his outruns, fetches, and drives. He's learning the whistles and doing much, much better. It feels like I am working a real dog. Yeah! He flanks, he stops (most of the time). He helps me to feed the sheep (which he loves to do because he gets to push).

I took him to the workday at Covelo and the sheep there were somewhat hard to move on the first day. They had their heads down in the lush green grass and did not want to go very far with dogs behind them. But, Spot had no trouble picking them up and driving them in a line as straight as a ribbon. Wow. It was as if it was something he'd been waiting for his whole life.

We've had a couple of lessons with our trainer lately, and in the bigger spaces without nearby fences to create pressure, it's neat to see the dogs bloom and blossom into real sheepdogs. I am super thrilled with how Spot took to working out in a more open space and also on the hillsides.

If this sounds like an enthusiastic report about Spot, that's because it is. Woo hoo! I'm hoping to get more done with him, over the winter. The only down side, is the time change, and lack of daylight. So our practices will have to be better focused because the quantities of sessions will have to be fewer, out of necessity.

A Short Trial Season

October was our trialling month, I guess, for Fall 2014. It was a very short trialling season for us. Traveling out of the area for trials just isn't happening for me, right now, and with no Hopland, that left only two trials for us to go to.

The new Patrick Ranch trial in Durham, CA was very well organized, just an all-around nice trial. Held on the grounds of the Patrick Ranch museum, there was a fall celebration and a fiber festival all happening at the same venue on that weekend. There were lots of interested spectators enjoying the sheepdogs along with their hayrack rides, pumpkins and viewing the fiber arts.  The outrun was not huge but the trial was not about the outrun. It was about everything else, mainly the sheep, who were crossbred older lambs/ younger yearlings from a grazing outfit and they had little to nothing to do with obeying a dog who wanted to move them about. The second day went better but the first day was pretty hard, for most of the dogs. Coal and I retired on the first day, unable to get the sheep around the post. The second day, we did better and actually started around the course, until I made a stupid handler error and drove the fetch panels instead of the crossdrive panels. Bucket list, check! I wasn't feeling very well over that weekend and my focus was nonexistent, apparently. Not enough sleep, working too hard, and getting two vaccines at the doctor the day before leaving for the trial, made for a very unfit handler. Anyway I have nothing but good to say about this trial, and I am so glad that NCWSA is getting back into doing open USBCHA type trials. I know it was a ton of work and I was wowed by all the many hands who were helping. I hope I can help more, next time.

Spencer's Point Pleasant fall trial was up next, for us. Michael Shearer, current winner of the World Trial in Scotland, was our judge. He and his wife are so nice and we have all enjoyed them on their prior trips to the area. Coal and I did better at this trial, and we got around the course in both of our runs. That was a huge confidence builder even if we didn't place up very high on the list. Coal and I both made our mistakes but it felt good to get out there and do a full course.  This trial is always well-run and this year was no exception with no detail left undone. The Pt Pleasant fall trial usually has the dogs running out through a gate on the outrun, which we had practiced ahead of time. I was really happy that Coal took his direction out the gate as we had done at home, and also that we got our sheds on both runs.

Big thank yous go out to both venues for all the hard work that goes into putting on a trial for our enjoyment!