Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Oh, she's got good sheep again!"

Yes, Big Cat Boy is walking. Yes he is!
For two weeks now I've been trying to come up with a way to blog about the experience we had at the Derek S. clinic in Santa Rosa. I kept coming up with this angle, and that, but unable to put together what I wanted to say, blog-like.

I'm still not there, but the blog is hanging up as a result, like a big log-jam is stuck in the creek that needs to run, so the water is spilling backwards out into places where it shouldn't be..... I need to post about that clinic, which was for me a Bucket-List-On-Steroids weekend, and more. For many years I have wanted to attend a Derek clinic and just audit. When he was visiting the U.S. regularly a few years ago, I couldn't go. Then there was a travel hiatus for them; there was no one to take care of the farm, and the trip to the Western U.S. is so very long. And I gave up and just wistfully put it on the bucket list, never to be seen again (or so I thought). And then, the unexpected opportunity came knocking, to not only audit the clinic but to work dogs with Derek. Such good fortune! I am not accustomed to it. :)

"Oh look, (s)he's got good sheep again!"

I think this was the overall message that most people at the clinic "got", whether they audited or whether they worked a dog. Perhaps the auditors got it "more" because they could see the transformation happening time and time again, without worrying about what they themselves or their dog, would do.

If your dog works correctly and properly, your sheep will work well. If your dog does not work properly, your sheep will run, in fear. And that goes for training, trialling, or real work, all three.  They are not "bad" sheep. They are not "terrible", "runny" sheep. Most likely. Although there could be a few exceptions to those statements, for example, if the sheep have been spoiled by poor dog work. But in most cases, we can work our dogs to suit those sheep and move them efficiently and properly if our dogs work correctly.

And how do we do that exactly? Well you needed to attend the clinic to find out. :)

I took a lot of notes but I've decided that I'm not going to transcribe them here. I am afraid I might get pieces of it wrong and I have no desire to engage in online debate about it, nor be sorry that I misquoted or mis-noted one point or another. That was part of my I write up all my notes? No, I don't think so. I hope I can blog about some of the mini-topics that were covered, without misquoting, though. I will try...

Probably the most important moments of the entire weekend, however, were early on Sunday morning, when Derek showed us about moving sheep around ourselves, using about a dozen pregnant ewes in a round pen, with no dog. What exactly does happen when we run a single sheep into a fence? What happens when we threaten a ewe's stomach area? How do we best move sheep around to set up a shed? .... pure magic.

Walk, walk, walk.

This clinic was super-good timing for Spot and me. He is at the stage where he is a (big) sponge and we are developing our abilities side-by-side as he grows in maturity and knowledge. It was a fortuitous moment in time to be able to work him with Derek. Nice pace, good stops, at a nice walk. My mantra for training. Don't flank him unless I get a good walk. Ok that part I will transcribe because I am so sure of it! :) Walk, walk, walk. Walk, walk, walk. Sheep at a walk; dog at a walk.

Spot will only get better and better. (I am sure about that part too!). Even when he is seven years old, he will get better. I am hanging onto that bit!

"Oh she's got good sheep again!" I surely hope so!

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