Friday, June 12, 2015

Through the Open Gate

Over the years - in addition to this blog -  I have kept a journal. I don't always write in it daily but almost. Mostly it is for recording my dog training activities but my personal stuff sneaks in there as well. I have kept a dog training journal for a long time. It is fun and sometimes very bittersweet, to go back and read through the entries about dogs who are now gone. I don't have a very good memory at times. It is amazing to go back and read journal notes written in my own handwriting about days out with the dogs that I don't quite remember very well. I'm glad I wrote them down. :) I also write down ideas that I have used later with others of my dogs, or with dogs belonging to other folks who ask my opinion of their dogs and how they might help them to work better. This year I went to some clinics and I just wrote all my clinic notes straight into my journal instead of using another notebook. It's all in there...

That said the nice thing about keeping a training journal is that it gives you a place to start with your next training session. If you write down at the end what you want to work on next, there is your to-do list for the next session,  in case life gets in the way and you forget. I really learned this back when we used to do tracking. Sometimes weeks would pass between training sessions and rather than rely on my bad memory I would nearly always write down what we needed to work on next time. It was very helpful. It's always good to go out with a plan.

With sheepdogs, and working with the third species that is sheep, it is also always good to be open to opportunities that come up that you didn't plan for. And sometimes things happen, no matter how good our plan, that take us in a different direction for that session than what we had in mind. We have to be flexible enough to leave that gate open for opportunity.

One day this week we had actual rain for part of the day. It was wonderful. In the afternoon/evening when I went out to train, the rain had stopped but the air had cooled down and it was just lovely out. It was one of those evenings when I really enjoyed myself despite the long work day that preceded it.  I felt mentally fried when I first got there but that feeling soon drifted away. We were working at one of the other places where I get to work my dogs. There were some new sheep, recently acquired, who were not into hanging with the resident group. Together they all made a much larger group. I love to work on a larger group. The bonus was having a smaller part of the large bunch who was happy to settle elsewhere. Two groups who do not yearn to cling together = opportunities knocking for the dogs.

It's a great time to work on shedding. Once you have the groups split apart, you can work with the dog on holding the pressure of them wanting to run back together. This pressure is something we don't always get with the broke sheep.  You can work on the dog being a gate such as in the International shed, but it's also just a darn good skill to have for a ranch dog.

For Spot, I took advantage of the two groups to begin his look backs. That is something I have not done with him at all but all of a sudden there was the opportunity to start it, so I grabbed onto it. He had no idea what I wanted but at least we have started. I walked him through it a few times, with me facing the other set of sheep and telling him to look. Eventually he got it and I didn't care which way he went or how he got there, if he just gave up the first set and went for the second set. Sam and Ryme both have pretty good look backs. So I worked with all three of them on shedding, the International style sort, and holding and walking into that pressure.

Before all this started, I sent Ryme and Sam out through the gate into the pasture on their outruns for the first time, when they each had their turns. This is another good skill for a ranch dog and it's also done at some of the trials. Coal already knows it as we have worked with him on it a lot. Spot will get some of that very soon as I want him to learn it as well.

I'm always trying to keep the gates of opportunity open so they can learn. We also had a ton of fun.

Coal was lame after Dry Lake/Little Horse Mountain. I am giving him some let-down time to heal and recuperate. I'm saving some small chores for him each time we work, and letting him run on his own to keep fitness, but not pushing him. This week Coal and Ryme and Spot also got to see their chiropractor. She found Coal's front leg to be pretty sore. We now have exercises to do. :) I was not off base in giving him a little let-down time. Right now I'm pushing harder with Ryme and Spot. I'm going to see what Ryme can do. He's trained.  So we'll see. Keeping the gate open when we can.

Gloria took some nice photos of Spot at Dry Lake. :)


Kathy said...

Good post, Billy. I also keep a journal...........more of a training journal as I make my way thru this journey.

livin life said...

Love this!!! I have the best of intentions of keeping a training journal! :)

Billy said...

Thank you Kathy, I am not surprised to read that you keep a journal. :-)

Lora, it doesn't take much time to jot down a few things; I view it as my reward time in the evening after a long workday. :-)