Sunday, December 6, 2015

Spot's Progress, 12/6/15

Spot is now 3 years and 3 months (plus a few days) old. In the past few weeks, the weather has turned more to winter, we've been getting a little bit of rain (yay!) and it is nice and cool out, for working dogs (and sheep). The hard ground is starting to soften up; places that were cracked are crumbling together in softer dirt. There is a little bit of green stuff creeping in, almost everywhere we go. Unfortunately, the daylight hours are very short, and for those of us with full time jobs, the available time to work dogs is very short as well. In spite of the short days, we have put in a few good training sessions lately.  We've had a couple of lessons with our trainer, and in addition, we went on a weekend trip that blessed us with a great training opportunity in a new and different area.

As for our lessons, I can't think of any other way to characterize them except as "meat and potatoes" work. We are crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on Spot's initial work. There is nothing glamorous about working out the stops anywhere on the flanks, and the increasing distances, for example. We just have to work through it.  It is difficult for me to really try, but I am holding myself to as high a standard of work as I can. We're doing a lot of driving. There shouldn't be any rush and it should take as long as it takes. But the main reason that I am getting lessons is to make sure we stay on track and that I do not miss things that should be prioritized. I do feel the urgency of time ticking in many ways but the coaching is something I am really grateful for.

We went on a wonderful, restful weekend getaway and it involved a chance for the dogs to work a group of unbroke older lambs. Spot was at first somewhat perplexed because the lambs just looked at him. But with some encouragement he got them going and we were able to work with them in a smaller corral. Later I sent him for them on an outrun in a large field and he handled all of that very well and we worked them down the field without any issues. This was a huge opportunity for Spot to get out in a new field, and on fresh sheep. I was really thrilled with how well he handled it. We have many miles to go before he is really ready but I think we are getting there, bit by bit.

Beautiful sheep in a lovely setting! I did not take this photo; I think Marnie did.
I need to let Spot "graduate" into the next level in some parts of his work, which also means I need to both trust him more and trust the many hours and hours of training that I have already put into him. Today, for example, I started flanking Spot on "the fly", i.e. without a hard stop inbetween the flank commands. Spot seemed somewhat surprised but he did pretty well with it. When he works well, he is so smooth. There is progress. :)

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