A Border Collie's Mistress' Place for News and Musings

Travels, Trials and Tribulations

Monday, December 13, 2010

More on Driving

I have been chipping away at the heap that is our driving.  I took an unplanned lesson today.  So happens I was in the right place at the right time and there was a cancellation.

Still doing a lot of walking as per the prescription of my last lesson and things are coming along really well. Z's staying back and actually feeling his sheep better.   We are also making MUCH better 90 degree turns.  The cross drive is shaping up better.  I really attribute it to the a walking, I can really be there to enforce keeping the sheep's side turned towards me and not letting him slip and turn them away or try to fetch.  More work to be done here though, to lessen the tension and get him more comfortable.  We'll keep on trucking in this vein.

One thing that was brought to my attention while taking my fortunate lesson was my dog is not walk up strait  EVERYTIME he walks up.  I didn't realize that Z was even cheating me on this. Ok honestly, I knew somewhere deep down in my dark insides, but I didn't realize it was the root of  one of my issues.  Mostly he walks up dead on but sometimes when I say walk up he moves to the side and forward.  Z really only needs to move forward.  I have some good exercises to cure this problem.  What I couldn't sort out was he knew to turn in when I said there, but he wasn't taking responsibility for the line after he turned in.  I really had to keep placing him where I need him to be instead of setting him and letting him go.  So now I am teaching him the "there" means turn in and hold that line.  I'm actually fixing this on the fetch since he is very keen to move forward.  Really excited to see how this plays out and quickly he gets it.

I also got some stunning help on my shed.  I have been having an issue with Z really watching the lead sheep and wanting to grab those instead of letting them go.  I now have a new twist on my shedding at least for awhile.  Actually I think this will clear up much faster than what we have going on with our driving.  He will get it much quicker as he is very keen to shed. We will stop practicing look backs while shedding first and foremost.

I must assimilate all the new information.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Hibernation

I'm pretty much planning to take it easy for the next month or so as far as trialling.  The plan is to focus on the training issues that need worked on.

For the most part I will be looking at Z's driving and we will drive and drive and drive some more.  With that I plan to walk a lot to get the power steering and gears installed. I'm trying to get much more smoothness instead of the stop start we have been having lately.  Also I am working on opening up his inside flanks a little bit more.  As alway still working on keeping him back and getting him relaxed behind the sheep.  He really likes to goose the bubble and has a hard time letting them go a tiny bit to use the draw to our advantage.  I'll be setting up situations to work on this.

The next thing I will work on a little is smoothing out the shedding.  He almost understands this well.  So I plan to solidify it a bit more and start asking him in more difficult situations.  I will probably not work too hard on this right now as driving seems to be more pressing.

I'll make an attempt to work on his look back too.  We did few sessions on this in the late summer and he's got the basic idea.  He's turning back and taking off in the direction I want, but sometimes it takes a little work to get him to let go of the first group.

I'll be heading out in Dec. for a trial in Idaho, but after that probably not trial again until the end of Feb.  With any luck I'll be able to keep Z reasonably fit and we wont be too behind the ball when we start shaping up to go to North Dakota in June.  Hopefully we get into the trial! Take a look here.http://www.slashj.com/

Monday, November 8, 2010

Island Crossing_Z's run

Day 1 was by all accounts a tad rocky.  The field is a nice field with some tricks to the terrain.  The illusion is that left is the better way to send, but there is actually enough room to send right and not have to contend with the fencing obstacle. I sent right. Lost 1 on the out-run I called him in a bit at the bottom as he has the tendency to run too wide right away especially to the right. I thought he over ran a touch, but on reflection he was covering the pressure of the set out, 0 off the lift.  Lost 8 off the fetch, there were no panels and I find it challenging to keep a line with no target.  Post turn was sweet, we have been working on this.  It is still not the best yet so our drive away set up is still a bit mucky.  We lost 18 points on the drive.  The drive away was tough because the sheep were running back toward the set out.  I cut it short and just grazed the inside panel, my dog was really worried about losing the sheep.  Made and ok turn and had a cross drive into the draw of the exhaust.  It was really tough to keep him from over flanking, he was convinced he was going to lose them to the draw.  We were a hair low and I flanked him and we made the panels.  The turn around the panels was so sweet, one of the few dogs that didn't lose the sheep down the hill to the exhaust.  We made it to the shed, but had a tricky time.  I got the shed but didn't get it called due to my front sheep leaving the ring before I called my dog in.  The sheep weren't too forgiving about letting me try again.  So we died a painful death in the shedding ring.  We scored a whopping  53 for the day and ended up mid pack.

Day 2 saw a much better go for us.  I really put my head down and worked harder to make a better run.  I sent right again and he broke nicely and I did not have to call him in :)  No points off on our out-run, lift or fetch!!!!  I could have just walked off there.  That is what I have been training for in the past few months.  I blew one steady whistle when he turned in to lift.  He really held the fetch line on his own and I just tried to steady him and keep him backed off.  He really read the sheep and took it upon himself to be responsible for the line.  Our post turn was ok the second half got a a bit wide.  Our drive away was ok, it was hard to get him to let go of the pressure a let the sheep be on line.  We drove towards the exhaust, made the panels with a good turn.  The cross drive was one of the best we have done.  He had to push on them and it really helped.  I was beginning to feel like he was taking some responsibility for holding the this line as well.  We penned first and this went well, I managed to break our string of foul luck at the pen.  Then we shed.  We lost 6 points here because I didn't have a good plan for getting us from the pen to the shedding ring.  The sheep kind of bounced around.  We took and nice single though once we manage to get down to business. I don't know where we ended up for that day I went home to get out of the pouring rain :)

Update: We finished 8th!

Here is the video of our Sunday run.

Z's really beginning to show some maturity when it comes to the lines.  He's starting to take some responsibility for keeping the line I ask him to hold.  I also feel his confidence growing. On day one although we didn't get the job done I felt my dog was much more supple, listening better and had nicer pace.  On day 2 I felt he was running through me some what and things were going a bit too quickly.  Although the only time I really felt I needed to correct him on day 2 was when he was about to goose the sheep's bubble.  On the other hand the few times I did stop him he moved on his own right away instead of waiting for me to tell him what to do, super stoked about that.  This work in progress is just so cool.  He's gonna be something next year!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Mick and T-shirt Over Long Underwear Girl

This is blog is about Mick today.  He is second Border Collie I have owned.  He is a very good guy, honest and always tries hard.  I bought him when he was a little over 3 years old after Scott Glen ran him as a Nursery dog.  I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to be able to acquire such a talented and well started dog.  Mick has taught me many things about sheep and I have gained tons of experience at the post with him.  This weekend he finished his HTCh  in the AHBA ( http://www.ahba-herding.org/ ) program.

I have retired Mick from running USBCHA Open.  He has some health problems that make it very difficult for him to run at that level.  The last time I ran him was in May at Fido's Farm in the AHBA Triherdalon trial.  We scored a 99 out of possible 100 points.

Mick and Tanya

Since then Tanya has been working him.  In July they went to Sheep camp at Fido's Farm for 5 days.  They came back from that really looking like a team!  This was Tanya and Mick's first AHBA trial.  On Friday they scored a 91 and earned one championship point.  On Saturday they were second in the HRD III class with a 93 and were Reserve High in Trial earning the tenth and final championship point.  I am very proud of Tanya, she has put in a lot of hard work.

Mick is going to be a very good teacher for Tanya and hopefully she will learn as much as I have from him.  He will make her a great handler.  He is not an easy dog to run and he will make her work hard, I believe they will succeed!

I love this dog!
Memory Lane

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trip to South Dakota-dog work

I have been trying to find the time to write about this for a week now.  I'll try real hard to keep it brief.

The drive out there was uneventful.  In Billings MT I got my Cracker Barrel fix and a cushy stay at the Motel 6.  I was so excited to be headed out to Jamie's huge ranch near Sturgis, SD.

On Friday morning I got up and drove the 6 more hours to Jamie's house.  I worked Z once that day, twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.

My main goals were to take him out in the big open spaces, use the tricky terrain and tougher sheep to expand his experience.

For the most part I worked on out run issues.  I set up some shorter ones at a comfortable distance but used the hilly undulating terrain to make finding the sheep a difficult.  He would often lose visibility several times, sometimes leaving my feet blind or seeing them only for the first bit of the run.  I placed them up on hills, on the side of big hills and sent him from all over the place.  Usually the fetching was kind of tricky because the terrain was hilly and he really had to work at keeping the line no matter the terrain  I also had big spaces where the out running was pretty straight forward.  In these place I was sending him 400+ yards.

We did some driving.  It went alright.  These tougher sheep are very sensitive and not very forgiving if the dog is and whisker out of place.  I didn't work too much on the line just keeping him going confidently on, just letting him chug a long.  It was nice to not have worry about a fence.  I also practiced 90 degree turns while driving.  I have been struggling with my timing at the drive away panel.  Often I let him go too far.

I did work a little on shedding these sheep.  They were pretty hard to shed.  We managed it a couple of times, but failure out weighed success in that department.  Which was ok with me, it is a skill he knows but he's not practiced enough to come through small gaps and hold sheep that want to fight a little bit.  I practiced just making gaps and not calling him through too.  This really tuned my eye up.

We also worked cows a tiny bit while we were there.  He was interested but a little unsure.

Thanks so much to Jamie and her family, it was great!

Here are some of the videos that were taken from the trip.
Blind out run

Last Day


On Monday morning we headed home, staying in Missoula on the way back.  Just a couple hundred miles, me and my dog.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Vashon Sheepdog Classic

This trial was fabulous.  Next year I'm going both days.  Thank you Maggi McClure http://www.mightymutt.com/ for reviving this trial.  Thank you Patrick Shannahan for judging http://www.patrickshannahan.com/ . The terrain was difficult with multiple rolling hills and swales.  The dog lost sight for large chunks of the outrun on either side.  The lift and fetch were visible as was the drive away.  The cross drive was blind for the first 1/3 of it, due to a large hill. The sheep were challenging but very doable.  Thank you Eric Harlow of Harlow Hills West Coast http://www.harlowshillswestcoast.com/ for these fun sheep.  They didn't move very well for some dogs and other dogs picked a fight with them.  Confidence and patients were the qualities that made the successful dogs of the day.

I sent Z right and had to blow him out 3 times.  He kept coming down into the swales looking for sheep.  I thought he spotted the sheep before he left my feet, but apparently not.  He had a good lift, not one sheep though about not moving for him.  He was a little on the muscle for the first 1/3rd or so.  I got him back under control and things started to look pretty as we made the panel.  The post turn was wider then I'd like, but the sheep kept on moving.  Z chugged them right up the drive away line and did a nice turn.  He kept them on line until the last bit of the blind spot where he started to fetch them.  I had to work hard to convince him to put them back on line.  we made both drive panels.  I knew I was in good shape as he hustled them to the shedding ring.  We got the shed, he turned on  the wrong group for a split second.  I got him turned on the right group and he held them.  We had 4+ minutes to pen and it just didn't happen for us.  Mostly my lack of reading these sheep too well that day.  Grr on me.  Our score was a 63 and we were in 9th place after 30 dogs had run.  I left before it was over so I have no idea how we ended up.  I know the things I need to work on.

I need to be a better me during the whole run.  I have to get more work on sheep that don't want to pen.  I have to boost my dog's confidence on the cross drive so he is more comfortable holding that line with my help.  I need to look at my shedding.  I think he is turning on the sheep that are trying to escape, this is magnified in a trial situation.  Since he rarely does this in practice.  The sheep we practice on don't run away after being shed.

Video of the run


Friday, October 1, 2010

Really I do continue to train my dogs

We have been up to the usual stuff around here.  Trying to keep dry already, yuck.

I've been taking the dogs out to Fido's and up to Whidbey Is. to work.  Z has been doing really well.  We have been focusing on the same stuff for a while.  Mostly working on our outwork, getting really exact.  I can now get him to do many things in his out work.  Starting with the outrun, I can stop him anywhere and pull him, cross him over multiple times or push him out.  At the top I can stop him short, flank him over, stop him on balance, or just blow a steady on the lift.  I can also swing him around at any point on the fetch and cross drive the sheep.  He will also gather them silently for the most part, usually needs a steady or 2 on the fetch.  This tells me I can put him anywhere I want or he can find his way if  I cannot  help him.  Pretty much perfect, he knows his job and is willing to listen.  This has transfered over to our driving really well.  I don't have the pace I want yet on the drive, but I am opting to leave it be for now.  I can slow him down or speed him up, but the steady push isn't there yet, like it is on the fetch.  I see him changing a lot and growing up almost every time I work him.

I've been really mindful of the gems I held onto from me most recent work with Scott Glen.  I have him stopping really well, now I barely have to stop him at all.  He's taking his steady fairly consistently and if that fails he will stop.  I'm really, really working on not letting the sheep stop him.  This is a bit troublesome on our fetch because he really feels my bubble at the end of it.  Otherwise it pops up on the drive occasionally and I do my best to give him something to do besides stop as long as it makes sense.  So many things to think about.  I also have been working really hard to not push him on his sheep, Scott got after me a bit for this.  So I have let him pick the pace, especially on heavier sheep.  I know he can move though sheep and he doesn't give ground, so I'll just let him go slow in training .  I also know at a trial I can speed him up on the heavier sheep if I need to, cross my fingers he doesn't grip ;)  He's still a bit sticky if I stop him so I have been ultra aware of giving him something to do right away to get him moving again.  I have implement a stay command to make the difference clear of when staying put is or isn't required.  Interestingly enough he's beginning to drop to his belly if I tell him to stay, like when holding sheep.  Normally he stops on his feet while working.  Hoping this will become more and more clear to him.  Honestly I probably hold sheep too much with him and this is not helping some of this sticky stop issue.

Guess that is all for now.  Off to Vashon Is on Sunday for 1 Open run.  Then we make a training trip to SD and have an AHBA trial at the end of the month. Oh and up to Arlington the first weekend of Nov. We will be busy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Silver Spring and L&M Stock Dog Trial- South Dakota

It was a long drive out there, but it was worth every  mile.  We arrived Thursday night and it was pretty warm.  Z traveled ok and so did I, have to say it was a bit of a slog for both of us.  At least we got some good rest Thursday night.

Friday morning the sun came up early and the Silver Spring Trial just outside of Sturgis.  We got under way around 7 am.  The field we ran in was a big alfalfa field with a nice hill and couple of ridges and there was a good dip on the fetch line. We ran on Columbia/Rambouilet cross yearling ewes.  They were so big I could have saddled one up and rode it. They were tough, green and wanted nothing to do with this thing called sheep herding.  Though as any sheep we'll ever have to run on.  For the Open we ran a 450 yard outrun.  On day one they were run in groups of 4 and set just down from the peak of the hill.  The dog had to duck around the hill and come up over the top to be right.  They were tough to lift, many dogs retired right here because the ewes just stood there and refused to budge.  If your dog got them down the hill they just fought the dog the whole way around the course.  Mainly splinting and running or just refusing to move.

I sent Z to the right and he didn't see the sheep.  They were difficult to see even for me for some reason they blended right in with the background.  He came in about 75yards too short and I tried to blow him out but he was sure they were where he was coming in.  He crossed over I got him stopped and told him to look back.  This time he saw the sheep and swung out and came around behind.  He worked hard and got them lifted to move them about 50 yards, where they just stopped.  He tried hard to lift them again 3 moved and one ewe broke from the group a little and turned on him.  He took his time and I flanked him back and forth a bit hoping she'd just go with her buddies who had stopped real close by.  No such luck she reared up and tried hard to put him in the dirt.  Don't know if he gripped her or not but he held his ground and when she thought about turning he backed off a bit to relieve the pressure.  He went right back to work, but it was no luck for us that ewe was going to give us bad trouble the rest of the go.  I figured between the cross over and now we were so off line I wasn't going to make him fight that sheep for the next 10minutes to get nowhere.  I called the run hopped on the 4 wheeler and gave him a hand getting the sheep to the exhaust.

Day 2 went much better.  The sheep were still pretty rank after spending most of day 1 beating dogs.  I sent him to the right again.  Z still had a crumby out run, too wide this time, still didn't seem to know where the sheep were.  He finally did see them and came in on his own to end up in the right place behind the sheep.  This time we got them lifted and brought them nice and tidy down the line.  Made our fetch panel, whoopee!  We made a good turn around the post and had a nice drive away line, made that panel too!  Our crossdrive was bumpy, but made that panel too.  By this time the sheep were REALLY leaning on Z and he was working his butt off just too keep them going forward together.  We timed out a whisker short of the shedding ring so no drive points for us, dang it!  We scored a 40 on out work alone.

Day 3 found us 2 &1/2 hours east near the Badlands National Park at the L&M Ranch.  We ran on 2 aged ewes and 3 weanling lambs, they appeared to be Rambioulets.  Not nearly as large as the last sheep.  Those old ewes would quite gladly leave the group and run off.  The split was usually one ewe would take a lamb and the other would take 2 and they would go in opposite directions.  The one with the 2 lambs would head for the exhaust and the one with the single would stand the dog off. In general they moved a little easier here, the dogs had to work their tail off to keep the groups together. The out run was nearly 700 yards with 2 deep draws across the fetch line.  Egad, what was I thinking!

It was defiantly a left hand out run, the dogs could run up the farm road most of the way, to the right the terrain and brush was rough.  Z spotted his sheep very well this time.  I walked up to the post and sent him.  I had to whistle him out 3 times, could have just done so twice, but I really wanted him to get the lead out once he re spotted his sheep.  Came around and hit his mark behind lifted nice and we got them down the fetch line fairly well, he took every whistle I gave from top to bottom.  We made our fetch panel and out post turn was ok, they at least didn't get too wide or away from us in general.  I had a fair drive away line and crappy cross drive line missed that panel high.  We basically worked 2 groups of sheep at the point, spent a lot of precious time sticking them back together.  Made it to the shedding ring and took the 2 that wanted to be their own group all the way around.  We tried to hurry to the pen I got the gate open and was in the process of setting up when we ran out of time.  Score of 55 for us.  It ended up being over 100 degrees that day and we ran around 1130 in the morning.

The final day found us hot and beat.  We ran early.  Z spotted the sheep and then took a nap at my feet while waiting for the 2 dogs before us to run.  I sent him off and did not have to blow one whistle on the out run.  he went the whole way with gusto.   Lifted them ok and got them down the line and we worked for every on line step we  got on that line.  He was beat by the time he got them to my feet.  Made a nicer post turn and had a good set up for the drive away.  Had a nice line and turn got them lined out on the crossdrive and did ok.  We made the panel and on the return fetch there were a lot of bobbles. Again we were a whisker short of the shedding ring and I have know idea what the score was.  At that point I didn't care my dog worked his butt off and kept trying even when I knew he was dead tired.

After that I got on the road and headed home.  In Idaho I stopped for some gas and pasted a saddlery.  Of course I just had to stop in.  This is what I bought for Z.  You can check them out here http://www.hickmansaddlery.net/
A big boy collar


 You can also check out Bev Lambert's write up on the 2 trials here.   There are some pictures as well. http://www.sheepdog.com/sheepdog_news/bevlive/

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lesson with Scott Glen

"If you make excuses mediocrity will follow" -Scott Glen

I will say I did not have a mind blowing experience or a training altering revelation.  I was reminded about things I already knew.  Sometimes when I get focused on one or two things in training I forget about the other stuff.  Mostly maintaining it, especially if I have taken the time to train it and train it right in the first place.  

I was encouraged to find that we are in an appropriate place in our training given the dog's age and experience.  Also I was encouraged to raise the bar and expect and demand more finesse from Z.  Another part of the lesson was working on actually handling the dog and having me make more and more decisions about the sheep work thus requiring more obedience from him.  I see more willingness for him to come forward, so I worry less about the amount of structure. As in I can put more structure on.

Above all else Scott reminds me not to rush Z and be patient with him, it will pay off.  I'm sure there is other stuff but that is all I have processed so far.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Super Shoes and Other Ramblings

First off last Sunday 7/25 I ran a gather practice at Fido's.  I enjoy offering this to folks a lot.  It is extremely cool to see how much people's dogs change and improve.  It is also really fun for me to try to help people out when they ask me questions. It is even more fun to give someone a little tip and then watch their dog be successful the next time around.

My dogs did some excellent work.  I mainly used Molly for this task.  I keep trying to find something she is good at.  There are days she dazzles me with brilliance and other days, not so much.  I'm trying not to use Z too much for this job.  It seems to effect his performance right now.  He seems to get a bit lazy and complacent, thinks once the sheep are held to me, he can just sit down and take a rest.   This means his shed is getting a tad sloppy and slow.  Also the setting tends to make him slice on both sides, I think this is just from the repetitive nature of the job.  What I love though is he gets a some chances to move sheep off the feed pan and either fetching them to me OR walking up and driving them off down the field away.  I also can set up that he has to go up through the gate and find his way a bit to bring sheep down to me.  We do set up some thinking games, but once he starts to get tired it is all out the window.

Back to Molly though.  She did work she was totally capable of.  She stayed with it and together for the whole time.  I had to get after her a few times, but she settled down and went back to her job.  She has a never say die attitude that I am used to with bitches.  Molly pretty much set the last set of sheep with the same enthusiasm and gusto she set the first group with, this was five hours of work from start to finish. Hopefully she will be reliable enough to use for at trials soon.  I'm not certain she is sea worthy just yet.  I also plan to take on some AHBA trials with her again this Fall.

Next in my effort to prepare for the coming trial in South Dakota I am focusing on Z fitness level.  I am still training on him.  I know he needs to work on his finesse, a fair a mount.  He's still pretty young, so I don't want to train on him too hard right now.  He will be 2.5 years old just before this trial in South Dakota and I have to keep reminding myself he's just a pup.  I'm still so please with his efforts in the Open and Nursery class at Whidbey Island in June. Gosh, he and I have been together barely a year now, what a trip it has been!

As far as the fitness plan he's been running next to my bike or going on jogs with Tanya 5 days a week with one day of sheep work. How I wish I had time these days for 2 or 3 days of sheep work.  Two days a week 3 miles on the bike to Sandel Park.  Two days jogging 3.5 mile with Tanya on the nice running path down to Puget Sound and back.  It is a sand running path with good hills. One day of intervals on the Interurban bike trail.  I have a .5 mile section where he can run off leash on the grass.  So we ride . 5 mi from the house to the trail on the road.  Once on the trail we do .25 mi sprint<17 mph> then .25 mi fast trot <8-9 mph>.  We do 3 set of this with a brief rest between sets.  Then we do one set of .5 mi sprint and .5 mi fast trot, rest and then do the .5 mi cool down on the ride home.  Then one day a week we do a long run.  This week we did  nearly 7 miles in 55 min.  I just kept him at a comfortable pace for him which seems to be 6.8-7 mph.  I was able to run him a majority of the time on the grass shoulder.

 For our sprint and long runs we are using a product call K9 Energy Edge. This product was developed by a vet for her working dogs, you can read more about it here http://www.k9energyedge.com/inform.html.  I use this mainly in the summer on when I work the dogs on sheep or when we do any kind of hard physical work.  It is a carbohydrate and protein  mixture that doesn't cause the insulin to spike, but provides a sustained energy release.  I find it is most awesome as a recovery drink.  The dogs bounce back quickly to pre-performance levels over night after using this immediate after the hard work.  Used during the hard work it keeps them going stronger longer.

We also ordered some Ruff Wear dog boots http://www.ruffwear.com/.  On top of that I have been painting Z's pads in the effort to tough them up with http://www.tuffoot.com/.  The Tuf Foot has been amazing in it's ablity to help heal the pad burns and blisters.  It has kept his back feet in great shape, so I only have to boot the front ones for now.  It may be asking too much to go boot free in the front considering all the pavement around here.  We only boot up for the long runs and the interval training.  I find with the boots on I worry less about glass and other foreign objects on the road shoulder.

These are the Ruff Wear shoes brand new out of the box.

Not mark a on the pretty soles!

Z says, "Paint them gold like Usain Bolt's track shoes!"

So far I'm happy with them.  He needs socks for the long runs, they rub his heals a bit. He's nearly blown the toe out of his left shoe, but a little bit of duct tape seems to cure the issue.  Essentially they are keeping his pads in perfect shape and his sound after having to cover long fast distances on some rough surfaces.  They are wearing out a little faster than anticipated. I think is is due to the fact they are a hair small front to back just on the one foot. Over all they are great, it is just the toe wear on the one shoe.  Next time I will order the next size up and see if that works.  I may if I put socks on all the time.   I know, the pain I go through to keep him fit in the city.  I wish for open spaces and a four wheeler.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dog Day-Fido's

Today I went to Fido's for a little practice.  Chris and I swapped some out runs.  It was pretty much the only thing I had in mind to work on anyhow.

There were some yearling ewes int he holding area in Trillium.  I always forget how much I love that field.  There are quite a few terrain challenges.  Depending on where you set the sheep the dog can go on a completely blind to a partially blind out run. Today the sheep were very awesome.  They didn't want to play with us too much.  The dog didn't have to work too hard to move them, but they did have to work to fetch them.  Hurray, we really needed this practice.  They wanted to go everywhere but towards the hander.

Some of the things I worked on are the same things we worked on last time.

I really pushed him back and tried not to let him come in until he was at 1200.  We did pretty well here, he's beginning to get the feel of it.  He's waffling a bit on the lift.  He's getting them moving just fine now, but seems to not take firm control right away.  The first few steps are towards me, but then as the drift towards the draw he just falls in behind them and I really have to give him what I feel are too many commands.  This too shall change I'm sure :)

The other part of this is getting him to really holds the come bye side if that's where the pressure is.  Today Z did really well at this.  I was beginning to get him to flank around far enough to turn the sheep side ways and march them on a cross drive for a bit, nearer to the beginning of the fetch.  That is the beginning of being able to out them back on line more effectively.

On the whole he listened very well today. Z was still not as forward as I am used to.  On most of the out runs he went out fast and with determination, so I guess the rest is ok for now.  I guess maybe he's forward enough, but not so pushy pushy that I am always on him to slow down like I was with Mick.  He switches gears just fine I can move him on if I have to, but I guess really he's just a no hurry kind of guy.

I need to work on shedding again.  That maybe what our work date is all about.

I'm also starting to keep a closer record of his fitness and work outs.  I think this will improve his work over all.  He's pretty fit at the moment, but I am going to begin biking him more.  More speed over longer distance.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This is just quick

Bottom line we made it to KY in one piece!  Hurray, am I ever glad to be out of the car.  Pretty much have a down day today to figure out the lay of the land.  We will go over to the trial site and have a look around as well as get a few things we left home with out. 

On our way out here we stop outside of Sturgis,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Work on the Island

On Sunday I met Jorgen up on Whidbey Is.  His puppy Bender is getting big and oh so cute.  Bender seems to me a very mellow independent kind of guy.  He came when he was called and wants some pets, but then he was wandering off to explore fairly quickly.

Z and I had an off day, we really didn't feel like we where stringing it all together.  I really want to blame the week of sudden and ridiculous heat for wilting our ability to think and act.  Yesterday was the first day of "reasonable" weather mid 60's heavy fog/light rain for the first bit of the morning.  It was fairly humid too.  Alright, enough whining.

First we practiced outruns.  Jorgen was nice enough to hold the sheep.  We placed them so the draw was directly behind the sheep and they didn't really want to be lifted or fetched easily.  I really pushed him to get back and not cut in the little bit that he has been.  I made him go around to 1200 every time on both sides.  The sheep were cooperative and set pretty darn nicely.  Z was starting to get it with less and less help from me.  we stretched the distance out and changed the draw.  It became very hard from him not to cut in once the draws were off to the side and not behind the sheep, even though the sheep were still setting very nicely.  He kept listening and trying to do what I was asking him at the top.  It is on its way to smoothing out.

We also worked a bit more on holding the pressure on the come bye side down the fetch.  He still wants to give instead of turn their heads.  I'v been calling him in, so he is not getting as far out.  He's not really turning them until they are nearly to me.  Once they are turned  we cross drive them for a bit and then finish the fetch.  This too is coming together.

On our second session we worked the Maltese cross.  I focused on square flanks on both sides and being able to calmly move him one step at a time.  He loves this kind of work.  It took us forever to put them through the first side, I was really working the training aspect.  The second side, we had a bobble at the mouth, but they went more expediently, but with a bit less finesse.

We did some driving which went ok.  Z gets to a certain distance and he kind of takes over and stops listening some.  We fought a little bit on that front.  We worked on some shedding, but he kept getting hung up on the leaving set instead of coming through and holding the set I wanted.  We finally muddled through and once he came through he was excited to do it again.

Over all though our work was sloppy.  I felt like we weren't very connected to each other.  He wasn't snappy about taking his cues nor was he as forward as usual.  It seemed like he kept trying to slip into following the sheep rather than working the sheep on some of our driving.

Whiny Dog + Naggy Handler = Poor Work

Poor Work = Naggy Handler = Whiny Dog

Not sure which equation defines the situation yesterday the best.  I could put any of these variables in any order her and it would make sense.

Feels very chicken and the egg, which is the really the cause and which is effect?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Whidbey Island Classic

Day 1:  We were second out on the field for the Open class. The out run was nice and the lift was alright.  We really struggled to put them back on line for the fetch.  He had to cover and hold pressure on his comebye side, it was a struggle on his weak side for 3 reasons.  First he was not totally square, second he was stopping a hair short and third he kept giving and was a bit off contact.  The drive was nice, he was a bit on the muscle and I had a tough time holding him off the sheep.  The cross drive distance was a little bit of a struggle but the sheep were moving right a long, which helped.  We timed out at the pen, we should have had plenty of time.  We lacked finesse.  We scored a 58 and finished 21st in a class of 47 dogs.  It was probably the best first run we have had, typically he is very pushy and I have a hard time holding him on our first runs.

Our Nursery run later that day was very typical of us a solid 70 and a class win.  I had a hard time keeping him off again, but better then the Open run.  He was super pushy and I thought about wrapping my crook around his neck as we turned to post, we lost too many points on out work.  Still wavy lines, but better.  He was much more comfortable with the drive distances.  He got a bit squirrely at the drive away panel and took the wrong flank twice, screwed up the 5 steps before the panel.  I hit him with a hard correction and he settled down and we fixed it and made the panel.  The pressure was hard to release at that bit.

Day 2: First dog on the field for Nursery class win score 73.  Just a real team effort, he was forward, soft and supple to work and stayed back off the sheep. Nice nice out work, good drive away line nice first 2/3 of the cross drive line, got wavy towards the end.

Our Open run was a tough go.  We went late in the day and the sheep were pretty much done playing.  The set ended up breaking back and getting up almost in the corner after I had sent Z.  He he covered them and brought them down the field.  The judge decided to take no points off for our out run and lift instead of giving us a rerun because he got control of the sheep nicely.  We struggled like heck trying to get them back on line, the draw was tough to the come bye side and his weakness showed.  The drive away was ok he kept trying to head them because they were trying to break for the exhaust.  The cross drive was alright, but at the 3/4 mark the sheep started to really lean on him and they ended up stopping and looking at him.  He walked in on every whistle, pretty much backed them up the hill and through the gate.  They pretty much went into the pen with out a whole lot of cajoling.   At this point a nearly peed my pants, we were going to get a shot at shedding.  Moved the sheep calmly to the shedding ring.  I saw a hole, but we weren't quite in the ring.  Then the sheep lined up , we got a small hole and Z came through like his tail was on fire.  He aimed for behind me, but turned briefly on the front group that was breaking for the exhaust. I called him here and he turned quick to the correct group and held them.  So big praises for the puppy.

Day 3:  Our Nursery run was gorgeous! He over ran a bit, but lifted nicely albeit a tad crooked.  We actually put the sheep back on the line right away and lost very little on the fetch, the drive was like and arrow. We scored a 68 with no pen.  It was my fault entirely.  I knew we were short on time so I tried to hail Mary the pen and I should have been more patient.  The sheep got away and Z recovered them, but time was called before we had another shot.

We have a lot of stuff to work on!  I need to figure out why I am losing 1-2 points on our out run.  I think we are a little flat and a stride too short on both sides although the sheep lift strait 95% of the time.Must sort out what is going on in our out run.  Have to, have to have, clean up the comebye flank.  Must also work on penning sheep that don't want to go in.    I am not going to work on too much driving distance for a while.

I am so pleased with my dog's effort.  He's going to get a small vacation before we start practicing up for our trip to SD.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Driving Practice

Yesterday at Fido's we worked mainly on more driving.  Gears, distance behind the sheep and off pressure flanks too.  There was an L- chute in the middle of the field and I stood about 100 yards away.  We drove them up to one opening and put them through.  Z had to actually walk into the chute to make them go all the way through, which was hard for him to figure out.  He was very willing to listen and be patient.  Once they were going though smoothly in both directions we pushed them through the L and made a tight turns  to bring them back through the opening they had just come out.  We played all sorts of games.

As for his gears, he is actually beginning to back himself off if he gooses the sheep.  These sheep sometimes need to be hit firmly to get them going.  He was doing a nice job of being firm and then backing off.  He's really finding the place he needs to be to push but not bang on the back of them more and more.  this means things are getting smoother.

On the second session we worked a little bit on out run and fetch.  I figured out the his come bye flank is pretty weak.  On the fetch or drive I can send him  360 degrees around a stopped set of sheep on the away to me flank and he is so square those sheep don't move.  On the come bye flank they sheep move.  He slices this flank ever so slightly, enough that the sheep move and he gets closer and closer until he's on top of the sheep.  After this bit of observation I stood with the sheep and we did circle drills.  I pushed on his face every time I asked for a flank, making sure he was square.  Come bye got neater, but still needs some more work.  We worked some shedding as a reward for the boring drill.  He did a nice job hold singles.

So this is what we have been up to lately.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two sessions to write about really quick

Ok on Sunday I went up to Susan Crocker's to work some sheep.  I met up with my road weary friend Jorgen and his sidekick Merckx.  There will a trial at Susan's the weekend of 6/19-21.  We worked groups of 7 sheep, each group had four ewes and 3 weanling lambs.  Things went well and the groups were pretty interesting to work.  The ewes were all savvy to the game and the lambs were being silly lambs.  It made for keeping the group together very interesting.  I tried very hard to pen a group and failed.  On my side I couldn't find the balance between enough pressure on the ewes and lack of pressure on the lambs.  Basically if the lambs were comfortable the ewes walked over the top of me and if I held the ewes the lambs moved to far away.  I was having the same issue with placing my dog.  He tried very hard and stuck with it, so A + on his end for effort.  Our earlier session he just did sloppy work and it was hard to get his attention.  We weren't really tuned into each other.

On Tuesday I drove down to Fido's Farm http://www.fidosfarm.com/ our sheep home.  The training on the whole was much better.

I worked Molly and she showed me that she is calming down.  I focused mainly on driving light sheep.  I put some yearling ewes in the ally and put her a long line.  I focused on getting her to flank cleanly to the inside and outside.  I also focused on flanking, stopping and walking up straight. She often tries to continue flanking(drifting out usually) even after the stop.  She was starting to get it toward the end of our session.

With Z I also concentrated on driving.  I really tried to keep him back off the sheep so he had space to flank.  We worked on his gears while driving.  I also set up situations were I was flanking him off the pressure to "correct" lines.  His fetch line is looking a little sloppy again.  I'm still having a bit of time getting a hold of him right away.  Once I get him backed off some he brings them straight as an arrow otherwise he flounders around behind them a bit and I end up over handling which makes a mess.  Next time on the driving I must aim for panels and drive them way past.  He is starting to take too much pressure off the sheep when they get near a panel.

Just a few more days until our first Open run!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ewesful Acres -5/31 Monday

Just went to the trial for one day.  Ran Molly in Ranch  and for Z it w as Pro Nov and Nursery.

For Molly is was a land mark of a day.  She waited her turn so well it was amazing!  Usually she whines, wiggles and squeals every time I walk up to the car before she has her run.  By the time her run is about to happen she's a nervous wreck, eyes bugging out of her head and shaking.  This time she waited fairly quietly all morning, and actually managed to go pee before her run.  While waiting on deck she stood beside me on her leash without wiggling and squeaking, most important no shaking.  Even our walk to the post was calm.  The rest of the run had good points, like stopping and she took her flanks down the fetch line.  Our drive was all over the place, but in general she had control of the sheep and she listened 85% of her flank whistles.  So back to training to boost her confidence.

In my Pro Nov run with Z I was not home mentally.  I was relaxed, but almost too much.  I need to find the balance between being in the zone with a little edge and being complacent. No points off the out run, I stopped him a tad short so we took a points hit on the lift, made the fetch panels (yes!!) and our drive was ok.  Need to work a on a little more space between the dog and sheep and some pace.  That's what killed our drive, too close so inside flanks were difficult and latent.  So guess we just keep doing what we are doing at home.

On the Nursery run we took a big hit on the out run, he came in too soon, but kicked himself back out.  This made the sheep wiggle while he disappeared behind the terrain again.  He came up behind them but had over ran and again corrected himself. He was deep enough behind to pull this off and only lose a bit on the lift.  Took the steady and took flanks well enough to put us back on line.  I got a bit more on his case for getting too close and pushy.  Our drive was lovely this time and we actually managed a pen with only one point off.  Very happy with both of us on that run.

Two things, I must work on his response to my steady whistle.  I'm not getting enough brakes and then I end up correcting more than I would like.  I also switched to my voice during the cross drive.  I don't like this, I want to whistle the whole time he's out away from me.  Save my voice for corrections.

I guess the first priority is to put a bit more brakes on him, just a little.  Also to get his stop working a bit better on the fetch.  It worked on the drive more often then not.  He's beginning to creep forward on his flanks at the pen, so this is something to address at some point.

I have 2 more weekends until the Whidbey Is. trial, so I have a few things to sort out!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Training at Fido's

I went on Monday and look here it is Friday before I get a chance to write anything up!

I have to say for Molly she was super!  I haven't worked her in what feels like forever.  She was a little rusty feeling and it took a bit of time before we reconnected.  She was actually slow, which for her is HUGE.  Also on her first outrun she went out and was wide and thoughtful.  I usually have to stop her and get on her case the first out run to get her to cast out and use her head.  Some feel at the top, good stops all day.  We are still struggling with the driving, we've hit a bit of a wall.  She goes  only so far(same distance every time) and justs wants to flip around and fetch them back.  Basically she quits walking up strait  and just slides around to the outside.  I have to start walking with her again. We can get around a PN course at Fido's, but I think the Ranch course publicly is still going to be a test for us :)  I also must start working her at Susan Crocker's on sheep that run and entice her to be too fast the tight. We have some work to do and we have some AHBA trials in our sights for the fall.

I pick a few things to work with Z on.  Lucky for us Chris held some sheep so I could work on that pace down the fetch line and the stop at the top.  He was really getting the idea towards the end.  He's also learning that slow down doesn't mean slow down forever, that you will get to switch gears.  This revelation has reduced the pouting.  I didn't work the stop too hard, it has really cleaned up not where it should be but it is better.  He doesn't cheat it at the pen or while we are shedding, so I have to figure out why I taught him it is ok to cheat it in other places and then fix it.

For the second session I found some light yearling ewes and did a bit of driving, he's always had good pace here.  We worked on flanks to let go of the pressure learning to relax if he felt they were getting away.  He has a hard time giving me a flank on the drive if he has to let go of the pressure to do it.  Same issue on the fetch, but that has increased hugely.

For the final session we worked the shed. I'm using the Scott Glen method.  Started out with the mob and just whittled it down to a single.  Worked both of his sides and he seems equally comfortable coming in both ways.  He has keyed into the back set of sheep, which is not hard for him since he LOVES to walk up on their heads.  I've also got him coming all the way through before turning, he's starting to target behind me more consistently.  He still needs a fairly large gap to come into, but I know as soon as he really gets this he'll come through the tiniest crack.  This is his favorite game of all sheep herding.

Our first Open run together will be at Susan Crocker's in June and then off to South Dakota at the end of August.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just a quick Scribble

I'm just going to write a few things down and hopefully expand on them as I digest them.

The Bluegrass was amazing.  If you have ever wanted to go, just go you will not regret it.  The car ride however was meh.

So what I learned:

To let go of my ego
To expect perfection
To practice non-judgement and play the game moment to moment

I'm starting to become the handler I want to be.

Homework for dog training:
Gears- we have fast and stop but we need a little in between
Range sheep-need to work on more difficult sheep to improve my timing and keep the dog's work sharp
Cross drive- need to sharpen this up but with gears it should come together pretty quick
Terrain- need to work in places that aren't flat
Must gain a little more control over the dog when he's on the far side of the fetch panels, seems to be a deaf zone between the lift the the fetch panels.
Distance-must get him working a bit more farther behind the sheep.

What I liked about my runs:

My dog moved and controlled every packet of sheep we drew-4 of  our runs were on TX range sheep and 2 runs were on Vergil Holland's very cranky farm flock.  Verigil's sheep had been trialled on two weekends in a row, before coming to the Bluegrass.  He took control right away and moved the sheep down the fetch line, beautiful cover at the top.

Last 2 runs no points off outrun or lift-sent him every day to the come bye side which is his least favored side.

My dog tried hard every run, listened well and the things we had been working most on in training came through even under big pressure.

I worked every element of the run trying to keep as many points as possible without beating myself up over what had already been lost.  I kept my act together every run for the whole run.

I gave necessary corrections and backed off the minute Z reacted and adjusted. Less talk more whistle-we made that happen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Made it to KY

Trial starts on Wednesday.  Today we have a free day to hang out, walk the dogs and find the trial site.  Best to take the guess work out of it as much as possible.  The driving wasn't too bad.

On Sunday we stoped in SD to visit with Jamie Spring.  She bred Z and is was cool to meet her and her family.  It was also really nice to meet Z's siblings and mother.  I was able to watch his sister Hope (same litter) work a little bit and she is a very nice dog.  I met Rye ( litter brother) and Pink(sister same cross but the year later).  I'll post some pictures in here when I figure out where they are! :)

It was also great for Z and Merckx to have an oppertunity to stretch thier legs and work some sheep.  Jamie had a nice group of fresh shorn yearling ewes off the range.  She had been woring them a little bit so they weren't completely rank and fighting the dog.  They would how ever turnaround and look at the dog and the boys had to work at getting them lifted.  Once they got moving they were sort of light, but the dogs still had to push a lot to prove to those sheep that they had to move.  Z's session went great, best lifts I have seen him do in a long time.  He just kept walking in with a some encounragement, but mainly on his own.  He also was fairly quick to take charge of them and push them around.  Maybe he wants to work sheep the put up a litttle fight and be naughty.  It was really cool to be able to have a traing seesion on sheep like that.  I'm sure it really built his confidence.  As for my side of the bargin, I didn't yell.  I gave a few nessary corrections, but I minded myself and my dog went really super.  Hope we can hang on to half of that when we walk to the post tomorrow.
Jamie in conjunction with Laura Hicks is having a trial at the end of August and I would say it would worth the drive, two days on Jamie's unfenced and then over to Laura's for two days.  I hope I can squeeze it in, but if not you all should go.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inward and Onward

This weekend was jammed full of things to do.  I had to get a lot of stuff gone and organized before leaving for the Bluegrass.  We leave next Saturday at the crack of dawn.  First things first, this weekend!

Saturday we went to Fido's Farm to set stock for the AHBA trial.  I decided a bit last minute to run Mick in the arena trial class on sheep.  I'm trying to pick up the last few points to finish his championship. The run was amazing.  I haven't worked him in months, he's been training Tanya.  I really wasn't expecting anything phenomenal to happen.  I knew we could score over 80 points, but I haven't worked with my buddy in ages.  We walked into the arena and we could totally read each other's  minds. He took every step exactly like I asked, he was so soft and easy.  I was totally grounded and centered, just feeling the zone.  Our High in Trial winning run was 99 points out of 100 possible points.  We lost 1 point the whole run.  I achieved a near  perfect run while in a state of mental bliss, I want to do it again.  Hope that mojo sticks with me for the next few weeks.

Molly was great!  I used her to set sheep.  It was a great opportunity for her since we have been trying to get her calmer at trials.  I had an opportunity to work her in the trial atmosphere, but in a place where I could be close by and help her out, keeping her from getting frantic. She stayed pretty soft and relaxed until she began to get tired and the sheep began to get obstinate. She gets frantic when she loses confidence, this is always amplified by distance.  She's coming along on her own time.

During the day I did get to work Z.  I just worked him a little bit.  I took him out to Clover and pushed around some yearling ewes.  He did nice work and I pretty much left him alone.  His stop still needs some work.  He nearly has 2 gears for his walk up, the flanks are 90% square and snappy.  The come bye out run is looking almost as good as the away to me out run, so much so I feel pretty confident sending him in either direction.  He's still not quite getting to the right place on the come bye, but I see improvement every time.  He's plenty deep enough that he seems to sort in out on the walk up. He's still stalling out a bit at the top, but that too is getting better every time.

On Sunday I worked him up on Whidbey Is.  Pretty much did the same thing I did on Saturday, tried not to pick on him.  He did much better out runs on Sunday.  He also likes to push the lighter hair sheep around.  I had 2 actual gears on those sheep.  I worked on flanking him around their butt to turn them back to me.  He's a champ if I send him to head, but things get sticky if I have to send him to their butts.  He feels them escaping if he goes at them from the butt end.   I wanted to show him he can catch them no matter which way he has to go.  So we spent some time pulling them off the fence by sending him to their butts.  As he gets better with this, our panel turns get cleaner. Basically, I tried really hard not to pick at my dog.  I made him do things right, but no nagging.  Oh and NO yelling.  I don't get to work him again until we get to Jamie's on Sunday.  It will be interesting if I can maintain my end of the deal when he is feeling a bit up.

A friend of mine who also works dogs came to the conclusion it is all about her.  I would like to take this opportunity to say that I must continuously look inward at myself and evaluate.  I must continuously grow as a person by understanding my weakness and turning them into my strengths.  It is all about me, their issues are mainly the symptoms and not the causes of the difficulties.

So next Saturday I am going to embark on a huge journey.  I will be fulfilling a dream I've had since getting into working dogs.  I have always wanted to run at the Bluegrass and I have thought about it every year since bringing Libby home 10 years ago.  I never thought I'd have a Nursery dog amazing enough to make the trip with, but here we go.  This is a dream coming true.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Seize This Day

Today I went to Fido's http://www.fidosfarm.com/. Chris has Mondays off, yeah guys contrary to popular believe it does happen.  So we got together to work our dogs in the back field called Trillium.  Z was great.  He was really tired, I worked the legs off him yesterday.  We just did some out run work taking advantage of the distance and a sheep holder, again.  Same issues as yesterday just helping him get around to the right place the first time or two and then he had it.  He's walking in straight  and the sheep's first steps are right to me.  At the longer distances he is being almost too polite to the sheep on the lift.  He's walking in and the sheep move a bit and he stops and then the sheep stop so he walks up some more and repeat process. It isn't until the sheep get rolling the he seems authoritative over them. It  feels like he is reacting instead of acting at the lift.  This is getting better and I will shorten the distance up again soon.  I will also go back to lifting off a full feed pan at 100 or so yards.  That has really helped him.  There a few more things I will do over the summer to target this area.  I'm sure time and experience will help most of all.  We might revisit our grip game with the soccer ball this week.  I also know that when he is tired he sucks way back, today I was seeing a lot of this, but today I am not worried.  Once he is rested up I'm sure he will be a handful again.
Tanya is getting her whistle under control and Mick is beginning to understand it.  I helped her out with him today and they are growing together pretty quickly.  I love it.  He was being ab it of a boob today, but Tanya managed to get him working nicely anyhow.

Four feet and Fleet sheep-Training, Fitness and all that other stuff that makes an Athlete

Yesterday was a glorious day in terms of weather and training!  The views of the land and water here in the Puget Sound region are remarkable.  I took Z over to Whidbey Is to meet up with Jorgen and work some sheep. Jorgen drove all the way from Portland and was even there before me!

We discussed fitness of our dogs and the potential of  oppressive humidity while we are in KY.  I'm thinking about having Z's belly shaved, though I'm uncertain at the moment what to do.  Aside from working, Jorgen and I are doing the same sorts of things to keep our dog's fitness up.  This mainly is hiking off leash for a 2  1/2-3 miles a few time a week.  I actually have access to a nice bike path where the dogs can run on the grass while I peddle and Tanya takes them running a bit.  I was lamenting on the cost for swim time at doggie spas.  I would swim Z in the lake, but I don't throw balls for him to retrieve. Swimming I believe is the biggest bang for your buck when trying to increase endurance, it is also awesome because it is low impact on the body.

To the touch, Z (and all the other dogs around here) are feeling very lean and fit.  There isn't much soft and squishy about him except his personality.  I have also been feeding him extra before this trip I want him to build up  a little fat reserve.  He didn't travel too well the last couple of times and even though he ate just fine he lost a bit more weight than I was comfortable with. As of now he is eating a pound of bone in raw meat, things like turkey necks, and chicken parts mainly with some sheep chunks, beef and pork necks for variety.  On the 4 days that I go to work he gets 3/4-1 cup of kibble in a toy to keep him busy in his crate. Mick eats 3/4 pound of meat and Libby east about 1/2 pound or less of meat neither one eats much kibble.  Z is the only dog I have the seems to so alright on good kibble for now any way.  We get our meat from here: Better Meat Inc‎ 305 Northwest 82nd Street, Seattle, WA 98117-4033.  Occasionally we order our meat form here :http://www.darwinspet.com/ they deliver to door s in most places in the Puget Sound.  They are constantly expending the service area.  I believe in the power of raw food for all living things, I think it makes a huge difference, you can only get out what you out in so may as well be the best stuff you can get your hands on.

We also talked about puppies, because we are both on the look out for our next rockstar.  Jorgen summed it up eloquently, "The more information I get, the less I know"  I think I am in the same boat.

Finally we get around to training our dogs.  Z was pushy right off the bat, but I was able to get a hold of him if I needed to, mostly.  The first out run I sent him on(300yrds) was ok.  His trajectory was good and he corrected is as needed.  The sheep took off and got stuck on the fence.  He pushed them down the fence line instead of scooping them off, things were moving very quickly at this point.  I began trotting up the field and got things slowed down and got him to release the pressure and flank around to balance them to me.  This was similar to the error he made at the lift/fetch on the last trial.  He didn't get quite to balance so he didn't have firm charge of the sheep to get them turned quickly.  Then his mind gets flustered and he follows/drives them for a bit until I can get him stopped and flanked.  So I worked up close getting him to pull the sheep of the fence, I was sending him to their butts, which entices him to follow instead of turn the sheep. I worked on pushing him all the way around so he would get to their eye and turn them.  He was getting pretty good with this after only a few tries in each direction.  We then did a little driving and called it quits for a few minutes.

After a quick nap in the crate Z was ready to go again.  This  time Jorgen and I swapped out runs.  The sheep were being fairly cooperative.  I worked Z come-bye side, since this is his weaker side.  I helped him a fair bit on the first couple of sends.  Starting at about 900 I blew him out followed by quick snappy hurry up flank whistles.  I was telling him get out but keep the gas on.  He has a tendency to slow up  too around 1000 then he starts drifting in to come just sort of balance and too close behind.  By helping him out twice he got to the right place.  The third time he went he was still a tad short of balance but deep enough behind that when he walked in he had room to make the correction on his own. Hurray, he's getting it.  After that I sent him away -to-me and spot on the balance and really deep behind, I nearly cried it was so pretty.  All I gave him was steady whistle when he turned in and a few as he came down the line.  He rushed them down the line, but I'm ok with that.  I sent him once more to the left and it was nice, I decided to just be quiet and see what he would do.  It was pretty nice, I feel like the sides in practice are nearly equal.  I feel like if in a trail come-bye was the only side that would make sense I could send him with fairly good results.

After a little rest we did some driving and he did a nice job.  I feel much better about me and my training then last time.  I really didn't yell. I used string tones for corrections and make sure the follow up cue was said in a nicer tone. I do know too that I will have to go back to letting him be a little pushier than I enjoy, though I haven't been grinding on him.  I must watch too he quits wanting to push when he starts getting tired.  Perfectly understandable.   Well, we shall see what today's training brings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Success, fuel for the fire

Ok so far with my young Z I have been two things at trials.  First successful and the second thing is consistent.  This has been a blessing and a curse.  Ok I know some of you say "Heck dude I'm struggling where I'm at and here you are whining about being successful and consistent.  Dude some people work there whole lives for an ounce of that."

Ok I'll back the truck up and say I am really grateful and excited by both aspects.  I mean really the pup is just two and it can only get better from here right?  Right!  I have been working a long time toward this and my hard work and dedication is paying off exponentially.

But now I have to figure out how to deal with the success and what it means to me.  After reflecting on the videos of my runs I was thrilled with my dog, but I really need to look at myself.  I'm not really excited about the person at the post.  I should have helped my dog more, especially in the Pro Nov run.  I should have helped Z  first off get to the right place on the out run.  But no I was busy trying to save points, so I yelled and really didn't help my dog as much as I should have.  I was busy being competitive when I really should have been doing a little more training.

 In my training I have been working towards being more quiet and whistling almost exclusively.  It was going great until today.  He ran like a train, pretty much right through the bit.  I let him and myself down and raised my voice quite a bit.  I know that sometimes a raised voice and a well time correction is just what the training ordered, but I don't want to slip back and rely on it.  I don't want to sound like a shrew out there working my dog.  And all my stupid head could think about is the next competition instead of what is good for the dog's progress right now.  I'm having trouble keeping my head together because of my stupid ego.

Good news is I didn't break the dog.  He didn't pout, and I found the square flanks he's been hiding.  I sort of found the brakes too.  Sunday is my next training session and I will have a whole week to meditate on keeping things quiet and calm in training at least.

Save me from myself :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Now for Some Middle Ground

This weekend we went to Kearney Creek Sheep Dog Trial.  This trial is held at Becki Maloney's farm in Onalaka, WA.  we ran Judy Norris' flock of hair sheep and they are fast and wise players of this game.

First off I had a really good conversation with a friend I rarely get to see about the mental aspects of the game.  It was really interesting.  We talked about strategy, about being effective competitors and about making yourself better by understanding how your competition wins not how they lose.  When you understand what truly makes the great handler great and not what makes him weak you will be able to beat him. Another really important thing that was brought up is "first tell me what you liked about your run".  Pick out the good stuff, the stuff that went right focus on that and then think out the stuff you need to go home and work on.  Thanks Lora, you need to come around more often.

Second Z rock my socks.  There were somethings that happened that I wasn't expecting, but in all pleased.  We were fourth in the Pro. Nov. class with a 71!  We won the Nursery class with a 73!  That means we are qualified to go to the USBCHA National Finals!!!

No down to the bare bones of it.  I'll go through the Pro Nov run first.  Nice out run and lift , just a point or two off each.  Sent Z left, which is his way hard side and typically cuts in at the top and seems to have a hard time feeling the sheep.  We've been working this side hard at short distances trying to get him to feel the right place to be.  He kind of floated around a bit but finally with help kicked out enough to get them turned.  Then the surprise.  The dog that 2 weeks ago I had to nag to walk up was well very speedy oh and had very little stop.  I got pretty yelly(sorry Lani I've really been working on this).  Our turn around the post was beautiful.  The set up for the left hand drive away line bobbled a bit, but he moved right up on those sheep and they went quickly down the line.  Made those panels, still trying to yank on the reins some and got him stopped and flanked him around left and made a nice turn.  Cross drive was tricky the line went through a ditch with standing water. Three quarters of the line was on but the bump across the ditch he jumped with them and stop was not on his mind.  We just skimmed the inside wing of the inside panel, with a miss.  The line from panel to pen was great and I finally got a stop at the pen and the sheep were happy to go with little encouragement from the dog.  Looking back at it he was pretty amped up as we waited our turn to go.  He was quivering some and his body was pretty ridged.  I was kind of nervous too.

The Nursery run was second.  No point off the outrun or lift, yeah!  This was the area I have been working the most to improve.  Better fetch line, he was willing to release the pressure and flank to fix the line.  Now was this because he was deeper and more correct on the way out there?  And was he more correct on this path out there because he was more relaxed, because I was more relaxed? When does the run really start?  The turn around the post was not as nice as the first one, but good enough to get the job done.  Virtually the same drive, but the crossdrive was cleaner.  Got the drive away panel but the crossdrive panel alluded me again.  We were low and I tried to fix it and suddenly we were high.  A steady wasn't enough to get a clean flank to make the fix work.  Line to the pen was ok.  Pen I almost lost the sheep because I was trying to take a moment to get everything quieted down. In the end nothing off the pen.  I yelled way less on this run too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paMh-d4uItE  Our Nursery run.

Ok more whistle less talk.  This has totally become my way of training, now to change my competition brain too.  Think we might need some practice with down again, but I will take it easy on him.  When he is relaxed I almost never have to stop him and he takes his steady really well and generally keeps himself back.  Which is what I was seeing more in the second run.  He was much more on the bit and softer to work.

As for Molly's run, it went great.  the stuff we have been working on in training really came through for us.  Although not perfect, it is getting somewhere.  She's still really wound up when waiting her turn so her out run was speedy and hard.  Her lift was ok contact, but not strait.  Once she got a hold of them she was willing to stop nicely and trust me.  She came down the fetch at 100mph, but was willing to stop intermittently as I asked. Our post turn was nice she tried to flank twice incorrectly, but I finally got her to go the way I wanted. The start of the drive away was a bit rocky, she really wanted to just bring them back.  They were pulling so hard to the draws, but finally I won again and we had a speedy near miss to the inside of the panel.  Managed  a good turn into the cross drive, again been working this in training.  Made a little more than half the cross drive line and it collapsed in with a skim on the low side of the panel.  The sheep obliged us with an easy pen. I didn't yell at all in this run which was a big bonus for me, I usually end up yelling at this dog quite a lot.  I promised her I wouldn't yell and that I'd leave the post instead while we were waiting.  Which struck as ironic because I was naughty and yelled at the dog(Z) I never seem to have a reason to yell at.

Then Tanya ran Mick and she did a super job.  She worked really hard and he listen pretty well for her.  She retired at the pen, it was just getting a little hectic.  Hopefully she decided to try again, these guys have the potential to make a good team.

I feel A LOT more relaxed about going to the Bluegrass now with that second score under my belt.  We should have some nice runs.  Hope I can find a tiny hint of stop in the next 2 weeks, but blog readers as my witnesses I will not grind on him for the next two weeks.  Hopefully Jorgen will have some video of us to put here soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Have wings

Ok really I don't intend to write everyday.  This is actually about yesterday.

I had some extra time and the weather was super nice so I took Bacardi outside to work with him in his aviary.
We have been having really great success in the house with our flighted recall.  This is about the 4th or 5th time he has been worked out here.  In the nice weather he spends a lot of time hanging out in the yard. Working with him out there provides him with a lot of things to be distracted by.  I have to say yesterday he did awesome staying focused.

Armed with a clicker and a large amount of dried papaya we worked on some of the more difficult flight skills.  We started out simple of course, on his wooden play gym with me just 18 inches away.  A few easy reps and I moved back farther.  With in moments he was flying the whole 20 feet.  Good, easy stuff out of the way now on the the next thing.  I worked on calling him off his large rope hanging perches.  For this feat he had to fly down at an angle.  This is a very scary and difficult skill for many birds to master confidently.  This is something we have been working the house and he is getting quite good at.  Slowly I increased the angle of the drop, by lowering my hand but not shortening the over all distance.  That we can try some other time.  I worked this skill from as many perches and places possible in the aviary.

The next thing we worked on was launching off an unstable perch.  I used his round swing which swivels and jiggles all over the place.  We just worked some short hops and his confidence grew.  After that I put him on an easy perch and called him for a long flight and we quit with that.

For him it seems constantly mixing up the level of difficulty is important to keep his confidence up. I have to be really cognizant of throwing in the easy stuff or he quits wanting to play with me.  It has made him quite the challenge to work with, it really only gets done on his time.  I do push him but I have to watch carefully that he stays with me  mentally.  Bacardi loves to learn and it is more of a game for him I really have to keep it fun and rewarding.  Working with him has made better with my timing with the dogs.  He has also focused me on capturing and shaping behaviors since he's a hands off kind of guy I pretty much have to wait for him to offer something up and c/t for that.
Please visit theotisacademy.webs.com to learn more about training parrots with R+ methods.

I think through training him I have changed my dog training quite a bit.  I am more apt to reward what I like than correct what I don't like. Absolutely not saying I don't use corrections, but I am seeing good behavior rewarded decreases the need for corrects over all.  That's because stuff that doesn't get a reward tends to extinguish itself soon enough.

This takes me back to Don Helsley's( http://www.helsleyranch.com/) pearl  of wisdom from my last lesson.  He said if you want the dog to stop fast you need to not leave him idling in stop. So stop, flank, stop walk up.....so reward the stop with allowing the dog to go back to work quickly.  Ok, so far I have sucked at applying this, but I see it working.  I know it will work, based on what I know about rewarding behavior I like.  There is more to this equation , but that's for another post.