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

Travels, Trials and Tribulations

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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Get a Grip 2.0

Some dogs have a natural grip and ooze self confidence from an early age.  Some dogs are born a little hungry, with a shorter fuse.
My dog Z has the patients of a saint.  I love him for this, it has made him very easy to bring along quickly.  The boy has a very level head and can keep his wits about him more than some 'seasoned' dogs I know.  Now when the sheep may stomp and try to break away and he calmly puts them back together and moves them on the sheep's schedule.  I have never seen him back off a sheep that has turned on him, he doesn't get angry, he just waits and holds his ground. On the rare occasion he does grip it is a nice one on the nose.  I've also seen him get really tall so he's eye to eye with the sheep he's trying to turn back.   Since we have been struggling a bit with pick sheep up off a feed pan I thought it might be a good time to install a grip.  I really want him to understand he may do whatever it takes to move those sheep.

Today I decided to install the first part of the grip program on our operating system. Since we have some pretty important upcoming trials, the install will be slow and the download time my be excessive.
I had my handy clicker and a pocket full of yummy treats.
The three dogs have a much loved, thread bare and flat soccer ball that they all play with.  It is thee coveted item in the yard and Z being the new guy doesn't get much face time with it.  This was our victim or mock sheep.

First I worked some quick behaviors the he knows clicking an treating.

Then I picked up the soccer ball and held it out.  He was pretty sure I was going to throw it so just sort of waited.  Quickly that turned to boring time for the dog, so he tried to take it. Click the minute his mouth hit the ball.  Soon a full hard grip and a quick tug as a reward.  I began to label the grip with the cue.

Next I dropped the ball and repeated the process above but with the ball on the ground.  He was quickly hitting the ball like a ton of bricks on cue.  Hmmmmm Mr. Smarty pants.

Next I moved away from the ball and cued him, perfect on the first try.  He owned that ball. I began to increase the criteria.

We ended with Z and I 5 feet apart and the ball about half way between us and he was moving forward confidently and gripping the ball with force and athority and then bringing it to me.  I think I may work on this a few more times in the coming weeks but will not introduce it on sheep until  later this spring or the beginning of the summer when we have a break from trialling.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cast of Characters

Thought I'd introduce the characters here at the "cottage".

This is Libby also know as "Tater Salad" DOB 2/1998. Owner surrender to the Virginia Border Collie Rescue, the owner was nice enough to include her registration papers.  Her bottom line is all Ettrick breeding, her top line has a few honorable mentions too.  I adopted her after meeting Virgil Holland in KY and watching him work dogs on his farm.  He hooked me up with Wink Mason http://www.winkmason.com/ in 2001ish and the rest is history.  This old gal was almost the death of me, we spent a lot of time fighting. We have HTD II and HTAD II titles on sheep and several championships, but every run was white knuckled ride. She hasn't mellowed out in her old age much but since she is the cottage mascot and doesn't work sheep any more we get  on much better.  Libby went deaf about 3 years ago an senility seems to be setting, this too has added to increased pleasantness.  I love this dog she's taught me a lot, especially how important it is to raise Border Collies correctly if you want them to be good willing partners.

This is Del Mar Mick (Imp JimX Imp Nell) DOB 7/2002, he was bred by Dave Ellison in Kamloops BC.  On his top side he goes back to Daiziel's ##Wisp and on his bottom side he goes back to Hendersosn's ##Sweep and Wilson's ## Spot.  Mick spent his Nursery career with Scott Glen at Alta- Pete Stockdogs in Alberta Canada http://www.altapetestockdogs.com/ .   Mick went blind in one eye at the end of his Nursery career and I ended up purchasing him to be my teacher and guide.  We have learned a lot together. We have achieve HTD III sheep, HTAD III sheep and ducks, and RLF III sheep along with multiple HIT and RHIT we are 3 points away from our HTCh in the AHBA program. I finally moved up to Open with him last year and we were constantly top 30% finishers, but do to poor health from a bum thyroid gland, he is semi retired.  He is now teaching Tanya all about working sheep.  He is a good a patient teacher and she adores him. He spends his days off at the cottage cuddling the cat.

This is BJH Molly DOB 7/2006? We call her "Piggy"  around the cottage because she moans and squeaks when she gets excited.  She belongs to my friend Barbra Jo.  Molly came to Washington State Border Collie Rescue from Idaho.  Barbra was looking for a small female Border Collie with little drive.  Rescue said Molly had no drive and would make a nice pet.  It turns out once Molly built some confidence and grew a personality she had a lot of desire to work.  I also believe Molly was between 9-11 months when Barbra adopted her not a year plus as the rescue believed. Molly has a fair amount of talent, but it has taken her mind a long time to mature.  She comes to stay with me on the days the we go work sheep, on her off days she lives with Barbra and minds a flock of chickens.  We have attained HTAD I sheep with a first place finish on the first leg of that title.  We have the first leg of out RLF III and hope to finish that this summer.  She's a good little dog that tries hard.  Thanks to Karen Child http://comebyekennel.com/ and her infinite patience I have been able to help Molly become the dog she is capable of being.

This is Spring Zeus (L&M JagX Red Top Reece) DOB 2/2008. Z was bred by Jamie Spring of Union Center, SD.   He goes back to Henderson's ## Sweep, Wilson's ##Spot and Tunrbull's ## Nap on his top side.  His grandmother is Laura Hicks' great producer Nell.  On the Bottom side he is a product of Patrick Shannahan http://www.patrickshannahan.com/ and Red Top Kennel's great breeding program going all the way back to Patrick's great dog and USBCHA Finals Champion Hannah.  I've spent the last 7 months training him up and bring him out to our winter trial series.  He took first on 12/09 in his second time entered in Ranch class.  In February 2010 we went out to The El Presedente Trial in ID.  Day one we finished top 10 in ProNov and on day two we finished top ten in Pro Nov again and second in the Nursery class with a score of 72.  That was our first qualifying leg towards the Finals in the Nursery class.  It would be cool to pick up our final leg.  This dog is already a great dog and I see nothing but great stuff for our future.

This is Bacardi, but he calls himself Bird DOB 6/1997, male Blue Front Amazon.  I include him here because I hope to post about his training too from time to time.  I have been working on several behaviors with him and he enjoys learning a lot.  I use the clicker training method with him.  After many years of being clipped I have let his feather grow out.  I have re-fledged him and he is learning to fly.  Our most concentrated effort is going into flighted recall.  I have been graced to find Hugh Choi to help me with this endeavor.  Please read more about free flight and training parrots through R+ methods at Hugh's site theotisacademy.webs.com . Hugh free flies his two Red Fronted Macaws, Otis and Gizmo loose outside all over the US.

All photos here are credited to Tanya Treat except where noted.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mountains and Mole Hills

This is my shot at blogging

I have a young dog named Z (JagXReece) and I have been preparing mightily for our up coming trip to the Bluegrass. We are entered and have 6 runs 4 Nursery runs and 2 Pro Nov / Open Ranch. Ok I'll be honest here, I'm starting to sweat a little bit.

I reflected on my training day yesterday. I see improvement in the out run at the top, the lift and I have good control on the fetch. Thanks Tanya for holding the sheep for me. Z is starting to find his own place back there and walk in with some more authority. My stop has gone to pot a bit, meh for now I guess. The trouble I was having is if I insisted on a stop and a quick one to boot, my pup began hesitating to walk up. Also as I began to insist he work farther behind the sheep and slow down his pace four things happened. First his nice flanks got even nicer, second he began to use his eye more and finally his stops were excellent all good things. The fourth thing that happened is a I lost a lot of forward. He began to question me and worry when I needed him to have a little more push. So now I am back to the other end of the spectrum, I just let him push, push, push. Fortunately, he's got a good steady on him and will flank nicely on the fly. Someday we will find the middle ground and I know I can get him stopped and backed off his sheep if I have to.

I have also been watching closely at the different types of sheep I have been working. I have to say I like my dog best on fast light sheep. He likes them even better if they try to beat him too. He handles these well, keeps himself well back off them and I get the results I was trying to get by insisting he stay back on some of the heavier sheep. Hmmm point to ponder.

Many things are happening at this stage that I would normally not worry at all about if it wasn't for the impending trip to the Bluegrass. I know my dog is good (thanks for the reminder Jeannie) we already have a qualifying Nursery score and have done well in other trials. I think I will stick with less is more for now, try not to break what works. That being said, I have a ton of homework to do after our return from Kentucky.

On the Molly front. We are doing a lot of the same things we have been doing. Trying to get her more relaxed and soften up. She is a 4 year old dog that a friend got from rescue. I have been working her for almost 3 years now. She's a fun little dog that presents some interesting challenges. I hope to run her Pro Nov this spring, some days she looks good and other days are marginal.