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

Travels, Trials and Tribulations

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Some Serious Catching UP

Part 1 Giving Some Thanks

Since it is close to Thanksgiving I’m going to list some things I am thankful for.
A partner that lets me run away from home to work dogs, that supports my journey on this path and will put up with this level of crazy.
Fabulous mentors that keep their patience and are willing to tell me the same thing over and over until finally hear it.  Mentors that keep me on and help me down the path and are willing to answer all my questions no matter how much detail I need.
I am grateful for wonderful friends that provide the opportunities to learn from great mentors.  Friends that are willing to be honest and also willing to help me over think everything.  Friends that kick me in the butt when I need it, pat me on the back when I deserve it and pick me up a little when I ask for it.

Part 2 Awash in Information

Last week I spent four days at a handling clinic coached by Scott Glen http://www.altapetestockdogs.com/ .  It was a pretty amazing experience.  I really didn’t know how much I learned until I walked away and had some time to digest everything.   By day 2 I thought I hit maximum capacity!  The third day I was feeling pretty hosed by information.  By the fourth day I could see so many new things, things I wasn’t seeing before. 
I am a very visual learner and I like to take things a roll them, around in my mind.  It usually means I don’t ask a bunch of questions, but I see everything.  In this clinic I was extremely fortunate to have a few friends participate in it, folks that I get to see their dogs trial pretty often and some dogs that I have been a spectator on their journey for a few years now.  I was doubly fortunate for 2 friends running dogs that had very similar things going on with their dogs as I do with mine.  It gave me the opportunity to see why things were happening for me the way they were.  I was able to see how to handle and avoid some of the situations.  I also discussed some training exercises to work on over the winter, although it shouldn’t take that long.
So boiled down as it applies to Z and me:
Better stop – we have an ok one, it has been working for us but just barely. We have a prescription to remedy that.  The homework is already started.
Clean flanks – I had gotten lazy about keep his flanks square.  This is what has been really killing us at the pen and sometimes in the shed.  It has been killing us around the course but I have been handling to compensate for it.  We are going to fix it.  Again we have a strait forward remedy, homework started there too.

Both bits of homework are getting applied to Hank as well.  Heaped on top of the stuff we are still working on but getting better at.

This was my Eureka moment: if I stop Z, I have to stop him far enough out of the sheep so he actually has room to walk up and affect the sheep.

I saw it time and again on other people’s dogs.  If they stopped the dog too close, the dog either struggled to shift the sheep or the dog blew it up.
I’ve never really considered the distance between the dog and the sheep a huge part of the equation when the sheep weren’t moving.  Not that I have subscribed to closer is better, but now I understand why closer doesn’t work well either.  It is noticeable on the lift, but where it was driven home was at the pen.  We penned some very silly un dogged lambs. What I learned from watching and listening where clean flanks so the dog can cover AND stay out. The caveat to this was if the dog flanked out clean and stayed off it had to be willing to take the space back if asked.  If the dogs got in too close the one of 2 things would happen it would blow up OR the lambs would not shift.  It was so dang clear.

Finally, I must get quieter with my whistles.  I must make the dogs listen for me.

Part 3 Testing Grounds and Applied Knowledge

My 2 dogs and myself have spend one week, 3 training sessions in total sorting through a hand full of the tidbits from the clinic.   Keeping the focus narrow so no of us gets overwhelmed.
Worked on better stop with both dogs, both are hitting the ground on a fairly quiet note.  I need to get to a whisper.  Distance and driving are where both dogs struggle with stopping, more so with Hank.   We will just keep it close for both dogs for a while and gather.

Worked on cleaner flanks, Hank’s are nicer right now; again they degrade with distance and driving.
On Saturday we went to a local trial. 
For Z, I could stop him anytime anywhere on that course.  I got louder than I wanted on the first part of the fetch and we suffered from sloppy flanks up there.  Still plagued by sloppy flanks around the course, less sloppy on the last 2/3 of the fetch but we have a long road here.

For Hank, it was a good day despite the letters.  The in gate was right on top of the exhaust gate, so it got a little exciting for a minute while we were waiting our turn.  I was proud though when we walked to the post he knew his sheep where up the field.  He knew right where they were.  The out run regrettably for me was a little far and the terrain proved tricky for him.  He went around the first hill and I went to blow him out, he gave but not nearly enough to go behind the second hill.  He got pulling in to the draw between the hills which is the first place he could see sheep for several strides.  He sliced them off the top plus over ran it and then started to chase.  He had them headed down the field to me, but I was already on the way.  He had run through them but kept his mouth shut and teeth to himself, that’s when I started to jog in his direction.  I got him under control and we worked them nicely back to the exhaust.
On his Pro Nov run I walked off the post a sent him, I just kept walking up the field.  He went out and around the hills much better.  He came in hard at the top but I was at the fetch gates by that time and could help him cool off.  We sheep sandwiched them quietly to the post and made a nice turn.  He actually completed the drive really well; a hair short of both panels and that was just my fault.  He’s speedier than Z!  I also kept my whistles pretty quiet, even the stop one!

We have some serious homework to get sorted out this winter, but I think both dogs are off to a good start.

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