Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another lesson, lot's more learned!

See? I knew it!!! There was so much I was doing wrong with Lucy. Working alone allowed me to ingrain stupid behaviour on my part. Lucy and I had a lesson yesterday. Here's the highlights.
1) I need to be calmer with my voice when I ask for her outrun- when I tone it down, and am more calm, Lucy's work is much calmer. Simple eh? 2) I need to NOT ask for a down when I surely won't get it- I knew that, but, clearly I had forgotten it. 3) After I get the down, back off immediately- I always just keep the pressure on the dog- and that just isn't fair- pressure on, pressure off- that's what Alisdair told me, and clearly, I forgot. In just a few times of doing this right, Lucy's downs were calmer.
Lucy and I worked on me walking her around the sheep- on a lead (that could be slipped off) and having her give when she bent it- man she took that well. I didn't do anything but tap the ground with a stick, and she got the message. This translated into her being calmer when I released/flanked her. Oh, and then we did this neat flank exercise where I would ask for a 1/4 flank in each direction- without me moving, and this allowed her to be calmer, and realize she didn't always have to head to 12:00 all the time- which in Lucy's case we need- for now. She needs to realize that she can control the sheep anywhere. The best part of the day for me was when I was able to ask for flanks, stop her, have her walk in, and basically steer the sheep around me. We have never done that. We have only just done long straight lines- as I was afraid to mess up her outrun, because I wanted to differentiate the flank for driving versus the large flank (outrun). We do that by using shortened versions of the outrun flank for the driving flank- YES!!!!!!!! Now I feel like we can make some real headway. We have a long way to go, but Lucy does love to drive. And, she is so receptive to me saying "there" after a flank- that means stop and walk in- this ability to feel in control of the sheep from behind should also help with her fetch concerns (too pushy, wanting to be in control). Lucy's work just got better and better as we went yesterday. Lucy is truly ready to move on to more challenging stuff. The lessons are helping ME so much- and Lucy is so happy to work- no stress. It's just great. Well, enough for now. Stay tuned to more Lucy adventures!!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some down time with the girls

I am trying to get the girls outside each night for a little play time- since goose control is all but done these days. We only make 3 visits a week, and that just doesn't cut it- exercise-wise. So, I bring Luce and Ky outside and we play frisbee. I am a bit hesitant to play this too much, because Nikke wrecked her knee playing this, but I try and keep the throws low. In this video, I think on the 2nd or 3rd throw, the frisbee actually bumps off Lucy's nose, and then she catches it. Not bad! She LOVES the water tank- a vestige from when I had the sheep down the road (thanks sheep). I mean she LOVES it- you can tell. This play time is good for me too- I am always in a better mood when I come back inside after our session. Tomorrow we go for another sheepdog lesson- another long drive, but this time staying in NY state. Lucy best rest up for that!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Yeah, she's to be

I took Lucy for a lesson with a well known trainer in Ct on the weekend. Lucy and I are in a big bad rut, and we needed to get out of it, or quit. I know deep down, that Lucy is quite a nice dog, so we went for it. Took almost 3 hours to get there. The forecast was for HOT- as in mid 90's. It wasn't bad there though. I watched the end of another lesson for a bit, and then I got my girl. Now, I could name this trainer, but, I haven't asked if she is blog shy, so I won't :) But, anyway, trainer and I chatted a bit, and she asked what we needed help with- where do I start? Anyway, we were going to work in the big field- so, to that end, we had to get the sheep out of the woods- they were tucked in under some trees in the woods. I sent Lucy away for them on a little flank. Hmmm, strange sheep, strange place, strange trainer. Made absolutely no difference to the lass. She went in nice and calm, and brought them out. Then, of course she pushed too hard (we need help on this). Then I sent her for a small outrun, wherein she sliced nicely, and spooked the sheep. Yeah, trainer could see where we need help :) So, we go back in the small paddock. I can't go into every single thing I was told, as I can't remember, but basically, we worked on small flanks, and we used a long line and a whip- just as a visual aid for her- no, I have never, and will never hit my dog with a whip! We worked on come by flanks. MY GOD did Lucy like working with the trainer! She was super keen, super focused, super everything. Then, I tried- it took me a bit before I was very good at what I needed to do- and let me tell you, the simple stuff isn't simple when you haven't done it before. But, when I finally was doing what she was doing- Lucy gave me the same attitude. When I would not do as the trainer suggested, Lucy would turn in, or get too close- all that. The times that it went smoothly, well, made me realize that NONE of our failings is Lucy's fault. It's my lack of experience and wisdom that have created this history between us. DANG she looked good. Calm, focused, biddable, you name it. The more I think about it, the happier I am- seriously. So, I see lots more lessons in our future. I obviously can't work her alone at this point, not when I see how the dog SHOULD work, and how the dog's attitude should be.

When we got home for our lesson, we were spent. Lucy spent the early evening sleeping on my leg, with her mouth agape, no doubt dreaming of the wonderful time she had with sheep and that nice lady.

Friday, July 11, 2008

To be or not to be, that is the question

Well, no not really. I think Lucy and I just have hit a bit of a rut. But, I think we are fundamentally okay, just having some growing pains... Anyway, someone I spoke to on the phone the other day said something so poignant. She said that Kelpies are control freaks. Yes, I have to agree on that. Lucy's issues come from her wanting to control the situation- she doesn't on purpose blow me off, she simply is a take charge girl. I know what that's like. When I was going to school, if my lab group wasn't doing their jobs, and we were leaning toward doing poorly, I ended up doing all their work, plus mine. I just figured in the end, if I took over, even if it was more work, my grades would be okay. I believe Lucy is a bit like this- a LOT like this. Lucy sees sheep barreling for me, and she simply shifts to "over-drive, control the situation" mode, and I have to fight that- there isn't a good way to fight it. IF, and if I could remember this, our lives would be much better, when I sent her, and saw her kick up speed - and I mean at the MILI SECOND that she sped up, I stopped her, or gave her a steady- the whole running, and then her shifting to O/D would not happen. I spoke to a few trainers this week, seriously considering sending Lucy out for training. There are inherent problems with that. First, Lucy really really doesn't like crating- as in has damaged her teeth. She would HAVE to be crated during her down time. Second, there are no guarantees. So, my gut says work through it with my girl. Our team moral was at a low point this week, as I got very frustrated with her when I had her on some undogged, not well sheep. She had a hard time getting them off the fence- they ran it single file. I have seen her get other sheep off fences, so I thought she could handle these. When all was said and done I had effectively shut my girl down. This so upset me. The last time we worked, things went better, because we stopped while we were ahead. I am planning to go to strange dog broke sheep tomorrow, here's to us fixing up our relationship!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What is my girl?

So, Lucy has lost, her, um, listening ears of late. This makes trouble for us, because on a dog who's pushy on the fetch, you need a dog to listen, and take a down when asked. It may be because we did so much trialing with not much fixing in between, or it may just be that Lucy prefers to do as she feels needs to be done... We started out this whole thing with Lucy knowing more than me, and the transition to her acquiescing to my wishes has been hard. Sometimes, Lucy does listen, so I know she can, but sometimes I get well, ignored. This causes those who mentor me some, um, indigestion... I can't blame them. Progress is halted when we are in this rut. So, back to the basics with Miss Lucy again.

Yesterday, Lucy and I worked undogged sheep. They either laid down, split up, or fought. It was a novelty for us- their behaviour. Lucy handled them pretty well, being pretty brave, but sometimes I had to urge her on- I think from now on, I need to just let her pressure the sheep and not push her- it takes her concentration off of them. She tries her heart out for me. Something tells me that Lucy would be a good farm dog, because once she knows what I want, she can, well, just do it- no questions asked. Lucy was presented with several ornery sheep yesterday. To their defense, they are just not in shape, and haven't been dogged, so they will fight more readily. At one point one ewe just didn't want Lucy pushing her out of the corner. I walked up and asked Lucy to git in there- which means push those sheep no matter what. So, she pushed, and the ewe put her head down. She pushed again, and the ewe started to charge at her. Lucy responded by opening her mouth as wide as it would go, and trying to seat a bite on the sheep's forehead - but since foreheads are bigger than mouths, no damage done- but that ewe knew that Lucy meant business. I don't like to have to push dogs hard on sheep if I can avoid, but unless the sheep learn to move off dogs, there simply is no working dogs on them. I believe they will come around (I hope they will), but for now, they aren't much use for trial training, and they are NO good for young dogs. So, will Lucy be a right hand farm dog, or will Lucy be a trial dog. I don't know. I do know that she is a good dog, but it remains to be determined what niche she will fill.