Saturday, August 30, 2008

A day to remember

We worked sheep again. It seems that all my worries about Lucy being well, more a farm dog, or maybe not being able to listen (control freak), were really all about me creating tension. Pretty much simple as that. When we got to the site, I had to sort out sheep first. This is very good for Lucy- she truly enjoys working as my partner (and I hers). So, we kept out I think, 4 ewes, and 2 lambs. This was a great group to work. When fetched they didn't run hell bent for leather, and when lifted, sometimes, when the dog was a bit tight, they moved off fast, but other times they waited. They were just plain old "real sheep". I took the advice I have been given, and took some good breaks just watching the sheep. The sheep looked very good- grazing away, and happy as a pig in mud. Anyway, I worked on driving. These sheep weren't the BEST for driving, but definitely passable, and they kept Lucy honest- if she came up too close and hit the bubble, they would run. Talk about teaching a dog pace... Now, I have pretty much taught Lucy anything she knows with respect to driving. We just sort of started- I have gotten some pointers, but in general, it's been me- an important note ;) Anyway, I was able to get some good crossdriving out of her, and half flanks, which she was happy as could be to stop, and then walk in- this really is one of her fortes. Her stops are MUCH better on driving than fetching- which is probably due to her not being so confident, but I will take it! She was super keen as we worked. She only had one zip around- and that was my tension. I respond to that now by having her do BIG flanks around. She is learning that zippy impish-ness gets one no where. Good for her to finally learn that ;) Lucy really likes the idea of controlling sheep from behind, and without me as a draw to the sheep. We are at a prime time to just keep building on that.

Lucy had even better outruns this time. She has just gotten wider (but not too wide) and deeper, and it shows. I have also downed her enough at the top, that she is hesitating just enough that the lift is calmer- THIS IS GREAT!!!!!!!! That was advice from Barbara Leverett- who is well, a GREAT trainer. My intention isn't to always down her, but do it enough that she puts her thinking cap on when she comes up to the bubble. Then, I want a second down after they stop- why? you ask? Well, because Lucy can get sucked into their wake, and it is one ugly fetch. This gives them room, and everyone is happier. Then, after that second down, I can give her a flank, and that keeps her just off of the sheep- again, everyone is happier.

We also worked the pen. This has been great for Lucy. She is learning to finesse things, and stay off. The problem I am facing though, is once the sheep are in, they don't want to come out ;) Eventually they will, but what if I want to work them again? Lucy has no problem snapping at/doing whatever she needs, to get these sheep out of that pen. Thank goodness she can't fit between the boards- as we know that she will do that. Hell has no fury, like a Lucy when the sheep don't move ;)

So, all in all, our work was the best we have had in months. I wish I had videotaped it- so I could do things just the same again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Working sheep and geese

Lucy hasn't had the opportunity to do much sheep work lately. My regular training buddy has been away at trials, and I have been flat out busy. Not much goose work either- that may stop altogether, given the estimated tax bill... But, enough of that. Let's get on to the good stuff.

Lucy worked new sheep the other day (seems we do that a LOT). It was a varied group of lambs, adults, and within those, breeds. There were two that were definitely prone to fighting. Well, only one- the other was a paper tiger- she would put her head down, mock charge, and then hightail it. Wimp. Then, there is another ewe that is a real fighter- will seek a dog out. Lucy experienced her when she didn't want to come away from the pen area. I encouraged Lucy, and Lucy did come at her, but then did that shoot around behind her stuff- which is HUGELY counterproductive. It prevents the sheep from learning that turning off a dog is good, because then they are left alone. OY VEY Lucy. Since I wanted Lucy to WORK sheep, not FIGHT sheep, she was put away for the time being..

Then we worked on the nice workable sheep. Even got some pens done. We never get to practice a pen, so this was cool beans for us. Lucy LIKES to pen, and she was calm and cool as a cucumber. We got something like 10 sheep penned in a small trial size pen- neat. We also worked on outruns. Now, I was a bit reticent, because the last sheep that were here were just not good workers, and they glued themselves to the corner, and the fenceline. Not fun. Well, when I sent Lucy for these sheep, they were in the corner, and I simply prayed that Lucy would remain calm, and bring them out. Sure enough, she got them out fine, and brought them up nice. We took a bit of a break, and the sheep headed down to the far end of the pasture. Lucy and I were sitting under a tree- she catching her breath, me swatting at mosquitoes. One thing I love to do, is to be able to sit on the ground and send her, and have her just do her thing while I am totally relaxed. So, I sent her- well, after I set her up, and asked her to "look". Then, once her gaze locked on, and her breath became just a bit tight- this means she saw them, I sent her. She had just all very very good outruns that day. She was correct and stylish the whole way. It was quite nice. When she brought them to me, she took the downs I asked for. Very good girl. Lucy hasn't backslid at all. That is very good to see.

So, then we decided to deal with nasty nelly as I shall call her. I brought Lucy in the small pen/shed with her, and had Lucy just chill out around her. True to her name she came out at Lucy. She looked to crush Lucy. It was quite a sight. She rolled Lucy a couple of times. Lucy at one point slid out under the gate- but I believe this was not so much tail turn as save thy butt, because she came right back in loaded for bear. It plain amazes me- the dog's courage. Lucy was not hurt, neither was the sheep, but I think the sheep will think twice about coming at Lucy. Lucy could be a tad calmer/braver, but all in all, I think she handles sheep like this well. She seems to know the natural order of things- dogs rule sheep, PERIOD. So, after that work, we worked the good sheep again, and then all we did with nasty nelly and her 3 friends (including the paper tiger) was have Lucy work on just walking up them, and them turning off. I want them to know that doing that is the best plan of action, and also, I want Lucy to know that the goal is to turn them and keep them going that way, not circling around, irritating the heck out of them

Oh, this blog is getting long... Anyway, after the sheep work, we went to the golf course. We got the geese moving and they landed in the BIG pond. Great. Well, Lucy was up for it. I didn't even have to ask her to go in after the geese- she did so no problem. Then, she was in there for the better part of an hour. Working and working them, until FINALLY they had had enough and left- they did do an immediate flyover, but Lucy was in pond still. Then, one single goose came back. Lucy went after him, and went across the pond and back twice, but then she hit the wall. She was cooked. Her legs were giving up the ghost. She came out rather quietly, didn't fight the hose wash off, and is now deeply asleep at my feet. That was hard work. Lucy really really signifies to me what a working dog is. She works for me, because that is what she must, not because I tell her. It is born to her, and it is undeniable. I am very fortunate to have this girl. I do so love and respect her.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another trial, and plans

Lucy and I ran at the Cooperstown sheepdog trial on Friday. It was a looong drive through some back woods to get there. I had heard lots of good things about this trial, but had never been there. It is a pretty field- a giant hill. Novice class was first. Lucy and I were 4th. The very first run was a real stunner, and they ended up winning. Looked darn easy.... When it came time for us, I could tell Lucy was just wizzing. She was running around as I walked to the post. I had my fears... I didn't know which way I would send her, because the set out and the exhaust were on the left. It would give her more room to send to the right, but I let her decide. She automatically set herself up on my left. I sent Lucy, and she took off nicely, and came around nice. Sheep didn't move. She then automatically slowed up on the lift, and walked in. That was all just very nice. Then I downed her.... She DOWNED!!!!!!!!! She took it!!!! Then, I said "walk up" which was THE WRONG THING to say to Lucy. She got up fast, and they took off at a dead run- and Lucy was way too close. The judge admonished us several times to NOT harass the sheep, so I dutifully left the post. I don't remember when I got her to down- perhaps halfway to me? The sheep were jiggered. Lucy was OVER THE TOP hyped. Instead of downing, she stood- which I will take... Anyway, we got around the course- God knows how, and then at the pen, there just was not going to be a pen with her so tight, and zipping. At one point they bolted for the exhaust and Lucy zipped around to head them and yipped. That's a new thing the yipping and it's all tension. So, I finally decided discretion is the better part of valor, and we thanked the judge.

Later that day I spoke with a trainer who I had brought Lucy to for a few lessons, and she offered to take Lucy in for training. There is just no way I can get Lucy worked enough to get on whistles, solid flanks and solid downs etc., by myself. I think her on whistles will be very very good- it will take all the tension out. So, week after next, Lucy heads out to sheep camp... I will miss her so much, but she really needs this. We are stuck in a rut.

There were other runs that didn't go so well too. *********** There was an older Aussie there- I like this little dog- she had a hard time on her outrun- little legs, tough terrain, and she stopped short, and then those sheep just bolted for the exhaust. So, all the non-bc's faultered- DARN IT!

Some BCs had a hard time too though. These sheep got heavier and heavier as the day went on. By the time ranch rolled around, watching the dogs move these sheep was rather like watching curling. The sheep just had to be kept moving, or they would stop, and turn, and then when the dog walked up, they would spook/scatter. OH LORD. Lots of heading happening too. I would have to say that these were not the best sheep- not the worst, but very hard for all but the most quietly forceful dogs to handle. Lucy can handle heavy sheep, but it builds tension, and I am sure that is the same for many dogs.

It was a nice day, but a long one. I just don't take to driving these distances much. Lucy remained hyped when watching other dogs- enough that she shook and her teeth clattered. OY VEY.

Well, enough of this for now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's all me I tell ya!

Lucy and I had another lesson over the weekend. What a lesson it was. Talk about eye opening. I have been so over the top tense when I work Lucy- that poor dog. No wonder she gets zippy. I routinely don't give her enough time, for say walk ups- she is working them from a distance- I want faster. I routinely position her IN their bubble- which upsets she and the sheep. I just completely act as ass. Then I get loud, because Lucy isn't listening. Seriously, I know there are some things that Lucy has to improve on, but I need to improve on my attitude, and patience. It isn't anything more than that. Thank goodness Lucy hasn't quit on me- I owe her big time for that. So, from now on, my main goal when working Lucy will be for me to remain calm, and relaxed, and keep the sessions not so God awful long. We have been working more on driving, and my instructor gave me some cool exercises for Lucy to do- which Lucy likes a lot. We have a trial on Friday, who knows how we will do, but I can tell you one thing- I won't be screaming, and I won't lose my temper- my dog needs me to be the calm, collected one- I hope that she can relax herself- and that I haven't been just too God awful to have ruined her ability to be that way.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Just a couple of shots of the lass

Today we played a bit of Frisbee. Lucy really love this- they all do! Here are some shots of one happy girl!


It's been a while since I wrote! No updates, I'm afraid on Lucy's and my training. We couldn't lesson this past weekend because of the rain. Lucy seemed fine. Lucy had a great day working on the golf course the other day. I wrote this else where, but thought, since this is the lass's blog, it should be here too:

Yesterday Kylie, Lucy and I headed out to the golf course to do some goose control. I hadn't planned to go, but as I drove by I saw many geese happily ripping out the grass on the course. So, I picked up the dogs, popped them into the golf cart, and headed out. We no sooner got about 100 yards, than we spyed about 30 geese all eating away. I sent the dogs. This sent them to one of the ponds down the fairway a bit. So, we got to the pond, and there sat the geese, perterbed about having been set aflight by these annoying dogs; they were honking, stretching and contracting their necks, and generally irritated- BUT they were not leaving. Lucy did her signature "outrun" to the other side of the pond, and without much thought, waded into the duckweed infested water. As soon as her feet were free of terre firma, she swam hard to get these geese first, together, and then, moved to one end of the large pond, so we could tighten them up and get them going.
Well, these fat lazy geese had other ideas. They just simply did not want to leave. Lucy would get them bottlenecked at one end, and they would simply take off do a 180 over her head and land at the other end of the pond. This happened multiple times. It was hot as hades out there, and Kylie was running along side/jumping in to help- she was so hot I had to lay her down. This contined for a long time. Then, one goose decided it was time to go. I thought- yeah, this will get the rest to go- but no. Another 15 mins in there. Then one more, and then 6. Now, remember, Lucy is not only swimming them to one side, she is also covering those that think of turning back. At one point, after oh, I don't know, maybe an hour??? Lucy had to come out to take a potty break. Good little girl- don't fowl the water ;) I thought, oh, that's it- she looked exhausted, and her legs very tired. Did she quit? HECK NO. She went back in and moved those geese again to one side, and
then one left, and then the last goose left. After that, Lucy shimmied over to the cart- just plain exhausted. But, I could see she was extremely happy, as I was, and I was darn proud of her too. There is no way to force a dog to do this- she has to do it all on her own, and never give up. Which she did. Yes, she's a damn good dog.

After that wonderful work, the weekend, I am afraid was quite boring for the dogs. I decided to spray the lawn with Weed Be Gone (tm) so the dogs just weren't allowed on it for the whole day. I know that it should be okay, once it has dried, but still... Lucy has a lesson scheduled for this Sat, let's hope the weather holds. Though, I think that if we keep playing frisbee, and do our goose control, she's still a happy camper :)