Monday, December 29, 2008

Yesterday's lesson

Yesterday I went out to Dianne's for a lesson. Patrick was there for awhile, and Susan came too, it was nice to see them. Dianne worked little May for the first time, she did great! Since we were working inside, I didn't get any pictures.

I really think that our lesson at Patrick's really helped Cedar out. I used a lunge whip with a really long "tail" and that really helped to get her to widen out and respect me more. I am slowly working on making my bubble bigger with her but it's slow going as I am still so very new at this and pretty dumbass-ish. Dianne also helped us work on the beginnings of driving which was cool. Yay, something new! Cedar really did NOT like the pressure, though. She didn't want to move which was irritating and I'm not sure how to fix it. Away from sheep she has a very good recall and is usually very obedient. So we will have to work on that. She is still so young, though.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Puppy pictures!

Here's some pictures I took today of the Peg x Riggs pups :)

The whole gang:
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Look at the cuteness!
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A rather cute little girl:
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"My" boy (I have a good feeling about him):D
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Moss!

Peg had her puppies last night.... 4 males, 3 females!!!



:D

If I can get out to Dianne's tomorrow I will take pictures, so watch the blog for them...

I also really want to work Cedar, it's been a week since we were able to have a lesson.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stuff

So I am now the calendar person for the new Gem State Herding blog:

http://gemstateherding.blogspot.com

I really like the blog format for the club, it's much more flexible.

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Went out to Patrick's on Friday to have a lesson and to have him and Ruben show me how to take care of the place since I'm going to be house sitting for them this week. Since Dianne's ankle was still messed up, Patrick helped me with Cedar. Aside from the first ten minutes of Cedar splitting the sheep to holy hell (this was our first time on non-dog broke sheep)and me being really nervous (with my characteristic bad timing.... x 100) it was great! Patrick stepped in and helped me, and WOW! Because of her balance issues (and me not getting after her enough for it, apparently), she has a tendency to crowd her sheep and not cover them effectively. However, with Patrick's sheep, she was forced to stay really far back off of them because they are so light. I really think she learned a lot about pacing and pressure on Friday. And it was nice that she wasn't hyper-sensitive to Patrick like she is to Dianne, so he could be out there with me... and let's not kid ourselves, work her for me too, as I basically just followed him around asking questions. But I think it was definitely a great day for both of us. It was amazing watching Cedar be 30 feet behind the sheep on the fetch instead of 3 feet.

Baby steps, sure... but I think we're getting closer. I can't wait to work Cedar again and work on the stuff Patrick and I talked about.

In other news, Dianne said that Peg is looking huge and has gone off her food, so she should be getting close to having her puppies, yay! Both Joe and I are very excited for "Moss" to arrive :D

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Three months from now, Cedar will be mighty pissed off at me...

Yeah, most of the people that actually read this already know, but we're going to be adding a new Border Collie puppy to the household. He hasn't been born yet, I think the litter's due date is December 29th.

His dad is 2005 National Finals Reserve Nursery Champion Riggs and his mother is Peg.

I'm really excited to get my first working-bred dog. Should be fun, it's always interesting working with different dogs. So far, Joe and I really like the name "Moss," but you never really know what a dog's name is until you meet them. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One of those days

I swear I must be PMS'ing or some shit because there was really no reason for me to freak out today.

Cedar's first work today was not great, even though Dianne somehow thought it was. Cedar hate hate hates pressure, and is really uncomfortable with Dianne being out there with us. So....... she didn't want to cover or go around the sheep at all to get them off Dianne so we could work by ourselves. I got increasingly more frustrated because I just wasn't doing anything right and again, my timing felt all off and sluggish. I felt like I had never done this before at all. Is that normal?!?

Finally, we got it together and worked a little bit and that was okay, but then the sheep got away. It would have been okay (Cedar wasn't really chasing them too much or anything) but they got pushed back onto the field and Cedar took off. She ran off chasing after them and I had it pretty much together until Dianne mentioned that one could run into the fence and break its neck. Then.............. gosh, I dunno what happened. LOL. Thankfully I was able to get Cedar back and get her to the car before I made a first class fool of myself.

I hate feeling like such an idiot. I feel like my handling has regressed or something. I feel like I will NEVER get this. And most of all, I hate feeling so damned insecure!

I guess I shouldn't be so hard on myself, but I can't help it, it's just how I'm wired! :D

I wish I didn't want this so bad.

Our second work of the day was MUCH better! We worked more on lengthening her outrun and we did a couple of pretty nice ones, our longest yet. I got in a good correction for her blowing me off on the lie down and that seemed to help some. I just don't know what I need to do to make her see that she has to lie down right when I say it. There's lots I wish I knew how to do, though. But she's coming along pretty well.... she's kicking out a lot wider and moving off my body pressure more. Her call off is pretty good, too. I also worked on, at Dianne's suggestion, having her stay behind me when we are walking to and from the field. That seemed to help her mentally. Or maybe it helped me mentally because I didn't have to constantly nag at her with the leash.

Who knows. I certainly don't know anything. And I certainly hope that people don't think that I'm trying to act like I know more than I do. I greatly appreciate all the advice and help. And if I come on strong or over-enthusiastic it's because I really do love this and want to learn all I can.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Purpose

As the snow falls steadily outside the window, I am sitting under a shitload of blankets and drinking tea. It's nice to be alone once in awhile. I can't help but think about this past weekend and all that I learned. This blog doesn't really involve Cedar directly, but it still applies I think because it affects her.

(I don't have any photos of the trial, so I'll put in some photos I took of Cedar in the snow today :) )

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I know I've talked about how the work Cedar and I have been doing lately has helped to give Cedar more of a "purpose" about the whole thing. It's more about WHY and WHERE we are moving the sheep as opposed to just going around in circles or fetching back in forth. There is a reason we need sheepdogs, it's not just a fun game to do with your dog like obedience or agility. I think I knew that before, but didn't really understand it, if that makes sense.

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Well, this weekend I sort of had MY purpose defined. Or, at least, clarified. I spent the weekend at the Sleddin' and Sheddin' SDT out at Patrick Shannahan's farm. Thanks, Jodi and Katy, for letting me tag along! First of all, it was cold. Very, VERY cold. Windy, snowy, and bitter. But I didn't really care. I had a blast, and decided that this is something I really want to pursue seriously. I felt that way before but now I am totally hooked!

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This weekend, I saw some great dogs run, watched some great handlers in action, met some new people, and learned a TON about how the whole trial scene functions. I especially enjoyed working in the set-out pens with Coleen. I really liked getting to work with the sheep and learning about their behavior; what makes them move, how to sort them, how to get them to move off pressure, how my pressure affects them, etc. I liked getting in the pens with the sheep to sort them off and/or push them through the different parts of the chute. I would love to work the pens again, it was a lot of fun!

I also got the opportunity to scribe for Don Helsley in the Pro-Novice class which was very educational. He was such a nice guy and answered all my questions. And I'd never scribed before so that was a good learning experience, too.

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I am so appreciative of everyone who has taken the time to help a newbie learn the ropes! Hopefully Cedar and I will be ready to give Novice a shot at the February trial... I think we could rough our way through most of it right now, except for the outrun. But give us two months and i think we might have a chance of being almost there :)

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On a sidenote, I've taken up practicing my whistles again. I've gotten past the "wow you sound like a dying cat" stage to sounding more like a bad American Idol audition. You know, one of the ones that make it on TV just because it's fun to laugh at the less fortunate.

But I suppose I've made some progress.

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More later, I am thinking about a billion things at once and it makes it hard to focus, so sorry if this is too fragmented :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Congratulations

.... to Dianne who won first place in Open, Nursery, and Pro-Novice at the trial today!

And also, great job to Jodi and Jaenne :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

You always get the best of me

No matter how much I may bitch and complain, I really am thankful for all that Cedar has taught, and IS teaching me so far. I get frustrated sometimes because I feel like I should know more than I should about this... even though we've only been doing it four months. I am not used to feeling like a bumbling novice training a dog :D. It's something I am sloooooooooooowly coming to terms with and I think I've been more successful at getting over myself as of late.

We're starting to step things up to the next level.

When we first started, I was just excited to see her go around the sheep! Little did I know how much more complicated things would get! I went back and watched my videos from earlier lessons, and WOW... we are in a completely different, new, scarier, and COOLER place than we were even a month ago. It's like we're a completely new handler/dog team than when we started.

I am feeling a lot more competent and like I know what I need to expect from her so I can give her the right corrections. I know I must sound like a broken record by now... I am pretty sure I've said this a billion times before, but by putting more trust in her, she has more trust in herself. She had many opportunities to be really bad both Friday and today, but chose not to.

We are starting to move towards doing real "work." We did our longest outruns ever today, and for the most part she did great, stayed pretty wide, moved off my body pressure, didn't freak out on the sheep. She had a great call-off as well. Her lie down was not at it's best today, it was better on Friday. But her outrun is really coming along. She only split the sheep once today, and it was my fault. She listened better to me and didn't panic, and just gathered them up and brought them back to me. So, we're learning!

(Today didn't start off being great.... Joe came out with the camera and I was more concerned about where he was instead of the sheep... the sheep kept wandering off and Diane had to have Riley go get them a couple times. Dianne got mad at me :D. But we got it together. I felt like a first-class idiot, though... sorry Dianne! I really wasn't think about getting good video... I was concerned that Joe would be in the way!)

Dianne brought Mae out today, wow she is getting SO big!

Why can I never remember people names? Harley's people (haha) were out today and worked her. Apparently this is only her fifth lesson and she did extremely well. I guess I was jealous because the second time I worked Cedar I expected a lot more of her. To my surprise, she took the challenge in stride and responded to what I was asking much better. Instead of asking her to walk up straight, I DEMANDED that she do so. Instead of hoping she would go wide on her outrun, I made sure that she stayed off her sheep and got after her for coming on too fast. I guess I need to stop being so passive-aggressive with her. She has been so pressure sensitive that I have been worried about her quitting on me, but she showed me today that she's made of a little more than I thought. I have been trying really hard to stop worrying about what other people think of me and just focus on training my dog. Like kids, all dogs are different and learn at different speeds. That doesn't necessarily make one dog "better" than another. I just need to keep repeating that to myself...

though it does get hard sometimes, especially watching dogs like Zeus and Harley work that are just so natural.

But I'll get over it. :D

Cedar and I will probably never get to Open but I don't really care. She is special in my eyes no matter what she does. She is making me into a better trainer, and a better dog owner... and also making me more appreciative of "easy" dogs like Annie! I'm looking forward to getting smarter about dogs, sheep, handling, etc. as we progress further.

I read an article today by Robin French, about starting young dogs. Here's a quote from her article, I think it carries a lot of resonance:

"Training a herding dog isn’t so much about teaching him anything. It’s all there in the dog already. You’ve just got to figure out how to ask for it in a way he can understand and listen to him when he’s trying to tell you something. It’s all about teaching you and opening that two-way communication between you and your dog."

Hopefully by the time my Riggs pup is ready to start (he hasn't even been born yet, hehe) I will be a HECK of a lot smarter in general and can do him some justice! :D

I should have video up soon, will post as soon as it's on youtube.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being as it's a holiday, I love poetry, and I'm feeling sappy

I am so thankful for my hubby, my friends and family, and my dogs. My life is greatly enriched by all of you. Even though we sometimes have our disagreements, that doesn't mean I love you any less! I appreciate you all so much.

For Cedar...

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"SHE walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that's best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes."

--Lord Byron

I am so thankful for this little dog. Since she came into my life last year, my life has infinitely been changed for the better. She has introduced me to a whole new group of friends, a whole new passion, and a whole new level of frustration! I have become a more active, less bitter, and more patient person because of her. Before Cedar, I was a first class cynic. I had just gotten laid off, and was depressed as I've ever been. I was also drinking too much. She brought light into my life and really helped me to turn my attitude around.

As far as I'm concerned, she's never going to die.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday today :)



So I went to Dianne's on Tuesday for a lesson. I really think that the bad/frustrating lesson on my birthday actually turned things around for us. Cedar is thinking much more, and seems to be working with a purpose now, if that makes sense. Cedar never dove in and split, and didn't grip once! There's a milestone for ya! We worked on a lot of the same stuff, but I started being much more authoritative and really getting after her for not walking up straight behind her sheep. It seemed to work; after I got in a couple good corrections for her going to fast/flanking around/being too close, she stayed much further off her sheep and made intelligent choices. I knew she had it in her somewhere.... :D

.... but I guess Cedar's improvement probably has a lot to do with the fact that *I* am making more intelligent choices as of late.

I only worked Cedar once at that lesson because she worked so well the first time. However, I hung out for a couple hours and watched Rhonda and Katy work Belle and Scout, watched Dianne work a couple dogs drank some Chelada, and had a great (but COLD) time. OMG my feet were so freezing by the end! Dianne also let me work Annie, which was really fun. I drove her basically all the way to the road, messed around with some direction changes, and did a couple outruns. Annie is so great, I want one just like her! haha. She's really patient, sweet, and really talented too. She gave me time to kind of figure out what the hell I was doing. Working different dogs will only make me a better trainer and handler in the future. Thanks, Dianne!

I guess this is sort of Thanksgiving-ish (yeah yeah I know it's more Halloween, but it's cute)... baby Cedar in her pumpkin costume:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ups and downs, a little bit of wool flossin', and my birthday

So this week I got the opportunity to go out to Dianne's twice! I am always in need of practice, so it was much appreciated. Thanks, Dianne! Both lessons were completely different in terms of things accomplished, frustration levels, "success" rates, etc. I say "success" because it's kind of a complicated term, especially when applied to the backwards logic of stockdogging. Hardly black and white. And boy, did I learn that this week.

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I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the first lesson because it

What did I learn? Most importantly, that I need to TRUST MY DOG, let her think for herself, let her make mistakes (otherwise she can't learn from them), and that everything won't go to shit if we DO do something wrong.

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Like Dianne said, we can set up things every time to go perfectly, and just go out in the field and circle and walk back and forth, but we'll never really progress or learn anything.

For that reason, I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the first lesson. While it was awesome, and really fun, it wasn't as pivotal as yesterday's work. The first lesson did kind of set up what we did yesterday, but nothing really mind-blowing happened. We worked on getting the sheep off the wall and working under more pressure, which we both have trouble with :) Here's a video of the highlights, which does show how much we have improved over the last three months:



So onto lesson #2....

Yesterday (my birthday) Dianne had us start doing actual kind of practical "work"... out in the pasture, she wanted us to move the sheep down the fence, then pull them off of the fence to work in the field. The first half hour/45 minutes were, to put it mildly, AWFUL. It was so bad that Joe and my mom left and sat in the car after about twenty minutes or so, until our second work of the day (which was much better!). Cedar kept diving in, splitting, chasing and flossing, chased the sheep all around Dianne's front yard, blew me off completely, etc. And when she wasn't being grippy and stupid, she was running off to visit with Joe and my mom! I was seriously confused and about to cry. I felt like we had regressed at least a month, if not more.

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After about the fifth time of things going completely to hell, I told Dianne I needed a break for a couple minutes. So we talked for awhile about training and stuff, and Dianne (bless her!) kept reminding me that 1) I really can't mess her up too badly, 2) Cedar is still young, and will never learn if I don't let her make mistakes, and 3) training is a long process.... and certainly not a linear one. She used the ladder analogy: sometimes in training we go up two rungs of the ladder, but later we sometimes have to go back a rung or two when necessary. Dianne said that because Cedar is so attached to me and stuff, she looks to me for all her confidence and direction. In order to become a good sheepdog, she needs to learn to think for herself more.


Working on moving the sheep down the fence line
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Another thing I learned yesterday (well, learned better anyhow) is that I need to be able to let things go. I tend to hold onto my frustration (one of my type-A faults) which is detrimental to my ability to think clearly. I also have this overwhelming need to do everything perfectly... yup, another type-A personality quirk. ;) Maybe that's why I'm attracted to the most OCD/Type-A kind of dog there is? haha

After that talk, things started to change for the better. Cedar split the sheep again, and they ran off around by the pond and scattered. I went to chase after her and Dianne stopped me. Instead of chasing and flossing, Cedar went wide around the sheep, collected them, and brought them back to me. I was floored. I guess Dianne really knows what she's talking about...

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So after another break (Cedar went and got a drink) we started fresh and worked again. It was like night and day!!! Cedar was thinking for herself, listening to me, and working relatively calmly and under control. I was also thinking much more clearly, and felt much more balanced. I am starting to figure out where I need to be and what I need to do to set Cedar up for success. However, by putting more trust in her (and not panicking when mistakes do happen), Cedar has started to have more confidence in her ability. The sheep tried to run for home several times in the latter part of the lesson, too, but we managed to hold things together pretty well, and Cedar (for the most part) would just regroup them and bring them back to me. And she was working much better with the pressure of the fence/wall as well. The last few times we did it she almost seemed to use the fence to balance off of.

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Well anyways, this week's lessons were full of ups and downs for me and Cedar. However, we learned more from the "downs" than the easy moments. Every lesson I learn something new. I guess I've written enough for now, sorry if it's a bit fragmented, I'm still trying to process... I've got another lesson tomorrow so I'll write about that after the fact!

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P.S. I got my utility articles and dumbell yesterday for my birthday, and also The Border Collie by Iris Combe. I'm excited to start training that stuff too :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A post NOT about herding for once

Yeah, that's right, Cedar and I DO do other things besides herding! We are currently training in Obedience/Rally and Agility as well. Agility has kind of taken the backseat to obedience and herding because, well, I can't afford to pay for lessons right now, sadly. But I'm hoping to sign us up for a new set of classes in January! My goal for her is to have her ready to compete in Novice by June, because there is an agility show then that's not too far away. But we'll see... we have a LONG way to go!

At least we have been able to practice weaves and stuff like that, with my very limited supply of equipment.

Her fantastic weaves:


Obedience is going way better than I expected. Cedar is mentally so much more mature than she was even two months ago. I credit a lot of that to herding. But our heelwork is coming along awesome, and she's giving great attention and enthusiasm.





Her recall is great, and I even introduced her to the broad jump last week with great success.



I am hoping to have her ready to compete for her CD title by either April or June. At this rate, she's doing fantastic!

Cedar is so fun to train and so enthusiastic... I'd love to try canine freestyle with her someday, too. She's getting to know tons of tricks!





I'm getting a full set of competition utility articles for Christmas from J&J (thanks Mom!) so we can start working on more advanced scent discrimination stuff... cool!

I have a herding lesson today with Dianne, so I'll probably blog about that later, too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I love rain!

...but it was nice to not have to work in it today. Dianne was nice enough to let us work in the indoor arena for our lesson today.

First of all, Dianne, you're amazing!

I think this was one of the best lessons we've ever had. At least for me. I learned a TON about how my body pressure affects Cedar, but also how she puts pressure on ME. I never really thought about that relationship before. She can manipulate me and my body position just as easily--if not easier--than I manipulate her. That bitch... :D. But it definitely opened my eyes to a whole new labyrinth of information/problems/issues to sort out.... damn. Just when I thought it was starting to get easier!

We did a lot of what we usually do; short little outruns and fetches. Keeping her slow and calm. However, Cedar was moving off me much better. My corrections are starting to carry more "value" for her I think. I like to shake my stick at her, sometimes involuntarily, but don't always back it up. Dianne likened it to the difference between my mom shaking her finger at me and her actually following through with the punishment. I worked on not using Cedar's name all the time which really helps for the times I NEED to use it. As always, we worked on getting her to stay a good distance off her sheep, but that is coming a lot easier--and quicker--now. And her "lie down" was MUCH better today.

(I wonder, should I start using directional commands? i.e. "Come bye," "Away," etc. Even if she doesn't figure out what they mean, will it help her to hear them? Or will it just help me? :D)

Sorry, no pictures today. The arena was too dark for anything good to come out.

So, I worked Nikki, too. It was... interesting to say the least. I really appreciate Dianne letting me mess around with her, I learn so much working a trained dog (or, at least, a dog further along with Cedar) that I wouldn't learn otherwise. Or, I guess, that I wouldn't learn as quick. Nikki was definitely testing me today. Working in the arena presents a different set of challenges than working in the pasture. Mainly, there is a lot more pressure because of the walls. But everyone reading this already knows that. Out in the pasture, Nikki was able to swing out a lot wider on her outruns. In the arena, she was forced to be closer to the sheep which made it harder for me to kick her out and get the correct flanks. She had a tendency to get a little sticky and not want to move out for me. Plus, I'm still a bumbling idiot (even though Dianne says I can't "break" Nikki, I still feel stupid making all those mistakes...) and don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to driving and stuff. But we got through it after quite a few bumpy patches. I just need "reminding" now and then from Dianne about what the hell I'm supposed to do! :D

But yeah, I'm learning...

slowly.

:D

Thursday, October 23, 2008

As the cold wind blows...

I went out to Dianne's on Tuesday for a lesson, but before I tell you about that...

Last weekend Joe and I (and the crew) drove up to Idaho City for the day. It was a lot of fun! The leaves were just beautiful and the weather was about perfect. I wanted to find a ghost town and explore it, but that didn't really come together. But we did get to see some gorgeous mountain scenery and play Chuckit with the girls.

The only bad part was the two times that Ivy (the Brittany) got violently carsick... ugh. But overall it was a great day.

Okay, now time for some photos!

The drive there:

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Some scenery:

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And, knowing me, the end of the trip turned into a Cedar photo-op :D

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So anyways, back to my lesson with Dianne :)

First of all, it was FREEZING! The season has definitely changed now, that's for sure. Because of the new colder weather, both the sheep AND the dogs were feeling friskier. The sheep were much lighter than on previous days, and Cedar was extremely full of piss and vinegar. At first, she was not respecting my bubble at all. I was using the stick as a crutch instead of as a proper tool, and Cedar was getting desensitized to it. I also have this thing with flailing my arms around too much... LOL. Thank god Dianne is there to watch me and let me know when my body language gets too out of control! :D.

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Like usual, we were working on getting Cedar out more, and to get her to stay comfortable behind her sheep. When she gets too close she gets nervous and goes back and forth with increasing speed. Her "lay down" is very unreliable at this point, which makes things a bit tougher. But we worked on that, too. I was getting wayyy too flustered with her at first, but thankfully was able to get things under control by the time our second work came around. I finally was able to get Cedar to settle down without too much yelling. My timing has improved soooooo much lately, it sure does make things easier!

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After working Cedar, Dianne let me mess around with Nikki. She is am awesome dog! I really love working with her. Too bad she's not for sale.... j/k :) Dianne let me work her alone, which was neat. I think she was watching me from afar, though... hehe.

After doing a few outrun/fetch exercises like I used to do with Rob, I got brave/bored (haha) and decided to mess around with driving. Mind you, I don't know the first thing about driving and how to do it, but thankfully Nikki does :). It was very cool. I drove her around the field with a decent amount of success. At least, nothing bad happened and I didn't get the feeling that Nikki thought I was a complete idiot. I hope I didn't mess her up too badly ;) I am not yet whistle-proficient (haha) so I had to give her all voice commands, which was pretty tiring. I can definitely see the appeal and usefulness of whistle training.

Thanks Dianne for another great lesson!

Friday, October 17, 2008

After the break...

So Cedar, Joe and I went out to Dianne's this morning for a lesson. I was expecting Cedar and I to be complete idiots; I thought Cedar would be wild and grippy, and me to be bumbling and stupid. But...

WOW!!!!

I think we both did great! I guess the 3 week "break" did us both good. Cedar was much calmer and focused, and I was (aside from a few novice blunders) much better with my timing. We are really starting to "get" the concepts of pressure and how it relates to keeping off our stock.

Here are a few (bad quality) video stills from our lesson:

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But yeah... I am SO proud of my girly! She only got wayyy too tight once, and it was my fault. I was so excited when a sheep split off, and Cedar just brought her back to the flock instead of gripping and chasing her down the field ;).

I love my dog! For a young, inexperienced girl, she is so forgiving of my mistakes. She is really starting to listen to me better, too.

She is also getting more comfortable with staying off her stock (and I'm getting better at reading when she wants to go too tight). I am becoming a stick-chucking master!

Now I just need to master the whistle....