Thursday, September 25, 2008

Progress... and a breakthrough or two

So today at 10 AM I went out to a lesson at Dianne's. I brought Cedar and Rob. Little did I know I would end up spending 5 hours there; hanging out with Dianne, working dogs, playing with puppies, and meeting some people even newer to herding than I am :). It was overall a fantastic day, I had a ton of fun and learned a lot. It was fun getting to know Dianne better as well.

We worked Cedar first in the big pasture. I think she had a breakthrough today! She made the connection that she could stay more than 10 ft away from the sheep and still control them. After some brainstorming, we figured out that she is not necessarily staying close to the sheep because she is worried about them, but partially because she is worried about where I am. So we did a lot of work on making her feel comfortable away from me. It seemed to really help. She is doing much better with walking up also, and is much more comfortable staying behind her sheep and bringing them to me without trying to circle so much. We're still working on that "lie down"... she is good for the most part but still has a tendency to blow me off. We did a lot of quarter and half turns working on getting her to lie down on balance. I had to chuck my stick at her a few times but not like normal :D She also had an excellent call off, and didn't try to run back to the sheep after I told her "that'll do."

Dianne said this was me and Cedar's best work yet!

Next, I worked Rob. We basically just did a bunch of outruns and fetches in the big pasture. He did great. Dianne had me work on getting him to go wider on his outruns, he has a tendency to go really tight on the Away side. I got in one good correction that involved me running at him and chucking the stick, and after that sweet Rob behaved perfectly ;) We had one sticky moment when the sheep wandered under the sprinklers and Rob went in tight and split them before I could stop him, but he got them back together and brought them to me in a gorgeous, straight-as-an-arrow fetch! His fetches really are getting MUCH better. Dianne basically let me alone to figure things out for myself with him, as he never lets me get into too much trouble. Rob is such a good boy.

After I worked Rob, I went and hung out with Dianne and two ladies, a mother and daughter from Alaska (I can't remember their names, sorry) who were interested in getting into herding with their border collie... I think her name was Lacy? Or Lady? Something like that. My memory is just terrible. She's a cute, but pretty timid, black and white. Anyway, I digress. I think their uncle or something is buying one of the Rose x Riggs pups that Dianne has at her place right now, they are 5 weeks old and SO cute. (I want the little male, "mini Riggs"... he has a TON of charisma and is gorgeous as well. Haha fat chance! ) But it's always fun playing with puppies, especially pups as friendly as those little guys. After that, Dianne worked Lady/Lacy/?? for the first time. It took her about 15 minutes to get over her nervousness and "turn on"... but she ended up doing pretty well.

After some more chit chat, and a brief horse feeding interlude, Dianne suggested that I work her nursery dog, Nikki. I was pretty nervous (didn't want to make her look bad!!!) but it was too cool to pass up. So we trek out to the pasture again (gawd all this walking around is tiring! I am SO out of shape, yikes!) and Dianne, giving me minimal directions, tells me to send Nikki out to get the sheep, who were about 100 yards away. I am dubious that she'll work for me. But I tell her "come by" anyway. Nikki looks at me like I'm crazy, looks at Dianne, and looks back at me. I tell her "come by" again, a little more forcibly ("tell her like you mean it!" Dianne says), and Nikki takes off on a gorgeous, textbook-perfect pear shaped outrun, has a beautiful lift, and then expertly fetches the sheep to me as straight as can be. I am too transfixed watching how gorgeous she is to remember to direct her to take the sheep around me, so she stops them in front of me and looks at me like I'm a total idiot. So I get my shit together and manage to get her to take the sheep around the post (or me, whatever...) without looking too bad :) We do this a couple more times and call it quits. She is an awesome dog and I wish Dianne the best of luck with her. If she does that well for me, she has to do 300 x better for someone who actually knows what's up :)

All in all it was a fantastic day. The best work ever for BOTH Cedar and Rob... and the best work ever for me also. Progress!


I think someday I could turn into a decent handler...

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