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...


"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.


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.


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.


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

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...


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.


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!


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...