Friday, January 30, 2009

New stuff

Well, I promised that I would blog about my lesson today, so here ya go...

Ann and LJ Estes were out at Dianne's today as well. Ann is doing a great job with Levi! They have improved a lot since I saw them work last. LJ's bitch, Gina, as always, was great, too. She's a nice dog.

I worked Cedar twice, and she was pretty good. She didn't really do much wrong, but for some reason I don't feel totally satisfied with our work today. I'm not sure why. At first, we worked mostly on lengthening out our outruns, like usual, as well as a little bit of driving. Dianne had us actually take the sheep out to the pasture, which was fun. I really like doing "practical" type stuff like that, and I think Cedar does, too. She listened pretty well to me and stayed nicely off the sheep which is always nice. I appreciate it when she actually behaves herself! As usual, Dianne had us work without her close by, so I corrected her for "not covering" on one side when, actually, Cedar was right. She was feeling the draw, and didn't want to push them too far towards "home." I feel like a jerk, oh well. She'll get over it :)

Our second work consisted of trying to get Cedar comfortable with picking sheep up off a set out person. Ann was nice enough to help me out, since Cedar is so intimidated by Dianne :D

It was sort of rough going for awhile... Cedar really was uncomfortable with all the pressure and struggled with lifting the sheep on the come by side. However, she moved the sheep around very considerately, didn't take any cheap shots, and took my corrections and seemed to learn from them. We finally got a really nice lift on the away side and quit with that. I'm pretty proud of her; we've made a lot of progress in the past month or so I think, and it's given me some hope. No matter how much I might complain, I really do love working and learning this "herding thing" with her.

P.S. (Puppy-script) All the puppies are looking great. I played with Moss today.... he is SO freaking cute! I think he might kind of recognize his name. He paid the most attention to me out of all the puppies; I wonder if he might sort of recognize me, too? Probably wishful thinking...

I can't believe he's over 5 weeks old now!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I have a lesson with Dianne tomorrow.... I'll write about that afterwards, but I was just reflecting tonight on how far Cedar and I have come in the past few months.

Our last "posted" video... from mid-November:

Two and a half months ago, we were doing, at most, 20-30 FOOT "outruns" and still struggling a lot with getting Cedar to settle down, walk up straight behind her sheep, and feel my "bubble." She would dive in and split the sheep ad nauseum because she couldn't handle the pressure (and my timing/handling was--and still is, but not quite as glaringly--awful). We basically were stalled for a couple months and didn't make any real progress.

In contrast....this week, we did our longest outruns ever (200-ish YARDS.... I think), she took my corrections extremely well, listened to me, kept off her sheep for the most part, and basically did everything that my limited knowledge and handling ability asked of her. I am hesitantly getting excited about the Red Top trial.

More tomorrow.......

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's been awhile

Went out to Dianne's again today. Spent quite a bit of time playing with the puppies and getting pictures (more about that later), but I also got to work Cedar a couple times. Today, I focused mainly on lengthening her outrun and getting her to settle down and think. The trial is looming ahead and I think we might just be able to get around the course with a little bit (okay, a LOT) of luck.

Cedar is becoming much more consistent in her behavior as our training has progressed, and I think we're starting to become more of a "team" as opposed to me trying to direct/help/force/save her all the time. We're both getting a lot more confident and learning to trust each other. We did a couple REALLY big outruns (at least for us, haha) and I was pleased for the most part with how she handled the distance. She didn't come straight at the sheep once, and took my "get out!" corrections instantaneously. I celebrated a little bit inside. We worked a little bit on driving and coming into the pressure, but not much. My main goal for her right now is to get her outruns to the length they need to be for the trial... I think like, 200 yards? 250? I dunno how long it is but it SEEMS like freakin' far to me. Yeah, I know... can't be good having "pre trial" jitters almost a month away from the trial! :D I'll be happy at the trial if she can calmly bring the sheep to me without spazzing out and losing them or sending them at mach 10 to the exhaust. That's my goal. I need to talk to Dianne about maybe practicing penning a few times, and/or maybe going out to Patrick's to practice...

P.S. The puppies are getting SO big! Moss is doing great, he's the biggest, fluffiest puppy in the litter :). They are all so fat and friendly, and are growing super fast. Isn't he a doll? I can't wait until he's old enough to start on sheep :).... but hell, I'd just settle on having him old enough to take home! He's almost 5 weeks old now.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

What goes up, must come down

Went to Dianne's again today for a lesson. The first work was better than the second, but (at the risk of sounding redundant) I really do think we are making some progress.

1) Her outrun was fantastic today! She was calm, extremely wide, and took my corrections very well. We did some very long outruns on both sides, and she seems to be getting much more confident with herself. She slowed nicely at the top and covered the large number of sheep we were working very nicely. I sent her from my feet (albeit not from very far away) several times and she only dove in once. It was probably my fault.

2) Driving is getting a little better, to the best of my knowledge anyway! I feel the need to reiterate that I don't know what the HELL I'm doing, but at least we got some straight lines and I think Cedar is starting to get more of a feel for what it takes to calmly move the sheep. Slowing my walk down helped a LOT.... thanks Dianne! The few times she got away from me, it was because I let her get too far ahead of me. At least I'm learning.

3) Apparently Dianne still thinks we'll be ready for the February Red Top Trial.

I'm skeptical.

4) I guess Dianne thinks we need /are ready to start working on off-balance stuff, which is kind of exciting! Apparently this will help our driving, but I couldn't tell you how.

This is such a freaking "process!"

P.S. Saw Moss today, he's looking great! He gave me more puppy kisses and tried to follow me out of the living room. He's up on his feet now and walking pretty steadily. Here's a photo that Jodi took of him today:

Monday, January 12, 2009

But lately I'm, beginning to find that I, should be the one behind the wheel

Cedar and I continued to work on the same stuff we did on Friday... and for the most part, she did a great job today. Our first work was probably better overall. She listened to me well from the get-go, stayed nicely off her sheep, slowed up at the top of her outrun when I told her to, and brought them to me at a nice steady pace. It's nice occasionally to not have a small stampede bolt towards me every time I send her! She was being less one-sided today for some reason, and took her come bye flanks pretty nicely. She still has a tendency to not want to cover fully on that side but we're working on it. Whenever she comes up short, I've been walking to the left to make her cover. It seems to be working, sloooooooooowly.

I'm really liking what I'm seeing from her this week. She is getting much more confident and trusting me to tell her to do the right things. And I am trusting her more as well, which makes me feel better :) Her outruns were nice and wide, she took my direction well, and I only had to chase her down and pin her to the ground once ;)... at the very start of our second work, she blasted through me just as I left her on the down to walk to the sheep and dove in. So, I chased her down, took her to the ground, gave her a "what for," and started over. She was a perfect angel the rest of the time, go figure ;) Now, I don't condone doing that sort of thing unless it's absolutely necessary, but trust me, she deserved it! haha. But she stayed wayyy off her sheep with no unneccesary flanking back and forth up close behind them. Hopefully that phase of her training is over..... ugh I got SO sick of it! I think that making my bubble bigger, and enforcing my corrections with her has really helped with this aspect.

Our driving is coming along better, we're starting to build on the basic stuff Dianne taught us the first few times we worked on that skill so that's cool. She is MUCH more confident walking up into the pressure behind the sheep, and really seems to like driving. Again, I need to trust her more. This whole driving thing makes me nervous because I don't really know what the hell I'm doing :D. But she seems to be progressing, and Dianne hasn't been too hard on me about it, so I guess I must not be doing too badly? Cedar seemed pretty dang pleased with herself after our lesson, it was cute.

I still don't think we'll be ready for the February trial, though. I guess we'll see. I need to talk to Dianne about it.

P.S. Saw Moss again today, WOW what a difference even a couple days makes! The pups have gained a few more ounces, are getting fluffier, and much more mobile and talkative. Moss is HUGE! He really is a nice looking puppy. I paid attention to, messed with, and held all the puppies, and Moss was the only one that actually wanted to stay in my lap. Maybe he knows he's supposed to be mine? Haha, I know, wishful thinking... But I kissed his little nose before I put him back anyway and told him I couldn't wait for him to come home with me. What a cute boy he is.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Last lesson

Well, I've put off blogging about Friday's lesson... not sure why. I guess it's just taken my this long to process everything.

Either that, or the 3 PBR's I've had tonight have loosened my tongue a bit. :)

As usual, it was full of ups and downs and pretty black and white as to whether things went "good" or "bad."

The first half of the lesson was definitely BAD. Cedar was being an asshole and blowing me off, my timing wasn't right, the sheep were flighty, and it was just a big recipe for disaster. She kept blasting through me, ignoring all corrections or commands, and splitting the sheep. As soon as I put her on a down-stay to walk closer to the sheep, she would bolt off and beat me to the sheep. It was like we had never worked stock before! As the training session went on, I got progressively more and more frustrated (and my aim with the stock wand progressively worse). I got to the point where I was screaming at the top of my lungs at her, which I hate. I think it looks really bad, and as a training technique, is pretty damned ineffective.

So Dianne and I had a chat. Thank GOD for her! :D She basically told me that Cedar has no respect for me on the field; that she has no reason to be afraid of my corrections because I haven't been great at (or consistant with) giving them. So, significantly calmer and armed with a new attitude, we set out to work again. This time, I didn't take Cedar's crap at ALL. If she pushed on the sheep too much (even a LITTLE bit), I chased her down and made her back off. After a few times, she started respecting my "bubble" a lot more and staying way off her sheep. Compared to how she normally is, I was impressed. I've really struggled with making Cedar feel my bubble throughout the whole time we've been training with Dianne. I guess I just don't scare her enough ;) I'm interested to see how she works tomorrow... but I'm anticipating that she will have forgotten about "angry Ellie" and I'll have to start all over. But I guess we'll see.

P.S. The puppies have opened their eyes!

My Moss boy :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Went out to Dianne's again today for a lesson. Katy, Jodi, and Rhonda were also there working. The wind was freaking COLD so we spent most of our time (while we weren't working, anyway) huddled inside Jodi's truck.

Cedar was good. I really like what I've seen out of her these past few lessons. Today we got in some really nice outruns and one glorious 40 foot stretch of driving! Driving is really interesting, and I think she likes it. She's getting more comfortable coming into the pressure the more we work on it. She's doing pretty well with lengthening her outrun, has an excellent call off, and is slowing down and the top of her outrun after some really well-timed corrections on my part. Finally, I must be doing something right.

I guess it's the good lessons that make the bad ones worth it. I really like doing different stuff with her, too. Even though I don't know what I'm doing most (okay, pretty much ALL) of the time!

She is also backing off much better and rating herself on the fetch which I am really pleased about. And we are moving towards an actually reliable "lie down!" Guess all my stick chucking has paid off :) The past couple lessons her frantic wearing up close behind the sheep has pretty much stopped which I am SO happy about. That is freakin' annoying. She is balancing herself much better and taking my corrections without getting stressed and shutting down.

She better the first time we worked, but she wasn't bad the second time, either. I need to work on more control-type stuff with her though, especially in the beginning when she is really keyed up and excited.

I brought my whistle out since I'd been practicing with it lately. At Dianne's suggestion, I took it out the second time I worked Cedar. She wanted me to start get her conditioned to a "lie down" whistle. So I decided to give it a try, and I don't know what happened, but...

The noise that came out of that damned thing was some strangled mutant version of the command I was going for, totally off key and LOUD. So freakish, in fact, that it scared the sheep and made them run off .... scared Cedar and made her jump back like 5 feet with her hackles up... and then she chased and split. I was too busy laughing and trying not to freeze to death to really get mad at her for that. To her credit, she did put things back together.

But I didn't try the whistle again. Something about the cold air I guess?

It's a good excuse, anyways :)

P.S. I saw the puppies again today. They are getting so HUGE! They are all very healthy, their coats are shiny, and they are really active. Here's a picture of my boy:

And another, taken by Jodi Darling... thanks Jodi!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We can 'work' it out...

Sometimes when I'm working Cedar I feel a bit like Paul McCartney when he sang the song "We Can Work It Out":

"Try to see it my way, do I have to keep on talking till I can't go on?"

Cedar, obviously, does NOT see things my way most of the time. A lot of the challenge with her so far has been getting her to believe that my way (read: Dianne's way, since I don't know wtf is going on most of the time....) is actually better than going super fast and gripping. And we go through this over, and over..... and over again. Every time. She has major self confidence issues too, which has made it harder, as we are getting into more difficult stuff, to put pressure on her as she has the tendency to just want to quit and run off when things get tough (or when I get mad at her). I need to stop getting mad at her for it, I guess. It's just how she's made.

But, as usual, we're working on it...

Today I went out to Diannes and hung out with Jaenne, Susan, Jodi, Katy, and Colleen. We all brought snacks (and drinks!) and had a really fun time hanging out and working dogs. I can't think of a more fun way to spend New Years! :) Mo, Scout, Reena, and Echo are all doing very well. The wind presented some challenges, I think it made both the dogs AND the sheep more squirrely. The first time we worked today, the sheep kept breaking for home, and Cedar was being wayyy too pushy. We eventually got it sorted out, though, thanks to Dianne, and managed to do some little outruns, fetches, and worked on getting her to widen out and calm down. Our second work was great! She stayed nicely off her sheep, listened to me fairly well (I got in some good corrections for once!) and we even managed to get about ten feet of decent driving! I was pretty happy with how well she walked up into the pressure today, it was much better than last time. There might be hope for us after all!

P.S. I saw Peg's puppies again today, they're a week old now and about twice the size they were when I saw them last week! I'll try and get some more photos on Sunday, maybe...