Monday, April 6, 2009

Wonderful Weekend - Part 1 - Beth

Saturday morning dawned beautiful. The temperatures were warm and topped out in the low 70's. Just glorious. Because so many things happened this weekend that I want to share, I am going to post several things separately.

Hubby John actually had the day off from the endless overtime he has been working. So we tossed the dogs in the vehicle, threw in our youngest daughter and went to Fido's Farm for the day.

First up was my lesson with Beth. We are starting to work on letting Beth learn how to fix mistakes by getting her to think about what she is doing rather than drowning her in commands and directions. Like Scott Glen says "She needs the attitude of what she did wrong to have the attitude to do it right" (gosh I hope I quoted that right - hopefully you will get what I mean).

We got some really pretty work and several deep, wide outruns. Then we had some gimpy moments. At one point she sliced the top off her flank and scattered the sheep into three separate groups. It was fascinating to watch her stop, think and then figure out how to fix it. John captured some pictures of the process.

For the non-sheep herding literate people reading this I will try to explain. (Please feel free to correct me if I have misstated any of this)

Think of the sheep as standing in the center of a clock. The handler is standing at 6. When the handler sends the dog either "Away to me" (counter clockwise) or "Go-Bye" (clockwise - some people use "come-by" too) the dog should be circling wide around the sheep (wide enough as to not disturb them) and then come up on the far side of the sheep (at 12) which is the balance point from where the handler is standing. Then the dog should lift (move) the sheep slowly and calmly in a straight line to the handler (right up the center of the clock).

If the dog doesn't circle all the way around, that is called cutting in, slicing the top off the flank etc.

Beth has that common problem & I have the problem of not knowing how to successfully stop it. The first picture you can see Beth has cut the top off her flank and is approaching the sheep from the side. What I find interesting is the way the sheep are reacting in the picture - you can almost see them thinking...."which way do we go?". The exact opposite of what we want to happen. Beth hasn't circled around behind them, rather is hitting them like a bowling ball from the side - scattering them. (click on picture for larger view).

When I saw she was cutting the top off her flank, I yelled "lie down" so I could correct it and push her out. But Beth completely ignored me.

Now Beth has punched through the sheep and has succeeded in separating them into three groups. Chris and I just kept our mouths shut when we saw she has stopped and was thinking.

The next picture is just a closer view of Beth standing there processing how to fix her mess. When I saw she looked at the set of sheep in the back I calmly said "look back" then flanked her on an go-bye. It was very cool to see that light bulb go off over her head.

Beth has successfully 'looked back' and is bringing the sheep back together - fixing her mess.

As Chris says "What a kid!"

Later in the day I kept working on 'triangle's where I work closely and basically work the top of the flanks over and over until I see Beth give room. Then I will send her on an outrun or two. If I see her start slicing in, we go back to the triangle drill. We are also doing a lot of 'walk abouts'.

Slowly but surely I have seen Beth changing into a more confident dog. Sometimes I worry she is getting to confident and challenging me. She doesn't do that when there is an instructor in the field - but when she is with me alone - I am frustrated because I feel like all the beautiful work we get out of her with Chris or Karen I am unable to replicate with her alone. I know the best cure for that is to keep practicing and practicing and practicing. *sigh*

Practice is good. It is definitely providing me with exercise. I look at it this way. I have about 85 lbs to lose (yes, I am a Wildebeest). If I am out in the field with Beth and sheep moving around and doing my best to remain upright, I am getting a heck of a work out. It is a goooood thing. Sheep herding weight loss plan. The only thing I eat in the field is mud and the occasional bug. No wonder my pants are getting looser everyday!

This upcoming weekend is the Karen Child clinic at Fido's which I am attending with Beth. I have been looking forward to this since December. I can hardly wait! WOOHOO!

It was a good Saturday.


Raising Addie said...

Keep up the good work Beth!

You are one very lucky dog!

Lots of Luv & Kisses
Addie and Lucie

Laura said...

Very nice! It's so cool when they figure things out themselves like that.

Taz also sometimes works differently for me when I am alone, but I think it may be due to my own state of relaxation. Or, more precisely, my lack thereof. The more quiet and confident I am, the better he works. Of course, it is not so easy for me to work like that, but it is what I am constantly striving for...

sheepkelpie said...

You know, you and I really should live near each other. We are so very much on the same page. It's odd, really. You are doing very well by Beth and yourself.