Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Broken Downs & Driving

Saturday we attended the WASH (Washington Association of Stockdog Handlers) Fun Day in Yelm, WA.  It was an opportunity to do some training in a trial scenario.  It was on the same field that was used for the Rocky Ewe Trial over Labor Day weekend.  Brynn had the same issue with her fetch and I was able to do work with her on it a bit.

Only after texting Dianne Deal and begging her for some advice - and threatening to employ the use of a nail gun to get Brynn to stay in one place.  Dianne graciously texted back her suggestions for correcting our problem, sans nail gun.  Her issues with the fetch are coming about from her nose up the sheep's butts and hurtling them down the field like a fart in a windstorm.  *shudder*    I needed to get a down at the top and not let her get up until her next move was correct. 

Since we have been working so hard on driving, her outrun, lift & fetch have gone to hell in a handbasket.  Since she was so 'sticky' in learning to drive I did not expect a 'down' from her driving, just a hitch in her step was fine - combined with constant flanking to keep her moving.

By doing that I broke her 'down'.   At the Fun Day on Saturday I resurrected the good ole rock bottle for a few well timed shakes at her when I said "lie down".  She was a tad bit startled by the noise.  After tossing it in her general direction one time - she finally took me seriously again and is downing when I ask.  Love how that works.  But it is still a work in process.

We have the Vashon Classic Sheepdog Trial   this weekend - I am hoping and praying Brynn's issue on the fetch will be slightly improved, at least so she doesn't bring me the sheep through the drive panels again.    Seriously I have no hopes for anything other than just the experience and time/miles on the trial field where she can gain confidence - and I can have the opportunity to help her succeed.

My goal for the weekend:  Remain Calm and focused on the best interest of my dog

All in all I am so happy with the progress we are making I could sh*t a rainbow.   I have a hard time watching my sheep because I am watching her and saying to myself   "Wow, look at that...she is so pretty."

 Her driving is coming right along

Her inside flanks are gorgeous!

Last year at this time I had no real idea what an inside flank was, let alone how important it was your dog could do it.

Brynn doesn't even blink an eye when I stop her anywhere around the sheep and begin to drive them one way or another. 

The difference between Brynn and Beth in this respect is night and day.    Beth cannot stand inside flanks & hates them with a passion.  I believe she would cheerfully eat my kneecap if it meant she never had to do one again.

Brynn doesn't question it, she just does what I ask...and loves every minute of it.

Most of the 'stickiness' Brynn showed driving has faded away.

Gradually she has grown in confidence and is moving the sheep further and further away & across the field.

I shot this with my longer lens, she is approx 50-75 yards away & listening to all my whistles.

Another obvious difference between Brynn and Beth - Brynn can feel the sheep's 'bubble' (sheep flight zone) and respects it.  Because she respects it, the sheep like her.  They are more settled, controlled and happy.  Brynn's pace is lovely (except on the fetch right now).   Beth on the other hand crashes into the sheep bubble and upsets the sheep - which causes them to run and freak out a bit.  I think Beth enjoys busting them up and putting them back together.  It is her 'candy'.  Brynn dislikes the disorder that comes from breaking them apart.

She easily and happily takes my flanks and 80% of the time I use my whistle now.   Even when I blow the wrong one.   Oops...I meant 'Come-Bye'.

There, that is better...

One thing that has been very helpful in helping Brynn develop confidence driving is to stand in the middle of the field and have her take the sheep around the fence-line.  First one direction, then another.  The sheep are happily moving, they feel safe with the fence, they don't wobble so much.  Brynn is walking in a nice steady pace behind them.  She has to flank at the corners and is really started feeling the draw & pressure.  It has been so cool to watch her begin to feel that - then come out to the side and hold it.  One of those goosebumps moments for sure. 

While going through these pictures I shot last week at Fido's I found this one.  Mind you, I had a camera stuck to my face while I blew her whistles.  I was trying to watch the sheep too.  Then I started to blow contradictory whistles.  Brynn stopped and looked at me...

Her foot in the air, patiently waiting for me to get it right.  I  lowered my camera and said "good girl" and blew the correct flank, which she then took.

She loves to work.

My gosh...somedays I feel like I am going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.

I love the partnership between us, there is nothing else like it in the world.


Hillbilly Betty / Waylon Aussies said...

*Smile* Great post, love those times when things start clicking. Oh, and can I borrow that nail gun since you don't need it?

Ann said...

Well, hell! I'm impressed you're blowing whistles with a camera stuck to your face!

Have a great weekend! Can't wait to hear about it!

gvmama said...

Yep, if you can blow whistles with a camera stuck to your face, you've come a long way baby!

Karen said...

It's such a 'high' when your dog all of a sudden starts to get what you are teaching them.

And yes, if you can concentrate on two things at once, you are handling that aging better than you think!

An English Shepherd said...

Great post :-)


RYKER said...

Really enjoy your herding posts.
We have to drive so far just to get to sheep country that we had to rule that out as a Ryker activity. Luckily there are other options such as Flyball and Agility. But it is really fun to see what we are missing out on.

Monique said...

Love the good days.

Oskar said...

that looks like one happy dog!

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