Monday, December 1, 2008

Katie Bar the Door!

So I promised dog working updates, no? The dogs and I farm-sat for Mary & Tony Weds-Sat, and had just an absolute ball. She has a few katahdins and some tunis, so between her place and Julie's right up the road we got a lot of good working in over the span of the week.

Lets see... Spottie is just working nicer and nicer for me. It appears that the Bad Sunday was quite possibly just a minor blip on the screen. She's being quite enthusiastic (increasingly so) and nice and sharp. She's starting to take my whistles - which are quite different from Robin's. She's also been really good (and really patient) with helping me with the shedding. I feel like we're really starting to connect - like we're having a conversation out there... working together. She's a lot of fun, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from her.

Nick... Nick is an alien. I'm probably going to have to make him a tinfoil testicle holder thingie so that he can get his brain back. Between Spottie coming in, and the very inclined to run sheep at Mary's... he's gone ape on me. Stop? We don't need no stinkin stop! Friday at Julie's he was rather wild and crazy when we walked out on the field (totally out of character for him), and despite the orange fire shooting out of my eye sockets he's not been very inclined to get his feelings hurt either. In some instances I'd be determined before a trial to try to get his attention a tad more, but I'm almost inclined to leave things be. I have a suspicion he may need his push in certain situations. I just hope his brain comes back a little.

I did, however, remind him that he does have to stop - giving him a stop command and then enthusiastically getting him back up as soon as he thought about giving it. That seemed to mostly straighten him up, but left a little of the push in there (as per Robin's suggestion, technique wise). I'm beginning to wonder, though, if he's not going to get tougher and bolder as he ages. I wouldn't complain about that.

Additionally, between processing what Robin has been telling me, working with Spottie, and watching Alasdair MacRae's shedding video, something has clicked for me shedding-wise. We went down to Julie's and twice used an almost perfect group of sheep. I changed several things about my body position... I got closer to the group I wanted him to take, made the hole a bit bigger, and made sure that I turned completely sideways (presenting my hip to him) when I called him in. As he would get almost to me I'd give him a short flank command, and then stop him after he went behind me and walked him on up. Finally my mental understanding and physical ability to carry it out are starting to merge.

One huge gaping maw of a problem I'd been having was standing smack in the middle of the hole, putting pressure on him AND the sheep by leaning face on towards him. I was standing there in the way, and it was just not working. He'd start to come in, then he'd slam on brakes and try to put everything back together. Then I'd fuss at him, or flank him around endlessly, ending in a not very happy dog. Well, he was definately happy dog when I got my act together!

We'll probably do this a while longer, and then start progressing. As it is now he's coming through nice and enthusiastically - and taking good confident control of his shed off sheep.

That being said, on Saturday morning I got the bright idea (after our progress) to try to do this on some completely inappropriate sheep. Lesson learned. I wound up going back down to Julie's to fix the mess I'd made, but to my relief the damage was quickly reversible. However, I think I mentally beat myself to a bloody pulp first. *sigh* I'm quite grateful for Nick's forgiving nature.

While at Mary's we basically worked on stopping running sheep (mostly damage control) and I was pleased to see Nick getting more comfortable coming off to the side and catching the eye of the lead sheep... and he was also much more inclined to stay on contact. Many times when sheep run he gets wider and wider to try to release the pressure. While sometimes that's appropriate, sometimes it's not, and I'm trying to help him to distinguish the difference.

The other side to that, however, was that he was also quite gee'd up by this whole process. Thus, Katie Bar the Door!!

Linc is still just being a puppy. I'm thinking to pull him back out around Christmas and see where he is. If I feel like he's mature enough I'll enter him in the Jack Knox clinic. If not, I may put Nick in instead. A lot of my January plans, however, will hinge on whether the company I work for does what they normally do at Christmas. Some prayers that they will would be much appreciated.

This coming weekend I'm running Nick in Nursery down in SC. Should be interesting, and a fun time. He'll get two runs - and while I'm nervous I'm also very much looking forward to it. I feel like he's made a lot of progress on some things recently, and provided I remember the tinfoil testicle holder thingie so that the aliens won't steal his brain we might just have a good time!

This pic is from about a year or so ago, but it seems rather appropriate at the moment.

photos by Julie Poudrier


Robin French said...

Oh it does my little heart good to hear you saying things that mean you're really getting it. Woo hoo!

That stopping running sheep thing will stand you and Nick well in the future, believe me.

I think you might want to knock him back a little on the push thing before the trial friday, if you get the chance. It won't hurt in the long run to make him mind and that's a downhill fetch so between Nick and gravity, the sheep might take flight if you don't. ;-)

Laura Carson said...

Ah! I haven't seen the trial field, so that's good advice (and I'd trust your judgement regardless). ;) Thanks! I'll pull him out Weds or Thurs and see how he's going, and dial him back another notch if need be. He started to settle down some on Saturday so it might not take too much to get his brain in gear. I think I can do it without hurting his feelings too bad.

I do remember last time we ran on these sheep they were hellbent for leather coming down on the fetch, hard to move off the handler at the post, and then squirrelly and touchy on the drive. Don't know if that's still the case or not, or how they'll be away from home.

Julie said...

"I think you might want to knock him back a little on the push thing before the trial friday, if you get the chance. It won't hurt in the long run to make him mind and that's a downhill fetch so between Nick and gravity, the sheep might take flight if you don't."

Uh oh. This doesn't bode well for the Phoebe Train....

My sheep thank you for the "near perfect" comment. For once the karakuls are good for something! lol!

Rachel said...

Wow - sounds like you had have made great progressing on shedding - I'm so proud of you!!

Good luck this weekend, can't wait to read all about it!

Laura Carson said...

Julie you're welcome, and they were really great. It was nice to not have to browbeat them to split them up. ;)

Thanks, Rachel! Wish you were going to be there. Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks though.

PS said...

Just your description makes me understand shedding more. Congrats on all the good work.

Hope the tinfoil testicle holder works out for ya! LOL


Laura Carson said...

LOL Yeah, me too - hope that tinfoil works out. Glad the descriptions are helpful! This stuff is finally starting to make sense to me, and I figure if relaying my struggles helps someone else to understand something too then I've done something good.