06 September, 2010

Shedding: Not just for trials.

Pleased to say we Lucy and I had a very nice day today.

Diane had her 20 acre field mowed so it is just great for longer work right now. Lucy drove the full length of the field 4 times and did 4 big outruns. Her outruns were spot-on. No redirects required. I think that was very good for her confidence. I sent her from different/odd locations in the field, and in between setting the sheep took her to the holding area and worked her on a separate flock in between to diminish her memory of where the sheep were set.

We also practiced dog-leg fetches on both sides and she did just great. I was really expecting a tough practice today but Lucy was right on. Her confidence is coming back and it was really nice to have my regular partner again.

Just as we were finishing, the neighbor hollered over the fence...

Neighbor: "Hey... can you help me?"
Me: "Sure, what do you need?"
Neighbor: "Just need some sheep moved up the road."
Me: "Yes, I can do that. Which sheep are they?"

[Neighbor points down into his pasture.]

Neighbor: "The big white ones."

[I look down and frown. There are 40 or so sheep down there... and about 10 "big white ones"]

Me: "Oh, so you need those sheep sorted off of your other sheep, and then moved down the road....?"
Neighbor: "Yes. Thanks."

[I frown... thinking this might not go well.]

Me: "Um. Ok..."

I walk down into the pasture and have Lucy gather the sheep. Fortunately for me, the sheep he needs sorted off are from a separate flock, so they are a bit easier to shed off than they might be if all of the sheep were flockmates. (Is flockmates a word? Spell check says no.) There are no pens or gates to sort with in that pasture, so I maneuvered around a bit and decided to do an international style shed and hope to sort them in the middle of the field.

As I got to moving the sheep around, I had all the ones I wanted plus about 15 extra, so called Lucy in for a first cut. We then proceeded to sort off all the correct sheep on the first try! I am sure my smile was huge, I was beaming with pride for my little red dog.

Once we had the sheep sorted off, I drove off the flock that was staying into a corner, then we took the misfits up out of the pasture, down the road and to a new field. The whole process took perhaps 10 minutes.

Best part of the day:

(astonished) Neighbor: "How did you do that?!"
Me: "I have a really good dog."

Treasure each day you have together, friends.
Thanks for reading.

04 September, 2010


Well, school is back in session. I'm still getting into the swing even though it's week 2, as my classes this semester have different weekly due days than previous semesters. I've spent a couple of days restructuring to figure out exactly how school will shake out.

On the dog trial front, Lacamas bested me. On Thursday I sent Lucy blind as she did not spot the sheep from the post. She got a bit lost on her outrun and rather than limp her along I decided to RT. If I had invested a few more minutes I could likely have gotten her to the sheep, but given that the trial was already 2 hours behind schedule and my dog was really listening well, I decided to call the run and left the post. She was quite happy when it was time to exhaust and she finally got some sheep time.

On Saturday, I got Lucy to her sheep. She still required redirection on the outrun as she was getting lost in the terrain. On either side of the outrun the dogs had to run a series of ridges and swales. Lucy got lost in the 3rd swale. I blew her out, which she took, went quite wide but not deep enough and obviously still did not know where to find her sheep. Finally I stopped her under the sheep and gave a look back. She saw the sheep, kicked herself out both wide and deep and lifted smartly. The sheep had been leaning hard on the dogs all afternoon and Lucy was no exception. I had used up a lot of dog during the outrun with the redirects. Her confidence was pretty much shot. I tried to stop her and open her up on the fetch to help her get better control of the sheep, but she ran through my stops. This is very unlike Lucy, so I just blew flanks on the fetch to keep her from unwinding and completely losing her sheep over the hill. Though it was quite offline she did get the sheep to my feet. Turning the post, she had 2 groups of sheep, and 1 particularly grouchy ewe lamb. She backed that ewe up 2 times, then the 3rd time she finally gripped so we were excused. I think Dee Marroni got the whole sequence on film.

So, Lacamas was Lucy's first RT and first DQ. Sheep 2, Monique 0. I have some new training goals. Our next trials are Vashon and Fire Ridge.

Terrain on outruns longer than about 400yds is a training hole for Lucy and I intend to close that hole as soon as possible. (She also struggled with running from bright sun into dark shade at the handling clinic.) It is a difficult hole to close in the places we have to train. Lucy has been sent 700yds with terrific outruns in the past, but never so far over terrain where the dog is blind several different times. Its a skill lacking but one I believe she can learn. She is normally a very good outrunner so this shook my confidence as well as hers.

On a positive note, Jorgen and I took our dogs to help a friend who needed to work his 1200 recalcitrant Romneys through the chutes for treatment. Lucy and Merckx thoroughly enjoyed themselves and it was good, practical, confidence building work for both of them.

Looking ahead, I have a trip to Las Vegas next weekend to give lectures at the SVBT CE Conference. Then 2 weeks later, a long trip to NADAC Championships with Zora. Lucy will ride along, as well as a friend and her Border collie.

So, that's what you missed. Nothing to write home about. Just a lot of work to be done.