Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Puppy tune ups!!

Bea's little monsters, they will be 8 weeks old this Saturday (July 4th)

Since Bea had her overheating issue Lilly has taken over as Mother Superior
Dora is learning how to take a hit and roll

We have not named this little guy yet, but he's getting a lesson on how to get
dropped by simply taking a front leg

Lilly finally has Cecil (Rough Coat) and Dora in submission, can you say "Uncle"?

Here are today's training updates:

Willie: We went out and worked out in the square pasture today. Priority with Willie is to get her flanking freely and not stopping at the first pressure change she runs across. She has a tendency to just end up driving stock away from me if it is too difficult for her to flank around to point that would allow her to drive the stock toward me or across the lot. I have to be real careful with her, her owner has allowed her to use as he calls “short cuts” jumping through gates to get to a place she finds more to her liking. This little habit is a bit an annoyance, when you ask for a flank if she thinks it’s to high of a requirement over and out the gate she goes. I just patiently call her back. The first few times she did this she would go bombing off around the yard looking for an easier job. Now, I can get her called back within a few feet of the gate. I am taking extra care to set myself in a position that does not prevent her from taking that option but that allows me to put pressure in that area making it the not so easy route. Basically giving her the chance to decide that taking her flank command and staying with her stock is the easiest. I spoke to her owner today and told him that this little ritual of annoyance is going to be his biggest obstacle with her, I can’t change it in a month it will need many more months of patience, understanding and diligence on his part when she gets home to get her give it up.

Jake: For the most part Wayne has taken over Jake, but I did tweak him today. Wayne has run him in a total of 5 classes over the last three weeks and has managed to lose Jake’s proper lift. He is back to going from and outrun to a full power drive again, this surprises the sheep, when the sheep startle Jake gets excited and will ring them or bust through them in an effort to stop them. So, back to short out runs and demanding that he stops and waits for the sheep to lift, followed by stop and give the chance for the sheep to lift, followed by the end all be all, hesitate giving the sheep a chance followed by telling them to move off. We won’t be on the trial field again until mid July, hopefully by then I will be able to get Wayne to figure out how to maintain/correct Jake himself. I used Jake to sort and shed off sheep for Weasel. I noticed that when he gets unsure of what he should do he rolls out and tries to gather everything back up. I worked on watching close for the overload point and then waiting and giving him a little more time. That little change brought about big change in Jake, he went from, “but I can’t” to “ok, you want this?”

JJ: I just let JJ relax and move some sheep around giving him the opportunity to make some mistakes, He really didn’t make any until near the end where he found himself with 3 small groups and uncertain if he could let go of the one he had to go back and gather the others back up. Finally he gave, and did a pretty little look back. I finished up with some nice 150 foot drives where he kept the sheep on a really nice clean line while working off ahead of me. Oh I wish this boy would hurry up and grow up some.

Jill: Every time I take Jill out I have to wonder, will today be the day. Well, I don’t think today was, though she did stay hooked to her sheep a lot longer and was a lot less brash when she was hooked. I’ll just keep offering her the opportunity here and there to work sheep, maybe one day the switch will just flip. Until then, she’s just my little sweetie that would prefer being sacked out on the recliner then to worry about whether or not the sheep are going to escape.
Weasel: I had a good day with little Weasel today. I did some pressure work with her again, brought the sheep to the fence and let her decide what she wanted to do about the pressure, she made one incorrect decision (diving in) which I was able to make real hard followed by many right decisions, a nice pressure release with adjustment to hold the line, then another wrong, followed by many more right. This allowed me to be able to trust her a little more. She still blew everything up at one point, but we ended on a really nice note with her driving nicely with me beside her and then on past me followed by a stop and then a nice flank back around to balance. She is not real keen on balancing the sheep to me, she is more apt to try to fence hold them, I think the sooner that I can get her to realize that she can balance them on her own the better. I fear that if I teach her to balance on me it will be 10 times harder to get her back off of me then it was to get her to stop holding them to the fence.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Wayne and Jake waiting for the sheep to be set

The Good: Fast Forward to the end of the run, a text book pen

Could be bad: Jake starts his outrun, a little direct

The Good: Jake Starts to Bend out Away from the Sheep

The Good: What the sheep were doing that caused the bend "Dog!"

The Bad: Jake comes in "hot" forgetting to hesitate which would have created a nice lift

The Bad: Wayne missed identifying this moment, "Tell him 'Lie-Down', NOW!!!!"

The Ugly: Wayne didn't tell him to stop, the sheep are lifted at high speed.

Then it got Uglier (sorry no pictures): Jake paniced and ringed the sheep quick to get them to stop, luckily no grip and Wayne was able to regroup.

The Good: A really nice drive, we don't just lie our dogs down and let the sheep float through.
I want the dog to steer, hold the weight of the sheep against the draw and apply what ever pressure needed to keep forward motion, it's a lot tougher in arena trials such as this.

What a weekend

Vicki at the Great Western Bank Sheep Dog Trial
Sneaking a peak of the trial field, I like this shot, the old girl doesn't look like she's 10

I'm going to break this down into two posts, first Bea is back to herself, last night when we arrived home from Tingley the jumped on Wayne's lap, rutting in demanding his attention. We had a cold front come through Saturday afternoon, leading to a perfect weekend. Windows back open enjoying the fresh air.

Today is worming day for Bea's pups, I'm bringing each one into the house individually to get some one on one time. They get some recall work and are getting pretty good at coming to the call of their name, Dora, Cecil, Rosie, Puppy and Puppy. Right now Dora is whinning, she trying to figure out what to do with herself, and attempt to get next to Jake resulted in a growl, she yeilded to him and did not offer to try that again, good puppy, bodes well for future training.

I can officially say that Tingley was a success, could we have done better, heck yeah, but we did well enough to feel confident that we have finally arrived. Wayne has some gorgeous work with Jake, yeah a near train wreck yesterday morning in Nursery when Jake blew a cork on his lift but it was quickly twarted and the team ended 5th out of 13. I have not seen that reaction out of Jake for a couple of months and had hoped to never see it again, the up side, it was easy for Wayne to get Jake's head back into the game.

Wayne is learning some hard lessons when it comes to judged trialling, he thought he was doing the right thing by keeping the sheep on the fence to help control them, oh Wayne, the judge is not going to reward that, trust your dog, he can do it.

Vicki was not her normal self, typically she runs out there and brings the sheep to me with no hesitation. Not yesterday, she actually got stuck and came up short, the set out was close enough to the fence to cause the dogs to stick as they came into the pressure of the sheep. Typically Vicki does not even feel it, guess my work last week to hold her to honoring the sheep is paying off, though it cost us yesterday causing her to lose some outrun points. But, that's ok, I'm not finished with her yet, now I can work to teaching her how to release her eye, mind and body which would allow her continue around to the top without bumping the sheep. And they say you can't teach old dogs new tricks....but then again, maybe I'm just helping her to remember the tricks that were taught to her 8 years ago that have grown foggy. Her stickiness also gave me a headache when taking the sheep around the post, once again close to the fences and then she did not push the way she normally does to pen the sheep. All symptoms of a problem that really is not a problem, just evolution under way. It's kinda of a nice feeling to know that the old dog is still trainable, she is coming into heat and we are hoping that she could bring us one litter of pups yet before she leaves us, being able to teach her at her advanced age opens a window into what I can hope to see in her pups. Wayne spoke to Marc Christopher last night, he owned her sire Ken, he thought that she and Jake would make a nice cross.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The heat is taking it's toll

Donkey and Mini we have for sale (both stallions)

Two Year Old Mares we have for sale

We learned a lesson today regarding heat and bitches that are nursing, they don't mix. Poor Bea gave me a heck of a scare as she stumbled into the kitchen landing in a heap. I had noticed that she was a little down when I let her out of her crate, I've been crating her away from her 6 week old pups in an effort to give her a break, she just is not weaning them on her own. I was preparing her a special breakfast of oatmeal and kibble when she crashed. I gathered her up over the kitchen sink and grabbed the corn syrup, first thought through my head was low blood sugar. I then spooned up some oatmeal put in a bowl and added about a cup of cold water after noting that it was too hot. Bea without hesitation cleaned it all up. The next thing I did was take her pulse, I could not take her temp, my dang thermonitor was not working, dang digital pieces of garbage, checked her gums, pale and dry and called the vet. The vet immediately said overheating and dehydration, give her some of the equine electrolites that we have on hand, get her body temp cooled with cool but not cold water and keep her inside with a fan or airconditioning on her. He said that the demands for milk production will overheat a dog in combination with the high heat and humidity that we are having right now coupled with some work that she volunteered for last evening.

She is lying here next to me now, I keep trying to resist waking her up, I just keep thinking that she's not going to respond even though she has been getting up to follow me each time I go into the kitchen and even was begging for a morsel from the kitchen table, something that is never allowed or seen, but I'll forgive her today. The vet also gave strict orders, pups are to be weaned are not to be allowed to nurse ever again, sorry kids. They are not to pleased.

The heat stopped us in our tracks today, although both Jake and Vicki got to show their stuff for a visitor that came to look at a couple horses, a mini stud and a donkey that we have for sale. As Vicki brought the sheep into the lots he exclaimed, "she sure made that look easy, it don't go that way when we try to get my brothers sheep in". I told him that that was nothing, and before he left I had Jake bring the flock back out of the barn as I stood out by the pasture gate, then I had him take them down in between the apple trees around and back to us. We then fielded the typical questions, how long does it take to train him like that, how long would it take for a dog to do it for me, etc...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Roller Coaster Ride

It was just one of those days, as I'm typing this I'm struggling to bring the successes to the forefront. Yeah, we had some, but the failures sure seem to have out numbered them. We waited to work dogs until this evening, Sharon and her sister Ruth joined us in the "Adventure". I should have known better then to work the young dogs after spending 15 minutes trying to coax the sheep that Ruth's dog literally blew through a gate back into the square pasture with Jake. Our one Barbardo ewe, we call her the camel, was ticked off, flapping her lips and snorting threatening to take any dog out in her path. Her lip flapping and snorting is what earned her the camel designation. Jake finally was tired of her threats and leaped 5 foot forward to latch onto her, she got the point and was back to being a ewe the nicely honors a dog. Oh well, on with it, here goes.

Jake: Wayne said he got some nice work with him today, well other then the loose sheep tyraid, I had to take over the reins on that deal. He said he was able to get some nice sheds with Jake driving his charges off away from the other sheep.

Willie: Oh poor Willie. Willie has a little escape trick that she arrived here with, when she either does not know what to do or if what you are asking is too difficult she goes bounding through the steel gates to go and try to find and easier task. Rather then getting annoyed with her I just kept calling her back. Finally she would try what I asked once, maybe twice before she went back to hunt easier work. Over the work session her absentee rate decreased so I guess we gained.

JJ: JJ is trying so hard, but progress is slow. He goes from being too careful to being reckless. If I could ever get him to settle somewhere in the middle I think I will have a heck of a little dog. I really can't report anything standing out success wise in our session, just continued on getting him comfortable flanking off balance, stopping him before he gets to balance and trying to build some driving distance.

Vicki: Vicki showed me some nice stuff, especially with people here, usually that's when she is at her worst. She went out on a super nice outrun, reproducing the vision I had in my mind near perfectly, she went nice and deep at the top and actually honored a flank command midway through the fetch allowing me to position her on a new drive line. I was also able to get her flank off balance to execute a cross drive at about 50 yards, a little thing to many but huge for Vicki. The flank was not perfect, a little tight but it was there. She is giving me high hopes for the trial Sunday.

Weasel: Weasel gave me a headache, I should have just let her sit another day or week or maybe even a month. I shouldn't say that, we actually did gain on the little demon, inbetween the plum of duck feathers off the duck that wondered into the work area. The duck was safe until the Weasers decided to get aggressive with the sheep, I corrected her, she left the sheep and took it out on the duck. And she is suppose to be a goose control dog when she grows up, not quite what they want for controlling the goose population though I suppose effective. Anyway, I went back over yesterdays lesson and got her bending to pressure again and ended the work session on a pretty darn good note. At one point while in a drive when the sheep started to feel the pressure of the fence rather then blowing up she just flanked, Yippee. Of course Wayne pointed out that she should have stopped. I about blew up at him, hey, right now I'm happy with anything but the choice she was making, atleast she tried something else and the something else was useful, no not ideal I really don't want her swapping back and forth from drives to flanks on her own but we can work through that part once we get her undesirable thoughts into the history books.

Oh yeah, almost forgot, high point for the day was discovering some photos taken of Jake, JJ and the pups at the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival, here is the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/don3rdse/3633582781/

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Point of Reference

This morning I awoke early, 4:00 am, thinking "I have to get dogs worked". It has been brutely hot here, heat index over 100. Our next trial (Great Western Bank Sheep Dog Trial - Tingley, IA) is this coming Saturday/Sunday. I was able to put off getting up until 4:30, but simply could not take it anymore. I went about the business of making a pot of coffee, getting dogs out for their walks, moved some sheep over to a work area and then came in to make breakfast as the sun was just starting to peak up from the east. Wayne was still working on waking up, Lilly jumped up to finish the job.

Immediately after breakfast I got Wayne to go out and work Jake. I've been training Jake for the past year after Wayne came to the realization that he just could not work with him. He's a sensitive bugger and needs support, we were new to training border collies and really did not know where to support him. This past winter Jake and I really started to click, I moved him up to Pro-novice and felt that I was in a good position to make a run for our state year end high point dog, but...Wayne decided that he could get him handled. I opted to hand over the reins and Wayne took back over. The two of them have been doing a great job, Wayne moved straight up to the open division. His first trial this season was a point/time sheep trial, he was right there at the top of the class right up until the shed, that was as far as they got. Last weekend he took Jake to the Iowa Cattle Dog trials, both had a nice showing but the pen got the best of them.

This has left me in a bit of a bind for the season, the only other dog I have ready is an old retired dog, Vicki,. I brought Vicki up from Missouri a few months ago hoping that Wayne could learn from her and trial this season. It only took one little spin around the field for him to decide that she and him just were NOT going to work together. I have to admit, she's tough and her own ideas as to how things are going to be. Working with her and a few of my other dogs is what brought me to this blog today. I came to the realization that I need to document where we are, what I have done previous to day and what I did today.

So here we go:

Jake: Wayne worked on his shedding, I stressed to him the importance of defining a good reference point for Jake. Wayne has a tendency to be half hearted in his body language, I think it really caused their originally relationship to go off into the ditch when Wayne first tried to train him. The biggest thing I noticed was that he would just bear claw his hand along with a bent wrist and bent elbow, this made the appearance of a lack of committment as to where he wanted Jake to come in, you could see the confusion in Jake along with the bear claw motion turned the lead ewe instead of helping to define a cut. I finally got Wayne to try to flatten his hand and try to drop it purposely between the two front sheep the the rear two...A Miracle, a perfect shed, Jake walked in and drove his two off across the pen!!!

Willie: This is a dog that I have in on for training, we just call her Willie... She has a tendency to get stuck and go off and do her own thing. In the past I have been driving her through her sticky points, today I not only made sure that she flanked until I told her to stop, I also worked on showing her that her flank has to be in a specific place (based on the pressure of the sheep), as she found that place her flank got freer and freer and her ability to take a flank in either direction improved. We did some driving, need to do more of that and also made sure that I was clear...when I say stop, I mean you stop!

JJ: This is a son of Jake from last April's litter. I entered him in the Novice division a couple weeks ago where he proceeded to show me that he has inherited his daddy's stubborn streak. Today was the first day I put him back to work, I decided to just let him be after the trial until I could get a good bearing as to my next step with him. He played the "gotta get around and stop them, then bring them back" game on me at the trial, I was able to keep it in check until we got to the pen, where he handlely prevented the sheep from escaping into it (errrr). Today's lesson was about finding and maintaining the right pressure on a flank, if the sheep are close to the fence it is your job to reduce the pressure to allow you to get around behind them while causing the least amount of stress. This little exercise also addressed another issue that turned up at the trial, he was a wearing machine. Today as he started to regulate pressure he also focused in on the balance point of his drives, so much easier to handle a dog that his looking for one place instead of being all over the place.

I'll have to see how the next couple of work sessions go, I might just change my mind and enter JJ in the Novice on Sunday, he could use the expirence on different sheep and in a different field, I just don't want him to think that trials are all fun and games, and push Deb to the max time. Even with his bad behaivor at the last trial he still pulled of a 2nd place, but in my mind he was at the bottom of the class, TURD!!

Vicki: Ahh yes, Vicki...Vicki had a come to Jesus session today. When I trialed her two weeks ago she pulled a 3rd place finish out of her butt, but she also blew me off on a flank command that would have lead to a line taking the sheep through the cross drive panels, she elected to go into business for herself and went into auto fetch mode. I was able to save it for the next obstacle but I am holding a grudge. Today her and I went out and I let her know that for no reason is she to dishonor her sheep, she tends to bulldoze into them when she goes into auto fetch and fails to go as deep at the top as she needs to. At the end of today's session she couldn't get any deeper at the top, fingers crossed that a few more sessions like that will make that little hiccup history. If anyone ever tells you to go purchase an open level dog to learn with, tell them to blow it out their ear. Yeah, maybe if you can work with the previous trainer it will work, but dang, I gotta know how to train her in order to keep her right. If I had no idea as to what I wanted or how to go about getting it the old rip would have her way with me and my sheep.

Weasel: Last but not least little weasers, what a little pirrahna!!! I've been doing alot of thinking with her, she has so much of her daddy in her, but then again she has so much of her momma in her. Last weekend I utilized her in my sheepdog demos, on a cord, can't trust the little rip, and I mean rip, she's all nice and sweet until the pressure gets to a certain point and then...Fury unleashed!! Rip and tear and try to take them down to the ground. I've been trying to be easy on her, she is still a baby, but today I decided that it is make or break. I went out to the training pen equiped with a lariet and I showed her that leaning on, charging or trying to escape pressure were all wrong answers...give, yield and think, those are all right answers. I will have to teach her when the right time to lean on pressure is (while driving) but she has to learn that you only go so far, if things start blowing apart you gotta let off on the gas and coast, she don't like to coast. White knuckle is more her style, grip and hang, throw a nasty growl in for good measure, what a little beast!!! Surprising the little girl seemed to figure it out. I ended the session with the sheep between her and I, I would then walk toward the sheep, the sheep would lean a little on her and then think of scattering. I would try to read her intentions, if she leaned a little back on the sheep it was ok, if they started to scatter and she leaned more she found the loop of the lariet thrown down hard in the path she was getting ready to take, a couple of those corrections and she was releasing to control vs. trying to latch on. She is the biggest reason I am starting this blog, I need to document what I did and what I was looking for and when, if it works and turns her into the dog that I think she can be I will want to reflect, same is true if I fail.

Well, I guess that is all for today, the temps are climbing and we have more storms brewing. I have a few more dogs to bring on line but I'm waiting for them to tell me that they are ready, Dixie and Ben, they are littermates to both JJ and Weasel