Monday, February 28, 2011
I am quite tired this morning, Wayne is too, even though he stayed home here. He ended up being up most of the night Saturday with Wynonna, Wayne's 4 year old red ACD bitch, whelping. We have our first crossbred litter in over 5 years. We used our best Border Collie male on her, Ricky. The plan is to breed out many of the border collie traits over time but keep what our ACD's are missing and end up with a ACD simular to what Wayne used back in Colorado 35 years ago, it will be interesting to see if we can accomplish our goal.
I took Jake, Ricky, Patty and Angus down to Tingley Iowa for the weekend. Wayne's open dog, my young dog that I just started running open & nursery, a 7 month old pup that is just getting ready for training and then 5 month old Angus. I'm very please with everyone, well, except the pup Angus, he just does not seem to be offering what I would like to see. We will give him a bit more time, regardless of what I would like him to offer, I think he will still turn into a nice farm/ranch dog.
Friday evening, when the sheep were fresh, I was able to work on some shedding, actually I let Ricky teach me how to shed while trying to remember the advice Marc gave me when I was down in Missouri last week. It's a strange thing to have a dog that calmly parts the waters and then comes in clean and with conviction. So long as I did not try to force the shed things went well, kinda weird how the gap just appeared in front of me and all I had to do was call Ricky in. Great fun!!!
I had one major "wrong place - wrong time" moment with Ricky. I was waiting for my turn on the sheep in the arena, I had him off leash as he is pretty reliable at being in the place he s suppose to be, or atleast I thought he was. Anyway, a young pup split the sheep, ran them down amongst us watching, when they made their escape a ewe body slammed another young dog, the impact tore his leash from his handlers hand. Now there are two dogs after the sheep, the two young dogs ran the sheep back towards the onlookers, now being pursued by two handlers, one ewe sliced by me...Ricky couldn't take it. He leaped for a head and about took the ewe to the turf and then off to the races. Now three youngs dogs after 4 sheep with 3 handlers trying to stop dogs.
I was able to get Ricky shut down and back to me, but boy was he amped up. I kicked myself for not having a leash on my dog but then had to look at the upside, no sheep or people were injured, I got my dog stopped before everyone else, now I have to go out and see if he can let go or if he is going to be a brat when it is my turn to run. I just earned myself something test and train Ricky through.
Bob Fleming set the sheep for me with Dandy, as I walked out to set Ricky up for an outrun I realized that Ricky has never lifted off of a set out dog atleast that I know of, then I couldn't help but wonder if what just occured is going to carry over into my session. I figured that I may as well go for broke and sent Ricky on his outrun, it will be a good test. Ricky went out like a champ, came around to the top and initiated a lift as if Dandy was not even there. I flanked Ricky around on his Away-to-me side to make certain he was still free and listening, and asked for a cross drive, Dandy was still there and on that side. Ricky stopped about 15 feet behind Dandy and started to walk up, when the sheep started to lift Dandy got up thinking he was to control the sheep. Bob whistled to Dandy to stop, Ricky obeyed, Bob...hmm, note to self, need to get Ricky to ignore other handlers whistles.
Long story short, a bad expirence lead to success, basically I was able to gain some confidence in my dog, yes things can come totally unglued but my dog can regain his composure and move on like nothing happened.
On Sunday I took Ricky and Jake over to work cattle. I kept things simple for Ricky, only sending him as far as I felt I could correct him and trying to keep things positive with out totally protecting him. Nothing really special to report accept that Ricky handled everything presented to him and maintained decient to high quality work, not all perfect there were slips, but each mistake lead to success.
Bob and I worked some full length field outruns, he and his dog on one end of the field and myself and Jake on the other. Jake presented me with a couple of issues, he came in too hard once, which made him panic and resulted in him heading and stopping them. I got him straightened out and he brought the cattle straight up the field. The next outrun I sent him on I did some communication checks with my whistle as he made his way down the field, this seem to help him soften, he came around to the top much nicer and lifted about perfect.
It dawned on me that I had not been letting Ricky know that he is right while I was working him, which is something Marc was talking about last weekend. Give him the command and then confirm in a softer lighter tone that he is right as opposed to leaving him hanging out to dry. It will help me to make the change now that I see that Jake responds in a positive manner to the technique, it amazing how a little reward will help to form new habits quicker.
When Bob and I returned to his arena he and I talked about talking with the dog. He pointed out that some trainers do not like to hear all the extra commands where other whistle all of the time. I've heard other complain about all the commands, but now I don't seem them as commands, I'll have to listen closely next time I'm at a trial, are those handlers that use a lot of whistles not really recommanding but rather reaffirming or helping the dog.
I like the idea of helping the dog along with a softer tone from a training standpoint but my thought is that eventually I would like to be able to have a dog that does not rely on alot of extra talk from me. I guess my goal is to talk as little as I have to but don't do it to just prove that I don't have to and in the end leave my dog hanging out to dry, which is what I think some may be doing.
Reminds me of the saying, don't follow the marked path, hone out your own path and lead. It's not that I'm actually doing something that someone else has not already thought of, it is more that I don't fall victim to doing what everyone else is doing just because they say it is right. So many are just repeating what they are told and really don't have any personal proof or expirence to back it up.
I'm planning on giving everyone the day off today, I have some club paperwork to clean up today and get the shop ready for some leather work. I am hoping to take the ewes with the older lambs out to the soybean field tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on the mud, and then each day this week with both Ricky and Jake and start building more distance. I only have access to open field for a limited time, I'm sure corn planting is right around the corner.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I really didn't realize how much danger Jake was in when a potentially aggressive animal took that blink as a sign of weakness
Meet Nanny Devil Incarnate and company (Nanny D is one in the middle), she is accompanied by her kid and Billy the Hitman, well, Billy is really a wether, but no one has told him.
Nanny D and Company came home with us from the Colfax Sale Barn in November after we sold our calves. We have not had goats in years, these three came through for $50.00 a head (cheapest of the day) and we decided to give it try again. They are a tough crew, I don't dare put a young dog in with them, they will ruin a dog if given the opportunity. Ricky handles them the best, old Nanny D comes straight at him, he waits for to get to him, he bites hard she backs up and he says "Want to try again?" She leaves.
It's not for the faint of heart, to say the least. At the beginning of our session Billy the Hitman met Jake head to head in the narrow alleyway of a T chute, the exit is about 20 foot from the wall. I thought Jake was going to stand firm, but then he blinked....Billy did his thing, Jake went to fight back but Billy took the low road, sorta picked Jake up and ran him 20 feet back slamming him into the wall. Jake regained his footing and declared war, he might blink but he typically get's the last word. There was nothing I could do, aside from being speechless, trying to stay clear of getting piled up myself and thinking this is frickin dangerous...
So now I am at a crossroads, set it up again and risk having Jake injured or get out while we are ahead and keep things out in the open. Well, I'm a risk taker, and to tell you the truth that alley configuration has caused Jake all kinds of simular issues at cattle trials, mind you he has never been slammed into a wall by a cow, but at Platte, SD a heifer came real close, if he had zigged instead of zagged it would have been kiss good old Jake goodbye. So, we set it back up, Jake head to head, he has no problem going head to head, it's just that he has a moment of weakness at a moment where he really needs to show strength, this time he blinks again, but goes low and Billy blows on past him. Ok, we got change, that's good....let's try it again.
Third times a charm, head to head, face to face, I can see more lean in Jake's posture actually leaning a bit into Billy, and then it happened...Billy backed up and left. There it is!!!! Reapply, Rinse, Repeat.... Reapply, Rinse, Repeat... As a reward I went ahead and let Jake move the not so happy trio around in the open.
Now Billy the Hitman has a different tune, and note Nanny D wants no part of Jake.
But then Nanny D decides that this just is not right and stands square and firm, she's kinda a tough old bird
I didn't get the shot of Jake giving her what for, but between the white hair in his mouth and the near spinning poltergiest head with tongue fully extended you can imagine who made his point.
So, this is the plan, I am going to treat it as a issue that we created and try some exercises to try to remove that moment of release out of the equation. My thought is that early in Jake's training when he was a hand full and wanting to cause fights we may have inadvertently created this habit. It also maybe the natural dog or it was something that came easier then you would like, but either way it is a weakness and ignoring it is not going to make strengthen.
We have 90 days until the National Cattle Dog Finals, if we can get this glitch worked through, it will increase the chances of success at the finals. It's kinda funny, I can hear the peanut gallery, you can't make a weak dog strong...well I've been told of a multiple National Champion Sheepdog that started out anything but strong and had to be taught to hold pressure. If a Big Hat can get it done, why can't I?
Call it wishful, call it conceited, but I gotta be positive or failure will be inevitable, truth be told I don't know if I can make things better, but we won't know unless we try, that's dog training.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
We lost another one....little Lily has passed, I was sent an e-mail from her owner this morning, he is heart sick. Just this past weekend he started her on cattle, just this weekend she met her demise after venturing into a quiet country road at the wrong time.
This loss is right on the heels of her sister Dora, we sent Wayne's pick Lucy (littermate to Lily) to the family to fill Dora's pads. Dora was a special one, here is a post about her the day her family picked her up, she went on to being a handy cattledog and 4-H Champion http://leaningtreebcs.blogspot.com/2009/07/farewell-sweet-dora-we-wish-you-well.html
Tears of joy....
I recieved another call today, the proud owner of Lily's littermate Lacy, called to tell us again how blessed they are to have her and how wonderful she is. I shared the news about Lily, an extra hug tonight for Lacy.
As promised...Puppy Pictures. More can be found at our website: www.waynescustomleather.com/dixiexrickypups.htm
I have a favorite, can you guess which one??
As I went out with him to do chores I noticed that he was doing an exceptional job staying in his place, just to the right and behind me, he is not allowed to wear or switch sides, it is his job to stay there until I give him a different job. We made it all the way to the hen house, fed the ducks and started to move on to the sheep barn, no slips on his part. For a moment I thought maybe just maybe we could make it through our entire chore routine without him slipping from his place, then it happened, the mistake. A quick correction and he was right back in his place, he almost looked embarrassed that he made the mistake.
We moved on and fed the sheep, I had Ricky move the ram and Tetra out of the barn, Tetra is known for taking a dog. Tetra and Rick had a moment of face to face time, typically day after day Tetra takes a shot at Jake before getting a nose or ear bite and moving on, she held true to her habit yesterday and the day before but not today, today she yielded and moved on with her twins. Reflecting back to the trial this past weekend Marc pointed out that Jake tends to blink when confronting a cow, he has a moment where he looses his nerve and the cow will try to take him reading the weakness. Typically Jake fights through it and wins in the end, but it seems to be a pattern. What I realized today was when Tetra changed her routine it was due to Ricky not blinking.
Before leaving for Marc's I had only rare opportunities to see it in Ricky, there was one cattle trial where he went eye to eye with a cow at a gate, the cow declared uncle and moved on. I had another chance up at Platte, SD during the trial but the cow elected to try Ricky anyway at which point he was almost stunned and didn't know how to respond. This past weekend at the trial we had two more opportunities, one was when we backed a cow backwards down an alleyway, the other was when a cow wanted to enter an alley with Ricky in it. She said no, he at first wanted to negotiate leave the alley way and go for a heel, I refused to allow him to negotiate and after three attempts he finally stepped up and bit her square on the nose.
Ideally I would like to have a dog that makes that move as a natural reflex, but I'll take one that develops it, calm, quiet, flat footed this is not open for negotiations attitude. Truth be told, Ricky may have originally possessed the proper reflex, but if I missed it and inapproaprately discouraged it I may have taught him to not use it.
Anyway, back to the original story, after completing sheep and horse chores Ricky and myself were returning to the house, he tucked in just behind me to my right, so close that I almost have to bend over backwards and twist to see his tail to confirm he is there, when I became aware of him creeping up. My thought was to wait for him to make the mistake and then correct him, but then I realized that I had quickened my pace in an attempt to hold my position just in front and to the left of him...wait a minute..I just caught myself trying to help him be right... CRACK...correction time! No Negotiations! I busted my dog in the act of bending and shaping me, the master of negotiators has been stopped in his tracks! He looked beyond embarrassed this time.
I have to say that at the moment I realized I was speeding up for my dog I heard Marc's voice asking my why I was doing it. As luck would have it I have seen the same situation occur over and over with other students of his, he always reminds us to watch closely, any issue that he helps his other students through will eventually happen to us and by not getting wrapped up in our own dogs and issues we will be able to learn from others and know what to do when our day comes.
On a side note, in an effort to keep our relationship from slipping Ricky is now living in the kennel. I know that bringing him back into the house will just give him more opportunity to shape me and get me to bend to him. This is a change that I will be making with all of my young dogs, they will get house time so as to learn how to behave in the house, but once they have learned the lessons they need to learn, back to the kennel to ensure that each interaction I have with them is positive from a training/relationship standpoint and of high quality.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
That little change in Ricky's attitude was worth the money and time spent, and for the most part was what I was struggling to get. I felt confident that over time I would get there and wear Ricky down but I also had a feeling that Marc could get there quicker leaving me to enjoy the summer trialing and using my dog instead of fighting with him waiting for him to give up battling with me. After using him yesterday my feelings have been confirmed, we can now move on forward gaining more expirence handling different livestock in different situations. I have faith that handling Ricky after he has been so drastically changed by Marc will help me find my way on the next dog so that I don't end up stalled in the same place with a different dog.
Patty is the next young dog in line for training. She is a different cat then Ricky, softer with a ton of feel and drive. My thought is that she will have more in common with Jake when it comes to what she offers and the trials and tribulations we encounter during our training sessions.
On a different note, Ricky's first pups are 3 1/2 weeks old, I'm going to try to get some pictures of the tribe (3 males/3 females). Early evaluations of temperment and reaction to pressure has revealed one male with hyper sensitivity. Yesterday Dixie corrected him and he went off by himself to sulk. His future as a top notch stockdog is bleak, we will have to wait to see if he will be able to handle the pressure of pet life, for use as a hobby herding dog or if with proper handling combined with strong stock drive if he can learn to overcome his temperment, stranger things have happened, Jake comes to mind.
There is another male that is outgoing and bold, he shows great resolve to get what he wants, he is not easily discouraged and takes corrections from mom in stride. I like him, but time will tell as to how trainable he is.
On the female side we have a brash female that has quite a temper and she bites like a little tiger shark, good thing she does not have teeth yet, I would have harpoon marks on my hand. And then there is the little peanut that stays back out of trouble but stands out from the pack by displaying cute little attention gaining antics.
That leaves a male and a female that are not giving me enough to get a good read on them yet, the male is outgoing and appears to show signs of boldness and the female...well...she is just a black and white puppy.
It's amazing what these little pups can show us at such a young age if we are just willing to look and be open minded, granted these evaluations tell me little to nothing about stock drive and talent, but I feel they do help me determine what I have to work with from a training and relationship standpoint, along with helping me identify weaknesses. There are some traits that I have no issue dealing with and actually look forward to seeing, some that I refuse to work with and others that I find a challenge and I want to take on just to see if I can.
We will have another Ricky litter due in about 60 days, Kess whose sire and dam are both imports had her first cover yesterday. I am also planning on mating Ricky to Bea, this spring/summer. I know it seems like a lot of pups but I want to get a solid idea of what type of female yields the most talented and trainable working pups, we will then determine which females we will keep for the future.
The ultimate goal is to be able to produce more pups simular to Ricky, strong, talented, early starting and relatively easy to train. Ricky was a useful stockdog having all his commands and able to be used on cattle and sheep at the age of 12 months out in open fields, Wayne even took him out horseback, a person could have gotten a lot of work done with him before he went out for training. His work was by far not shiney and trial worthy, but it was very useful, though I did win a paycheck in November at a trial with him. His time spent with Marc was about refinement and fine tuning, the part of training that I have yet to master and actually wonder if I want to, much easier to let Marc do it and I wonder if the handler/trainer change is in the long run really good for the dog.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Marc worked Ricky for us, one word, "Wow", Wayne just shook his head and said "Money well spent". He is by far not perfect, he will still make mistakes but to watch him out there working while listening to Marc was pure pleasure.
I have a lot of work to do on myself to even get a fraction of what Marc gets out of Ricky, I tend to be too aggressive with the tone of my voice which causes Ricky to be too aggressive with the sheep. Marc helped me identify what changes I need to make, ask don't plead or throw verbal tones. Communicate with Ricky to tell him he is right or when he is wrong. A person could really see it in Ricky's posture when he and I were communicating well, he was soft and fluid and would stiffen up and get tense when I slipped back into telling or dictating.
Wayne took Jake out and worked him for a bit out in the open field with Marc looking on, working on Jake's flanks and outruns. It took a bit but you could see change begin, Wayne is finally beginning to understand what he needs to do to help Jake be correct in his method and is showing the ability to reshape what Jake offers. Boy, did it ever pay off the next day at the Cattledog Trial, I think Jake gave Wayne the highest quality of work that I have ever seen. He didn't win but was able to get the work done in a very respectable fashion, ending up in the top 25% each run, it just wasn't fast enough to land him in the money. But, that ok, the quality of work he offered is the same as money in my book.
I ran Ricky in two Open classes and the Nursery at the trial. Our first open run was more of a training run for us, work on correct work and good communication, keep things calm and correct. Each time I began to get amped up Ricky would return the favor, but now I can get him calmed back down where as before sending him to Marc I was unable to. When Ricky get's strong, he get's bitting, on the heel and hard, he transfers my aggression to him as a indication that he should get aggressive toward the cattle. I just have to keep reminding myself, calm creates calm, so don't be surprised if you see me of meditating before a run in the future...
By our last Nursery run Ricky and I were beginning to click, he was showing me some of the same work both in style and quality that I saw him offer Marc, rating, being patient...quiet calm control.
We have a few things that we need to work on from a cattle handling standpoint and getting Ricky to understand what it is we are doing, but that will come. I'm don't want to rush or create excitment in an effort to get Ricky to do what I want, I want him to understand what the job is and do it calmly, quietly and with confident power. I have a vision as to how I would like to see each interaction with the cattle handled, now we just need to get to shaping.
I'm a bit spoiled with Jake, Jake knows that when we put cattle in a pen that it is his job to hold the gate, or that when we are loading a alley that he needs to make the needed adjustments to force the cattle, he understands the jobs, Ricky does not have that expirence so I have to help he through the jobs which is where I failed miserably during our runs actually costing us the possibility of a high placement. But, that's ok, there will be more trials, it will all come together one day, the thought of what is possible gives me goosebumps. All we need now is seasoning and time, so long as we don't get derailed we should have a really fun summer.
Here is a video link of Roy, a dog that Marc has, he is a cousin to Ricky. Wayne watched Roy work on Friday and is still talking about it, he really would love to make Roy his own though we know it would be impossible, something about that dog resignated with Wayne. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-TvlEUOZJM
Thursday, February 17, 2011
This past month I have had myself in a tissy worried about what will become of Ricky and whether or not I will be able to acheive my dreams with him, quite frankly dreams that I have not even had yet. To be truthful, I don't know where I am going, I only have the loose goal of brining Ricky around to being the best dog that he can be.
I spoke to a good friend yesterday that was surprised to hear that I am lost and don't know where I am going nor where to begin moving forward, she reminded me that the best way to fail is to be afraid of failing, you will cause what you fear.
So...new day, one step in front of the other, here we go, let the voyage begin!!
This evening I head out to Southern Missouri to meet with Marc and pick Ricky up, we should have most of the day tomorrow to get myself up to speed before heading out to Mountain Home, Arkansas for a Cattledog Trial on Saturday. Marc and Heather have been awesome, without Marc I would not be where I am now, which I think is a good place...oh that failure thing again....yes, I'm in a great place!
I am planning on posting updates about our travels so that followers can join the ride, this could be a incrediable journey.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
We were paid a visit in December by Tony McCallum, the cattledog breeder and trainer from Australia. One of the purposes for his visit was to see our Australian Cattle Dogs for himself. While here he worked with Tough for a few minutes, he was able to get Tough to produce a quality of work far beyond our imaginations.
Tony has given us some ideas and suggestions in regard to the future of our Australian Cattle Dog program which will include a bit of outcrossing in an effort to push back the dingo traits, that he feels our dogs are showing to strongly. It was kinda satisfying to hear Tony refer to our dogs as the "Old Blue Dogs" and that he was pleasently surpirised to see what saw. Have no misunderstanding, we have a long way to go with the breeding program, but now we feel like we have a vision of the path that we need to take to get to our goal, which is a quality working cattledog.
With any luck your first pups that will hopefully start us down that path will be here by the end of February, Wynonna appears to have settled, but we are not getting our hopes too high.