This was our last weekend working sheep in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It was a bitter-sweet weekend. The bitter... Saying farewell to all the wonderful people we've had the chance to meet. The sweet... Chesney (and all the other dogs) worked great this weekend. I will miss everyone that has helped me along the way this semester and thank them for their input and letting Chesney and I continue working.
On Saturday Chesney was working well. We worked on trying to get him deeper at the top of his outruns. Every time I thought he was drifting in tighter to his sheep, I would down him and then walk towards the sheep (not to him) and then send him on telling him "out". He went deeper the first time. We fetched them up to the top of the hill then another dog came for an outrun. Then I sent Chesney again to the same side to see if he would understand that he needed to be wider. He started to drift in so I downed him and walked towards the sheep again. I told him "out" and out he went. We repeated this about 5 times. One of the times he kicked himself out, it wasn't far enough, but he gave me something so I let him be. One of the outruns he started to drift in and I blew his down whistle and Chesney totally ignored it... 3 times. He did not get to work his sheep and was taken to the top of the hill to try that stunt again. Stinker! After outruns Chesney got a long break while we watched the younger dogs work.
When we needed the group out of the front field Chesney was called to duty where he had to sweep the field and bring them to me. This was a tougher outrun for him because I sent him to the left where he would have to run by a group of sheep in a pen. He should have ignored them, but he just couldn't help himself and got stuck. I called him back, not all the way back to me, then sent him again. He gathered the group well. I was WAY more impressed with the straightness of his fetch line. He was reading pressure well and was off to the side to bring them in straight. He was so good. I let him drive them to the gate we needed to move them through (which was where he ran past to gather and fetch the sheep). We put them in the side training field then sorted a handful out into the big field.
Once they were in the training field, I had Chesney walk past them leaving them alone and told him to get a drink. He did well leaving them be in the field. After some of the young dogs worked little outruns in the back field I had Chesney gather the group in the training field. His gather was so pretty, I didn't have to steady him at all. We sorted half them into the big field so Chesney and I could try a shed. Shedding was good, Chesney comes in enthusiastically, but still has trouble with the whole idea of pushing them at a reasonable pace away from the other group. He just moves so fast still with this! It will get better though.
After moving everyone into the big field at the end of the day we called it quits. I was very pleased wit him. He learned a lot.
Sunday was a good day. We sorted two groups for the other dogs to work. Chesney is really doing well in the pens where he can see a group of sheep on the other side of the fence. He is learning to just focus on the group in the pen he is in. We pushed a group of lighter sheep for the more advanced dogs to work in the big field, then we sorted another group for dogs to work in the arena.
I had Chesney drive the group around the open field for a little while to try and settle them and put them in a place for the other dogs to pick them up. Calli did some outruns so she could learn her down whistles. She was doing well. Chesney really seems to understand when we are helping young dogs work and just be back up for them. He will lay still when everything is under control and only tries to help when this get a little wild. I have to remind him that it's ok for things to get a little fast and busy, they are learning, like he did. He usually settles in and waits for me to ask for his help. Such a good boy.
We had a moment Sunday that I WISH I had on video. Chesney went to cover the group from heading to the gate in the corner of the big field. I shushed him to bring them back and he went out and covered the draw. The sheep didn't move so easily off him though, and he covered one steps at a time and counter acted every move the group made. He was stylish, thoughtful, and calm. He fetched them at a nice pace and in a straight line. It was probably the highlight of what I have been working on with him over this semester. What a great day to leave on!
Shh! Don't tell that we ran a trial course Sunday. It was a practicing tool for me to see how far Chesney has come as far as holding lines and precision on responding to commands. We ran through it 4 times! Ack! I hate that we did that, it kind of feels like cheating. Like we're ACK (aka AKC) competitors patterning a course and that's the only kind of work my dog needs to know how to do... Well you all know that thats NOT true, I first and foremost make sure Chesney is functional, then we fine tune for a trial course. Alright... enough of this, let me share how we did at these practice runs, I mean after all I was the one who set up the course, we should know where the lines are.
First Run: It started out a little tight, I sent him on the Go Bye side. He got to the base of the hill (the sheep were set on the hill) and he lost sight of them so it pulled him in, but once he got to the top of the hill and he saw the sheep he kicked out again. The only problem with his outruns... he is flatter than flat at the top. Although his sheep didn't move sideways before then headed down the hill. He took the down at the top, good dog. AND he was taking flanks without me stopping him first. Whoohooo! We made the fetch panels and he brought them in pretty straight to the post, turned the post nice and tight and set him up for a decent drive! His driving is getting MUCH straighter. He made the panels squarely and turned a little wide for the cross drive. I thought we were going to be high on the cross drive and we ended up almost being too low. Chesney was so good about taking the flank and getting them through. We headed for the pen and had some trouble at first but got them in and he was focused and patient at the pen. He has gotten so much more mature about being precise and calm with the at hand work. He holds his ground and watches his sheep and reads their pressure and thoughts so much better. To say the least I was so happy with him. And he was happy with himself.
Second Run: We did this run right after the first one because I wanted to see if he would fix himself on the outrun when he lost sight of his sheep. He did! He stayed much wider on this Go Bye outrun. He is still Mr. Flat at the top. That's what I should start calling him haha. His fetch was straight and at a better pace than the first run (I think he was a little less amped up) brought them to me and around the post calmly. The drive was even better than before because the pace was good. He made the panels and off to the cross drive. Once again, his turn was wide and we were actually high on the cross drive this time. Only half of the sheep made the panels because I had to correct them when I realized they were high. Chesney did well covering though. Off to the pen again. Chesney and I got these guys penned much quicker than the first group. He was a star at the pen again. And a happy dog with a that'll do. We headed off to the top to talk about our runs and see where we needed to improve. The consensus was... Tight at the top. Other wise they were considered respectable runs, not winning but competitive. Hey, what more could I ask for, we've only been doing this a year and a half and not working every single day!
Third Run: After coming back down from the top and watching an open dog do the course, we went back to the post for our third try at the course. This time Chesney decided he wanted to go to the Away side. So I let him, his reward for choosing the right way to go based on where he felt the pressure needed to be covered. Away he went. I had to redirect him when he got to the ridge of the hill. He took his down and away very, very well. Kicked himself wide then got sucked in at the top *sigh* I'm at a loss haha. The fetch was good again, I think we made the panels which means he was coming in pretty straight. Around the post and off to the drive, which was straight and paced nice. On to the cross drive... you would think after 2 times of doing this I would have the line right... Well we were low this time. Totally my fault since Chesney was driving them straight on the line I put him. Oh well. To the pen. This time penning we had a little trouble. Chesney had to be swung around to cover then swung back around, he was so willing to help knowing that I couldn't do it and since he won't work very well when I have a stick he has to do a little more leg work. Penned and then he got a break. Well deserved I must say.
Watching the open dog run the course while taking a break.
Fourth Run: Well this was a wild good time working this group. The set out dog goosed them (stirred them up) right before I send Chesney and were ALL over the place and one kept wanting to leave. Chesney missed the panels but did a wonderful job working hard and covering. The turn at the post was good, but the drive was fast and wild, he was trying hard to cover the two that kept wanting to leave. Good boy. On to the cross drive... well it was just as ugly as the drive and fetch, but after passing the panels, Chesney kept on driving them in a straight line because he couldn't hear my go-bye whistle since the wind was really blowing. I finally got close enough to him to hear me and he turned around and was like huh? I thought I heard you. Once I got close enough and he heard me he was so good and took the flank. I didn't get after him for not taking the flank because the way he was acting was like he couldn't hear me. Good boy. Penning, we got 4 or the 5 penned since the one stupid ewe that kept wanting to leave scooted to the outside of the pen when everyone went in. Fine. We ended with that. Then we gave shedding a try and we shed 2 off of the 3. It wasn't pretty though.
Our turn to set out. Chesney gathering for set out. Tough pressure being put on him right here and he stands his ground!
After running the course he had a long break, then we went back out to try making tight turns through the panels. I couldn't get Chesney to get off the line of the drive that we were doing in the course. Reason #1 why you shouldn't patter courses! I think the problem with Chesney was his brain was just so tired he was just on auto pilot. We called it a day.
Guess I need to go work on the volume of my whistles now...
(I know what you're thinking... These picture's aren't taken in the rain... Yes. I know they aren't. I was too concerned about destroying my camera in the down pour conditions we worked in today... So.... Sorry no pictures from today)
Out to work again today. We we're hoping for a little bit of rain in the forecast, but we ended up getting a few drops more than planned. What's the problem with this? Nothing! Chesney had a blast working in the rain, I enjoy working in the rain (every now and then), however, the sheep do not. They were being good for Chesney and I, but not so nice to some of the others. To start the morning off we gathered the group up from the front field and moved them to a smaller field where they we're held for most of the day. We would pick and choose handfuls from the group once the group in the big field was worked. After moving the group to the pen, we went to the training field to watch Calli work. Poor little girl had a rough day... Just one of those days where she felt like being a puppy.
Then it was off to the big field to work Calli more on a different group of sheep. We're trying to lengthen Calli's outruns to challenge her now with her training. Chesney went and got tired to the fence.... Oh so sad. He needed to save his energy because he would be worked hard when his turn came. Calli was having some trouble with the outruns, she crossed over the first time and is a little hesitant to go all the way around. I think she is still getting used to lifting off a person. On to the big dogs turn. Chesney and Maid would swap outruns today for their working session. Chesney needed a challenge so we opted to stay near the barn while Maid was taken up to the top of the hill. Maid had a clear view during her entire outrun of her sheep. Chesney once he got to the ditch at the base of the hill he lost sight of his sheep. The first time on his "Go Bye" outrun he got to the top of the hill super tight on his sheep. The second time I stood between him and the sheep to give him an idea of how wide he needed to be. The third time, he came to the ridge of the hill and kicked himself out wider. He is still pretty tight at the top and I really am at a loss for how to fix this at this point. The next few out runs we did to the "away", which is his better side at this time. He did the same thing this direction as before but when he got half way up the hill I stopped him and redirected which kicked him out nice and wide around his sheep at the top. The second time I send him away he redirected himself and we ended on that good note. Chesney is doing a nice job of holding sheep and setting out for other dogs on their outruns. I think he likes the job.
I gave him a break while baby dogs worked, then we gathered everyone up to clip some feet and treat for foot rote. Nasty stuff. After he rested for about an hour we went back out and did some driving. He is driving REALLY well. Flanks are more square than they were when we started working again this semester. His pace is getting better and I am really trying to insist on a steady whistle that he is starting to understand. After a drive around the field, we attempted shedding a group of six, so I guess you could say we split them, three and three. There were two times where I missed the chance to shed a single and then a time to shed two. I finally called Chesney in on the split and he came in slower than he usually does. I hope it was because he was just so tired and not that he is less enthusiastic about shedding. We'll try a large group tomorrow and see if that helps perk him up. He took a look back and at first didn't see where I was sending him so I had to walk a little ways to show him. He brought the three back with the others and we called it a day. It was a really good day. That's why rainy days are so fun, you never have expectations set to high and are always surprised!
This has pretty much been the theme of our work sessions recently. Who thought hiding sheep in a 40 something acre field with hills, shadows, a pond, and trees, would be so much fun! Well, it's tons of fun and if you don't think so... let me explain. First you need somewhere to put your dog while the sheep are being set. Then you need someone who can move the sheep to the undisclosed location with their dog.
Finally you bring your dog out to the field, and ideally they don't see where the sheep are before you get there. Then the magic words come... "Chesney, go find me sheep." He LOVES this sentence. After you give this command and if you know where the sheep are, you usually give a directional command, either "go-bye" or "away", then off they should go.
Chesney didn't always know what this means, however, he did know find it, and since we are working sheep I think he is smart and put 2 and 2 together. At first, he would kind of run out trusting me that there were sheep out there, but not really sure if or where they were in the field. Now when I send him he goes out confidently after three sessions of this AND as soon as we get to the field whether I plan on sending him or not, he is looking for sheep.
One of the reasons behind doing this was to build up his confidence that he can do things correctly without me there or in sight. He is starting to bring me all the sheep he is sent for along with getting much straighter on his fetch.
Chesney also got put back in the packed pen since it had been a while working in a small pen with lots of sheep. The first time there were 30 sheep in a stall about 10yrds by 5 yrds.
When he would go around if the sheep didn't move, he would try a heel, and if they still didn't move he would go over top them. Good to see him being confident about where he needed to be and how to get there.
With doing some chores like moving sheep for other dogs to work in different pens and fields keeps him doing real jobs. Along with things like shedding to sort some off a group then move them somewhere while the other group stays in the same field teaches him that shedding is important for certain things. We also worked on penning. We shed a group off and pushed them down the hill to the pen and they were a perfect group for this since they didn't readily want to go in. Persistence and some adjustments on Chesney's part got them in the pen. We let them out then took them somewhere else while the group up top was being worked.
They've been good last few sessions, and they've been fun!
While I was home in California for the weekend taking my firefighter test, I decided to take Tucker out to Anna's and work sheep, since I didn't have Chesney to work that weekend (he was still in Louisiana) I could concentrate on by Big Guy. On the way out there (it was early and I was driving with just Tucker) I got to thinking these crazy ideas. At least at first they seemed crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured... Why not? And for this crazy thinking I was doing... I was thinking of trying to see if I could train Tucker up to run him in a Nov/Nov level course! Yep, crazy, I know. Well, crazy if you know Tucker and have seen him work.
Now lets take a few steps back to a week or so before all this. I found an English Shepherd Yahoo group. I posted some pictures and described Tucker's personality, everyone said that without a doubt they think Tucker is an English Shepherd. So I started doing some research on the groups archives to see if people have posted anything about working their dogs to see what their working traits were.
With this new information and way of thinking on how I was going to start Tucker for real this time, got me thinking that I could make him useful (not that he doesn't have a purpose of being the worlds greatest family dog). So we pull up and get out, I just let Tucker out of the car and he was very good. He just hung out with the other dogs, ran around a little, road with us to fix a fence, then hung out by the tree while I caught up with Anna, all the while the group of sheep were loose in the field and he didn't bother them.
I took him in to work three times that day, the first time I took him in it was burning off excited energy from not working regularly. Typical young, new dog stuff. I will say though, this time, compared to the first time I brought him out to work (almost 2 years before) he was simply listening better and acting much more responsive to my body language and pressure. Taking him out after the first work and letting him think helped for the second time I worked him. We spent much less time circling and more time actually fetching, even though he was still moving to fast and wearing a lot. The third time I took him in I had him walking and trotting slower behind the group and you could actually see him start thinking about where he needed to be, how hard he needed to push... and get this... actually stopping (either sitting or laying down) when I asked for a lay down.
On the drive home I had a new found confidence that my crazy idea wasn't so crazy... maybe. Only time will tell though, whether Mr. Tucker can handle the pressure of working with a person and progressing through the stages of training. Even if he doesn't make it past a novice level he will serve as a good teacher for me, helping me fine tune my working and handling abilities.
So for all of you that don't know, Chesney is my first Border Collie and my first dog I have trained to work stock. We got, what most top handlers would call, a poor and improper start. Chesney started working at 4 months of age, which is when he was started on sheep. However, we did not start with teaching him to cover or "feel" his sheep properly (read the pressure and then apply the correct pressure to move stock calmly). After working him once, sometimes twice a week for about 2 months, and leaving for school for the fall semester, then coming home in winter to California to continue training with this same handler we started with, Chesney started to learn some bad habits. Habits that I am still to this day paying for.
After I started noticing some trouble spots and no improvements in others (also by this time I had done tons more research and learned enough to know things were going badly) we stopped working. From the time Chesney was about 8 months old until he was almost 2, he didn't work anything. We did play a lot of soccer though!
After doing some searching I finally found Anna to work with. We went out to work with her the summer after Chesney turned 2 and worked with her twice a week every week all summer. After working with Anna we probably didn't do as much of the basics as we should have because Chesney was learning things so quickly we just kept moving forward even though things weren't perfect. At least he was functional at doing chores, which is all I could have asked for in the beginning. We went off to school at the end of summer and found places to work out in Louisiana, but the sheep were not right for what we needed to work on, they were far too dogged. The semester ended and we continued to work with Anna, ran in a trial or two, worked more durning this last summer, which brings us to where we are now.
Where are we at you ask? We are much farther along than most who have been training their dog once, maybe twice a week for a year. There are some holes, however. We've figured out that a root of Chesney's outrun tightness and lack of proper flanking might be linked to the fact that he still is not really covering his sheep on his own. Today we did some fun work on teaching him that, yes indeed, he needs to bring me ALL the sheep I send him for without me stopping him enough to keep all the sheep together. He has become WAY to dependent on me telling him what to do, and I will be so happy for the day that I don't have to do so much handling with him.
Today we hid sheep in the pasture and I simply told Chesney, "find me sheep." It only took one time of him running around like a silly boy not really sure what I was asking or where to start looking OR that yes... He needed to go away from me to find them and that I wasn't going with him. This first time after he went to get sheep (I could not see him) he only brought me 1 out of 17 sheep. We had some work to do. I walked towards him and kept telling him that I was so sad that he didn't bring me all the sheep. I told him we needed ALL the sheep. We got all the sheep back together after two attempts then the dogs who were helping us picked them up and I took Chesney to get a drink while they were being hidden again.
This second time I told him to find me sheep he went out more confidently than the first time but there was still a lot of hesitation on his part. Once he spotted them though (I think he thinks I'm joking that there are sheep out there) he went to get them. The draw was perfect for a covering exercise. The sheep spread out and some started to break. He made a half hearted effort to cover the breaking sheep then decided to just keep bring the ones that didn't break. Some more of the group that he had decided to break too and once again he thought about covering but ended up letting them go too. He ended up bringing me 6 sheep of 17. Better, but no where near good enough. I quit him from working the group he brought me so there was no satisfaction of getting work for doing a poor job then told him I needed all the sheep and he went to get the rest.
We rested him then went back out for a third try at finding sheep with not much more success than the second time, but this one was a difficult task in itself because he has to bring them around the lake. The fourth time we gave it a try, was a big break through. He was getting a drink and cooling off in the lake while the sheep were put out of sight. I sent him to find me sheep which he did confidently this time. While he was fetching, some of the group decided they didn't want to play when they got to the ditch and about 8 of them cut back on him, after he got the group out of the ditch, CHESNEY ON HIS OWN, without me saying anything, turned back to get the group that cut back on him! WHOOO HOOOO! He missed 3 of them, but heck I surely didn't mind, he actually made the decision to get back and get his sheep. After he brought me the 5, I laid him down and said, that was good, but we forgot a couple. Together we went to get them, I kept telling him he did a good job, but still I needed to have them all. After that, he got lots and lots of pats.
So after all this today, I need to go back to the basics with him and teach him to hold up his end of the deal and cover his sheep. After finishing working today he was super keen and really looking for sheep! Good boy! For now though, no more progressing on shedding (fine by me, needed a break) and we will be working on covering sheep without my help. So for now, back to puppy basics.
They say sheepherding is all about regrets. They say getting the right start is invaluable. And they say it takes as many years as the dog has legs to be mature enough to really compete. I say this is true. I have regrets with Chesney, my regret of not properly starting him, then having to start him over right. There is truth in the maturity, but maybe in the competition scene. I think there is not enough said about the relationship between dog and handler. The desire to work with their own, that these dogs posses, is rivaled by none.
Chesney has such desire. It leave me in awe how there is such a bond between us that it could carry us far enough to compete in Open within the next year. Our ability to read each other and his desire to please and my ability to learn quickly for him to advance at a steady pace, has made us stride through the last year and a half of training. What a ride its been and going to be!
While I was looking through pictures on my Flickr account I realized that poor Tucker gets no recognition on my blog, so this post is dedicated to the Romeo of the house. Tucker aka "Big Guy". He is such a love and if push came to shove could become a farm dog since he really does like chasing the sheep. Mostly though his job it to make sure the couch stays warm for who ever is to sit on it with him.
Just a puppy, but a handsome boy in the making!
Did you say you love me mom? Chesney heard you say it too!
Well to say the least, I am horrible about keeping up on this blog. I just get so side tracked with actually spending time with my boy rather than writing about it on the computer. Don't get me wrong we keep working journals, but I always forget to start putting them up here for others to read (after reading the more interesting blogs I'm sure ;) ). Anyways Chesney and I had such a great day a week ago that I had to share.
The drive to where we get to work our sheepies was very pleasant and Chesney was (for the first time in a long time) not acting stupidly excited. Once we got out and greeted friends he hung out by my side, said hello to Calli, then just stuck with me all day, which was a first for me to not have to keep nagging him about staying with me or tying him up at the truck to just watch. So he earned being able to be off leash. The sheep we were to work were in the large field when we arrived, but Chesney didn't see them in the corner so I took him out and kept telling him to "look" which we've been working on to mean, "Hey look for your sheep. They're out there"
He did great, going out just far enough in front of me and really looking, so now I know he understands what it means. Yay! His outrun was good and he stopped at the top waiting for me to whistle him on, and on he went.
On his fetch I had him bring them straight to me since the last few times he's worked I have been having him flank and drive them somewhere else with hopes of being able to redirect him on the fly while fetching to prepare us for fetch panels. He had a bit of a hiccup because he was anticipating me to redirect him but I just stood there and blew his bring them to me whistle (Tweet Tweet, Tweet Tweet) And he did just that. Once close to my feet, I, yes I practice my job when bringing them around the post and it went well. Then we did some driving around the field, calling off, outruns, and just moving the sheep from here to there. After 20 minutes... Time for water, this Louisiana heat is brutal.
We hung out a little in the shade and watched some people work their dogs in the arena and while I chatted with friends, Chesney was right there by my side the whole time just happily hanging out. I was so taken back by this and so happy.
I actually felt like I had a serious old time working dog. Hahah. The trainer needed some help with bringing the sheep in the field to a section that was laid out for a Bouvie to do some tending work, and Chesney was the man to call on for the job. The sheep by this time had moved to the far end of the pasture for shade, I said to Chesney "look!" and Look he did, Then sent him "away" and off he went to bring me sheep. He fetched them up nice, and was taking his "Take Time" whistle so well that the ladies were not running at me like a freight train and all was good when they got to me to be held until the Bouvie was sent in place. We were asked to stay close incase the sheep got to be the wiser and make a break for the hills, which they did twice, but Chesney was right there to put them back. Good Dog! After being bored because everything was under control, off to get a drink and a dip in the tub.
As soon as Chesney got out of the tub he came to sit with me by the fence and watch more dogs work in the arena, while the Bouvie finished tending the sheep we were to work, in the big field. Time for us to go back to work! The sheep were in yet a different corner or the pasture which is perfect for Chesney. This time I sent him "away" without telling him to look and being the good boy he is (and with his new found trust in me sending him that there are really sheep out there) away he went. It only took one redirect (on the fly, which was a first) for him to finally spot them (the grass is really long). Once again he dropped behind them and brought them to me.
At that point Calli was ready to work the group in the big pasture.
By the way, Calli is a little, cutie of a puppy that I brought back from California (with my friend) for my friend to actually have a working pup and a working pup she is! She is a star and only 7 months old. Well anyways while Calli is working Chesney just gets the idea (after me reminding him once) to stay back off the sheep while Calli was working and even a couple of times when they were thinking of breaking for the draw he was there to stop them without me saying anything!
When Calli was finished I put the whole flock back together after everyone was done working in the arena, and started trying some shedding with Chesney. I mean he's had such a great day so far why not try something else new, or hard. Right? Right! Well after 3 attempts Chesney really started to get it and on the fourth one it really clicked, so we ended on that note. He started to really keep the two groups separate and when one wanted to break he covered and drove them away. Success.
After that day of working I am, to say the least, truely exstatic with my boy who is just 3.5 years old and basically started, his training, over (after 2 years of stupidness because I didn't know better) just a little over a year ago. We've come a very long way to say the least, and I can't thank Anna enough. It's amazing how fast I picked something up when it was being taught properly.
Also that day I got to practice my photography skills with taking pictures of working dogs (which I think is most fun). Here is one of the fun ones I got from the day of Calli! Donna (Calli's owner, my friend) calls it a magazine shot.
Things to be worked on: Shedding and keeping the two groups separate. Having him gather the big group back together after driving them away to draw out his whistle so he starts to understand distances. Continue to work on his look back for gathering the group we split off (setting up for a double life... If we ever need to use one). I would like to work on putting a stand on him for penning and shedding. Freeing up his walk up, he gets stuck sometimes and it takes a flank whistle to snap him out of it.
Memorial Day weekend was great! On Memorial Day we competed in our first Pro/Nov trial and actually put some points on the board! Chesney needed a few redirects on the outrun and I wasn't really all that upset since it was the farthest yet he's done an outrun. He got the sheep and brought them to me and around the post, we missed the fetch panels though. We had a little trouble getting them started on the drive because of the draw to the exhaust but they ended up getting pushed through the drive gates and off for the cross drive which was pretty darn good. Chesney got them through the other gate, but I sent him around too soon to bring them to the pen and the sheep came back through the panels. Dang! At the pen we had a bit of a miss hap. There was a loose dog on the course, Chesney did good at staying calm. As we were pushing him in the pen one of the ewes challenged and charged Chesney but he stood his ground and didn't over grip! YAY! Time over. We ran out of time at the pen, but at least we got a score. Phew our first Pro/Nov course is over and done. Now I can't wait to do another one!
So Sunday we went out and practiced staying honest at the top of a long outrun. For the most part, it went very well. The more we did the deeper at the top he was! Good boy, Chesney. We are working on these longer outruns because our trainer decided it would be good for us to finally give our luck at a Pro/Novice course on Memorial Day weekend. Exciting. Nerve Racking? Yes! After doing maybe fifteen 200 yard outruns (which was the longest the field offered) we worked on some brain stamina! I helped him split off a single and had him work the single towards me and away from her friends. It was good practice for him learning to be calm and percise while making small corrections. It really helps to keen him up. I think he enjoys it. So yeah thats about all for now!
Well a lot has happened since November and I have been bad about keeping up with the blog... Chesney and I continued training in Louisiana at a friends place. It's too bad it's the same thing week in and week out as far as the sheep go. That's ok there is plenty for us to work on. Most days though are lazy days while I go to class...
After we went home for winter break back to California we were promptly put to work in Anna's field, pulling T-post, rolling up fencing and dragging the posts to the spot the round pen will be built in. This round pen is not being built on a whim though, there is an important person coming and the round pen was his request. We are getting ready for Jack Knox's clinic. There is a buzz in the air at the pasture and spirits during the work are high. I'm excited to meet the man himself! The clinic came and went far to quickly. It left me longing for more time to pick at topics and listen to stories. My brain hurt. The most important thing that I got from Jack was, teach your dog to feel its sheep and things will come easily when the dog is ready for them. The three important pieces; Contact, Pace, Style! Chesney and I still strive for them everyday we work.
Speaking of working, after 6 months since our last encounter on the blogger, we have made great strides forward, with occasional steps backwards, but we are much farther along than we were! Since the clinic there has really been a turning point in both my approach to training with Chesney and my ability to learn and absorb new things from the sheep dog world. I can't learn enough, it's not enough for me to just work my boy once a week, maybe twice, I want to do it everyday, I want to immerse myself in the culture and life style of a shepherd. Anyways, back to reality. Promptly following the clinic Chesney and I had some rough spots to work through now that we were out from under the watchful eye of Jack, not to mention the few days following Jack's departure Anna left and we had the flock and pasture to ourselves to sort and figure out work alone. What a task! We managed with the help of Tucker B who saved some of Chesney's brain power by bringing the group in to be sorted and penned for Chesney to work. The first day it worked great, the second day Chesney had to do all of it and by the time we were sorted and ready to work... Chesney had no brain power left. His stamina for thinking has greatly improved since November as well.
So the few bumps in the road (like forgetting to bring the whole group, being too pushy, being tight at the top) have lessened and some gone away. He is much better about backing off his sheep. Hmmm wonder why? Maybe because he has a feel for his sheep and proper contact on them? Yes! First step to check off of THE LIST! Contact! Chesney turned 3 on February 24th and got to work his first season of momma's and lambs. He did really well. We competed in a trial in March, our first day we did very well and it was thought that we had the winning run... well should I say everyone except the one person who was keeping score... we got 3rd. Still not bad, improving from the last trial we ran in (which was a DQ) and the one previously on the field which was run in a lower class than this recent trial, so improvements all around on that first day. Then the second day... Hmm how to put this, well I guess I could just flat out say that when we got to the pen Chesney decided that for whatever reason he was done with his run and left. Left me with a rope in my hand and five sheep looking at me dumbstruck at the whole scene thinking that this is not how things are supposed to work. No kidding ladies. I walked off the field, and I really, to my surprise was not upset with him. I felt sorry for him, what caused the leaving, me? The sheep? No I don't think so. The stick in my hand? Possibly, he has always been funny about it, but it wasn't a problem the day before. Who knows. We sat at the truck while the lower classes competed. We needed alone time, he needed alone time. All he did was crawl under the truck and lay down with a disappointed look. It made my heart hurt seeing him like that.
After the melt down we went back to work the next week and did some fun things. No pressure, no learning. Just the basics. He still seemed bothered by something and started really slicing in on his "go-bye" side. I figure it would pass when his mind was right again, he just needed some time.
We went to a Bobby Dalziel clinic the first weekend in April, that was interesting. I like what he does with the long line and he worked well with Chesney, who came back from the clinic with a new mentality ready to work. At the clinic we had to set out for practicing a double lift with some of the other dogs. Chesney was a champ. He really enjoyed the task and even if he never makes a great trial dog, I think he would enjoy doing exhaust or set out as he matures more.
So the story goes, we are now getting ready for a trial when we get back home this summer over Memorial Day. It's a good possibility that I get to sneak away for the day to Jack's clinic in central California. What a birthday present that would be! Not to mention when I get home I will have some Tucker stories and new pictures to add to this little blogger. Talk to you all soon!