Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Last Weekend

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!

Next post.... Coming to you soon from California!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shhh! Don't Tell!

Looking for sheep

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!
Reading pressure.

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...