Sunday, September 14, 2008

Herding with Bug

Yesterday Bug had a herding lesson (as did Blue and Iris). Colleen had the time available and both Blue and I felt it would be good for Bug and Iris to have two lessons so close together.

Iris went first so that Bug could watch and he definitely did less rolling about and more watching, which is good. We did have an odd incident where Colleen's neighbor's son came out to the pen and Bug barked like he'd seen a ghost. For whatever reason Bug who loves children, thought the boy was creepy. Colleen had him (the child) sit down and let Bug smell him. Bug immediately started licking his hand. Silly dog.

When Bug and I went into the pen Bug immediately went to the end of the lead. He wanted to chase those sheepies! Yay, I am so glad he was still "hot to trot" about them (and last week wasn't a fluke!). Colleen had us practice "get-around" which is walking the outside edge of the pen and asking your dog for a down at various points. The dog is on the outside, the handler closest to the sheep.

I still have not worked on Bug's down and was luring it. Colleen suggested I step on the leash close to the collar, like she has Blue doing with Iris. It is a way to force the dog into the down without putting your hands on them. Bug didn't have a terrible reaction to it, but I will admit that I am very uncomfortable with it. To that end one of the MAJOR things I am going to spend a LOT of time on before Bug's next lesson (probably mid-October) is his down.

While we were practicing "get-around" on both sides Colleen gave me a thin stick to hold. We are working up to the rake! Bug didn't seem phased by it, which is good.

The next thing we would have worked on is having Bug do a down-stay and me going out to touch the sheepies. I have not worked on "wait" except in the context of doors. So, we had Bug face the sheep, asked him for a "down-wait," and practiced taking a step away toward the sheep and rewarding him for his "wait." Another basic to work on at home.

Finally we dropped the lead to let Bug herd those sheepies. Colleen had me use a stick in place of the rake to change Bug's direction. There were a few instances when I was attempting to change his direction that he acted as though I was going to haul off and beat him with the stick - dropping into a down and not moving! Really I think he was about to slip into his default of offering the belly, so I am EXTREMELY proud of him that he did not. He dropped into a down, thought for a minute and went back to the sheep.

It was an excellent lesson. I feel like Bug made some significant progress. Colleen suggested we keep a small notebook and bring it with us to class. That way we can keep track of what we are working on and remind her! She also lent me a small rake since I hadn't managed to make it to the hardware store this week.

Here is what Bug and I will be working on in the next month:

  • Being touched by the rake
  • Me holding the rake and moving
  • Down
  • Down beside me
  • Wait (this I think will transfer well to the conformation ring as I plan on making it a stand-wait first and we currently do a stand-wait at doors)
  • Stay
  • down-wait
  • down-stay

Check out Blue's blog to read about their lesson. I think Iris had a bit of a breakthrough lesson. Previously she had very little control when she would get too close to the sheep - she would all of a sudden hit the end of her leash. Yesterday it was as though a light went on and you could literally see her thinking, "Hmm...when I hit the end of the lead mum turns me around. When I don't we keep moving forward." Very cool stuff!

I almost forgot, after our lessons we helped Colleen lay some fence line. Then we let the dogs run in the big field before heading home (Iris found some VERY stinky manure to roll in!). I was talking to Colleen and Blue about Bug and how stressed he gets when ever you "change the picture." Colleen suggested I think of him as a four month old puppy - I think this will be beneficial to our relationship. I mean, I sometimes forget he's only been here for four months! Let alone how much he has been introduced to in those four months. So, it is an "obvious" suggestion but I haven't been doing that, so I am going to try to keep that closer to the front of my mind.


Marlene said...

Good suggestion about the 4 month old puppy....thats what I did often with Kody....telling people although he may be 1 year(when I got him) that he was actually just a new puppy with all new training and untraining the bad...its taken awhile, but its finally working!

Jules said...

I'd say - he is doing fabulously, Marlene! I def. need to keep this in mind.

manymuddypaws said...

that's good that you and Bug has a good time. The nice thing about sheep herding is that it really is great for their self asteem which is a good thing for Bug. I agree that forcing him into a down like that is probably not the best way to do it for a dog like Bug-

I trained my sheep herding down (and drop on recall actually) using toys- once I have a fast stationary down (without me or the dog moving) I put a long line on the dog and throw the toy- we play fetch a few times and then I ask the dog to down before I throw it, and then I ask the dog to down just as they are taking off for the toy, and then I ask for the dog to down when they are half way. I use the line to correct the dog only in that they can't self reward and get the toy. When the dog downs I run and feed, and then we celebrate with the toy. This teaches the dog to down when they are excited. Downing in the back yard with no fun sheep is very different than when you are in the pen- they toy helps to build that excitement.

Jules said...

Thanks, Amanda. Bug is VERY toy motivated, so this sounds like a GREAT way to work on his down.

I assume you've got the down taught solidaly prior to introducing the toy excitement?

Blue said...

Bug had a great lesson! He looked like he was really enjoying the sheep. He even ran down to the pen to look for them when we let the dogs run after we finished working. Yay Bug!