Sunday, October 26, 2008

Herding! Weaves!

I think that Bug and I had our best herding lesson yet - better even than when he turned on to sheep.

My major homework with Bug was "down" and getting Bug desensitized to the rake. When we arrived at Colleen's I told Colleen that Bug's down was really solid. She basically said, "we'll see how it is with those sheep." I know, I about a stimulating environment!

Blue & Iris had their lesson first - we have had Iris go first from day one when we were trying to turn Buggie onto the sheep. Yesterday Bug actually barked a few times outside the pen. He has never done that before! Cool!

We worked on "Get around" - walking around the pen and asking for a down. Switch directions by turning into your dog (switch the hand that is holding the rake) and "Get around" in the other direction. Bug did an AWESOME job with his downs.

A few things I really need to work on are:
  • not asking for a down a second time - we are in a stimulating environment and I need to remember that and let his brain process. I DO NOT want "down, down" to be his cue!
  • I need to make my release from the down MUCH less exciting. Colleen said if I continue to make my release from the down so exciting in the sheep pen Bug isn't going to want to down. Too true.

Next we worked on "Walk up" - walk in a straight line to the sheep - stop when they start to exhibit signs they are feeling pressure and ask your dog for a down. Bug and I have worked on a lot of focus exercises and we have a wee bit of trouble in the sheep pen as a result. I ask Bug to "walk up" and put him in a down and he watches me in the down the ENTIRE time. Part of this is also because initially I was looking at my dog instead of my sheep. Colleen said she would tell me when Bug looked at the sheep so I could verbally reward him and "get out." A "get out" is turning into your dog and walking in a straight line away from the sheep - releasing the pressure on the sheep as much as possible.

I need to play the Look at that Game from Control Unleashed and teach Bug to LAT on cue.

Next we worked on the beginning steps of having Bug "fetch" sheep for me - letting Bug bring me sheep. For the life of me I could not walk backwards with my sheep (as I discovered later with Hanna this is because I was watching my dog and not my sheep!). Colleen asked if I thought Bug would work for her. I said we could try. He would! he did! He still looked to me to cheer him on and say "yes, play with Colleen" but he was definitely trying to work outside his comfort zone! I am so proud of him! He also collided with a sheep and it didn't phase him at all (hopefully he held his alignments - thankfully he's seeing Anne Wednesday!).

Bug also showed VERY little sensitivity to the rake. Yay! Colleen commented that she doesn't think I will ever need to exert a lot of pressure with the rake.

The whole fetching sheep did not make sense to me, so Colleen went and got Hanna for us to play with. You might recall that Hanna ran roughshod over us soft humans a few months ago. I was a little bit nervous - but it turned out to be for no reason. Although I am sure she still took advantage in Colleen's eyes she was MUCH more responsive to me.

When Hanna was fetching sheep for me Colleen realized I was watching Hanna and not the sheep. Watching the sheep makes the entire process so much more manageable! We also talked about the fact that you can have the dog fetch you sheep in a straight line, it doesn't have to be in a circular pattern. As a novice I found myself walking in a tight circle and getting quite dizzy! Also having no place to go. Realizing I can zigzag all over the place was very helpful.

It was a GREAT lesson. I am SO proud of the Bug. We have a lot to work on:

  • Continue working on Down
  • Walking comfortably on either side and downing
  • Stay
  • Down-Stay
  • Look at That
  • Leave it (Bug thinks hay and sheep poop are delectable - not good.)

On the way home I decided I would take Bug to the Dirty Dawg Wash in Norwood. This is a new place where you can take your dog and bathe and dry him. Since Bug is shedding his summer coat (and had just been rolling in sheep manure) the idea of bathing him somewhere other than my house REALLY appealed to me. The owners were VERY nice. They have 4 tubs and multiple grooming tables - as well as all the blow dryers you could need. Hooray. Bug looked TWICE as big after his bath, but a lot of hair was released outside my house!

After dropping Bug off at home I went over to my in-laws to work on Carmen's weaves. I had six cages on a set of 12 weaves. One of the cages was off the weave poles by about 3 inches. Yesterday I removed it entirely. Carmen had about an 80% success rate with that cage removed completely. Not too bad. I am going to stay like this for a couple of weeks and them move a cage on the opposite end out about 3".

My FIL was watching and he noticed how fast she was before I removed the cage compared to her speed after removing it completely. He was watching from inside, so he did not realize I had taken a cage off. Carmen had to think more but I tried to set her up for success and treat her when she had trouble within the weaving motion. We ended on a positive note and I feel confident with practice we will get there. As my FIL reminded me - I have all winter!


Diana said...

Bug has really come a long way since you got him. He must be having fun. I would like to try herding but I just dont think I can fit it in my life right now. It does look like fun. Diana

Holly said...

GO BUG!!!!!!! I am SO HAPPY to ready this!!!!