Sunday Bug and I had a herding lesson. Our lesson started with a wee little farm chore; move the sheep we would work with from one pen to another.
Diane asked how I would go about doing it in the cleanest fashion. The gate was opened into the pen that contained the sheep; there was an intermediate area and then the control pen. Now, given that I have unintentionally run sheep into the fence with poor planning before I thought about this carefully. First I opened the gate to the control pen – into the pen.
Then I told Diane I would enter the pen and hug the gate so that I would push the sheep away from us and the gate, and through the entrance.
It was a snap.
Then we worked on flanking some more. Bug currently doesn’t have a down in the sheep pen. He just doesn’t. So we are working on Stand for our stop. We would walk up on the sheep – altering our path slightly if necessary to keep them in the corner we wanted. I would turn into Bug and “push” him out because he likes to go in a flat line as quickly as possible to the sheep and around. The goal is then to stop Bug in the corner.
I did a better job of keeping my eyes on the stock. I am starting to get a better idea of how much movement is needed or how little movement is needed to get the sheep where I’d like them.
We worked on this for quite some time. At first I was way too late – repeatedly. Then I was too early. In addition I push TOO much with the rake; I forget to release the pressure I am exerting (poorly) on my dog.
The great thing is that Bug is SO into the sheep now he isn’t put off by my poor mechanics. It’s a major issue though; my mechanics SUCK.
It was pretty hot on Sunday – working like Bug was – so we did a break about a half hour in. Bug took a dip in the pool (which was very cute – he kept pawing at the water to get his undercarriage wet) and then we went back to work.
We weren’t sure how much dog we would have left and the plan was to work on the “doggie two step.” I think I have written about this before – it is an exercise in balance. You are on one side of the sheep – your dog on the other. Your dog should NOT go behind you. Once your dog completes and arc you take two steps through the sheep, pivot, and send him around to the other side of the sheep. Repeat. We had a tough time with this.
Finally we let Bug bring me the sheep and ended on a high note.
Diane commented that she thinks Bug is going to be a great duck dog. I will have to ask her why next time. He has so much more drive to be with the sheep now. In the past, the rake would very nearly make him quit. Now he might back off, but he doesn’t quit or cower.
One of the hardest things for me is understanding that I can be firm with my dog and knowing that doesn’t mean I am being harsh or negative. To me the line is not that clear which makes me more permissive than I should be when we are working sheep. This is something I will have to work hard on defining.
I also asked Diane if she had any reading suggestions. I know so much of it is physical mechanics, but I think it might be helpful for me to read about what I am trying to do. She gave me a couple of recommendations. The only one I can remember off the top of my head is Working Aussie Source (I wrote the other down). And she warned me not to read anything about Border collies as they are trained differently.
This lesson prompted a lot for questions for me about where I want to go with Bug. He really seems to enjoy herding. He seems to enjoy it A LOT more than agility (although he enjoys agility too). I find herding EXTREMELY challenging - in a positive way. Given my schedule and the fact that our group classes have switched to Sundays – we are not going to be able to attend an agility class for more than a month. It makes me wonder if perhaps I should focus on herding with Bug while the weather is nice. We will be shut down in the winter again, I am guessing. It’s a big question.
3 days ago