Friday Bug and I attended an Intro to Herding seminar with Jan Wesen (out of Washington State). It was excellent.
Jan has a very concrete way in which she thinks about herding and trains people to herd with their dogs.
The beginning of the day was spent on board work and dry work - lecture and then some rake practice with humans, and work on "go by" with your dog using a toy.
Jan believes you can REALLY teach the words of herding to a dog without sheep. Her belief is you need to get the words as simple as possible. This was really helpful for me because most of the time when I am hearing the words used in herding I am in the pen with my dog and the stock. I'm not processing everything.
The Fundamentals are:
1. Interest to play the game and wanting to work with you.
2. Stop/Down (suggested working on down with distractions - toys being tossed, etc.)
3. Out/Back ( turning out/away and backing away - two different ways a dog can release off stock)
4. Direction/Flank (These directionals are about the dog's movement around the stock)
- Clockwise or "As time GOes BY" = Go by (I thought this was SO cool!! It will now forever stick with me).
- Counter Clockwise "Away to me"
5. Walk - speed command - go straight to livestock.
- walk - slow command
- walk-walk-walk - speed up
My big concern about practicing without stock at home is that I do not have anyone to tell me what I am doing isn't correct. I worry that I will create bad habits that I can't fix (or that will be difficult to fix). Jan gave us two exercises I feel confident working on at home (i.e. I can't screw them up!).
The first exercise teaching "go by" or "away from me." Jan suggests having a chair out. If your dog is on your left, you drop your toy on the right. You tell the dog "go by" and they need to move clockwise around the chair to get to their toy. Play with your pup and the toy. Reverse this exercise to work on "Away to me."
In addition she stresses "Back." This is something I can EASILY work on at home with Bug.
It is interesting, Jan talked a lot about pressure - your pressure on your dog and both your pressure on the stock. When I attended the Amy Hill seminar last year I made the connection that Katrin's space game was really useful for herding. However I didn't "get" how integral a part of herding it is. (The space game [super-simplified] is moving into your dog - your dog moves away. You move away from your dog and your dog moves in.) Backing up and building hind end awareness is a core part of Katrin's Communications class. It is funny how much of that class is applicable to herding.
We then moved on to the working part of the seminar. Jan believes in keeping it short and sweet. We had an opportunity to work our dogs about 7 times each. Wow!
First we each took a turn walking our dog around the pen. Next exercise, I believe, was working on balance. We did this three times during the day and the first time for us was a mess. Bug was very excited and I got stuck in my sheep. What Jan wanted to happen was have the dog complete one circle around the sheep. Then stop them and reverse directions. Like I said, the first time was a disaster. The next two times I couldn't believe what a good job Bug did.
We also worked on an exercise Jan calls the Clock. With the Clock you are able to have your dog work on every skill he needs. First you work on get around - walking around the pen. Stop, there (turn and face the stock), walk (walk toward the stock), Out (turn away from the stock), get around, there walk, back. Eventually you are to stand in the center of the pen and your dog can complete these tasks on verbal cues. This is really something to aspire to.
Next we worked on packed pen with light sheep. Diane has been telling me she wanted to do this with Bug for some time and I had NO idea what "packed pen" meant. Packed pen is a small square pen - one panel each side. The panels around possibly ten feet each? That might be too large an estimate. The dog enters and must walk calmly around the perimeter. I was REALLY surprised by how mellow Bug was in the packed pen. Diane said it was because he was intimidated. Either way I was pleased he didn't act like a nut.
At the beginning and the end of the day we also worked on duck handling. You teamed up with another human and moved the ducks however Jan wanted you to. The first time I did it my partner and I had to move the ducks in a serpentine pattern through three chairs and stop them on a rock. It was an EXCELLENT way to understand pressure because you couldn't get very close to the ducks and not a lot of movement was required. At the end of the day when we did this I think I was too tired - I was moving WAY to fast and it was NOT to my advantage. We were supposed to move the ducks in a clover leaf pattern through the chairs and it took us forever.
It was an excellent day. I would have LOVED to do a second day but my checkbook didn't think it was a great idea. I cannot wait for our next herding lesson. If anything I like herding MORE than before. I am definitely becoming more comfortable with the rake and the concepts in general, which is VERY exciting to me. Things are starting to feel a bit more natural.
5 days ago