Sunday, September 20, 2009

Herding Seminar

Saturday Bug and I attended the Amy Hill herding seminar put on by the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club. Amy was up last year for a weekend (1 day seminar, 1 day instinct testing), which I audited. This year the Club had her up for three days of herding and one day of instinct testing. Unfortunately I was only able to attend one day of the seminar.

We started the day watching Amy's CWC Abby do a lovely outrun with the sheep in the big field. It was simply beautiful to watch.

All of the dogs had two working sessions. Amy does not use a rake, which was a change for me. I borrowed a stock stick and used that. Amy’s reasoning is ultimately you will not be allowed to use a rake – you will be allowed to use a stock stick. Why not start where you want to end up?

During our working session Amy reminded me to use a very calm quiet voice when asking Bug to “Lie Down.” I have mentioned before that I unintentionally use my body to intimidate Bug. Well, I think I have been using my voice too. It will take some re-training on my part but I certainly know what my goal is now – quiet, calm voice!

It was amazing to hear just how quietly Amy works her own dog Abby – barely above a whisper. There were a couple of occasions where her “Lie…down” was louder and more carefully enunciated, but never yelling or LOUD.

*Sally working for someone other than mum

We did a fair amount of stick handling for me. Amy feels that Bug isn’t necessarily a soft dog, just VERY pressure sensitive which means I need to use my rake/stock stick appropriately. She said Bug has a lot of POWER, which I am starting to get. I have had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the dog I started herding with is not the dog I am now herding with!

I found Amy to offer a lot of insight into how Bug works that will certainly help me in the future. Since Bug REALLY wanted to tear after the sheep we did a lot of stops; walking around the outside edge of the pen asking for a lie down. Amy got on me about having a tight line, which Diane has gotten onto me about as well. As often happens when you train with another trainer, something your trainer always says suddenly clicks with slightly different wording. Amy said, the goal is to not always have the line. Use a loose line NOW – your dog respects the stock stick – use it to stop him if he is pulling and not listening to you. Well, duh…how obvious is that?

After the first session we did a duck handling exercise. You and a partner move the ducks along the fence-line, beneath a rake leaning against the fence, between two cones, over a bridge, and stop them on a piece of lattice work gating that is lying down. Apparently my partner Lindsay (another CWC owner) and I won and Carol awarded us some very cute shirts. I think because we got all five ducks over the bridge and onto the gating.

*Carol said I could pretend it was a Cardigan!

We then did the same exercise with Amy acting as our dog. She made me use the stock stick with her because I have such a pressure sensitive dog and need to work on my stick/rake skills. I was nervous about this but it worked out very well.

Stock handling exercises give you a much clearer idea of what you and your dog are actually doing when you are out there. I wish I had done duck handling exercises before I ever went in the pen with Bug. I think it would have made things click much faster for me.

Our second session we worked on a lot of the same things. Bug was a bit pissed because Amy had called his bluff about a few things. We ended with some driving and very nice “Lie Downs.”

After the seminar was over and before the instinct testing (Amy had about 10 individuals coming for instinct testing) Bug had an opportunity to play with Amy’s dogs (Abby, Sally, and pup Rosy). Bug adored Rosy, as did I! What a doll.

* Rosy and one of her sisters in the background.

I then stuck around to watch the instinct testing. I find it really interesting to see how different dogs react the first time they are introduced to stock. Of the 10 – only two did not really “turn on.” And of the two, with a little work, they would EASILY turn on. Typically in an instinct test the owner does not go into the pen. Amy handled it a bit differently having the owner come in with her. I think this is a good idea and really increases the possibility that a dog will “turn on.” Think about how overwhelming it could be to leave your owner and get into a pen with huge animals and a person you have never met before.

I received some nice compliments about Bug and I have every intention of pursuing herding with him as intensely as my checkbook will allow. He seems to like both agility and herding a lot, but I feel like he does prefer the herding more. So more herding we will do!


manymuddypaws said...

how fun!!! sounds like you learned quite a bit about how to work Bug with the sheep. now to just put it into use!

Blue said...

That's really interesting about using a stock stick instead of a rake. I've only seen people start with a rake.