Sunday, November 8, 2009

Herding Lesson - Off Balance Work

Today Bug and I had a herding lesson with Diane. While the weather holds we are going every Sunday.

Diane asked what we had talked about working on next. Now that I begin to understand what is going on, I can tell her. We wanted to work on our flank commands, "Away" because Bug is more resistant to that direction (although he wasn't today!), "that'll do" and off-balance work.

We started by working on flank commands. I put Bug in a down walk to my sheep, face him, and ask him to go "Away to Me" or "Go By." Bug makes one and a half rotations - I ask for a "down" in the corner. The first few times I didn't understand exactly what Diane wanted and I stopped Bug WAY too late. Then I stopped him early. Finally I got some really nice downs in the right spot!

We did some "that'll do's" and lets just say my rake throwing leaves much to be desired. I can be so black and white. Diane says "say That'll do" - I say "That'll do." I don't try to tell Bug "Here" or "Come" when he tries to dive for sheep. I am doing exactly what Diane says. Today she said, why don't you use "That'll do - Come?" I said, "I can do that?" D'oh. Master of the obvious I am not. "That'll do - come" did seem a bit more effective.

The big thing we worked on today was the off-balance work. In this exercise Bug is driving the sheep with me from behind and I am holding my rake over the sheep, on its side. I did not have a very clear picture in my head initially and we had a VERY tough time of it. Add to that Bug aggravated one of the sheep into trying to butt at him. This happened because Bug kept trying to get to the heads of the sheep because that is how he prefers to work, and I kept asking him to go to their rear.

Next time in the pen we switched the sheep that didn't like Bug out for another sheep and it was a much better dynamic. Bug was really successful at walking-up and driving the sheep. I could feel how much better it was than the previous attempt (which sucked, basically).

Bug got tired much quicker today, even though we broke the training up quite a bit. I think it was because the off-balance work was so mentally difficulty for him. He isn't clear what his job is yet and so his brain is in overtime trying to figure it out. The difference between our first attempt and our second was pretty huge. Now I know what it feels like and I think we'll have a lot more success with this next week.

The best news is that when we got home, I did Bug's massage and stretches and .... no stiffness!

Note: I take it back - he was stiff later in the evening. Not too bad and certainly not as bad as last weekend.


Sam said...

Great blog. I am always so impressed by dogs who herd. Bug is such a cutie, and seems to have the brains to match, from the sounds of it.

I have recently begun trialing in agility, so am always looking for new blogs to read on the subject.

Diana said...

It sounds very confusing and a lot more complicated then I thought. Im glad Bug likes it. Diana

manymuddypaws said...

that's great- it seems like he is improving really quickly- you'll be doing herding trials in no time!

Jules said...

Thanks! We are aiming for April. Diane thinks we are ready. I hope so!!!

Sarah said...

very cool!!!!! congrats on your progress!!!

herding is fun, i am really enjoying it too!