Oh, what an ugly day it's been here. 80 degrees yesterday and today i woke up to 40s and cold rain. Days like today are almost enough to convince me that 7 dogs is too many. That's 28 muddy feet to wipe off! It never did warm up much and was drippy and damp off and on all day. Of course the dogs don't seem to mind. Puppy Bart has been wallowing in the mud all day, the little pig.
We got over to the farm after lunchtime during a break in the rain and i worked Moss and Bill again. I wasn't planning to since neither had an especially good training session yesterday. I'd worked them 3 days in a row and thought perhaps today off would be good. But i decided to play around some and boy am i glad i did. Moss was really on today. I did a little drilling on his flanks, speeding them up and letting him enjoy himself while still maintaining his distance, and asking him to stay out and then use his eye a bit before walking up. It seemed to carry over to his other work nicely. He was keen and pushy on his driving, and he's showing a lot more intensity on his fetch, head down, studying all the sheep and thinking hard. And he seems to have learned his flank commads - he was taking them on the drive, both on and off balance, without any extra body or voice cues. It seems to have just hit home with him, or else he hit an age where it could sink in, because he sure didn't even half know them a week ago.
I got Billy out and worked him again too, just to see where he'd be today. He's probably only been on sheep maybe a dozen times all together, and i'd worked him 3 days in a row, trying to decide if he's ready to train or not. He's very young, just turned 8 months old. But he doesn't seem to be a tender sort of 8 month old. He's not a hard headed dog or a soft dog. He's just a very, very even tempered dog, not an emotional dog at all. It's a quality i think i'm going to like in him a lot as a working dog, but it does make it a little hard to read him at this point. When he was a little younger i could see some little signs that he wasn't ready, a tail wag here, ears pinned there. But i haven't seen anything like that this week and i've had to put some pretty fair pressure on him so i think he's ready for a start on training. I'll watch him and train or not train based on how he reacts but for now i think i'll go ahead and get started on him. Part of the reason i want to do that is that he is very one-sided, with a strong preference to the away side. It's something i like to get on early, and considering his even temper, i'd like to make an impression before he gets older and possibly tougher and more convinced to do what he wants vs what i want. He's not hard to get to at this age and the training isn't hurting his feelings at all. So i've worked on "evening him up" this week and he's doing a lot better. Today he was actually fighting me a bit to go his bad direction, where earlier this week he was doing all he could to avoid it. I also worked some on his flanking, just keeping him out a little so he can feel the sheep from a little distance. He's going to have tons of feel and i believe a good amount of power. I'm hopeful he's going to be a "cool power" kind of dog, steady and confident with an even pace that sheep trust. I'll need to watch his eye and have already started trying to break it some as he goes around on his flanks, to make sure he releases the sheep and doesn't get caught up in eying and controlling the sheep before he gets all the way to balance. I have had 2 good strong dogs with his kind of contact that ended up stopping short on outruns - Ben and Jet - and i really want to avoid that problem if i can. It's the only thing that kept those 2 from being really top winning Open dogs and was the reason i retired Ben from trials and placed him on a goat farm. You just can't be competitive if you give up points on every outrun like that. So, i'll watch it with Bill, keep it in mind as he trains up. I have very high hopes for him, he seems to have tremendous potential at this point.
Of course that all goes down to the nature of training young dogs - it's quite the roller coaster ride. One day you think you have the next national champion and the next you're wondering if it's time to sell him. It'll make you crazy but i love it!
Okay, you read this far, now leave a comment so i know someone is out there reading. :-)