I went over to Denise's yesterday to work the dogs. It was great to get out even if it was cold and muddy. We're all pretty sick of rain. Moss was wonderful. His first session wasn't very good at all and i was thinking he was going to have a bad day, where he usually just shines when Denise is around - he likes to show off for her, with her being his breeder and all. Okay, i know dogs don't think like that but he usually *does* work really well when she's around. I got Denise to hold sheep for him since i'm starting to think about running him and he'll need to get used to that. I didn't think having her and Mick holding was bothering him, but apparently it did put him off a bit since he was slow going out and not concentrating very hard when he got to the top. I gave him a rest and worked him a second time and he was much better, just working around a bit and driving, with no one else on the pasture, giving him some difficult fetching to do to kick his balance and enthusiasm back in. He was more like the gung ho dog he's been at home lately. Since we were away from home, i decided to give him a third round on the sheep and he was spectacular. I got Denise out on the pasture to just stand there a bit, to see how he reacted and he seemed fine, so i got her and Mick holding again and he did really well, balanced nicely, lifted straight, caught sheep that were trying to split off, just did a really nice job. His outruns were mostly just right - not too wide, not too tight, and with a perfect attitude. And his driving was terrific. Two weeks ago when we went over there, he seemed to have an "aha" moment where the idea of driving just really hit him and he went from tolerating following the sheep to getting in there pushing and enjoying it. Last week at home, he had another of those moments and suddenly knew his flank commands, both on and off balance, where he'd resisted learning them for a really long time (i try to not pressure a dog into learning them but i do start testing it out pretty early, and he'd just not shown any sign that he cared all that much if he got them right or not). Yesterday, i think he had another one of those moments and the idea of really balancing the sheep on a drive, of holding a line, hit home for him. I'll test that in the next couple of days but i'm pretty sure he got it. I could almost hear it click into place. It's pretty amazing to me how quickly Moss is coming on now. Two weeks ago he was just sort of tolerating driving and yesterday he was doing a full drive and cross drive, with inside and outside flanks and balancing out the sheep on a line, easily able to do a Nursery or Ranch drive. I just love when things make sense and the dog takes these great leaps forward in training. And i know it feels good to them too. Young dogs are very rewarding to train that way. I wish we'd gotten video but it was so yucky out, plus he'd not had a great start to his day. He sure finished beautifully though.
We also put the younger pups on the sheep again. I'd tried Bart a couple of weeks ago at Denise's and since the situation was good, i popped him out again. He was a tiny bit less confident this time but still pretty awesome. He's actually balancing the sheep to me and there's one point where you can see his head come down and he really gets the feel of moving the sheep. I probably won't put him back on sheep again for a couple of months. Here's his video from yesterday:
I also worked Billy and thought he was quite good. He's so smooth and is going to be really fun to watch. And a blast to train. I worked him a few times last week and he was being really stubborn about only wanting to go the away direction, so i picked on that a bit and got him more comfortable going both ways. You can see in this video that he still wants to be out working at about 10 or 11:00 to the sheep. It's very apparent when i ask him to lie down - he flicks back over to that spot if he can. It's gotten quite a lot better though and he's balancing and moving his sheep very nicely. He's such a sensible dog and it looks to me as if he'll have good power. I don't really plan to do a lot of training with him until he's a couple of months older. He's still only 8.5 months old. Here's his video: