Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Training Billy

Wow, i just realized i haven't done an actual update on where Billy is in his training since August 27th. I know i've sort of made offhand mention of him here and there but i sure haven't done a very good job of keeping up my "Training Bill" series, now have i?

We were pretty busy with trials most of the fall so Bill wasn't getting very regular work. I've also been trying to be patient with him and not push him along too fast. I suspect he's going to one day wake up with a lot more push and fire to him. I hope so anyway! He's a lovely young dog with a good bit of talent, but laid back to the extreme. It's not that he isn't keen because he surely is very keen to work, no problem there. He's just Mr Cool, okay maybe actually Mr Freezey Pop, and nothing rattles him. This is wonderful for day in, day out, get 'r done work but i'd like a bit of that extra something to come out, that extra spark that separates a great trial dog and a good farm dog. We'll see, he's still less than 16 months old and his sire is one of the most fiery dogs out there, so it could come.

I get him out and work him 2 or 3 times a week, just letting him progress at his own pace. He's quite a good outrunner to both sides, allowing nice distance behind his sheep and approaching with calm confidence on his lift. The fetch tends to be quite fast and Bill will run up the back of the sheep frequently. I don't really want to train away from this just yet. I'll explain why in a second. Bill seems to have a pretty good down and a fair understanding of the flank commands. He's following sheep pretty well on the drive and will push against a draw when doing it, but hasn't really committed to taking control of the drive yet. I do lots and lots of walking along with him, helping him drive and bully the sheep a bit. I expect we'll be doing this for awhile.

Okay, so the reason i don't want to correct Billy too harshly for diving into the sheep from the rear on a fetch -- when driving, Billy has a hard time penetrating the "bubble" around the sheep. He wants to be quite far back from them and can even be a little sticky about walking up on the drive. I don't want to reinforce this by insisting that he maintain that bubble on the fetch. I'm glad to see him penetrating the bubble there and hope it will reinforce the thought of doing it on the drive. What i do when i see him sticking on the drive is to try a walk up, and if it doesn't work, i give him a small flank with a "there, walk up" (this gets him moving forward) so i don't have to pick at him and make him hate hearing "walk up". Using this method, he's actually doing what i want (walking forward) when he hears the command, so should associate the movement with the words. I'd rather he was in motion and doing the action, so i can put the correct words to it, than be standing still hearing it and associating the words with no motion. I hope that's clear - i get the motion and put the command to it, rather than saying the command and hoping he'll do it (why should he, if he's not *learned the command* yet?). My hope is that over time he'll learn to enjoy getting up in there a little closer and bossing the sheep more. Maturity may very well take care of this on its own.

So, that's the latest Billy update, along with a bit of training advice as well. Maybe i can remember to update before another 2 or 3 months passes!

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