Saturday, November 22, 2008

Training Time

Today was a very nice day. Several friends came over to work dogs. It was predicted to be a really cold day but the sun was shining and wind calm, so it was actually pretty nice out. The burn barrel was going all day but we didn't have to hover over it to stay warm, just the occasional visit to knock the chill off. We had a range of dogs from puppies starting out up to seasoned Open dogs, showing off for the youngsters, and handlers from the top of the trial world to those just getting a good start at this game. A very nice day indeed.

I'm feeling a bit inspired to get moving on my dogs again, after something of a down time. I'm hoping i can keep up a journal here on the blog of how they do over the next few weeks, if folks are interested. I find the time around the holidays a good time for training - my work days are shorter (those "real job" work days, that is) with some days off scattered here and there. Coinciding with this period, i have Zac getting back to work and needing some good hard training to get his mind right again. And i also have Bill needing to be moved along in his training. Now 16 months old, he's ready to train up and do more good hard work himself.

So, a quick report on how the two of them did today seems a good place to start. I pulled Zac out to run on a small, full course that is still set up on my pasture, left over from the trial we held in September. The sheep were actually being held at the top of the field, rather than just standing out on their own. If i'm remembering correctly, today is the first time Zac has gone out on a "trial" type outrun since the last trial he ran in, over Memorial Day weekend. So what's that, six months ago? I can hardly believe he's been out of training for that long, but it's true. He worked some in June but he's been out of even working since mid-July when he got sick, followed by the long rest and then rehab. Today he ran out pretty tight but leaned off the sheep as he made contact at the top, good to see since that means he was feeling them and wanted to be right, his exuberance just carried him in tighter than he should have been. His fetch felt pretty good, nice contact and good hold as these sheep like to run downhill but he was pulling them back onto himself to slow them. He was really crisp on his commands and sharp on the flanks, nice to see. The drive was pretty wiggy and again his exuberance got in the way. Zac has always been an over-flanker and he was so happy to be out there that he was swinging back and forth and over doing the flanks big time. This didn't make for very pretty lines or very happy sheep! I didn't fool with penning as it's a "gimme" on these sheep. The set up for the shed could have been cleaner but it's hard to get upset with a dog that is practically grinning he's so happy to be cut loose. The actual shed was fine, crisp and clean. It's amazing to me really, how a dog can retain so much and fall right back in after so much time off. What good dog. I'll be needing to settle him down a bit in the next few weeks but still keep that lovely attitude and joy in his work. Mostly, he needs to get enough work to feel sated and satisfied. He's really craving it, you can feel it being around him.

I got Billy out and worked him a little bit, just some easy outruns and a little bit of driving, nothing fancy and nothing very taxing on him. He still needs to get really committed to the task of driving but i did feel like he was closer today, and nearly made the connection. I'm seeing him start to balance the sheep on the drive just a bit and i felt him commit and push on out for maybe 20-25 yards today. That's a good sign that he's about to get it. I got to work him on goats a couple of days ago and they really got him fired up. I let him push them up onto me on the fence and he had a ball catching them as they'd break and was strong on the noses and heels, and to both directions. He'd been a little tentative about covering breaks to his left when he was younger, sometimes catching the sheep and sometimes letting them go, but he was strong to both sides on those goats. I think it was partly because they're different from sheep but also has to be partly because he's maturing. I'm still trying to be patient and let him just grow into some of his work but i do see that he's changing and i think ready for more. I'd like to get him out on some new stock and fields in the next few weeks and may try to get him back on the goats again if i can. He's feeling stronger and more full of himself all the time, and i quite like what i'm seeing!

Just so that i don't completely neglect to mention them, Gael and Jet both did a little bit of work too, but no training. Gael is always so thrilled to get to do anything. I didn't get to any training on Jet, she just had to settle for holding out sheep, and doing some sorting work and set up this morning. I'll try to keep up with her training here on the blog as well. It's easy to let it slide with her since she doesn't ever seem to need any maintenance. Then again, it wouldn't hurt to keep her as tuned as possible. One of these days i'd like for her to manage to trade in one of those red ribbons she's so good at collecting for a blue one.

So that's the Shoofly report for today. A very nice day with good friends and good dogs. My favorite kind of day!


Darci said...

It was a fun day, thanks Robin for having us. What a lovely place you have to work dogs.It remimded me of a mini Soldier Hollow.

Robin French said...

That's a great compliment! :-) It was a lot of fun and i'm really glad you could make it. We'll do it again soon i'm sure. And Chris is really looking good. I can tell you're working hard on her.

Laura Carson said...

Yes, thank you SO much for having us all out. It was a fun day for sure. I thought Billy looked great!