Thursday, January 20, 2011

Young Dogs, Working Styles

So on to working styles of the youngsters. I'll start with Zeke. He's a more quiet sort of dog with sheep for the most part. He has a bit of eye and quite a lot of feel for sheep. His flanks have a nice, naturally good shape to them, not too wide and not too tight. I'm still assessing his power and courage, but so far haven't seen signs of anything lacking in either area. He tends toward a more methodical style of work and i do spend time speeding him up occasionally, just trying to get him to be a little more brash and a little more trusting that things aren't going to get too out of whack if he isn't quite so careful. His brother Bill was like this as a youngster too and i found he grew out of it with time. It's a nice attitude towards work, that wanting to be right all the time and to not let things get messy, and one i quite enjoy. His outruns still need work as he tends to wind in at the top and while he ends up nicely on balance, he can be a little lazy about completely covering before he begins toward the sheep. Lifts are nice but the first part of the fetch can be a bit hard. It was a little difficult to get him started with driving but he's really getting it now and seems to enjoy settling in behind and just stroking along. I introduce shedding to many of my dogs early, and Zeke has loved it almost from the start. All in all, he's just a nice young dog, and enjoyable to train. He's not without his problems but he's a real team player. Not that he's especially soft natured, but I have to watch correcting him as it really crushes him to be wrong or to displease me. Fortunately, there's not much need for it with him.

Moon is a very different flavor of working dog. She's extremely keen to work with tons and tons of drive. No worries about hurting the feelings on this one! Correcting her is quite the challenge as she gets hotter and faster with any pressure put on her. It tends to stretch me as a trainer to figure out how best to communicate to her that i don't like something she's doing. She can really push my buttons, this one! She's very fast and as athletic of a dog as i've ever seen, with loads of stamina. I quite admire the athlete she is. She's not had as much time and training as Zeke, but is very quickly catching up to him. She's wicked smart, as quick a learner as i've had when it comes to commands and whistles. At this point she's not showing much in the way of eye and little feel for the "bubble" on sheep, but i'm hoping to bring some out. She pushes in too hard and sheep don't enjoy this, but she wants things to get moving, and moving quickly. She doesn't have a naturally square flank, preferring to come forward a bit then flare around, though we're working on that and it's improving. Neither her father or grandmother have naturally square flanks, but sheep were always pretty forgiving of it with them. I think it'll end up the same way with Moon, but i'd like her to release and flank when asked, so am working on it early. Interestingly, she does have a nice, natural bend on her outruns, giving nice room both on the sides and at the back, even at longer distances. She's a very good listener and very biddable, and is developing some pace on her fetch. Because she has so little eye and is so biddable, you can put her just about anywhere on a flank, on and off balance, and even on inside flanks. I've barely introduced driving to her and yet she'll drive sheep off a pretty good distance just because she'll go anywhere you tell her, plus she just *loves* to get in behind and make things move. I think she may pick up driving without ever really being taught exactly what driving is! I'm still assessing power and courage, hard to do right now as she tends to bully the sheep a bit with her speed, so that remains to be tested. She's more than happy to come right through sheep to me, so i expect she'll shed well.

So begins the tale of two youngsters. It's interesting to me that one is tight and fast yet has a nice bend to her gathers, while the other has nice feel and attitude yet is too tight on his gathers. Quite the opposite of what you would predict! I really don't think they could be much different in terms of overall working styles and strengths and weaknesses. I can't say for certain that i'll stick with both of them for the long haul but it's certainly giving me a lot to think and ponder and plot on during these dreary winter days.

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