A Breakthrough … Maybe?

We had a couple gloriously cool and cloudy days this week, and I took full advantage. There was hiking and herding and very happy dogs. If Summer were in the 70s most of the time I wouldn’t resent it so much. Those days are over, however – nothing but hot in the forecast again. Alas.

Herding this week went well … suspiciously well. Haku and I did our little AKC started course and it’s kind of like our fetching work recently has balanced out with our driving work and Haku seems to have a better understanding of herding all around. Maybe me too, which I suppose is half the equation. He looked great, the work was easy (which, admittedly it SHOULD be, but hasn’t been!). Haku just looked so HAPPY, relaxed and confident. I wish he could stay this age forever, there is nothing like a 9 year old dog. No drama, no angst, no questions, just trust and friendship. God I love that dog, and I’m so happy that we pushed through and he’s gotten to do more herding. I don’t know how long he’ll get to continue, but even if he had to stop tomorrow, it was all worth it.

Haku did so well I decided to quit while we were ahead and give more time to Navarre than I normally do. He usually gets a few minutes at the end of my lesson, but this week he got more. And we had … a breakthrough. Hopefully. Well, at least for the first time ever he wasn’t just trying to ‘work through the handler’ to get at the sheep, he finally actually was giving and responding and was ‘light’ on his sheep. Holy crap, I never thought I’d live to see the day.

I just had Dave work with him, which sometimes goes well, sometimes doesn’t, but it usually the same issues whether he works for me or Dave. And it started off as usual, lots of just pressure, pressure, pressure and trying to get Navarre to down, to give space, to bend, etc.  And, admittedly he has gotten BETTER, but it’s always the same thing, he’s just trying to get past the human annoyance in the way of his sheep. However, since we had more time today, they went longer and Navarre finally decided to actually … respond. And it you could see Navarre was a little mad/sad about the whole thing, but the difference was amazing. Suddenly he could outrun and and not shove the sheep past the handler and just wasn’t fighting every step of the way. So they spent some time in the one field, then even went into the larger field with the trees and Navarre actually looked like … a sheepdog. Like he finally, reluctantly, decided that this was actually a team sport.

So color me surprised, I honestly thought he’d never really make any real progress in herding, but if he actually continues to respond maybe he can actually herd, not just chase sheep around. Maybe. There was some confusion which Dave explained to me, he had been using ‘come-bye’ and Navarre hadn’t been responding, and he finally realized Navarre was just coming to him on that cue, once he went to ‘go-bye’ the confusion was gone. And I learned that REAL herding people use ‘come-bye’ and that ‘go-bye’ is an AKC herding term. Go figure. Yes, I’ll still be using go-bye, because, yes, come means, well, ‘come’.

Anyway, that wasn’t easy for Navarre, there was a lot of pressure involved and not how Navarre thinks it should be done. But the thing is, as soon as Navarre started actually taking the pressure, he was getting TOO ‘light’ – so an interesting contradiction in my boy. Insensitive until he’s decided that now he’s too sensitive. Makes me excited to work with him more, assuming that he doesn’t just revert back to total dork. And he IS a good boy, maybe he finally realized what the point we were trying to make for the last 2 years was. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

But, if he does continue with herding, which I hadn’t planned on once Haku retires, it does add another point into the ‘get another border collie’ column, because border collies can herd, while many other breeds would not have that option. I am also looking at a very fun border-whippet cross, the repeat breeding of a litter that is on the ground now. Watching that litter grow is so fun, such adorable puppies! And different, I’ve been stalking border-whippets online and they are very sighthoundish. We’ll see how how this litter grows. In many ways I’d like to get TWO puppies, a border collie and a border-whippet, but that would be silly. And it’s not like one of those is tiny and can count as ‘half’ a dog. Also looking at seeing about potential sires for a Dove litter, which I think would be really fun. Then I can I see what Dove puppies are like. Still, it’s just fun to think about, not even close to making the big decision yet.

Then there is the puppy at home, or rather, that wasn’t at home this weekend! Heidi took Figgy to the trial and out and about with her this weekend, which I’m very grateful for the puppy break. Heidi is the best puppy socializer! It is official, Fig is heading into a more sensitive period. I had noticed this week that she was uncertain about a new dog this week, and she hid between my legs, and she had some similar incidents with Heidi. A less bold Fig is definitely different! But not totally unexpected, Dove and Navarre was also pretty oblivious as tiny babies and then got more sensitive as they got older. Fig isn’t doing anything alarming, just actually showing caution with things that could be scary. But not always, so we’ll see how it progresses. Heidi got her out and about eating at a restaurant and going to the hardware store and visiting new dogs and places. Apparently Fig was totally comfortable at the agility trial and was actually EATING HER KIBBLE as treats! So that’s new and exciting. Heidi said she was a very good girl, very appropriate with her dogs and listening when they told her to back off and not being naughty at all. Good puppy.

Nothing really new in the world of Fig training, she’s mastered balancing on the fitbone, we introduced a rear foot target on her pedestal and staying while I walk 360 degrees around her and staying in whatever position she’s in. Nothing is really trained still, we’re in no rush. She DOES know how to do a tunnel now! Which was not on my list but she started exploring a straight 10 foot tunnel at the arena and I rewarded her for it so she was going through that a little, which was cute. Today she was watching Carol’s dogs do some agility and afterwards chased Demi through a long curved tunnel, then she could do curved tunnels! Well, that one anyway. Was interesting to watch her adjust her behavior when she WANTED to jump and bite and body slam Demi like she does with my dogs, but she didn’t want to get eaten. It was really cute how she did try a couple nibbles on Demi’s back legs, but quickly decided that was a bad idea. She is listening better now, she’s not quite the little hellion that she used to be and has more fans now that she’s not so naughty. She’s sweet and fun and not a bad puppy.

Then the big news, Haku is officially entered in a herding trial! Carol and Haku practiced together today and while Haku was kind of a pushy dork, they should hopefully be able to get through an AKC started course. Theoretically. Carol finds it really weird that you can’t really praise my dogs when they’re working, as that means they can go get the sheep and messes up whatever you’re doing. I much prefer agility where we get to smile and laugh and have FUN, but the boys really like their herding.

So Carol will take Haku with her up to Washington for a trial in August. I think Haku will be fine with that, he knows her and her dogs well and hasn’t had any worry working with her. I’d like to think he’ll behave himself, he IS nine after all – and it’s Haku, he’s a good boy. There aren’t any AKC trials locally, so this will give him a nice introduction to trialing. I don’t expect him to do WELL, but I think he’ll have fun and have a grand adventure. Haku needs all the adventures!

I did work Navarre up at Brigands today and he wasn’t a TOTAL dork, not like he was last time. He wasn’t as responsive as he was earlier in the week, but I did feel like he was trying and would give … somewhat. Baby steps, always baby steps with Navarre.

And for Bright, I’m pretty sure I caught her attempting to play with Fig today. I peeked out the backdoor and she was upside down on the dogbed, giving flirty eyes to the puppy. So, maybe? I know as soon as Heidi took Fig for the weekend Bright was all over Navarre wanting to play, which was interesting. The dogs also got to go on a full length hike this week, no having to shorten it for puppies – so they were pretty happy. I am starting to miss agility, we will definitely be ready for action when Fall rolls around.


2 thoughts on “A Breakthrough … Maybe?

  1. Your posts are always interesting and fun to read. I can’t even IMAGINE a border-whippet cross – – or why.


    1. Border whippets have been a long time ‘lurcher’ cross for hunting, but are currently very popular in flyball. Kind of like a more hardcore, biddable whippet 😉


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