It’s crazy how much the summer drains me – and when Fall returns it’s like I have my life back. I can take the dogs out any time of day, I actually enjoy going outside, I have energy to train and suddenly RUNNING agility is actually fun again. I just love Fall so much (and Spring too!), it’s like waking up. Definitely feeling inspired to train, dogs have been getting lots of action after a very uneventful summer.
I now have PLANS, and in herding I really do want to work with Haku to feel like he is actually trained. So we have some new projects:
- No Yelling: None, at all. It was funny how incredibly hard this was today, I apparently think my dog is deaf – even when he’s right next to me I always seem to give my herding cues at a sort of frantic scream. So, just not going to do it. I’m not entirely sure how this is going to work when we go back to driving at a distance (which is how I got into some of these habits in the first place), but, for now, we’re going to work on fixing our basics with me never raising my voice.
- No Repeating Commands: These are all kind of connected, and what tends to happen is that when I don’t get the response I wanted I just try shouting it again and louder – which I do not like (and, shockingly, doesn’t work anyway)
- Consistent Criteria: Once again, all connected, I am going to take responsibility for my decisions in herding, which means I can’t assume that Haku isn’t responding because I made a stupid herding decision. It’s not up to him to fix my mistakes, he needs to trust that I know what I’m doing and I need to trust that when I ask him to do something he’ll actually do it and not assume that he knows better (even if that happens to be true). So going back to the above, I will ask once, quietly, and if it doesn’t happen I will fix it – every time, NOT by yelling, but by blocking access to the sheep or lying him down if necessary.
- Back to Basics: This is my theme in agility this session too, and it’s always the best choice when you’re struggling with more advanced work. Haku needs to go back to responding immediately to his stand (not five feet later), he needs to go back to working his basics on his walk up and stop eyeing up the sheep. He needs to not run me over with sheep on the fetch, he needs to stay in his down until cued otherwise. I think if we can get those basics back to being relatively sharp, I can then work more on my quiet handling without feeling out of control.
So I have a plan, getting to actually work on it is harder, of course. If we did have access to sheep more often we would make a lot more progress. I like having a clear cut plan of action though, that does not involve me yelling like a crazy lady. Haku did lots of good small stuff today, his outruns are consistently lovely, and we tried an experiment with my back to him and not seeing him at all, I gave him his flank commands and could do them completely on verbal – how cool is that? So he DOES know his flanks, sometimes, at least.
As for Navarre, him and Dave continue to really progress, which is quite fun to watch. I take video because I have a hard time figuring out what is going on, what Dave is cueing, how he’s cueing it, what he’s expecting from Navarre and when he’s fixing a mistake or just working on another skill. Watching the video again I see a lot more than I did at the time, though there is still a lot of question for me exactly what is going on and why. Herding continues to be a big mystery to me, but that’s part of the appeal, really. I did pretty much just give Navarre to Dave at this point, Navarre does so much better with Dave than me, while Haku does better with me than Dave. I think we’re speaking very different languages and Navarre understands Dave better than me, while Haku speaks Heather very well.
I do have some homework with Navarre that I think I can do, and we will continue to practice, but my current theory with him is to let Dave train his basics and then see if I can work him without feeling like I’m butting heads with him constantly. He has until Haku retires to get it together if he wants to continue with herding. He gets to tag along now because I really want to work with Haku, but Navarre has other things in his life – so he has to prove that he has the skills to continue with herding after Haku retires. I’ll have to say though, with Dave at least I’m really impressed with what he can do now, I really never thought I’d see the day after basically 2 years of just trying to get 3 feet of distance away from the sheep watching him do big outruns seems like a miracle. But, yeah, I didn’t know you could teach balance and distance with anything other than fetching, but shows what I know. Navarre continues to have issues with fetching and slicing on the top of his outruns, but considering how little work he’s actually had with Dave (which is when he actually seems to progress), I’m super impressed with him.
Practiced with the dogs today, and was super impressed with Navarre! Of course, it doesn’t take much to impress me with Navarre, but he was actually thinking, giving distance, doing some nice outruns – he kind of looks like he knows what he’s doing as opposed to just running me over with sheep. Now, he does still run me over with sheep, but, thankfully, the new little babydoll sheep don’t try to kill you. So the issues that Navarre has had from day one are still there, but we can now work on other things and I didn’t feel totally out of control or like I was arguing the whole time. Though he is so ridiculously pushy on sheep. Good boy Navarre.
As for my plan with Haku, I’m trying. Up close I’m much better, but when he’s across the field I resort to frantic screeches. It’s hard to know what to do when he doesn’t respond and he’s so far away. Still, I felt much better for the most part, I really tried to work quietly and on our basics. Hoping to get some good practice in while Heidi is recovering, getting access to sheep is the hardest part!
With my return to feeling the need to train, I’m also thinking about trying obedience with Navarre again. He’s going to be FOUR next year! And four, to me, is the age when you can start doing things like obedience with a lot of dogs. So I’m setting myself a tentative goal of doing Novice in April with Navarre at the Sherwood trial in Canby. So far I have learned we need to go back and retrain heeling – omg, so much forging! But even if it doesn’t actually happen, I think it will be fun to have those skills to work on over the winter. I don’t expect him to be enthusiastic worker that Haku was in obedience, but I’d like to give it a shot and see about at least Novice, possibly Open – Utility, well, I’m not going to worry about that too much unless he really shows he likes obedience trials. He has a lot of skills started for Utility, but we haven’t finished them. He should have all his novice and open skills already though. You know, after I retrain heeling. I’d like to look around and see if the europeans have any fun different methods for training heeling. I know some basics, of course, but I’m no expert.
We have been continuing to work on our collection in agility and I think he’s responding better. I don’t expect him to be a tight dog, but it never hurts to reward the heck out of something like that. Taking some direction from Polona, we have been working on dropped toys out of turns, which in the beginning he ignored, but he’s liking that now. Chasing toys out of turns only works at certain angles, otherwise he goes wide to chase, but the dropped toy really does bring him in.
Bright continues very happy to be back running agility, I think her long break was not super great for her jumping, she’s knocked more bars since returning so I think we lost some of our conditioning for jumping. Now that it’s cool we’ll get back into better shape in general, and we’ll keep working on building back to agility. Don’t want to overdo it.
I must say, doggies were super good this week, Heidi was here recovering from surgery and they just got to hang outside for several days. They didn’t complain, such good dogs. Cats also didn’t complain about being up in their room for several days either – though everyone is back together at last today and they all seem really happy to see each other. Or maybe just happy there is no more puppy!
Fig went home earlier in the week, which was good timing with everything else going on. She caught a ride down and is safely back with Karen. We’ve been so busy here I haven’t had a chance to miss her too much! I’ll admit though, when I took the dogs hiking today it was really nice not to be managing her the whole time. Puppies are a lot of work! Fig was a nice puppy though, and I think Karen may be looking for a sports home for her if she can keep breeding rights. Would be really fun to see what Fig can do, she’s got a lot of potential. I can’t imagine her ever being a slow dog!
We did have some drama this week, and I don’t know why it’s always Haku – but that boy always just seems to have the dramatic health things going on. We went on the long hike on Friday, it was raining but not too cold or windy, and I love hiking in a rainforest in the rain! Dogs had been so good this week I wanted to really let them stretch their legs. Naturally, when we were the very farthest you could get from the car, Haku suddenly starts frantically scratching his eye and there is clearly something wrong with it. I couldn’t find anything, but he quickly became a one-eyed dog as we hoofed it back to the car. Then once we got on the road I had to call all around to find a vet that could see us on a late Friday afternoon. Thankfully we got an appointment, got Haku in and, yes, seed in the eyeball that he was ever so thankful to have removed. Unfortunately it scratched up his eye while it was in there, so have three times a day ointment for the next week. He was already 100% better after we got the seed out though, and he’s on pain meds so hopefully he’ll be fine by next week. Poor dog – still, glad he has two eyeballs.
Premier only trial with Bright and Navarre this weekend. Courses were all kind of funky, premier is its own special world. A weird combination of pinwheels and awkward threadles, they never seem to have a sense of cohesion – just a course that was stuck together on the standard course. Still, even awkward courses can be interesting, and that’s the appeal for me. They don’t in general have much collection, actually, it’s usually just like a normal AKC course with one weird awkward place.
We had some kind of, well, stupid issues this weekend. I pulled the dogs off of THREE jumps and one tunnel, which always surprises the hell out of me. Two for Bright, two for Navarre. So that’s just not normally our issue, so it was weird. Then BOTH dogs ran PAST the jump on a backside blind today, which they NEVER do, much less both of them. Not even a weird or awkward approach, I have no idea what that was about. Bright knocked a bar in three out of four runs, but gets points for hitting some aframes at a distance with me running strongly to the side. Navarre’s weaving looked less clunky than it has, and his running dogwalk looked really nice. Other than the backside blind issue he didn’t run around any jumps … but not for lack of trying. Pinwheels are SO bad for Mr Drifty, he just loses so much time.
So not our best trial, but I have to say it was QUICK, only doing premier I was there for an hour and a half, which is awesome. Though it does involve basically running both dogs back to back, which, yeah, not my best thing. (Puff, puff!) We had fun, the dogs were happy. The October of Trials continues next weekend with a day of USDAA. I will make sure I support everything and apparently practice backside blinds, which I would have put $100 that my dogs would never do what they did today …