Herding and Puppies

We had some unexpectedly lovely weather over the weekend, and I had a chance to work the boys on sheep multiple times and multiple days – which pretty much never happens. That really does help though!

Our new sheep, while adorable and so much safer and less painful than our other ladies, have their own issues. First, they don’t stay together, they were not a group when Heidi got them, so they often just go in separate directions – not helpful. Second, they are actually frightened of Navarre, so that makes it hard to herd calmly thoughtfully. Driving with them, even with Haku, is way hard.

First, Haku and I were all over the place, couldn’t get a straight line for anything. I’m having to fix things constantly, and we just never really got the hang of it. The next day, we finally got some relatively good driving, and that felt much better. I’m doing a little better with our turns around the post and not getting tangled up driving a straight line back out. But we ended up being able to do little triangle drives in both directions, with minimal frustrated yelling from me, but plenty of micromanagement. I’m stuck with continually lying him down as he keeps wanting to shut down the sheep on his walk-up. I now understand what that means, and Haku just does it all the time. So I have to lie him down to let the sheep free up. The good news is that I think I know a little better what is supposed to be happening with driving, the bad news is that Haku does not think driving means the same thing I do. Not sure what to do about that. Still, felt good we made some progress and I was pretty quiet and relaxed. Suddenly I’m all about constantly lying him down, need to stop that.

Navarre continued his EXTRA pushy behavior where if we did have the old sheep, they would have taken me out. He wasn’t slowing down for anything, and was diving in and getting super high and I just couldn’t work him close to the sheep at all. The good news, he can still do outruns without being a total goober … usually. The second day I decided to try a new approach, which was just working on little drives and marking the nice steady pace he gives for that (which he never, ever does with fetching). Which would have worked better if the sheep weren’t so freaked out about Navarre stalking them – they would either scatter and panic or turn and challenge when he was just calmly walking up. So not helpful!

Still, I was able to mark and encourage all the lovely calm pace with Navarre, and then we tried to switch back and forth from driving to fetching and seeing if I could keep any of the nice thoughtful pace when we flipped it around. To begin with, no, if I was involved he really thinks he should run me over with sheep – yet he’s so gentle driving! And he kept slicing and diving in at sheep and I gave him a few tries, but eventually he got ejected for that nonsense. I will take lack of pace on fetching, there is absolutely no reason he shouldn’t know by now that slicing, chasing and goosing sheep is unacceptable at this point.

The good news, he finds access to sheep very high value, and with that sort of correction (being ejected from the arena), he was much better the next time. I have argued with him over this kind of thing for years and he’s happy to argue about it, but at least with those kinds of behavior, I’m pretty much done with it. He was much more thoughtful after that, and we were able to do some baby driving and flip it around to fetching and he was a bit more thoughtful – certainly not as bad as he was at the beginning of the weekend. I’m always a little shocked when something we practice actually seems to help, so we’ll continue to play with it. When things actually go well, and the weather is perfect, herding is kind of fun. We’ll see how the winter goes …

Navarre may have had some lightbulb moments with obedience this week, “Oh, you want me heel all the way back here? Why didn’t you say so!” It could be a fluke, but all of the sudden I felt like he was actually offering better heeling, instead of me just constantly fixing and rewarding and not feeling like we were making any progress. Fingers crossed it continues, if we can smooth out the heeling the rest of the behaviors are more black and white. Recalls are better than they were when he was a puppy, but he still wants to stop too far away from me. And he will get better with practice, but whenever we start a new training session he does it again. Faster though, in general, and more into it. Never had a dog so difficult to train on such a simple exercise. Need to remember to work some group stays when we’re out with other dogs, that’s going to be another one that will require some work, I think. He’s never had a super firm stay like the other dogs, for whatever reason (yes, probably handler not being consistent …).

Just did a little agility this week, we’re still running league at the one barn which is just not interesting agility. We did some work with some of the Justine drills though, which is always fun. I was pleasantly surprised to see the dogs threadle proofing didn’t require much work. If I can the information to them, they will do it … usually. We had some where I was threadling and really taking off and they would skip the jump. Which seems to be their new thing, as they have both done it and even in competition. I really trust them … but apparently too much. Navarre got to run with Robert in class this week again, which is really interesting to watch, Navarre loves to run with him and is mostly very responsive.

Had the dogs with me for our car appointment this week, which I didn’t think would be a huge deal as it was just routine stuff and a taillight change. However, when I got there for our appointment they were already an hour behind, and then my simple tail light replacement turned into a huge ordeal of replacing the entire mechanism, which was not only expensive, but also very time consuming. Dogs got to hang out at the dealership for almost 3 hours!

We went for a nice long walk around the neighborhood, but considering the dealership is right next to the highway, it wasn’t real scenic. So I took the dogs into the lobby and there we waited (and waited some more!). Dogs did fairly well, and I get that they were bored – so Navarre got very whiny and fidgety. But they could settle and chill … until yet another person had to come ‘say hi’ to them – arrrgh. They would be totally relaxed and then someone would come over and they would jump all over them (which people don’t like – THEN DON’T COME TO PET THEM), and get all excited and I’d have to calm them down again. Like every 5 minutes for 3 hours. I read an article once than the reason that European dogs are much better behaved in public was because people there don’t feel the need to ‘say hi’ to every dog they come across. It sure does make it easier if people would just ignore them.

Early reports of my robot vacuum (Neato D5) are glowing! I love this thing, I really want it to keep doing what it’s doing right now, which is doing an amazingly thorough job of cleaning my whole house while I’m gone so I come home to a freshly vacuumed house – how awesome is that? I don’t know how long it will hold up, but I am thoroughly impressed at both the cleaning power and the pathfinding abilities – the technology really has come a long way. It gets to every part of the house and hasn’t gotten stuck so far – it’s very good at getting itself out of trouble!

The cats don’t hate it as much as the normal vacuum, and hopefully since it will be running every day they’ll get used to it. The dogs aren’t allowed around it, I don’t want them breaking it (looking at you, Navarre). I’m a little horrified how much it picks up EVERY DAY. How much hair can one house accumulate in one day? A LOT, apparently.  I had planned to use this every day and do a normal vacuum on the weekends, but I don’t know if I’ll need to, this thing seems to have a ton of suction. Fingers crossed that maybe I just won’t have to vacuum anymore? The real test is the long run, we shall see. It’s easy to clean, easy to take the brush off to remove hair, it charges and runs itself while I’m gone – so much awesome. So far, I’m totally in love with this thing, but I’m assuming the other shoe will drop in time.

And I love puppies! Got to meet a litter of 6 week old belgian shepherds and it was just so ridiculously cute I can’t even describe it. Some puppies are cuter than others and this litter was not only freakishly cute, but just bursting with personality and confidence – which is why I like the belgian breeds, I think. A couple are staying local, it will be fun to watch them grow. They are on my list of breeds I would get if the right one came along … but probably won’t. I do very much like them though!