Merry Christmas!

It’s been a crazy December, I’m glad I got all my Christmas decorations up early, as somehow the holiday snuck up on me. And, miracles of miracles, I finally got to pick up my car from the shop after our accident – only a month later! Bright really hated being in the pickup truck, so that should make her very happy. I love my little Transit, long may it stay undented!

We had a great visit down to the beach for Christmas, with some absolutely perfect weather. The dogs so love the beach and visiting my parents! They had the most fun opening their presents and taking long runs on the beach running around trading off the ball. Beaches are made for dogs!

Winter of Herding: Day Three

We were off to a good start with our herding ambitions this winter, three days of herding in a row – unheard of! Day three we actually got to go practice by ourselves in a bigger field that we used with our lesson with Dave. I was super proud of Haku for making progress, a really good practice where he was doing better at the longer outruns and looking for sheep. He also took corrections at a distance, when he came in too early I was able to redirect him back out to keep looking and he did it! Still plenty of work to go in that department, but, hey, a little progress here and there will hopefully add up by the end of the month. We also practiced driving the sheep around me, which he did really well with. Driving sheep farther away from me, that’s his weakness – he’s not really staying in contact with the sheep, and very questioning at a distance. I also practiced the art of yelling at a distance, I can get pretty good inflection with my ‘HEY’ to help get Haku to slow the hell down on his lift.

Haku had SO much fun – he’s loving our herding vacation and we got in another lovely hike afterwards. So far my winter break is off to a great start.

Winter of Herding: Day Four

After our trip to the beach we had another practice, where, once again, didn’t get rained on. I think the universe wants me to do herding, as I feel uncommonly lucky with the weather. We’ve had some crazy wind and pouring down rain, but, strangely, never when herding – and I’ve been expecting it. I have plenty of waterproof things to help me slog through the winter, but they have not been needed … yet. If we really do get 29 days of herding, I’m sure I’ll need them at some point. Haku gets filthy no matter what though, that boy is a dirt sponge.

I had less of a plan for our practice, but was really happy at how confident Haku is now in this bigger field. Unfortunately I do think a lot of his success is due to him just learning to run down a fence until he sees sheep though. Still, one step at a time. Still working on not lifting the sheep with speed, the farther away he is the less thoughtful he is. He tends to be really good once he gets within a certain distance of me. Did some nice downs at extreme distance today, probably because he definitely has a lot more questions at distance at this point and is really looking for direction.

I felt Haku was a LITTLE better with driving at a distance, but he still literally turns around and gives me this look like, “Really?” Driving up close we worked on trying to randomly flank on verbal only and that was … well, not terrible, but not super good either. It’s good practice for both of us.

My plan was to work on settling down on his fetch, turning the sheep around me and then driving back out around some stumps. And I think this is where a lot of my issues come in – I’m pretty good at APPROXIMATE herding. Go THAT way-ish, or kind of in this direction, or in that general area. I suck at driving the bus when we have an EXACT target. And I don’t think we ever successfully completed even my imaginary courses. Approximate herding is much easier.

Winter of Herding: Day Five

I’m on a roll – 5 days down, 24 to go! We had a lesson down in Scio with Ian today and worked on driving. I think we can all agree that Haku doesn’t REALLY understand driving. So we looked at both what distance he’s most comfortable with, and just correcting when he would try to stop the sheep on the drive with me closer to him to support him. Which, once again, is mostly the art of yelling “hey” at my dog.

It was a bit confusing as I wasn’t supposed to use his flanks, or tell him ‘come’ (which is my way getting him to switch directions because remembering inside flanks takes me about 20 seconds before I can call it) – and these sheep really want to get to the many open gates and such that are in the big field and I really don’t want them to escape! Still, it’s been on the list to work on just driving with no fences to stop or help (or hinder) us. So lots of good stuff and by the end he was pushing without me having to stop and fix his line every 10 feet. Now, we weren’t trying to move the sheep in any specific direction, which makes things a lot easier. I do much better with approximate herding.

We also got a couple challenges with sheep, which I don’t think Haku would have been able to do before. First was going into the pen and attempting to move the sheep out into the field that REALLY didn’t want to go out into the field. This was a big amount of sheep, maybe 30? So lots of angry sheep facing off on him and yet he kept a good amount of pressure … for Haku. We got some sheep out, anyway. And one of the sheep we got out was a dominant ram who challenged Haku quite a bit (justifiably, when Haku was too close) and Haku stood up to him and still moved him. I don’t think he would have been able to do that last year.

Much better distance on his outruns in the big field, no stopping at all! He got to ‘catch’ the sheep from escaping several times. Well, catch and release, in his case. He did great covering, got them turned … and then just kept leaving sheep behind everywhere. Hmph. The good news, he knows ‘look back’ pretty darn well and would go back for them … but it was pretty much a mess at that point. So I think when things get too exciting he’s not sure what to do, but bringing back just a couple sheep is a common issue of his – not very helpful. He doesn’t know it’s important to bring ALL the sheep.

So lots of good stuff from Haku, it’s fun to be able to work on different things every day and we have driving homework for Sunday.

Navarre got to work with Ian, which went better than it had before. It’s interesting to see how exuberant Navarre is with Ian, he’s super wiggly and excited to see him – yet he’s all business with Dave. Ian yells WAY more than Dave, but Navarre definitely respects Dave more than Ian at this point. Still, Navarre was trying really hard to understand someone new, and showed some nice bits and was only mildly obnoxious. He was very happy to play.

Oh, and more nice weather today – the herding luck continues. Dogs are now filthy and happy – and tomorrow … we herd.