Making Progress

We had a visitor over the weekend, an 8 month old border collie who we had met briefly when he was younger. Super sweet boy, and so easy to have around – all 8 month old puppies should take note! He did great with the dogs and the cats, was just a perfect houseguest and slept curled up right next to me at night. Yet, still, Navarre was kind of a dick to him sometimes. Now, this is an intact 8 month old, and Navarre did play with him, but he got grumpy also (and not because of anything puppy was doing). Navarre is not often grumpy, so it was interesting to see.

I was thinking that Navarre might prefer a boy for our next dog, but even with this super, super nice boy Navarre was posturing. So, hm. Bright likes all these girl puppies and Navarre might prefer that as well. Now, he hasn’t been a huge fan of the girl puppies – but I never worry about him with girl dogs. I think Navarre just wants to be the puppy forever. Sorry bud, you’re almost 4, your puppy days are almost over. The Magic Age is almost here!

I would prefer to keep Navarre intact if I can, I like the support hormones give boy dogs. And, hey, he’s sterile – never have to worry even if I do have an intact girl around! Living with that might be a whole other story though. Oh, and Bright liked our houseguest, and was playing with him by the time he left. Haku ignored him, but had no issue with him.  Haku probably would prefer a girl as well. And Bright, well, it’s hard to say but at least with border collies she seems partial to the girl pups. Though Bright gets more puppy-like herself the older she gets.

As for me, our houseguest was super sweet, super fun and super easy to live with – but going back to three dogs is nice, I must say. Puppies are fun to think about, but a lifelong commitment, well, that’s another story. We’re doing well with three, I must admit.

Winter of Herding: Day Fifteen

Back to practice in Molalla, and I continue to find it funny how lovely the weather is. We had a huge wind storm the night before, and it was raining all the way there – and then the sun came out and it was glorious, just me and Haku and the sheep. The universe continues to shine on my herding adventure.

Focus was on lying down on outruns – and where it started to fall apart. Close up, no problem. Mid-way, he was okay in the 10-2 range, had to correct to get him to lie down once he got past that point – but he would (though clearly thought I was just getting in the way of his job). Far away, he could do until about 6 and 9, and then pretty much no response. Getting him to lie down once he was behind the sheep was really hard at all levels, and non-existent far away.  I think I have decided what our first whistle will be, and that’s a lie down. Need to decide what sound I want to use and get on it. I will no longer have the ‘well, maybe he can’t hear me’ excuse going on.

He did better at the beginning of the session, and his response degraded as we went on. I would definitely say this is not his favorite behavior. Still, a good practice overall and one we clearly need to focus more on. I was really happy with his other stuff, he is getting better at driving all the time and I don’t feel like I have to fix him much at all compared to what I did a couple weeks ago.

Oh, and could not get him to line up next to me for nothing. Hm.

Winter of Herding: Day Sixteen

Today lets give Navarre some props, he has been voted (by Ian) as the most trainable of the three dogs I had today. And I’m going to give that to him, Navarre really is a good boy and he IS very trainable. Now, I consider on sheep to be where he is the LEAST trainable, but as I wasn’t the one working with him today, I’ll let Ian make that judgement.

Navarre got to head out to the big field again, after his rather short first exposure to it last time where he promptly lost the sheep. Navarre doesn’t have much experience with sheep that can escape, so he seemed very perplexed by this. Today the sheep we had were really flighty, I tried to warn Ian that Navarre was probably not going to catch escaping sheep as that’s never been his job. Ian is more of a ‘throw them in and see what happens’ kind of guy though, and he’s always quite confident the dogs can do it, so off they went. And Navarre proved me wrong, he can actually keep control of sheep, even when they are quite determined to escape. Go figure.

It was fun to watch, Navarre has never worked with sheep like that or in a field that big or when he would end up so far away from the handler and basically have to figure things out on his own. He was such a good boy though, he was trying really hard. At one point the sheep ALMOST made it back into the pen (they jump the fence), he stopped most of them but not quite all of them. He wasn’t sure what to do, and Ian was WAY across the field, so he’s looking at the sheep he has and over at the sheep still heading to the pen and then went to go collect the escapees. He lost two over the fence at that point though, and then he kind of stopped and looked back at the other sheep, the sheep he’d now stopped and made the decision to try to find a way into the pen to get back the sheep that jumped! And not in a crazy way at all, he was just sort of problem solving, occasionally looking over at Ian to see what he should do, realizing he had to figure out for himself. He eventually brought back all the sheep he could. What a GOOD boy! Let’s just say Haku never worries about making sure he’s got all the sheep. Dove and apparently Navarre are very concerned about ALL the sheep. Very different than Haku – love that boy, but not a deep thinker.

So Navarre was actually being somewhat useful today, and not being a dork. And is also apparently the only dog that doesn’t have a screwed up outrun. Dove and Haku are too wide at the bottom (or their pear is the wrong way). I guess I never really thought about Haku being too wide, nor do I ever remember actually ever teaching him an outrun, so I’m not taking responsibility for that one. That’s just something I think he always did on his own. It’s also very hard to fix, apparently. It doesn’t particularly matter in smaller areas, so this is news to all of us, including Haku, I think – since bigger fields are still all new to us.

So all we can do is ignore the bottom and try to fix the top – but that’s basically number one on our list at the moment anyway. So Haku and I just did outruns today, and worked on yelling ‘hey’ at the top. Herding makes me laugh, but he was getting the idea – slow the hell down when you are coming up on sheep. It needs a lot more work. He certainly wasn’t offering it on his own, but he was doing better once he recognized what we were working on.

Ian was not a fan of my lie down method, says it’s more of a bandaid and we should just fix the problem. Still, Haku did MUCH better at lying down at a distance – and I think it was a good primer for today in responding on his farther outruns. He’s starting to realize he can listen when I’m far away. One step at a time.

Ian also seems to think Navarre will be ready to run in the February trial. You know, in like three weeks. I told Ian he’d better get training then.

And the weather was lovely, of course – downright balmy!

Winter of Herding: Day Seventeen

Back to Scio, I’m getting quite familiar with the drive. Still, the idea of getting up to drive out there and frolic in the mud with sheep continues to appeal. Less flighty, more tired sheep today. Haku did remember what we worked on yesterday, especially with sheep that were less exciting. He CAN slow down when coming in on sheep! Well, when he’s reminded, anyway.

That wasn’t what we were working on though, today was fixing him from coming in too soon on his outrun and lengthening him out to pro-novice distance. There was a lot of lying him down at a distance (hurrah for working on that this week!) and me walking up the field (and then back). By the end he was doing some self correction if he came in too early. It was hard for me to tell when he was coming in early though, so not something I can work on by myself. And, yes, he has now done a pro-novice outrun. You know, with practice.

What was interesting as when we did start to get farther back he kept wanting to cross over when I sent him, which he’s never done before. I also felt he didn’t necessarily see the sheep either, even though they were in the exact same place they had before. He kind of went out much more hesitantly. It’s possible he doesn’t see them, or maybe it was just being that it was farther than he’d gone before. He thought this was GREAT fun though, and good for him for lying down on his outruns when asked when he was far, far away. Such a happy boy.

I worked Navarre in the big field today, which was kind of comically bad. Navarre just gets me worked up into a frenzy – for god’s sake SLOW DOWN AND BACK OFF. I also refuse to blame this on agility, Navarre isn’t at all like this in agility, and is, in fact, fairly sedate in agility overall very responsive (and too WIDE, not close!). Ian says on Thursday we’ll be working on pace. Because I haven’t attempted to fix that problem AT ALL in the last 3 years …

Still, it was interesting before we went into the field Navarre spotted the sheep way across the field sort of hidden next to a fence. He located them immediately with no issues, Haku does not seem to be able to do the same thing. Navarre even gathered them up without causing a ruckus and didn’t let any escape. He’d also win the ‘fastest walk up’ award, and the ‘Navarre, I SAID LIE DOWN’ hall of fame award. Gah, he just gets me so frazzled. Maybe when he’s nine he’ll be relaxing to herd with too.

So ends our streak of 15 days straight of practice. Admittedly, it’s not a LOT of practice, it ends up being like 30 minutes a day. But Haku’s brain is done at that point anyway. It has been enormously helpful, super glad I decided to do this. We’ll have a day off and then back at it on Thursday.