Ian’s sheep camp was long, there is a lot to talk about with sheep. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous, downright chilly at times and we even had the most rainfall since January. Well, in Portland they did, I don’t think we did down in Scio, but we did get wet. It was perfect though, and I very much enjoyed hanging out in a beautiful setting all day long learning something new.
This was a very helpful experience. In herding they don’t really have a process to initiate the newbies, they don’t break things down and explain the hows and whys of what you’re training. The secret does come down to the sheep, which, once again, no one really talks about sheep behavior and how those effect what you’re trying to do. Well, at least in a way I could understand. Definitely helped fill in some pieces of the puzzle. At least in theory, I can’t say my practical application really improved much. Oh Navarre.
So I now know what they’re talking about by ‘lead sheep’ and how to identify that sheep and other types in the group, why they do the things they do and what to do about them. Theoretically. That requires actually being able to trust your dog to do their job so you can actually WATCH the sheep, which you most definitely should be doing. Which I am not with Navarre (but I can with Haku!). I really tried to get a better understanding of why I end up with issues like split sheep, and while it would be nice if that never happens, what to do when it does (aka ‘driving your car into a ditch’).
It was interesting to see what you should be looking for when you walk the field for a trial (which is not even a thing I knew existed, as no one has done that at any of the trials I’ve been to – well, in the lower levels). It was interesting to learn about the different breeds of sheep and what they’re like and what trials use what – but not super relevant. Navarre and I won’t be trialing for a long, long time (and very possibly not ever).
We did lots of exercises of moving sheep ourselves and pretending to be the dog for someone else, or directing someone else as our dog. I was pretty flat out terrible at a lot of those, I had a hard time taking it all seriously pretending another person is was my dog. But learning to move sheep myself was really helpful, I just haven’t spent any real time with just sheep, without a dog, so that really helped me see how things work.
However, I just can’t do the yelling. I definitely get and appreciate the concept of teaching the dog to read the sheep and fix issues without being micromanaged by you. I think both me and my dog love that idea, I’m quite sure my dogs are in a much better position to really fix things before they go into a ditch. But the yelling … oh, the yelling. I just don’t think that’s the right way for me to communicate with my dog that they need to figure out how to fix something. And then being around other people yelling, I like that even less. Now, Navarre could care less, he loves yelling as it’s associated with sheep and he just thinks sheep are the best thing in the world. But it’s still a constant argument with him, and I’m not up for it and I don’t like it.
So I really enjoyed the concepts that we learned about, including teaching the dog to work independently to fix problems as they arise. All very helpful and logical, I just need to find another way to go about it. Navarre and I do not work that way. Ian and Navarre work great that way. Well, they work, it’s still a constant argument though – and not a little argument, it’s always a BIG argument before Navarre settles down a little. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s not helpful to have a sheepdog that can’t work until he’s gotten in trouble 12 times.
So while I feel I learned a lot about sheep and what is SUPPOSED to happen, I don’t feel like I have a clear plan to get there. Without yelling. Or with yelling, to be fair. What I think we need to do is like anything else we work on – break it down, make the dog successful, be clear with each piece before trying to just throw it together and yell at him. So hoping to have time to actually practice and think about what it is that is most important to me with Navarre and herding, and that’s feeling like we’re a team and making sure he knows what his job is, and a clear response when he doesn’t feel like doing that. I most definitely don’t want a robotic dog, I want a partner. You don’t yell at your partner.
Navarre didn’t actually have much to do over the weekend, but he got to work some – which is more than my other dogs, that mostly hung out in their crates in the car. So a long weekend for them. Navarre just did little things, where mostly Ian had to take over as Navarre and I were just a trainwreck. He did work for Anne, which he thought was fun. He was never at all the least be sad or pouting. At all. He was, if anything, more high every time.
Asher seemed more interested in sheep, I let him watch some and he found them curious. So Ian put him in the round pen this week, where the sheep immediately tried to commit suicide and slammed into the fence – Asher avoided them after that. So not ready yet, but definitely getting more into controlling motion of dogs and cats, he’ll get there eventually, I’m fairly certain.
Navarre worked for both Ian and I this week, and things went much better with Navarre and me (and with Ian too, actually). Maybe he does herding better without an audience. Or sitting the car waiting all day. Still, tiny progress is always appreciated. One step at a time. Haku also did very well, we just worked on turns for his AKC arena trial this weekend. He’s such a good boy, though struggles to cover the sheep these days at the farther distances. I may be imagining it, but I feel like he’s gained muscle since we started his new supplement and switched foods. I certainly haven’t seen any stiffness since we went off the veterinary joint formula food, which is good. And we’re on summer break, which means we get out and about a lot more, which is always good.
Took the dogs down to the beach and they had a great time. Asher was a fan of the beach, but I can’t say I know any dog that isn’t! He even swam in the ocean, which is impressive. He did pretty well for his first road trip, including sleeping like a little angel through the night on the bed and I left him several times in a soft crate while we were gone and he didn’t destroy it! He did bark a bit when people would come near on the beach, which was unusual, but he didn’t do it after the first time. Still, we need to get back out in the public and make sure this isn’t a ‘thing’. He did pretty well with all the uncontrolled offleash dogs running up to us, so there’s that. Obi didn’t like him, who usually likes EVERYONE, including Bright who just torments him bossing him around in his own house. There is something about that puppy that just seems to make a very bad first impression. Asher is running around with the other dogs more, which is good and bad as he’s also doing some drive by hair pulling, which, naturally, they don’t appreciate.
Went up to Frenchman’s Bar again this week and he had a great time romping in the water with my dogs and Carol’s dogs. He really seems like such a nice puppy, occasionally obnoxious but I don’t get the dislike from other dogs. I’m ever hopeful he’ll grow out of it. He really is an easy puppy for ME to live with though, other than his destructive streak. He has a good heart and tries very hard, and he’s much more focused on me than Navarre was at this age. No problems hanging out with us while we had lunch, I was glad to see there was no worry at all about people coming and going around him. And he really likes ice cream!
Love that little goober puppy, I’m very much looking forward to him getting past the four month old stage – oh, so not attractive. He looks like a sable currently with his dark hair growing in through his bleached out puppy coat. His teeth are all falling out like crazy and we’ve laid off any tugging for a while. It’s amusing watching him try to eat. His ears rose and then lift and then fall back to ‘puppy’, it’s like a cycle now. I’m pretty sure once he’s done teething we’ll get back to rosed ears. Though they were completely backwards and soaking wet the other night, yet again – Navarre had obviously been having a good time molesting the puppy. Weirdo.
Bright did play with Asher for the second time, we were just hanging out and suddenly Bright started wrestling with him on my feet, I was super surprised. So was he, you could tell he wasn’t sure if she was going to tell him off. They played for a while, until Bright was done, and he immediately backed off when she told him. So, encouraging. Little steps towards acceptance.
I’m actually pretty pleased to see that Asher appears to have the same ‘tiny balls’ that Navarre does. They remain smaller than many 8 week old puppies at four months. I am a big fan of Navarre’s tiny balls, it’s like getting the benefits of an intact dog without any of the more obnoxious traits – and naturally sterile, so no need to worry! I think Ravi has the same tiny balls and their brother in FL still has none, I think. So tiny balls must run in the family.
Otherwise we didn’t do a whole lot of training recently. Mostly review, and briefly introduced scent discrimination one night. He did get both his Intermediate and Advanced trick titles too, such a good boy. Though we have to actually get him registered to do something with them! I have lists of behaviors to work on, but I’m trying to wait to do a lot of the agility flatwork until we’ve introduced some herding. I’d like to work on getting the beginning of a sit-up, still need to work on backing up to an object, side legs, back leg lifts, bow, heeling, skateboarding, caveletti and working on stationing while I’m working with another dog. Always something to work on!