Asher continues to be a fun little herding dog. I need to stop calling him little though, he’s all puppy in brain but size-wise he’s definitely looking more adult! We have achieved some reasonable communication on sheep and he has the basic understanding that he should balance them to me, flank either direction, stop and walk up – if I walk and change directions he will cover as necessary. So that’s really cool, we went from nothing to some basic understanding that this is a team effort. Navarre has yet to get that memo, so Asher already has one up on him.
We attempted one session of introducing the tiniest of outruns and that was a complete failure. While he’s very thoughtful and understands how to cover the sheep (to a certain extent) when I already have control of the sheep, he continues to have absolutely no idea how to gather the sheep in any sort of calm fashion. It’s run straight at them (well, maybe a LITTLE bit of a gather, but not in a helpful way) and scatter them in all directions every time. After the initial chaos he settles down and brings them to me, but that chaos is pretty predictable every time we start. So I don’t like practicing that behavior, which often also involves him ignoring my stay to race off like a maniac. But I have been informed to just ignore it and not make a big deal out of it, so I will. Asher is a good boy, he’ll figure it out in time.
I do need to decide how I’m using my rattle bottle, as Ian pointed out I’m using it both as ‘direction’ and ‘correction’, which I can see would be confusing. Asher obviously isn’t at all actually bothered by the sound, but it does seem to help him understand what I want. Or don’t want. So, yeah, need to figure out exactly what my rattle bottle is actually going to mean. I guess in my mind when I use it when he does things like slicing flanks and overrunning sheep, I AM giving him information – move out, slow down. So, hm. As I didn’t want to mess with that today at Ian’s, I just didn’t really use it – and he was definitely, uh, less controlled. Lots of racing/slicing flanks and things that I don’t care for. However, Ian is not a fan of correcting sliced/rushed flanks with puppies, but letting them figure out to get to balance, and then later on fixing how they get there. I may have PTSD from Navarre though, so I’m reluctant to let him practice that kind of thing.
Still, this was with Asher working Ian’s sheep out in the big field – what a good puppy! This group wasn’t super crazy though, and seemed very tolerant of my puppy and didn’t seem to have any big ambitions to go anywhere. So that helps. Apparently my job is to run backwards, which is a lot to ask in mud with big boots on. Ian’s field is relatively flat, Heidi’s is most definitely not. But the point being is that Asher has to actually feel like he’s pushing the sheep past me before I can ask him to slow down and not push the sheep past me. If the sheep are just walking at their own speed and get past me, that has nothing to do with the dog. So first get Asher to learn to push … and then get him to slow down is our homework. Though really, the babydoll sheep at Heidi’s it’s ridiculously hard to get them OFF of you. For our one attempt at doing tiny outruns I had to actually get AWAY from the sheep, and it didn’t seem to matter how close I walked towards Asher, they wouldn’t get off my legs. So that probably didn’t help the issue, I suppose.
One thing I’m very careful with is Asher’s tendency to disconnect and just keep flanking away from the sheep. He’s always done it, so I don’t think it’s anything I taught, just how he’ll deal with stress, I think. So he doesn’t always do it, but with too much pressure he will. He actually didn’t do much of it today, just one REAL big disconnect when we started out and the sheep went everywhere and I think he was a bit overwhelmed.
Super happy with what he’s doing, having a lot of fun with him and he very much enjoys it. However, there are things he likes better. For instance, at Heidi’s I’d use ‘that’ll do’ when we were done with the session and then go play with dogs. Which Asher REALLY likes. So now when he hears ‘that’ll do’ he runs to a gate and stands there expectantly to go play with dogs, and it takes some coaxing to call him back. So I’ve started to use ‘with me’ instead when I need to call him off sheep, but don’t want to stop working completely. He is very happy to call off, which I find novel, but he enjoys it very much and doesn’t want to get back in the car afterwards. Dork. We have been enjoying our Mini Winter of Herding, I’m trying to think how many times he’s been on sheep this year – 5 or 6 times out of 10 days? Something like that. Plenty for a puppy. We will continue to play until Heidi moves, then we’ll go back to just sporadic practice until I can figure out another option.
As for Navarre, he’s had an issue the last two times he worked with Ian of NOT MOVING SHEEP. Which is just odd, it’s not something that has ever happened to him before. But he’s had sheep that basically turned around and said ‘no’, and Navarre didn’t know what to do about it. He just gets ‘stuck’ in a staring contest and Ian has to go all the way to him to get him ‘unstuck’. So Navarre doesn’t know how to move stubborn sheep, and he’s such a sweetheart I don’t think it really occurs to him that he could force the issue. Kind of weird I had never seen it before and now it’s happened twice. Not sure what that’s about.
Ian and Navarre did attempt the pronovice course with less sheep, but they were totally sedate, and things actually ended up being harder because of that. Herding is always a mystery. Ian said that Navarre needed to square his flanks because he would go too tight and push the sheep to run too much. Which was not news to ME, I’ve been attempting to get him to give some damn space to the sheep since he was a puppy. So they worked on that. Which is good, because the other day after I worked Asher I went ahead and gave Navarre a try, I was having so much fun with Asher I figured Navarre could come out and do some very basic stuff too. OMG – going to strangle him. And Navarre not only wouldn’t listen at all, he was now stressed and eating poo – Navarre and me are a TERRIBLE COMBO. I don’t know what it is, but we just cannot work sheep together, not for anything. So, yeah, maybe Ian is the only one that will ever run him. Who knows?
As for Haku, he did have quite the herding adventure last week with Dave. We went out to work him in the small arena, as I didn’t want to do any big outruns with him. And we get out there and, ziiip, the sheep run out a gate Dave forget to close into the big field and started to make a run for it. Haku valiantly ran out to catch them, and finally, quite far away, he turned them … and then lost them. Possibly because he didn’t know where I was at that point. So then he turns to go get them and he disappears over the hill. And he obviously couldn’t hear me, but I figured he’d be back. But he didn’t come back, so we started walking out to go find him – and kept walking and walking. I don’t know how long he was gone, but eventually here he comes from a completely different direction, bringing me a herd of goats. So, yeah, I don’t know what he was doing out there, but he had a good time. He was, however, pretty sore for a couple days after that.
Adjusting some plans for 2020, the big focus since back in October was looking to find some property to move to. I really liked the idea, I think it’s a good move to eventually have my own arena, and I think both me and the dogs are ready for rural life again. However, as I’m not fabulously rich, my options have been somewhat limited. I have been optimistic that something will come along, and was hopeful that during the winter and holiday season I might be able to sneak in and grab a property without too much competition. I’m in no particular hurry to make the move, but have been ready to go ahead and make the major life change since I decided that this is what I wanted to do.
Made a lot of big angsty decisions about location and possible implications on the future, but after my third offer that has gone nowhere, I’m recognizing that this isn’t going to be as straightforward as I had hoped. And it’s frustrating and disappointing to go ahead and make the huge decision to make an offer, and then have nothing come of it. I don’t like that feeling, and I think it’s because I did have unrealistic expectations that it would be a relatively simple process. I’m not just buying a house, it will eventually be my business as well, there is a lot going into each decision.
Going put the whole process on the back burner, I was trying to power ahead with the changes – but this is all pretty much out of my control, so I need to treat it as such. It’s hard for me, I like to be in control of things and actively working towards things once I’ve made that decision – but no point putting all this energy into something I really can’t influence at all. Also need to look at other locations as well, but for now I recognize that it’s just not something I can actively plan for. It’s a move that will hopefully happen in the next couple years, but I’m in no particular rush so I need to just relax. I do like where I live now and we are happy here – what is the expression, something like ‘want is the source of suffering’? Something like that, and it’s true. When we are focusing on what we don’t have, we lose the joy in what we already possess. I do like my life we have set up in Hubbard, while I think moving to property is a good next move for us, that is no reason to lose sight that we have a wonderful life here already, and don’t need anything else to make us happy.