Asher’s First Herding Trial

Oof, well, things have been busy around here. The most distracting of which is new temporary puppy, Fauna. She’s related to both Navarre and Bright on her mom’s side, don’t really know anything about the dad. She’s a fun little puppy, very sassy, pretty independent, definitely has her opinions – reminds me of Navarre in that regard. I don’t see any real Bright traits, at least at this age. It was funny, Fauna had been obsessively squeaking a toy for like half an hour and I remembered that Bright NEVER squeaked toys, she always held them gently. Miss that girl.

So Fauna has been here now for … three weeks? She’s starting to settle in and get to be a little less work, puppies are always pretty intense for that first month or so. It’s amazing how quickly they pick things up though, I do feel very fortunate I’ve gotten a chance to play with so many puppies – they are SO CUTE, and so unique. I learn so much with experience, and did I mention the cuteness part?

Fauna is a bitchy girl with other dogs, her and Heidi’s puppy spent a whole week together in Idaho and it was just fighting all the time. Fauna chilled out with my crew, she started out trying to take on Asher with her fierceness. She’s since decided that he can stay, but she definitely has her edge if they get close to something she thinks is hers. But, yeah, girls, and did I mention all the opinions? She’s got a mouth on her too, so many different vocalizations, she can really communicate (and LOUDLY). Let it be said she has her sweet side as well, very cuddly and outgoing with people of all sorts. This week she started getting overly submissive with people though, pee everywhere! Been a while since I’ve had one of those.

The good news, my dogs like her. SO much different from bringing in Asher, I’m glad to see that’s not the new normal. I think she’s also way more obnoxious than him, but they just seem to accept her as she is and not get worked up about anything she does. So, yeah, Navarre doesn’t play with her, but he’s not pouting in angst about her existence behind the toilet, he just ignores her for the most part. Haku would like her to push off, but no more than any other puppy – Fauna, of course, adores him, like all puppies do, he really has a quality. Good ol’ uncle Haku.

And Asher thinks she’s the best present ever, he is SO HAPPY. I was worried he would be too much for her, but she’s a hardcore little bitch, and she was a bit much for HIM at first. They quickly became good friends, Asher being incredibly gentle and careful with her as they wrestle all day. He brings toys to her to tug with, they sleep snuggled up with one another – it’s pretty ridiculous. Asher REALLY likes having a puppy around – at least, a girl puppy. He met a boy puppy, same age, Asher growled and postured (not in a serious way, just being too mature to play with THAT dog). The shine has worn off Fauna somewhat at this point, Asher needs some alone time these days, but I think everyone has said that adding a girl is a good idea.

And, of course, all the litters I was looking at for a girl pup this year for us all fell through. Because, yeah, 2020. Knowing my luck if I do end up finding another girl all my dogs will hate that puppy. But hopefully this is a good test run for when we find the right girl for us that it is the right choice. Having Fauna here has also helped with the inevitable hard comparisons of, well, she’s just not Bright. So I think it’s nice to have a temporary puppy to help me get all the unfair comparisons out now, any puppy I bring home is not going to be Bright, no matter how related. God I miss her.

We’ve been traveling, was so much fun to go on our big Idaho trip with Heidi and Gladys. I think this is the THIRD time I’ve been out there this year? I feel like I went once in early spring, then once in June, and now in late October. Bonnie is such a trooper to put up with us for over a week this time – it was a lovely trip and had such a fun time hanging out with Bonnie and Heidi. We had mostly perfect Fall weather, we got to play at Bonnie’s new 80 acre farm and work with her sheep all week – and play with puppies! It was really nice to get away and just relax. Though I’m still rehydrating, Idaho is so DRY compared to Oregon!

I took just Asher and Fauna, and they were great little travelers. Fauna had only been with me for 5 days before we took off, so it was a big trip for her. She did great with all Bonnie’s adult dogs, and of course her and Asher just had a great time together. Not so much with Gladys, but, yeah, bitches. Fauna took everything in stride though, no worries whatsover. Only one accident in the house, she did great for a puppy that knew nothing at that point. And she slept on the bed every night and went for lots of exploring walks through Idaho – only falling in a pond once. Nice confident little girl.

Asher made a big mistake of getting out of the car when we arrived with some swagger, Rooster was not happy with Asher this trip – probably not helped with having Dove there too, with whom Rooster has had lots of, special dates with. So Asher got taken down quite a few pegs while we were there. Poor guy, he just has a quality. He did good with all the girls and puppies though.

Herding-wise, I was really happy with Asher. Compared to when we were there last back in … June? When he couldn’t even cover the sheep and was chasing them all about, first thing this trip he went out in a new field and found the sheep way in the distance and brought them right to me. Now, we then spent the whole week getting him to LIE DOWN when asked, and his drive was broken (three steps and and turn back to look at me – not helpful!), but he showed a lot of great skills and he was trying really hard. The lie down thing I think was accidentally trained by me, as I had been hoping he was going to fix his overflanking at the top of his outruns on his own, which he most definitely was not. So when I went to just stop him on balance with the lie down he was like, “NO. You go 10 feet past balance and THEN stop!” That Asher is a good boy, but he will try his hardest to do what he THINKS is right. So obviously needed to be clearer, and we eventually fixed his lie down at the top.

He didn’t have any issue lifting off other people and dogs, which was a big one we had yet to practice before his first trial. So the hope was that we wouldn’t be a complete disaster at the herding trial, and it didn’t go too bad! Asher’s first herding trial, just in Nov/Nov at the very end of the day. Outrun, lift, fetch, drive away and pen. I was worried as they had decorated the panels and post with Halloween decorations and I thought it might spook him, or he might possibly be nervous about the set out crew, or who knows – but he was all business, no issues.

Could NOT get him to look for the sheep at the post, he has a bad habit of staring at me waiting to release him on outruns we need to fix. Stopped and redirected him out the first day, the second day I just let him find the sheep as he ran out like a crazy dog. And, yes, Asher was all about speed. Not on his fetching/driving, but on his outrun and flanks it was ZOOOOOOOooooom full crazy speed ahead. Which is not calming to sheep. We were, uh, rather spastic, especially the first day. But, hey, he won Novice! The second day I still did some very silly handing things, but he was more relaxed and we got the pen with only one trip around, his driving was beautiful, lots of good things.

LOTS of things to work on. Like, for instance, we have never actually turned sheep around an actual OBJECT, so we are not good at that. We had never actually put all the pieces together, so we were both just all over the place transitioning from one exercise to the other. But I wasn’t really worried about the herding part, I was hoping for a good experience for him in a whole new place, and he so tried his little heart out. Super proud of that big red boy (one of two red dogs at the trial!). I think he has so much potential, and he’s so much fun to work with on sheep. Incredibly pleased with him, he’s made herding fun again (sorry Navarre!).

Oh, and when we came back from Idaho, where he couldn’t really do much driving with sheep (not compared to what he used to do), that trial must have supercharged him – he’s been a driving fiend! Everything he does is now SUPER INTENSE. Asher has kicked it up a notch in herding, and I’m not sure that’s entirely helpful. To think he used to be somewhat ho-hum about sheep as a pup. He really likes his sheep, or maybe just all the full out running involved – he still does the most incredibly recall off of sheep back to me, I’m afraid he’s going to take someone down, it’s just full out joyful running.

So did some very FAST but very confident driving at Dave’s. I’m not sure of the distances, but it was pretty darn far. He would occasionally sneak around to fetch them, but mostly was just a driving machine. So that surprised the heck out of me, but I’ll take it. Dave said not to worry about the whole SPEED DRIVER thing at the moment, but he does like his pushy dogs. For now, I’m glad Asher’s not staring back at me. I still wonder what switch magically flipped though.

We saw Ron as well afterwards, and still driving nicely. Trying to get him to settle his ass down, but I was pretty pleased with what he did and don’t remember having any big homework other than getting him on whistles. We decided to do ‘cue-whistle-cue’, to help with the delay he was having putting the whistles on sheep. And that I need to decide on a comebye whistle, or just suck it up and be bad until it at least it’s a consistent bad. That’s what I did with Navarre!

He MAY get to go to another trial the end of the month up at Fidos. I think I sent in the entry too late though, so we’ll see. I didn’t notice it was only open for like three days! But they are doing COVID trials, where you sign up and have a two hour window to do all your runs, so that makes it a lot more appealing. And I know we can do this, we just need more mileage and experience. So we’ll see if we can start doing one a month, depending on whether I can actually remember to send it in on time, and they end up being a good experience for him.

And guess who gets to go too? That Navarre, every time I’m ready to just hand him back over to someone else, we have a really good lesson and he makes me feel like we CAN do it together. I had just been having Dave work him, and he seemed to be doing well with that, no stress behaviors (or soreness??). Then we had the Ron clinic and Ron describes it as Navarre just really wants a cranky boss of a handler. When I was just right on top of him he did some great stuff. With a lot of eye rolling, but he was happy. He has skills, he sometimes shows them, he knows perfectly well what he shouldn’t do – but he does it anyway until someone gets after him about it. Troublemaker. I entered him in TWO things at Fidos, both ProNovice and a training Ranch run. I think they will both be training runs, but we will see what we can do. Heh.

So the next potential litter I’m looking at is a herding litter, which was not my original plan, but my agility litters have all fallen through. Would be a half brother to Asher, but the mom is a more stocky looking girl with little tiny legs (well, probably just NORMAL legs, so they look so tiny compared to my dogs!). So bred to Rooster Long Legs, I have no idea what those pups will be like. But as Rooster only seems to want to throw boys, there will probably not be any girls in that litter either … We’ll see what happens, if the breeding even happens. Nice working girl though, we met her out in Idaho and I think it will be a really nice herding litter. Agility wise … who knows?

Thankfully, Asher continues to do well in agility. He’s still like running a freight train, but it’s a fun train. Much like in herding, he will just randomly ‘lose’ behaviors, and we have to retrain them – I’m getting used to that though. Before we left for Idaho he lost his weavepoles again, but his teeter looks good (after retraining that for the fourth time), and he continues to jump fairly confidently as well. We are still working on his baby international foundation, just at 12 inches. I have no doubt he’ll have to stop and retrain a lot of those skills as we go along! But enjoying that. Just enjoying my Asher, he’s a good boy. We might have to look at entering an agility trial. With the training in the ring they have these days that might be how we get our exposure to new places and equipment, as we just don’t have a lot of opportunities otherwise right now. The days of the COVID agility trials are here to stay, I think, at least into the foreseeable future, so I think unless I want to wait until he’s three, we’ll have to give them a try – maybe Jan/Feb? I figure he can at least do jumpers!

Navarre and Haku behaved themselves for my mom while I was gone, which I was thankful for. They are easy dogs these days, all my boys are. Asher is starting to feel more like a dog and less like a puppy finally. Haku can suddenly magically jump into the car again without an issue, he just needed a little ramp confidence for a while? He seems to be feeling good, and that makes me happy. Still have no idea what is going on with Navarre and the mohawk and the peeing. This week he hasn’t been doing any long pees, and I have no idea why – last week he did. MYSTERY. Trying to set up a consult with a vet Dave recommended out of area, so we’ll see if that happens.