Sheep Camp

Things are starting to get settled at the house, the puppy is growing up, and I’m starting to figure out new routines with the new house. Spring is here and everything is BEAUTIFUL. I adore this time of year, when everything is new and blooming and the bugs aren’t really out yet, it’s not too hot or too cold and I just fall in love with Oregon all over again. Eventually it will get to be my least favorite season (Summer!), but, for now, it’s perfect. We have all been loving spending so much more time outside – which is something that just wasn’t pleasant to do at all in the Hubbard house. The new place is just so relaxing and perfect, we’re all very happy here.

Bryn is 7 months old – holy crap! Puppies aren’t puppies for very long, and in many ways I feel like I didn’t properly enjoy her puppyhood. But she remains a lovely addition to the household and we are slowly gaining skills here and there. Structure would probably be good, but is unlikely to happen. I do feel like things being more settled I have more time to focus on the dogs again. Which is good, they need work!

Bryn seems to know very little, but is pretty remarkably easy to live with. She has an old soul feel about her, and while she does have her puppy moments of chewing things up or still occasionally peeing on the floor (which took me a while to notice!), she is a good girl at heart. I don’t feel like we have any particular issues, just things that haven’t been trained yet. We did finally get a solid group stay and waiting while I released all the dogs but her … inside, at least. Her recall is good in every day situations, but I don’t trust it to work when I REALLY need to it to (say on, like, sheep …) so she gets picked up a lot more than my dogs normally ever do. And while she LOOKS small, she’s one heavy little cinder block that has a talent for flipping over and going completely limp when you try to pick her up. It’s comically difficult.

Bryn doesn’t have the training ‘spark’ yet. At least, outside of agility. She LOVES agility (and sheep, obviously), but training behaviors she continues to show more displacement behaviors than I’d like, sometimes even with things she knows. She’s not an equal partner in the process yet, she’s not joyfully joining in, but very seriously trying to figure out what I want … not quite there yet. So we don’t train much, and when we do, it’s stupid stuff that I don’t care about as I don’t feel like she’s ready to train ‘real’ behaviors yet. Hence why I don’t think she knows much. She knows all the silly pet tricks, hand touches, pedestal pivots, back up, sit up, hugging, waving, play dead, roll over, hold an object, retrieve, leg weaves, wobble boards, balancing – that sort of thing. She doesn’t OWN the behaviors though, and there is a disconnect I think between what she thinks is happening and what I think is happening. To this day when we’re training and she’s doing a behavior I mark it, I try to reward it, and she’s still just trying to do the behavior. For her it’s not a series of events where her behavior is what drives rewards, she’s so busy seriously problem solving she has no time for stupid food rewards. So, yeah, border collie problems – they are so WEIRD about their learning process sometimes.

In agility we have continued to play around with wing wraps, slowly getting more commitment. It’s the first time I’ve trained the behavior completely ‘in action’ without training a strong independent offered behavior first. I’ll have to say, it actually seems to be about the same. I don’t know if she’ll ever do ‘multiwraps’, but the good news – Bryn can actually collect! At least, so it appears at the moment. I used to think Asher was going to collect too – and he DOES, until there is height on the jumps, then it disappears. I did introduce Bryn to tiny jumps, and she thinks they’re fabulous. She pretty much thinks everything in agility is fabulous. So we have put together some tiny sequences, where Bryn might be able to collect, but she wants to flank out like nobody’s business when it comes to attempt to running multiple jumps. So that will be an adventure, I’m sure. So funny to watch her scramble around with her little legs – they go so fast! I don’t know if she’ll end up being a fast agility dog, but at least at the moment she certainly is enthusiastic anyway. So some baby jump sequences, go ons, pinwheels, with tunnels – such fun baby agility! We’ve introduced her end of teeter behavior, so she has been finding that position with the end a few inches high. We’ve worked on the running contact platform, but that one really needs to be trained with food first, she gets too excited with the toys.

So in many ways she’s pretty typical border collie – not that excited about food, but super excited (one might say TOO excited!) about toys and action. So working through her overexcitement biting when setting up and, omg, so much adorable herding flanking in agility. No lack of enthusiasm though! And as that’s what I feel is missing in her ‘behavior’ training, I let her get away with a ridiculous amount of bad behavior in agility. I’m sure that won’t bite me in the butt … But she can be VERY serious and way too in her head sometimes, right now I want her to think of agility where she gets to let loose. Once again, not REALLY training anything – just working on getting the training mindset I want to see, which is very different from what I get at home. Anyway, every dog is such an adventure and it’s been interesting how everything keeps telling me we just need to take it easy, no pressure, no focusing on anything, she’s not ready to REALLY train anything. But things are getting trained, just coming around the back way. I think we will get there sneaking in the back, rather than approaching from the front like with Asher (Asher is such an easy, straight forward dog to train!). Started tunnel threadles, which she thinks is really fun too.

Bryn does continue to be the golden puppy, she’s SO cute, so cuddly, so fun and easy and I just adore her. And on sheep … wow. Talk about DIFFERENT than any other puppy I’ve even seen before. She is so business-like I don’t even know how to handle her. There is no frantic circling and trying to get her to give the sheep room – Bryn understands how to control the sheep, understands how to stay off of them and control from a distance. She’s IN CONTROL, and CALMLY in control. And I’m like, “Uh, how do you TEACH a dog that already knows way more about what’s happening than I do?”

We had such a fun three day weekend of herding at Maddy’s with Ron and Heidi. It was an amazing amount of work for the dogs and I’m glad I had enough dogs to spread it out! We worked twice in the morning one instructor and twice in the afternoon with the other. So it really helped to cement the skills we were working on. Bryn got to work once every day. We started in the round pen and then moved out to the small field – I think she needs to work in the big field! Bryn understands how to work WAY off the sheep and control them – not sure when she learned to do that, but she does. She can keep those sheep to me no matter where the draw is, it’s really amazing to see her understand completely without training exactly what she needs to do. Which isn’t to say there wasn’t some sheep chasing and (adorable) gripping. But that was mostly just that initial blow up before settling down to work. Because she is so different than any other puppy I’ve seen started, I’m clueless how to even progress with her. We have a lot of work ahead (didn’t I just do all of this with Asher?!), it will be an adventure. So far she seems AWESOME, I’m sure she’ll have her issues too.

As for Asher I continued to be thrilled with him in herding. The mini sheep camp was perfect for finding our groove and working on weak areas. Turns out, yes, he can slow down if you ask him to – he’s Asher, he’ll do anything if you are clear what you want. So that was a big take away, which of course people have been TELLING me, but he’s so much less pushy than Navarre that I had no concept he needs to be even more in control of his speed. So we worked on slowing down at the top of his outrun, slowing down on his lifts, slowing down on his drives, slowing down on his flanks. And he’s such a good boy, he did it all. His natural inclination is enthusiastically throw himself at any task, and I appreciate that, but it’s not helpful in a lot of situations.

Asher learned to shed! Which, once again, I think he’s pretty natural at – because he cares more about me than the sheep. This was SO HARD for Haku and Navarre, and Asher is just like, “Come into you? Okay. What’s next?” So he’s quite happy to come through and not at all worried about the other group of sheep. Which I feel like he should probably care more about them, but I can’t really complain! The rest of shedding is about me, making the hole, setting it up, calling at the right time – he did his job perfectly, and has nice square flanks for setting it up as well. Obviously we have a lot to practice, but I thought it would be a lot harder to get the initial idea.

We worked a lot of driving, and lots of improvement. Lots still to work on, and he still lacks some confidence and has that obnoxious habit of stopping to look at me – but better. Some helpful tips that hadn’t occurred to me – such as stop looking at him, especially when he stops, just watch the sheep, don’t give him eye contact. And stop saying his name, which, yeah, he knows who I’m talking to, I don’t need to keep saying his name.

We did some pen and sorting work, which is very relaxing with Asher and makes it seem easy. He’s such a NICE boy, and not pushy and willing to wait and make tiny adjustments without getting impatient. Still working on our small flank whistles, but he’s definitely better with driving with whistles only. Really, just lots of great practice with my wonderful boy. I was a good confidence boost going into the nursery trials in a couple weeks. I’m sure it won’t be pretty, but it’s nice to know that at least sometimes we can do the pieces, even if they don’t come together at the trial.

Navarre also got a turn at sheep camp, and he was … Navarre. We practiced my ‘stern voice’ – I’m sorry, that’s just not fun for me. Navarre is also entered in the upcoming herding trial, two PN runs with Ian. We did go out the other weekend and had a few people try to run him, no one was sold on him, unfortunately. I’m happy with him and Ian having fun together in PN, I don’t see why he needs to do Open anyway! So who knows what the future holds for Navarre and sheep – but it’s definitely not with me!

We did pick up a double Q at the agility trial the other weekend. Just another one day trial where I actually arrived in time for all my runs! Navarre did great, very smooth and easy (as were the courses!). So that was a nice positive experience for everything to go well. Of course, then our next trial got cancelled due to COVID restrictions. It’s so weird as in the agility community almost everyone is completely vaccinated so it’s so jarring that it’s still running so rampant in the every day population. I am half vaccinated, I was down for about 16 hours with some icky side effects, but could have been worse. I’ll be ‘street legal’ by the end of May.

As for Asher in agility, OMG, that’s a whole other story. At the last agility trial he was following an exciting border collie (who happened to be a mix of Navarre’s sister and Bright’s brother!) – he was a total spaz that couldn’t do anything. So that was disappointing, and his crazy fly off the aframe meant that we had to go home and retrain THAT. He DID hit both weave entrances, but couldn’t do a tunnel to save his life for some reason. Just SUPER HIGH and no one was home, not outside or inside the ring. I am going to try the ‘Calming Care’ probiotics and see if that can settle his ass down at all. I’ve heard conflicting opinions about it. We do have a couple other one day trials coming up this month. I really hope we can get rid of the mask when running soon though, so hard to run and have him hear me (which I think was the issue with the tunnels).

It would help if I actually PRACTICED with him. I continue to be really busy and actually finding time to work the dogs before or after classes is just not happening. You don’t get better without practice … I would really love to get started on the arena here, we need a place to practice that does not revolve around my work schedule! I had a last minute cancellation in an international workshop the other day and ran him in the workshop and it was so nice to actually RUN him! I really just love that boy and we work really well together.

Haku is almost 12 years old, he definitely thinks the rules don’t apply to him anymore. He’s getting MORE OCD rather than less, but remains very happy. That terrible neuter coat that he has is getting worse, I have to keep his ear hair trimmed pretty much flush to keep the mats at bay – he can mat back there just looking at him. He doesn’t have MUCH hair, but what he does is just not very functional! Navarre is still growing into his neuter coat, so I’m not sure what we’re getting there yet. Both him and Asher are essentially smooth on their bodies right now for the spring, with some ruff and tail fluff. They have the perfect amount of hair in my mind. And Bryn … well, she seems to be bulking up for the winter- SO MUCH HAIR. Good lord, I’m a little afraid of what kind of coat she’s going to have. I’ll give it points for being nice and soft at the moment though! Oh well, she can’t be ALL perfect … She was 24 lbs last I checked, at I’m thinking still around 17 inches. I don’t think she has much more growing to do, but she could always prove me wrong. Definitely no problems with her height, she get around the sheep and clears the wall at the agility arena when she wants to go visit people quite effortlessly. We are, uh, still working on stopping that …