Ridiculously Hot Summer Herding

You have to wonder if the world is coming to an end soon. Record breaking high temperatures in JUNE for multiple days in a row … wow, not good. 117 degrees! That’s just … I can’t even wrap my head around it. Will this start to become normal? Is this is an aberration? Time will tell, but life certainly has had a lot of ‘unprecedented events’ the last few years. We survived, and the property MOSTLY survived. My poor shade tree in front that lost a big part of it during the unprecedented ICE STORM earlier in the year lost another limb … on the same side as before (right on my new fence!). I don’t think the tree is going to make it at this point, I certainly wouldn’t sit under it, it’s dangerously lopsided now.

Anyway, things got crispy, the wind storm definitely took out some things too – and I cancelled classes and went to the beach, so missed the worst of it all. The new A/C in the house did a good job though, it couldn’t quite keep up during the 110+ hours, but it stayed way cooler than outside. At the beach the dogs had such a good time, Bryn even did a little swimming in the tide pools! It was tricky though, with Bryn in season. It’s safe to say, Asher has WAY more of a libido than Navarre ever did (Navarre found girls in standing heat to just be annoying). This is MUCH harder for Asher, and annoying having to shuffle dogs around. Will be glad when it’s over, and Asher has his appointment at the reproductive vet the end of the month, and if he’s shooting blanks I’ll go ahead and neuter him. If he’s got swimmers … I don’t know, I LOVE that dog, I’ll probably try keeping him and Bryn intact and see how annoying it gets. Maybe neither one needs to be bred, but they are both young, I’d like to keep the option open. And, yeah, not to each other – Bryn needs to have cute TINY babies, and Asher … will not provide that.

Life has been a bit topsy turvy, but we had a herding training weekend and I’m really happy to see Asher acting like he’s finally figured out driving. And I’ve finally figured out why he will sometimes act like he can’t do it at all – especially at Dave’s. We hadn’t been out there since our last disastrous lesson, and I was determined to help Asher be successful. We started working with some of Ian’s squirrely shetland sheep – and absolutely no issues, driving and responding … like Asher. So then we moved over to working with the two big heavy dogbroke baby dog sheep – and Asher’s brain just exploded. THIS was the dog that I kept seeing at Dave’s, and not many other places – because we are almost always working on flighty sheep. Put Asher on heavy sheep and he doesn’t know what to do – and he has a VERY difficult time going into the pressure of trying to move sheep like that. We had stalling out, not wanting to flank, if you insisted he’d go WAY to the other end of the arena to try to escape the pressure. So …. yeah, there was the issue. The good news, working with just those two big fatties he gained a lot of confidence and started doing much better figuring out that he COULD move them and he COULD go into pressure. Super pleased!

Practice at Maddy’s was similar, he was driving really nicely and no arguing at all. He still doesn’t have small flanks, which screws up our drive lines, but no stalling out or questioning. Finally, we worked with Ron as well, and Asher was spot on (you know, for Asher). We tried all sorts of different scenerios of having Asher go into pressure, and he was not only pushing like he knew what he was doing, he was HOLDING HIS DRIVE LINES and fixing them! When did he learn that? I definitely think he’s finally understanding what his job is, and when he understands something he tries SO hard – love that dog!

Then there is Bryn, who is NINE MONTHS OLD! They grow up so quickly, and nine months old is still such a baby … but it’s not THAT much of a baby any more. It was clear after our disastrous experience down in Scio that it was time to put some control on Bryn around sheep. She can do it everywhere else, it’s not like we haven’t worked on it – but sheep are by far her most exciting distraction. Of course, I’m such a big softy with that girl – I couldn’t be the one to do it, so I had Dave and Ron be the bad guys. It took a LOT of pressure to get her to lie down on sheep, but, yes, she can do it if she wants to. And she is quite the pushy teenager at the moment, it’s time. I worked her on LEASH around Maddy’s sheep to practice the lie downs, and then Ron worked on both lying down and calling off – oh, so hard for the baby brain. She is definitely not at all reliable, but she’s now had the introduction, and acknowledged that she can do it, and she can work through that pressure and still want to work. Her cow dog is coming through, in many ways she reminds me of Navarre at this age – she definitely just trying to work THROUGH the people, not with them. But she is looking good with what’s she’s doing with her baby herding, she seems to have good feel for her stock, now it’s time to get her to understand it’s a team activity.

I’m still not planning to work her without assistance, she’s a much more complex project than Asher was. Asher is such a good boy, his favorite part of herding remains when you call him off and he gets to run back to me at a million miles per hour with a huge grin on his face. He makes it easy! I think Bryn will be good, but harder. Cuter though … much, much cuter.

Then we went to a herding trial! Asher’s last hurrah in Nursery, he ages out the end of the month. It’s all a bit complicated, he just turned two and you CAN run in Nursery until they’re three – but it’s based on their birthday. It was just fun to play with just the baby dogs, but we’ll move to ProNovice, competing against the more experienced dogs. ‘Competiting’ – heh. Nursery was fun because it is a limited time opportunity, so it gave us a reason to give it a go even though Asher is clearly not ready for prime time. We both got a lot of good experience though, one baby step at a time.

Another trial at Ian’s, this time on a Monday, so no fresh sheep, they were more sedate than the last trial. The good news, we achieved my goal after at the last trial where Asher would NOT drive, only flank – Asher didn’t have any issues driving! No stalling out, no stopping, no looking back at me – big improvement. As that’s pretty much the ONLY thing we’ve worked on since then, I was pleased. Of course, he could only actually do one run – the second run was a total disaster, his brain was fried and he couldn’t do anything but bring me sheep and couldn’t come-bye to save his life. So that was the first time we’ve retired, total baby brain.

Before his brain exploded we did have a run I was happy with. We couldn’t pen, which was mostly about me, but also because Asher was not squaring out. His driving I was happy with, I think we got some panels. Outruns were pretty subpar and tight, not sure why, but no problems with his lifts. Things went …. okay, he wasn’t responding like he does when he is settled and listening well. So downs were slippery, responding the commands was sketchy. I think we ended up 3rd in Nursery. He can do some nice things, and much nicer than we did at the trial, so we’ll keep working on it. We obviously need to work on Asher and coming into pressure (which may have been part of his implosion in second round), training small flanks and sprucing up his outruns. And shedding!

His next trial is theoretically in Idaho the end of October, which will be ProNovice this time. Yes, I invited myself back to Bonnie’s, it’s so much fun to hang out there. So hopefully play with some sheep, see a couple presenters and trial at a new location – I’m looking forward to it. Oh, and my big goal is to get Bryn ready to be able to work out there – which means getting her to the point she can work without fences! We have three months, we’ll see how it goes – she’ll be a year old then!

As for Asher, we are going to a trialing clinic down at the beach in August, sheep camp with Ron and Heidi in September and then Idaho in October. In between we’ll try to keep practicing as much as we can, ideally on heavier sheep and with heavy draws.

And Ian ran Navarre at the trial! I didn’t get Navarre down to see Ian as much as I would have liked before the trial, but I was shocked to see Navarre has actually improved and did some nice things! It is hilarious the amount of yelling that goes into running Navarre (who really thought lie down was optional – and usually does). It makes Navarre really happy though, he had a blast – I think he likes the added excitement of a trial. I think more and more he’s actually choosing to use the skills that he has, rather than just do whatever he wants. He’s feeling more confident standing up to sheep and it’s almost like he’s finally figured out that there is a point to all of this. He still wants to do it his way, but him and Ian are a good match. Definitely needed work on his outruns and lifts, but they did some great driving. They never got the pen, and Navarre is still slicing his flanks (as always), but he now seems to understand what the point of pens is and was covering without having to be asked. So just cool to see him actually being able to do things, and do them confidently. Good lord though, he’s giving merles a bad name, he acts like an 8 month old puppy with absolutely no self control outside of the field. OMG, the whining and carrying on. Dork. But a happy dork, we’ll try to get him down to see Ian when we can. And maybe Carol will run him in some AKC trials … we’ll see.

Then it was really fun to have Bonnie out here, so much fun to see Rooster win his first Open trial – he was magnificent and him and Bonnie are just so smooth and connected on all their runs, I love it! I just adore that boy, and I REALLY want another Rooster baby. I don’t NEED another dog, but it’s hard to resist because he really throws the Rooster in his puppies. He’s being bred to a cute whippety smooth coat dog that is a lovely herding dog (she won Nursery at a trial she was at last weekend!) and a really nice mover who is FAST and athletic – I think those puppies are going to be really nice (and really fun herding and agility dogs!). Don’t need another dog, don’t need another dog, don’t need another dog …

Happy to have Bryn out of season, she didn’t seem to drag it out, at least. I did finally get her some pants, you know, too late – but ready for next time. She didn’t seem to mind wearing them. So if she goes six months, we’re looking at the end of December. It wasn’t too crazy this time and other than going off of food, I didn’t see any real weirdness. Knock on wood, I hope that continues. She’s happy to be back playing at the arena and everyone getting to be out as a group. We are SO CLOSE to having our field back – impatiently waiting for them to collect the grass seed they cut last week. Asher is ready to RUN.

Haku is a bit gimpy, Heidi brought her big stock tank, which the dogs are loving with all this heat – but it’s hard for Haku to get in and out, I think he over did it. He turns 12 years old this month, my wonderful boy – he’s still perfect. I have been thinking about possibly getting him into a class, but there is nothing close by. Maybe he would like to play in nosework or something. I want him to have some special time, I will think about it. Maybe an online class.

Doing bits and pieces with Bryn in agility, she really loves it. We did a little bit of sequencing and started sending ahead on the teeter (just doing the end). Going to start putting the running contact board with the dogwalk plank and see how that goes. Not going to enter any trials until the Fall, so Asher is a bit on the back burner. There is nothing that stands out that he needs work on in agility, just needs experience. Summer is not the time to do it though! Navarre still runs with Dot every week in class and has a great time. Having to get up REALLY early for hiking again, and it’s officially Seed Season – they bring home the whole forest these days. Thank god Bryn lost some coat with going into heat, she has the most hair!

Heading towards Summer Break with teaching, doing trick classes, as usual, which is fun – but will have more time this summer to hopefully work sheep more – and being less busy! What a crazy busy year it’s been, need a break!