Monday, February 2, 2009

Second Herding Lesson

I meant to post this last week since I've already had my third lesson, but better late than never...

This Friday dawned clear and still, which made working the dogs and conversation much easier.

Robin got to work her dog, Rusty, in a different pen with much lighter sheep than last week's group (that's Robin and Rusty in the picture). Some penning of sheep was attempted and almost accomplished, although Rusty seemed to tire more easily than usual. Robin recently changed his dog food and was wondering if this could have something to do with the lack of energy. I was hoping to get some good pictures of Robin and Rusty, but the sun was in just the wrong spot, and Rusty was working too wide to get everyone in the same shot, so I've got this sort of bled-out picture of them working.

Stella's manners improved while watching the other dogs work- most of her vocalizations were quieter, and she only did about three really loud outbursts. I've been working on "watch me" to get her attention off of whatever is causing her to get all wound up and it seems to help a bit. I did need to do a bit of basic heeling up and down the lane a few times to get her attention to refocus once she had seen Rusty do some work.

We went in with a long line to do some work with a different set of sheep than last week- only three, and they were lighter than last week's group. The first time Stella went out, she of course cut one ewe out and would not drop as I asked, but when I yelled "enough!", she did leave the ewe and came happily running to me. The trainer was pleased to see that Stella doesn't fold when given a correction and that we seem to have a good rapport. Several times, the trainer and I both gave Stella the same command at the same time, and the only real issue I had with Stella during this session is that she would not stay down as long as she needed, often times just touching her belly to the ground and instantly standing back up to keep moving up on the sheep.

By the end of the lesson, Stella had gone from being "a nice farm dog" to being "an awesome little dog!" according to the trainer. That's more like it!

After this week's lesson, it became clear that I needed a light long line to do some work with Stella. While picking up pepper spray (some of the dogs on our walks seem only sort of contained in their yards) at a sporting goods store, we found several diameters of rock-climbing rope. It's perfect- lightweight and strong, exactly what I need. My first session with it worked well, and now I don't get bothered by the big lead rope I had been using getting drug through the dirt.

This morning while feeding the boys, I noticed that the sheep next door were out, so I offered to help our neighbors get them back into their pasture. It was convenient to have a long line to use on Stella- and she was more than happy to help round up the sheep and drive them to their pasture. The only problem we ran into was that the guard llamas kept trying to drive Stella off. Stella kept her eye on the llamas, while working the sheep at the same time. These sheep have never been worked by a dog before, so they were pretty darn light.

The neighbors were VERY impressed, and I let them know that we'd be happy to help them move sheep around anytime. No sense in having them run after the sheep when clearly Stella would be more than happy to help out.

So between working on the boys, bringing in the sheep, helping me to gather up the wethers a couple of times, greeting all of the people who came to the farm today, and evening chores, I actually have a tuckered out dog laying at my feet.