Today was day two and we did okay for ourselves. First of all, after what can only be described as a disaster of an intermediate A course we somehow magically qualified AND placed fifth--wtf? I'll take it but I wasn't very proud of the run. We had ANOTHER melt down at the "z" chute and didn't make it through. So I attempted it once or twice again and then said "SCREW IT!" just moved on. Then we had a total meltdown on the assisted cross drive and it turned into a fetch. That was just embarrassing. I will say, our hold off the gate was FANTASTIC and she held it like a champ. The judge said I did a nice job of handling. Thanks! I felt like an ass and just started having diarrhea of the mouth and issuing commands like crazy. "Away LIEDOWN GoBYE LIEDOWN wait, liedown, walk up walk up , away, what? Wait. What?" LOL i guess it wasn't that bad then!
On B course we did well again but the fetch turned sour and knocked a gogillion points off. It was offline the whole way (apparently--I need to start reading lines) and then the sheep broke at the end for the exhaust. Soda recovered them nicely but the damage was done. I talked to Terry afterwards and she said I need more coffee in the morning and aparently everyone but me was seeing they were about to break. I must confess I wasn't watching the sheep. Classic NOOB.
The outrun was fantastic (no points off!) and the lift was good. I got one point off b/c one sheep didn't lift right away BUT my trainer was doing set out at the top and was watching. She said she got worried when the sheep didn't lift and not only that but I guess she has a reputation for putting wimpy dogs in their place. The ewe lowered her head and pinned her ears at Soda (I didn't see the ear pinning part). Terry said she thought the ewe was going to chase her and try to pound her but I told Soda to "get up there!"--that is her "don't take no BS from no one and bite if you need to" command-- and she did and the ewe turned and joined her buddies a few feet away and gave me no more trouble. Soda didn't need to grip, which was good because AKC gets all weird about it. I am glad for all those confidence building sessions in a packed pen saying "GET UP THERE!" because that gets Soda going EVERY TIME without fail. Terry was impressed with Soda and so was I, especially after she told me the ewe was being a turd!
We executed a very nice pen with a great hold off of it (yay!) but when it came to pull them out of the pen -in B course you pen, then unpen and take them over for a hold-- Soda, who NEVER wants chase, not even when she first started on stock, decided that today was the day and she was going to chase someone. I wonder if it was the sassy ewe who maybe gave her a look and tried to break for it. It happened really quickly so I didn't get a real good luck at what caused it. A quick "HEY YOU GET OUT OF THAT" fixed it but I was like "really?? REALLY?? TODAY???"
Anyway, the rest of the run went really well and we got third place. Yay!
I am so proud of Soda I could explode! We took first place B course started. It was beautiful! Her outrun was best of the day and her lift was smooth and her fetch was awesome--balanced and nice and not too fast.
The pen was a mess though, ! That was mostly my fault but I do have blame Soda a bit for not holding them off --she was in the perfect position but then got all weird about the pressure and fetched them before I could stop her. Then, I tried to set it up again and that didn't work out very well. So I just opened the gate and let them in. The judge, who's post was right by the pen, said, while I was struggling to set it up again "you know you're supposed to pen them in the pen, right?" and I almost died laughing and took that as a hint to just put the damn sheep in the pen anyway I could.
So, that earned us first place in the class! Then we ended up with High In Trial for all of the B course levels. Yay! This was the first trial I've been to where they've split the HIT's between A and B so I was surprised but pleased b/c that meant I won, !
We didn't qualify on A course intermediate though. We had an old problem rear it's ugly head and I *know* how to handle it and I didn't. I panicked and it all went to hell in a handbasket. So, I lost a gogillion points on the "z" chute and NQ'd b/c of that. If I hadn't NQ'd I would have taken 2nd place in that place and probably overall HIT.
I have to gush for a moment about my Soda-Pop: She has tremendous heart and tremendous will. She was a mess of a dog when I got her--not that social, neurotic, not self assured, barely knew sit, confused about leadership and she has blossomed into a real dog. She runs up to people to say hello, she carries herself with an air of dignity (most of the time!) and she is a mostly obedient dog--just enough naughty to be funny! She has turned into more of a border collie than I ever, EVER dreamed of. I had no expectations, really, with her. I just hoped for the best and she's giving me all she can. She couldn't work for more than 2 minutes when I got her, she didn't know how to think and so much as an "eh eh!" would send her running off the field. Now I can push her, drill on her, have expectations, watch her think and most importantly try to do the right thing. She may not always choose the right option but I know that she's trying and that's what matters to me. She looks to me for guidance now, knowing that I will help her however I can and she wants to be my partner.
Soda, you are the world's BEST worst sheepdog ever. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving everything you have and for being willing and able to change for the better. The last six months of our 1 year journey together have really been something. You have turned on, and turned up and stepped up to the plate. Not all dogs can and will and you did. You pull everyday on your meager instinctual resources to try the best you can and I see it everyday and you showed me today what all our hard work is for.
It may just be an AKC trial, but it was a beautiful run and I know how much work we put into running "just" this AKC trial and how hard you tried and more importantly, I know where you have come from.
I really am so proud of my little ragedy sheep dog. Soda, I can't wait to see what other surprises you pull out.
and me and Soda--I don't know why I'm leaning back. I look silly. :)
This was a mess today! We did a novice level outrun (100 yards or so) and it was beeeeeeeaaaaauuuuttttiiiiiifffffuuuuuullll but the fetch was... horrible! Soda has a hard time holding the line and she isn't naturally good at covering and these sheep wanted desperately to be somewhere else. They were pretty flighty sheep.
I ended up with 2 sets of two sheep each and a confused looking border collie standing on the far the side of the field. I had to laugh.
I talked to my trainer about teaching Soda to hold and line and she said she would never trust a dog like Soda to hold the line on her own because she's so loose eyed but that she can be taught to help hold the line and the rest I would need to handle. That's okay with me! Hopefully that will make me a better handler. So that's another training goal:
6.) Help Soda learn to keep straight lines and work on my own handling to help her with this ~~~~~ You know what I want? A dog that drives more naturally. It's such a struggle for Soda and I know we'll make progress but this is the most difficult thing we've done so far and I have a feeling it's going to be the ultimate limit to her abilities. I'm not giving up, I'm willing to work and work and work but it'd be nice to not have to fight so hard!
So I have a trial coming up this weekend that I've been working on for a while. So, once this is done, I need to have new goals!
1.) Whistles 2.) Run in a novice trial in June (I hope) 3.) Work in different locations (this may be difficult, but I'd really like to try) 4.) Lengthen and Strengthen the drive!! 5.) Get to different clinics (super hard but I hope to!)
Well, these aren't fantastic but they beat the heck out of the cell phone ones, I tell you what!
Okay, these are both away-to-me outruns. I couldn't tell you how far off if I tried. I am spatially challenged. More than 20 feet--I'll go with that. I focused on away because of the issues we had last week. We weren't in exactly the same area but close. Anyway, you can see the fence posts in this video. There isn't fence on a good portion of them and it's good for her to go out of the posts to stay wide enough but that's when she started critter hunting. Anyway, we were further up so the fence started back up again so I couldn't push her out or she wouldn't have been able to get back in to move the sheep.
She should be deeper/wider at the top--looks like she lifts at 1 or 2 o'clock. In one video, you can hear a bit of panic in my voice. I wasn't really paying attention (videoing and stock dogging is hard!) and realized that Soda was running the sheep right at me with a deranged look in her eyes. She LOVES to push the sheep over me. And, I talk too much.
I had one of those great, every-great-once-in-awhile lessons on Thursday that had me beaming all day long.
We've been working so hard on driving and on this day, Soda wore her big girl pants and really showed me that she could do it. She really just listened and paid attention and trusted me and it was a beautiful thing. It wasn't a far drive but it's start. We drove to one chute, through the chute and to another chute and through that chute and she even did alright on the assisted cross-drive. This was all in an arena. I was just beaming! I also got one of those rare compliments from my trainer and it just made my day!
We also worked on outruns and she LOVES that so it's always easy to work on. She ran farther than she's run before and was actually running pretty wide. She needs to be pushed out at the top so we'll be shortening it up and pushing her out but she has all the toys and she's keen enough now (as opposed to 6 months ago) that I can push pretty hard without her shutting down. She understands that she's not in trouble, she just needs to fix it. We had a small breakdown on her outruns on the away side, though. She ran out, out of the pasture to get nice and wide (you'd have to see the set up to really know what I'm talking about...) and outside of the fence line is a lot of bushy tall grass and when she was coming in at the top for the lift she stopped and started critter hunting!!! Rage flew through my veins, LOL. I yelled and hollered and went up and got her then worked on wee tiny outruns and flanks through the tall grass. I then pulled her back for a longer but not as long as at first outrun and ran with her, verbally encouraging her to move through the grass. Then we ran the long outrun again and she slowed down at the top in the grass but didn't stop. I am sure we'll see this again, but we can work through it. The go by was fine.
I was really proud though, that she knew she needed to be out of the pasture to be wide enough. I felt very encouraged.
So, also, we were doing something or other with the sheep and she was fetching them to me and she paced herself. I almost died when I saw her wait and slowdown to not run them over me (which she LOVES doing). She's been getting doing that more lately. (She got lots of good girls). I experimented also with giving her an "easy" and that worked... I'll have to be consistent with it.
And lastly, I was setting out sheep for another student and that dog sliced her outrun badly and the sheep ran off the field, towards the other sheep (to be with their buds, natch) and I flanked Soda out to stop them (I was about 15 feet away) and then asked her to walk up on them to push them back out into the field and she did. Not only that, but one sheep didn't immediatley turn so I encouraged her without me moving and she kept walking up on her and the ewe turned and went back into the field. I had Soda drive them back out to their hay pile. I almost passed out and died when she walked up on that ewe and didn't back down. Now, let me say, the ewe wasn't being particularly stubborn or aggressive but also didn't turn right away and before, that was all it took to get Soda to back down but she's so much more confident now! I can see in her eyes when I ask her to walk up that she really enjoys it and ... I'm probably anthropomorphizing a lot, so stop reading right now if that sort of thing bothers you... but she seems to like the opportunity to be really bossy and pushy, and hard. She's starting to jump at the chance to put a sheep in their place. A while back, we were loading some sheep into a trailer, practicing for an HRD course and one ewe wouldn't load up and Soda did not back down. She stayed after her, gripped her nose--she still couldn't do it, so I called her off and praised her but she wasn't ready to quit. I wonder what she'd do now with real big britches that she's gotten from driving.
She's quite a different dog from the one I brought out to Terry's that was scared of the sheep and wouldn't work for more than 2 minutes! We have setbacks but really, seriously, every week I'm so impressed by her trying and how far she's come. Really.
Question for any sheepdog folks that care to answer: Does driving tend to bring out more eye in your dog? Soda's pretty loose eyed but lately I've noticed her utilizing more eye on sheep... coincidence or related?
Sort of sad news: My trainer is selling one of her dogs -- he's my favorite, personality wise, anyway. I wouldn't hesitate to buy him if I had the room. He's such a joy to be around! He's a good worker, but I can see his faults but he'd be a great dog for a beginner like me.
Tuesday was shearing day and that's always great fun. I love learning about livestock handling and care so I always appreciate the opportunity to learn and watch and help with basic husbandry. My pants got so dirty with lanolin/dirt mixture that one washing on extended cycle didn't get them clean! I'm going to have to rewash them.
I got to see my trainers young dog in action and I like her mom, and I've liked her working but I really got to see her really show her stuff. What grace under pressure! She was steady and calm but strong and forceful. I was really impressed!
What does pressure that the dog feels feel like? I wonder if it's like talking to a close talker and the only thing you can think of is how to get away from them. I also wonder what makes a dog much more sensitive to pressure than others? Actually, I just assume it's genetics. Like me, I get VERY uncomfortable if people I don't know are too close or god forbid, touch me and Soda gets all sticky on a chicken...
We're trucking along with driving and Soda did really well today. :) She's really "getting" it, I think. I want to get a "there" on her because if I down her, she gets super sticky and it's hard to get her up again but if she doesn't actually lay down but stands, then she's much easier to get moving.
I think it would be helpful. I've been trying--I say ThereLieDownWalkUp. Usually the she doesn't lie down because the walk-up comes right on the heels of it (I say it just like it's written) but she does pause and that's all I need. Probably not the right way to do it but... it's working for us.
I realized today, fully, what a terrible handler I am! I know it comes with time and practice but whew... I can't help but get frustrated with myself. I realized when I'm driving that I have to really do a lot of handling and there's a lot more finesse. I am not known for finesse. I hope that I get better and don't stay terrible. I tend to be good at reading animal body language so I hope I'm able to pick it more as I go along and start feeling what finesse is all about. I mean, I'm not even driving that far-- just little bits here and there.
We had another run in with the Corner of Death(tm). I do not know what it is that makes her think that she cannot work there but I'll be danged if she can't! So, after I found her and got her out of the pasture I took her by her collar and tossed her on her away side, just beyond the worst part of the Corner of Death(tm). I gave her encouragement the whooole way and just had her go in circles on the away. On the CoD(tm) side she started to drift off and go off contact (and into the grass and ditch) so I grabbed the sheep and said "GET YOUR SHEEP!" (which gets her riled up no matter what). She tried to flip to the go by, so I blocked her and gave her the away cue again and trilled her along and ... IT WORKED!! We did that a couple of times and she was more okay taking the away flank in the CoD(tm). She didn't love it, but I was able to send her out on the away and she was a little too wide but it's better than running off.
Anyway, it was a good lesson and fun times were had by all.