Saturday, August 28, 2010

Started up again

Well, I took a month and half off for a few reasons and I just started back up. I think it was good to be laid up for a while. Soda was super pushy, but that didn't surprise me at all after all that time off.

I'm really hoping to trial this fall and finish up some titles on Soda and maybe get 1 or two more for funsies.

My blog posts have become further and further apart because our progress is slowing and slowing and a lot of the time it's just an inch at time (in relation to driving: many times it's literally an inch at a time!) It's frustrating, especially because I have serious border collie envy but I think I'm learning to be more okay with what I've got and appreciate what she can do and stop feeling so embarrassed that I'm still trudging away in AKC junk. --and don't tell anyone but getting ribbons is fun and so is getting titles. THERE. I SAID IT. I SAID IT OUT LOUD. Judge away! ;)

This last time we went out Soda had some good out runs and she was hard to stop but I kept at it and she stopped on the fetch and figured out that the faster she stopped, the faster she could get moving again. I have to stop her on the fetch to teach her to slow the hell down or otherwise she just goes WHEEEEE and tries to kill me via sheep.

I made her work really hard on some bigger outruns and some driving and so as reward we practiced penning and it was a mess. I just gave up after a few minutes of ring around the pen. No one was accomplishing anything and I was getting more and more blustered!

So, that's what's going on in the Soda sheep dog world. :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rewarding non-compliance with another cue

What do we call this with positive reinforcement? A behavior chain! Rewarding one behavior by giving another, known cue directly afterwards--only in this case, I'm rewarding her NON-behavior with another cue that a.) she knows and b.) gives her access to sheep.

I am guilty of this. Soda's "down" has always been bad. Always. But I've been letting it get worse by doing this ol' number --


*pauses after a couple of steps on a flank*

[me] "crap, she went to far, she didn't lie down, but I need to fix this so ... away to me!"

and in effect I just rewarded her by giving her another cue because I need to fix the mistake that she just made because she didn't listen. Going and enforcing the down by making her do it doesn't seem to do anything. So, I just sat there and repeated lie down until she did no matter what the sheep did--and that meant that they usually broke back to the hay, which made Soda uncomfortable. Pretty quick she figured out it was better to lie down quickly than to keep on moving because if she kept moving, I wouldn't give her another cue and if she tried to do her own thing, I'd chase her off. (That didn't actually happen, but I'm pretty sure she knew that's what would happen! :P ) In about 1/2 an hour, I had a considerably faster down. I was pretty happy.

Now, with that said, I really don't want to use a down that much for her. She is so weak that a down (which for her is actually a sit--what kind of border collie sits??--you know what? I think I want to fix that too) takes all her power away and she has a hard time getting moving again, especially when driving. I need to teach a good stand. I'm going to talk to Terry about that next week.

Friday, April 30, 2010

How My Border Collie is Different than the Other Two

This is something I've thought a lot about and since I haven't been getting out to work sheep a lot lately/we've only been drilling on boring driving I'm going to post about it.

Soda is a wholly different dog to train than my other two dogs, a malamute mix and a little black spaniely thing of dubious lineage. The primary difference I've gleaned, is that Soda is biddable and very smart.

Now, I love Cash (the malamute) but he is not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's just not. He wants to make me happy--to a certain point-- but it's his nature to think a little more independently. It takes him many more repetitions to get things and he's very very sensitive and can't take any corrections. In fact, I'm pretty much 100% positive with him. He just stops thinking, learning, trying if he gets any sort of correction and acts all sad and butthurt then walks off because the situation no longer benefits him.

LT is smart as a whip but about as biddable as a rock. She couldn't give one hoot about what I think. I have to be 100% positive with her because if she gets a correction she just says "F you, I'm out" and will shut down, lay down and refuse to work. It has to directly benefit her or she has no interest in it at all. To go with this, she's not a very affectionate dog and rarely wants physical contact with us. (She likes to hang out in the same vicinity and likes a few pets when we wake up/get home).

Soda is smart as a whip AND is very biddable. She learns new tasks in a just a few repetitions and is regularly looking for approval from me. She is a thinking dog and can understand why she's getting a firm "EH EH!" or why I'm taking her by her collar to stop her from doing something obnoxious. My favorite example of Soda thinking (though she was being naughty) was once in my office she was in there with my coworkers pit bull (who was a bit scared of mean ol' Soda) and he was playing with his toy and Soda came to steal it and I told her NO, leave it, and gave her her own toy and not one minute later I catch her sneaking under my chair (where I can't see her) trying to steal his toy again! This time she really got in trouble and she finally stopped. I just have found with her smarts and biddability that a small correction goes a long way to helping her understand that she cannot do what she was doing and she doesn't shut down, or quit, or get devastated by it. She just takes that information and moves on. It's pretty interesting to see how differently she takes things and how differently she learns.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trial Report

On Easter Sunday Soda and I ran in an AHBA HRD trial. These are "ranch-style" courses and are desgined to "mimic" real tasks and are supposed to be fun. They usually are. We ran in level two which had a driving leg in it.

Soda did really well. :) I was very proud of her. She was keen and excited and drove well. She listened and all-in-all it was a good run. We tied for 2nd place and I'm not sure who will get 2nd and who will get third. They weren't sure what the tie breaker was and had to consult the rule book AND we were only one point behind 1st.

Her outrun was tight at the top, which it usually is in an arena. I thought about stopping her and kicking her out but she doesn't always take that very well and I didn't want to shut her down in a trial. I KNOW I KNOW, that creates bad habits and all but it's in an arena that we have a problem with it. In the field she'll come in tight but accepts being kicked out with grace.

The fetch was offline (big surprise) but pretty controlled. And the drive leg went BEAUTIFULLY. I almost wet myself. We got nice, light sheep that were happy to move off my dog. It also helped that the sheep had been shorn the day before and were in no mood!

In the narrow chute (pushes the sheep single file) Soda tried--and succeeded--to head the sheep and cut off two so it wasn't smooth. She is a heading fool and hates it when they try to break off, unless it means she has to cover in which case she won't. Whatever, lol. We lost a couple of points for that.

The rest went really well and smoothly and I couldn't be happier! :D We got the comment "nice quiet work" which I was happy to hear. I really hate it when people start hootin' and hollerin' at their dogs all the time. If all you do is yell, then how do you make a point?

Anyway, I was proud and it was lots of fun!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The "C" Word

Not that word you filthy people.


Otherwise known as The Bane Of My Existence or Soda Has None.

We are still plugging away at driving and still trying to get some inside flanks and part of her problem is a confidence issue. Today I was having her drive the sheep off of me into a chute (I like to have tangible goals when I'm practicing, otherwise, I get all "creative" and end up in all kinds of crazy places so I often use wide-mouth chutes or drive panels. I find that Soda seems to get the "Sheep go here" process well so I prefer chutes/holding pens that sort of thing so she can clearly see the goal. I don't think the goal is as clear with a drive panel. Longest parenthetical phrase ever.) and Soda would walk up and bend off the pressure into this weird half walk up/half flank diagonal weirdness. Actually, readers, this is what she always does when in the face of pressure. And it's pressure that's doing it but she doesn't have the confidence to walk straight into it.

So, we took out some sheep and worked in this long narrow chute (different than the first one) that she had to go in to push the sheep and had to walk straight and would be hard to try to head them off--not that that stopped her from trying! She definitely started to feel her oats a bit and may or may not have taken as cheap shot at a ewe ass but that's okay, she isn't the dive 'n bite sort of dog. When we were putting the sheep in the chute one of the sassy ewes said "This is lame, I'm outtie" and Soda said "NO YOU'RE NOT!" and got all real border collie on her and pushed her back with her friends. She likes to do that and that gets her really jazzed up.

Anyway, we worked on that exercise for a few minutes and I got a keener dog who was diving into the pressure but wasn't c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y walking into it but hopefully we'll get there. Probably in like 2015 or something.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The things we pick up

(Long time, no blog, eh?)

I was thinking about the little things we pick up when we join a new world (the sheepdog world in my case) and I think my very favorite thing I've picked up is "YOU LISTEN!". It's partly because it's so atrociously silly to yell "LISTEN" to your dog and expect them to actually listen and partly because I'll be damned if it doesn't work.

I've seen different handlers/dog trainers do this so I don't *think* it's just a my trainer thing. Anyway, I watched people do it when their dog is blowing them off. The dog gets snatched up, and firmly told to LISTEN and then set back on their way. That's usually it.

Being the primate I am, I mimic things I've seen and when Soda blew me off for the gogillionth time one I day, I walked her down, took her firmly by her collar and got in her face and said YOU LISTEN and let her go and I'll be damned if she didn't actually listen and stop acting like an idiot. I know it wasn't because she understood what LISTEN means and it was more of "Oh shit. This bitch means business." but nevertheless, it still amuses me.

I was outside with the dogs today waiting for the electrician to finish and I was playing Frisbee with the Soda and asking her to do tricks for tosses and she just laid down and started barking so I firmly took her by her collar and told her LISTEN and there ya go. I had a dog who listened.

It is something I can only with Soda and not the other dogs. She is such a different dog and that is a post for another day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oh Hai.

Long time no post! Holidays and such business and other things!

We had a lesson this week and it went pretty well. I think we're going to enter an AHBA HTD course. I'm going to run level II, if everything goes alright.

We worked a bit on outruns because they were absolute rubbish. Terry's so funny, she said "You need to fix that out run. She's weaving all over the place like a... like a.... like a.... well, an Aussie!" I had to LOL. I stopped her at the stop and voila! moiche better.

She did a pretty good cross drive and I was really proud of her. She did some 3/4 inside flanks. They're not perfect yet and she's not coming all the way inside but it's a lot better and as with all things, patience is a virtue.

It's green as green can be out there and the puppies are big and going to their homes. I desperately want one but it's not to be. I've got enough dogs and a lot of things on the horizon.

It's a small update, but hopefully we'll get back into the groove soon.

Happy Herding. :)