Jig’s Journey ~ Cow Camp

When the opportunity to attend a Larry Painter Cow Camp presented itself, I jumped at it. Jig loves cows but rarely sees them. That makes it a bit unfair when we go to a trial and I’m expecting her to handle them like a pro. I’d heard nothing but good things about Larry Painter and so was thrilled when I got a spot. So, on the 22nd I loaded up the truck and headed out to Ohio where the clinic was being hosted. Needless to say, I had a blast and, despite the heat, we managed to learn a lot and come home with plenty to work on.

Before our first session I watched the other dogs work and listened to Larry’s comments and instruction. One thing he was working on was getting the dog to hold the pressure and not pop out of the pocket. Translate that to mean, when a dog approaches cattle she should always give them the opportunity to move off. Jig has a tendency to hit a nose and then start a fight. That was one of the things I wanted to work on. Being a header isn’t a bad thing, but you can’t move cattle efficiently if you’re always in their face. The trick is to have the dog lie down and hold the pressure. If the cow moves off, the dog can get up quietly and keep them going. If the cow steps toward the dog and ‘offers’ their nose… well, a little persuasion goes a long way. That’s the part Jig has problems with. Not so much the persuading, mostly knowing when enough is enough. So we spent some time on that, as well as getting her more comfortable with moving cattle from the rear, and also hugging the fence to pull them off. Our first several sessions were in the small pen, where we both had to work through some issues. We worked once in the arena, and finished up in the round pen with some great results.

One highlight came when Jig showed that (with more experience and confidence) she will hit heels as well as heads. I’ve seen her do it a time or two on my sheep, but this is the first time we brought it out on cattle.

All in all, the clinic was awesome and I’m looking forward to working with Larry again. I’ll have more of a breakdown on some of the things we worked on, but for now, some photos. And a huge Thank You to Kathy Males for manning my camera.

 

Coming in to the corner calmly and relaxed and asking the calves very nicely to turn and go.

Moving in a little closer and focusing on the farthest one.

Moving in a little closer and focusing on the farthest one.

When a girl says, "Go!" she means, "Go!"

When a girl says, “Go!” she means, “Go!”

This series of photos is my favorite. You can see her sizing things up...

This series of photos is my favorite. You can see her sizing things up…

…then she comes in to hit. Okay, she’s high on the hock BUT she’s on the correct leg AND it shows she’s got some idea she can move them from the back now and not just the head.

And then she has enough brains to get out of the way. I’m hoping she’ll learn to hit lower once she gets more exposure. She was making the motion more than once, so I know it’s in there.

thinkingheel

Hmmm… the thoughts that go through a girl’s head.

Out in the arena and a nice wide turn as she covers.

Out in the arena and a nice wide turn as she covers.

Back in the round pen and she’s starting to make her hole to go through on the fence…

...and peel the calves off nice as you please.

…and peel the calves off nice as you please.

stockdogsrule

Jig’s Journey ~ Summer Already?!!?

I’ve been a bit of a slacker on keeping up with posts. Problem is, I’ve been super busy. If you’ve ever checked out my writing blog, you’ll see I’ve been almost as absent over there. If you haven’t, Wednesday’s post will give you some idea what’s been gobbling up all my time.

And yes, training is part of that.

Among other things, the end of June was the Steve Shope clinic here at the farm. This year, Steve threw down the gauntlet and laid out some expectations for the dogs who will be returning next year. Some of us have been a bit… um… lax in regards to foundation work, and it’s come back to haunt us. Or at least me. I won’t speak for anyone else. I fall into this nasty habit of moving on too quickly. If I do an exercise, proof it a few times, get the results I want, I take a giant step forward. Baby steps and going back to refresh things is the better way to go.

So I’m picking up the challenge and am going to slow down a bit. Jig is young yet and talented or not there’s no need to push her and expect perfection so quickly. Or ever. Because there is no such thing as a perfect dog.

July 4th I made the drive to Iowa for That’ll Do’s trial to see where we stand and what we have to work on. Jig is running in open now and we’ll have precious few chances to trial before Nationals. All things considered, I was pleased with what she showed me. She earned an Open Cattle leg and went High in Trial Cattle, and also earned an Open Duck leg.

wpid-2015070495205019-1.jpgThere were plenty of learning moments for us both, and I called a few of her runs to keep her from thinking she could get away with some of the crap she was pulling. Trialing is a good way to see where you stand, but it wreaks havoc on training.

My last post included a ‘wish list’ of sorts. Things we needed to work on. After the clinic and the trial, this is where it stands:

  • The ongoing take pen issue This reared its ugly head at the trial. So I got to talking about it with some friends, one of whom had a very similar problem with her kelpie. I often prop the take pen gate open and work on figure 8s in and out of the take pen as though it doesn’t exist. For most of my dogs this tended to loosen them up and get them comfortable with going in the pen and bringing stock out. For Jig, however, this may have made matters worse. She locks on the stock as soon as the gate is open. When one starts to leave, she pops out to put it right back in because, after all, isn’t that what we’ve done? Take them out, put them right back in? Isn’t that the job? Um… no. So I’m going to have to work on getting her to see the job as taking the stock out. Putting them in is a totally different job. Running things together is never a good idea in training, and that’s what I may have done here.
  • Dealing with her propensity to suddenly act as though she’s on crack, or has at least had five pots of coffee and all the sugar in three counties She got her crack eyes on once or twice, but she didn’t blow me off like she has in the past. There was none of the mad circling at a high rate of speed while totally ignoring the fact that I exist in the universe. She believes I exist now. She also believes I might have something to say in the matter. That’s a step in the right direction.
  • Firming up her drive Ongoing. She doesn’t rate well. Push, push, push. Especially on ducks. I’m more out of breath after those runs than I am on the larger stock!
  • More cattle experience Going to the Larry Painter clinic in a couple weeks. This will be an awesome learning experience for us both.
  • Getting her more comfortable holding pressure and coming into pressure. It doesn’t appear she has too much pressure coming into pressure. Holding it is getting better.
  • Getting her to hit heels.

 

One of my favorite photos from the weekend, taken by Tracey McPherson.

One of my favorite photos from the weekend, taken by Tracey McPherson.

 

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Jig’s Journey ~ 2015

Happy… spring?

*glances at calendar*

Sure. We’ll go with that. Happy spring!

We managed to somehow avoid Mud Season this year — that’s not a complaint — and now we’re full tilt into the year with nearly 4 months behind us, and decent weather for working dogs. That means a continuation of Jig’s Journey (cue Piggggssssss in Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace).

The ASCA Nationals is in TN this year and I plan on going. Whether or not I actually enter Jig has yet to be fully determined. She’s in open everything and we have a lot of work to do. Right now, we have three clinics planned — one in June, one in July, one in September. As for trials… a lot will depend on her progress. Looks like IA in July will be the first, just to test the water and see how good or bad we’re doing.

I’ve only worked the girl a handful of times so far and she’s doing what I will term ‘okay’. The list of things we currently need to focus on includes:

  • The ongoing take pen issue
  • Dealing with her propensity to suddenly act as though she’s on crack, or has at least had five pots of coffee and all the sugar in three counties
  • Firming up her drive
  • More cattle experience
  • Getting her more comfortable holding pressure and coming into pressure. Which also includes being able to hit a nose and then release. By which I don’t mean she latches on and doesn’t let go, I’m talking pressure again. Once she hits a nose, her switch tends to flip and then… see the second point.
  • Getting her to hit heels. I’ve seen her do it in the pen when she has no other option. I’d like to nurture that and see her do it when she needs to.

So, yeah, that’s our wish list of sorts. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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A Passal of Warm Fuzzies

As usual, it’s been a while since my last post. But as I mentioned before, not a whole lot goes on around here during the winter. With spring comes lambing season, although mine began as somewhat of a surprise a couple weeks ago. No one looked even close and I wasn’t expecting lambs until… well, now. It hasn’t been the best. In fact, it goes down in my books as the worst. But, on the bright side… there’s these…

"We can dance if we want to! We can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, they're no friends of mine."

“We can dance if we want to! We can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine.”

ear

When mom’s busy, your sister’s ear apparently acts as a fine pacifier.

levitation

Lamb levitation.

puppy

Puppy? Lamb?

Queen

I have some lambs with attitude this year. I call her Queen of All I See.

Ram

And this is Mr. I Think My Shit Don’t Stink. (But he is quite handsome. Just don’t tell him I said so.)

scratch

“Look, I can touch my ear with my toe and not tip over!”

stuck

“Who wants a ride in the rocking tub?”

suspicious

My photographic efforts were being met with a bit of suspicion.

suspiciousduo

“Why is she laying on the ground with that thing stuck on her face?” “I don’t know, but I suggest we back away slowly… “

trouble

Trouble in the making.

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Touching Base

I know I promised I’d post more, but really, there’s not a lot that happens around here in the winter. Not with the frigid weather we’ve been having. Chores, chipping ice out of buckets that are supposedly heated, and trying to keep the dogs from going stir crazy. Especially Jig.

What I do during these times, is try to get caught up on inside projects that are languishing. One of those is the portrait of Shaine that’s been laying on my drawing table for…well…a long time.

This was far and away the most difficult portrait I’ve ever done. Even now. But, outside of a few tweaks, it’s ready for matting and framing so I thought I’d share it with you, just to prove I’m still here.

shaine

It’s not the best photo ~ it looks better in person. I took it with my phone, in the kitchen, hanging on the fridge. (Sounds a bit like Clue, doesn’t it? Mrs. Peacock, in the observatory, with the candlestick.) Okay, and I wasn’t hanging on the fridge, the picture was.

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Jig’s Journey ~ Revisiting Nationals

Just a quick (photo-intensive) post to share some of my favorite photos from our cattle runs at the pre-trial and National’s trial. Thanks to Lori Herbel of XP Photography for the excellent shots. (You’ll notice our National’s run was much calmer than the pre-trial run.)

Had to include this one because it just cracks me up. Look at those legs!

Had to include this one because it just cracks me up. Look at those legs!

ptOops

And this one…I think it was one of the few times she realized I was in the arena with her! Love the expression on her face.
“Oh. Hello. When did you get here?”

She likes the heads. Yes, yes, she does. One of the things we'll be working on is getting her not to like them quite so much.

She likes the heads. Yes, yes, she does. One of the things we’ll be working on is getting her not to like them quite so much.

ptWhitey

Jig and this cream cow had issues. “Like my pearly whites?”

ptGroup

Going to turn the group — I’m guessing it’s one of the times I wanted her behind, not in front.

And turning them to do our re-pen.

And one of the times I actually did want her in front — turning them to do our re-pen.

The start of our much calmer National's run, helping Jig with the pen so it stayed quiet.

The start of our much calmer National’s run, helping Jig with the pen so it stayed quiet.

The start of a nice walk up to the first panel. I believe I was doing equal parts threatening her and telling her how wonderful she was.

The start of a nice walk up to the first panel. I believe I was doing equal parts threatening her and telling her how wonderful she was.

Nationals

At this point I was thinking, “Holy shit! We may actually make it around the course!”

A nice cover if I do say so myself.

A nice cover if I do say so myself, but boy! is she focused. Look at those eyes.

You all knew it couldn't stay completely calm and quiet, right? ;)

You all knew it couldn’t stay completely calm and quiet, right? ;) But I believe this was turning them back for the re-pen so I’ll accept it.

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A Tribute to My Narcoleptic Puppy

Quinn turned twelve on the 8th of November. He has no clue. Seriously. Outside of exhibiting some signs of going deaf, it’s hard to tell he’s a ‘senior’ now. He still tears across the yard with his brephew (brother-nephew), makes snow angels, barks at me in his big-dog bark, and hops around like an absolute fool when he thinks we’re going to do something fun. Or when he’s in a good mood. Which, with Quinn, is almost always. He is the most mellow, relaxed dog I’ve every lived with; at ease just about everywhere, with everyone. And yes, as a puppy we swore he was narcoleptic because any time you picked him up, he fell asleep. I remember him as a tiny guy, laying in the palm of my hand, legs draped over the sides, happily snoozing away.

Last month, I officially retired Quinn from the trial arena. I had hoped he would retire with his WTCH*. He didn’t. But he came damn close. We needed one Advanced Cattle leg to accomplish my goal, and we would have likely had it at the Coyote Classic in October had I not made a very conscious and deliberate choice to cross the handler’s line. I made that choice for reasons. I’ve thought about it many times since and, if given the opportunity, I would likely do the same thing. For the same reasons. None of which are really important to anyone but me.

And, at the end of the day, a WTCH doesn’t mean anything to Quinn. It’s a human thing. But don’t think for one second it was easy for me to give it up. It was something I’d been working hard at for quite a while. Something that took me on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, and tested my partnership with my dog. Something that, at one point, almost cost me that partnership. But it also, ultimately, taught me a lot. It wasn’t always the best journey, but it was one that, like Quinn himself, I wouldn’t trade for the world.

And so, to celebrate Quinn’s retirement, and our partnership, some pics over the years of him just being him.

Here he is, just a newborn pup. I knew as soon as I held him after he was born, that he was mine. There was no going back on that one.

Here he is, just a newborn pup. I knew as soon as I held him after he was born, that he was mine.
There was no going back on that one.

And, sound asleep on Dave's stomach because...yeah...narcoleptic puppy.

And, sound asleep on Dave’s stomach because…yeah…narcoleptic puppy.

Wrestling with one of his littermates.

Wrestling with one of his littermates.

I think he was about 4 or 5 months old here. Probably his first time on stock.

I think he was about 4 or 5 months old here. Probably his first time on stock.

I snapped this pic after he had treed a squirrel and was doing a celebratory dance.

I snapped this pic after he had treed a squirrel and was doing a celebratory dance.

Snow angles remain one of his all time favorite things to do in the winter. he gets very disappointed when the snow is frozen.

Snow angels remain one of his all time favorite things to do in the winter.
He gets very disappointed when the snow is frozen.

And, of course, my #1 all-time favorite photo of him and I.

And, of course, my #1 all-time favorite photo of him and I.

Thank you, Mr. Quinn. Here’s to many more years of snow angels, and big dog barks.

stockdogsrule

 *A WTCH is a Working Trial Championship. To earn one, a dog must earn its Advanced working titles in cattle, sheep, and ducks through the ASCA Stockdog Program.)
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