Possibilities Abound

November has been pretty mild so far which means I’ve been able to work the dogs with relative frequency. Given the shortness of the days, this usually takes place on the weekends, which also means I can generally talk a training partner into joining me. It’s helpful when it’s someone unafraid of telling me when my bad habits are showing. Not that I always agree, or want to hear it at that particular moment, which can lead to some spirited arguments discussions. There are, after all, multiple ways to skin the proverbial cat (sorry, feline friends) and perhaps there’s a reason (in my mind) for what I’m doing. More often than not, however, I’m not even aware of doing whatever it is because it’s just one of those things I fell into while training solo. And that happens far too often. Just ask my dogs.

After my last post where I shared the video of Jig doing a long gather through several gates, a friend asked what I would do if something happened to her and she got laid up. That got me thinking. As far as I’m concerned, Jig is irreplaceable around here — especially when I need power. Maybe not so much when I need finesse and a softer hand. Still, she is the only one of my current crew who knows, and is capable of, the jobs that need doing. It’s something I tend to take for granted and we all know what a bad idea that is.

 

With that thought in mind, I decided to see how Dillon would handle being sent on a gather through an open gate. It didn’t go as bad as I thought it might, but he definitely wasn’t sure of the job I wanted him to do. And that’s okay. I’ve never asked him to do this before. And, not only were there sheep out in the field, there were sheep in both corners of the arena and in the alleyway as well. He didn’t completely suck at the job and we’ll keep working at it until he gets it. He’ll undoubtedly put his own spin on the task, just as Jig has, and that’s okay, too, as long as it gets done.

 

Speaking of Miss Jig, she provided the highlight of my weekend by… drumroll, please… playing with Finn. Yes, playing, for the first time ever. We approached things cautiously as Jig hasn’t been very accepting of the young man. Finn, however, was very respectful and turned on the charm big-time to win Jig over and next thing we knew…

 

It’s not all play, even for a young dog. Finn is really starting to come along and I’m able to ask more of him each time we work. He really is a lot of fun now that we’ve come to an understanding regarding proper behavior around livestock. He still has his moments, but he’s young. Just like every other dog, Finn has something to teach me as well. In his case, it’s how to work a dog with a lot of eye which is something new for me. He doesn’t quite get being sent from my side. He’d prefer to stalk straight into the sheep and hold them. So, we’re working on it.

“I have them right where I want them.”

“Wait… you want me to do what now? Go around them??”

All right, youngster, I’ll help you figure it out.

There we go. Now fetch ’em over.

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If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you will know Dillon has been a challenge. There have been times when I questioned if we would ever overcome our many issues. Many times frustration overcame good sense and I took it out on him by being blatantly unfair. All I can say is it’s a good thing Dillon loves me as much as he does. He’s willing to forgive and forget just about all my transgressions. And it’s a good thing I pulled my head out of my backside and started training to his strengths instead of pounding on him for his weaknesses.

I’ve gotten in some steady work on all the dogs the last week or so. None have shown more improvement than Dill. He gets to do the bringing in and sorting, then I’ll give him a break and take him out after Jig and Cian for an actual training session. Suddenly, I have a dog who does that thing he never wanted to do… gather. It’s far from perfect, and he’s only good for about 75′ or so, usually with a redirect when he starts to pull up short and look back at me. He also has a tendency to slice. And he does it all at warp speed. At this point, I don’t care. He’s doing it. I can finesse it once it becomes more fluid. Right now, I’m working more on getting him to SLOW THE HELL DOWN once he gets behind the sheep. He still doesn’t realize the point of the gather is to bring the sheep to me, not just round them up and take them blasting past.

You get two clips today. In this first one I send Dillon on a short gather then attempt to get him to lie down part way in and walk up nice and steady because, as those who know me are aware, I like mashing things together working on two things at once. Please note, it’s an Away, the direction we’ve had problems with in the past. Dillon wasn’t taking my downs, and we’ve got lots to work on, but it’s all about baby steps (something Dave reminded me of when I told him how things went).

We’re also working on the take pen. Dillon is more than happy to help in the pens, he has no qualms about being in tight spots, but no way, no how, does he want to bring sheep out of a pen when he might lose them. When having him take stock out, I generally have to open the gate only wide enough for him to squeeze in, then quickly swing it open when he gets around. Opening the gate all the way and doing what I do in this next clip has never provided these results. Yeah, he’s pushy. Yeah, he’s fast. And I don’t particularly like the way he wears behind me as we do a bit of walking about, but we’ll get it sorted out in time. The ultimate goal is to have him enter the pen without me, of course, and control the stock calmly and slowly right from the get-go. It’s something I’m working on with Cian and Jig as well.

It feels like Dillon and I have had a long overdue breakthrough. Or maybe we’re just starting to understand one another a bit better. Whatever the case, I promised him a kiss on the lips after our last session, guess I better pay up.

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I have a tendency to mention the problems I’m facing during training, but the video clips accompanying those posts are usually ones in which things are going fairly well. Today I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and really put me and my dog out there with a few clips that illustrate our problem areas. Apologies in advance for the quality of the video. I had my cell phone strapped to the fence post. Also, if you’re thinking this group of sheep was a bit light, you’d be right. They’re light on purpose.

And one more side note, I feel the need to point out that I’m not picking on Dillon. He just happens to be the ‘problem child’ at the moment. That’s not to say we’re not making progress. A session or so after this video was shot, he took a Go Bye from about 60′ off the sheep. Not a big deal for some, but it was for us. Not only did he go, he got to head. Cause for celebration. Last night’s session also went well. We had our moments and I have to push A. Lot. If that’s what it takes right now, that’s what it takes.

Anyhow, Dill and I have two major issues. First off, the take pen. Jig had huge take pen issues at one point as well. She does them much better so I know Dillon and I will get through this. Actually, as you’ll see in the first clip, he handles it fairly well. The problem is I can only open the gate wide enough for him to squeak in or he won’t go. It’s not a method I recommend, but for right now, it works and we’ll build on it.

For those whose first thought is going to be “lack of confidence”, Dillon really has no qualms about being in a pen, even a packed one–so long as the gate remains closed. I can go into the pen with him and he’ll work in there as calm and quiet as can be. As a matter of fact, if he’s helping me sort and I go into the pen without him he’ll slither under the gate to come help whether I ask him to or not.

So, what happens when I swing the gate open? Will he follow them in and out? Ah… no. In this clip I try sending him from my side, then move to the post to see if I can push him into a ‘Go Bye’. Nothing doing. I go in with him. Nothing doing. Then I do that magical thing and close the gate. Voila! takes his flank with ease. Several twirls later I lay him down in back, swing the gate, allow Dill to cover.

On to our second issue: Dillon’s lack of a gather, lack of cover, and his unwillingness to take a flank from a distance. Before you ask, yes, he knows his flanks.

Here are two short clips to illustrate my frustration. The turning back, bouncing, staring at me… some days that’s harder to deal with than others. To be honest, this is where I tend to lose it. Normally I would have had him lie down and set it up again, but I wanted a good demo clip of the worst case. As I walked in I was calmly repeating my request for him to… oh, I dunno… maybe get the freaking sheep and bring them back? When I finally gave up the fight and sent him on a ‘Go Bye’ we were relatively close to the stock.

Next up, a split. What you may notice is that Dillon’s far more concerned with the sheep we already have as opposed to going to bring the others. Finally it’s the sheep that make the decision to return. Toward the end of the clip, you’ll see me do a little stomp and turn away. This was me correcting myself for being an idiot and correcting Dill at the wrong spot which actually made him come off the flank. Handler error. I should have pushed, not corrected.

So there you go, a glimpse behind all the glitter. 😉

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So much for weekly updates, right? What’s the excuse this time? Let’s see… heat, humidity, rain, more heat, out of town, put on 53 hours a week at the dayjob, changed web servers, did I mention the new horrendous work schedule? When your plate is already packed, and then it shrinks to the size of a saucer, shit falls off.

Anyhow, I did manage a few sessions since my last post so let’s start off with Miss Jig.

Up until now I’ve allowed Jig to merely cover the stock as they to bolt towards the draw. Well, no more. Time to start learning how to actually control the stock on the way back to the re-pen or wherever it is they may want to get to. In all fairness, her failure to do so is my failure as a handler and trainer. I accepted the way we had been doing it and settled for ‘good enough’. Jig has shown me we don’t need to settle. She pushes me, and I push her.

One of the ways I’ve been working on this is to take myself completely out of the picture so the sheep aren’t tempted to draw to me. That means stepping outside the arena. I have Jig drive them to the bottom, then turn them toward the top where they most want to be. This is the point at which we all start to get a bit twitchy. The sheep because they want to break. Jig because she knows they want to break. And me because I know what Jig’s likely to do when they do break.

Needless to say, our first few attempts were a bit messy. There was incoherent blabbering and flailing of arms on my part, and quite a few confused looks on Jig’s part. After that, we got some good input from a couple of friends, reminders that Jig has brakes and steering and I might want to utilize them. Seems I tend to forget in the heat of the moment. Like when a sheep takes off and she covers, maybe I should lie her down as soon as it heads back. You know, as opposed to letting her bring it back and turn them all around again. We’ll get there.

I’ve also stepped up Dillon’s game. There’s still a lot we have to fix, but I can actually see us making progress and that’s a good thing. It’s no secret I have a tendency to run before we can walk. I get frustrated when I think my dog isn’t doing something he should. That’s led to some pretty spectacular meltdowns wherein I totally lose my shit. I’m not proud of that and I try to stop before things reach that point. I knew I went over the top one day when, after we were done and I put Dillon in his kennel, he turned his back on me and went to lay under his table instead of hanging by the door with a happy smile. Never train when you’re in a pissy mood. It’s the ultimate betrayal of trust. Thankfully Dillon is pretty forgiving, and there was no permanent damage done.

To give Jig a break, I’ve started using Dillon to help me sort. Here, for your viewing pleasure, one of the very first times we teamed up to get the job done. He has a lot to learn yet, but I think he’s off to a good start.

No worries, I haven’t forgotten Cian. The baby boy is doing really well in learning self control. So well that I introduced him to the pen last week. I hadn’t actually planned to do that. It was a case of necessity. I needed sheep out and he was handy. I intended to keep him on lead and just walk him around being as he’s never done it before, but he entered so soft and moved right to the fence so I dropped the line and let him do it on his own. Then, toward the end of his session, instead of just re-penning, I swung the gate wide open and pretended the pen wasn’t there, allowing him to follow them in, fetch them out, put them back in. He never even blinked. It made me very happy given all the take-pen issues I’ve had with his aunt.

And, just because I had my camera handy, here’s a very short bonus clip of Cian.

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The Year of Training – Another Piece of the Puzzle

Between the 4th of July falling in the middle of the week, and another blast of heat and humidity, I didn’t get a whole lot of training in since my last post. I got in one very short session with Jig and Dillon on Tuesday evening, but the weather got the better of us. The weather and the damn bugs. They’re the only ones who seem to enjoy these hot, muggy days. I have a tendency to get a bit cranky after too long a stretch, and that’s not very conducive to training, or much of anything else.

One of the things I was watching for when I worked Dill, was whether or not his chiro adjustment affected his Away. It didn’t. Not yet, anyhow. I’m thinking that if he has been physically uncomfortable going in that direction, it has become a habit of necessity to move a certain way. That’s not going to correct itself overnight. I’ve got another series of appointments scheduled for him with Dr. Robin, and I’ve gone back to encouraging him to flex to the left when he comes in for pets and lovin’.

Friday Gail stopped in on her way across the state and we of course went out to work dogs. Heck if I was going to pass up the opportunity to have another set of eyes on me, and I’m so glad I didn’t. I began Dillon’s session on a flank from my side. Gave him a verbal Away to Me and marveled at how quickly and smoothly he went, how wide he was, how he’d actually gone on a Go Bye.

O_o

Oops, my bad! Did it again and this time made sure he headed Away. Somewhere along the line, Gail suggested I have Dillon lie down when he started to fall in on that flank, which he does, a lot, then redirect him making sure he gave me a nice roll out first. She pointed out that, particularly on the Away, he was never really getting to head. It was one of those moments where you feel equal parts idiot and encouraged. Here was another little piece that had been missing. I’ve been so focused on the fact Dillon was fighting me on his Aways that I never looked past that and so created another bump in the road.

On Sunday I had quite a few sets of eyes on me as a group of us had our first Working Day. Dillon did really well. He took his verbal flanks (the correct ones), seemed a bit more fluid, and even got to head on more than one occasion without me having to give an extra push.

Now, if you read my last installment, you may remember I talked about getting shoved out of my comfort zone with Jig. Thanks to not having her handy, and having to move a new group of sheep to the round pen, Dillon got the nod. We tried him on lead first, as I wasn’t ready to trust any of our training by having him fetch the sheep to the pen. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. I  was forced to take him off his leash and, I dunno, maybe trust him a bit? Subsequently, I managed to make quite a mess of things. I felt so far out of my comfort zone with him that I turned into a babbling, flailing idiot. Fortunately for Dillon, we had two coaches who managed to calm me down until my brain re-engaged and I remembered that I had words I could use. Not just any words. Words that were directions that Dillon understands. And viola! we got the job done.

Methinks it will benefit us both to start throwing some little tasks into his training as well.

And, because I don’t have any training pictures to share this week, here’s one of Cian, mom Tam, and brother Taps. Tam looks about as thrilled as Jig whenever I turn the camera on her, and Taps isn’t much better.

I doubt I’ll have an update next week. I have a busy schedule and will be out of town over the weekend.

 

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A Slight Reboot

Life has been busy of late. That’s my explanation for the lapse in posting… again. I tend to set myself these crazy-busy schedules until I’m reminded there just aren’t enough hours in the day and something has to give before that something is me. Unfortunately, it’s generally the blog that suffers first which recently led me to question the why of it.

I started this blog because 1) I’m a writer at heart and that particular muse demands an outlet, 2) I hoped sharing my training journey might just resonate with others on a similar journey, and 3) those folks in #2 (and perhaps others as well) might just find themselves enlightened, inspired, and, if nothing else, entertained.

Because it kept falling off my plate, I toyed with the idea of ending the blog, but my muse staged a revolt. And, since I have dubbed this The Year of Training, and because of reasons #2 & 3 above, I’ve decided to put a bit more effort into it and use the blog as my training journal. I actually do keep one of those, albeit irregularly, and highly recommend it. I go through mine frequently to remind myself just how far I’ve come as well as to refresh my memory on how to approach a certain problem. How, you may ask, is that different than what I have been irregularly posting? In essence, it’s not. I am, however, going to aim for weekly entries that go into a bit more depth than in the past.

To kick this off, I’ll start with an introduction to my dogs and where each one is at in their training in the event you’re new here or just can’t keep them straight. I’m currently working three dogs. Crazy much? Yeah. That’s been established.

First up: Jig, 6 1/2 years old, one cattle leg shy of her ASCA WTCH. We’re fine-tuning everything in the hopes of making a bid for Finals in 2020. Jig and I–okay, mostly just me–tend to have frequent disconnects wherein I completely lose my shit. This generally happens at trials, though I learned just a few days ago that it can also happen on the home turf while training. The trigger seems to be when we find ourselves in a tricky situation. I start to get a bit buggy, Jig starts to push and, as you all know, the more frantic we get, the more our dogs react. So along with making every effort to remain calm and in control,

Image result for animal zen

Oooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmm

I’m also working on getting Jig to be more fluid in her response to my commands. We need to tighten up her ‘There’ and improve her driving all while I attempt to stop pinching her and allow her to work even if it isn’t perfect. Also, when I see things starting to fall apart I need to FIX THEM instead of waiting to see if she will. I seem to keep expecting her to know things she doesn’t.

Dillon is next in line. 2 1/2 years old and currently my main challenge.

Dillon doesn’t seem to understand the gather and is extremely resistant when asked to take the Away flank. By comparison, his Go Bye is smooth and relaxed with no hesitation. Most every dog favors one direction over the other, but I’ve never seen one this insistent on avoiding it. That makes me wonder if something happened to him on an Away side that I never saw. To cover all my bases, I’m going to rule out any health-related causes. I’ve scheduled a chiro appointment for him next week, and he’s got an eye appointment in August. We’re back to working in the round pen until I can get him going both directions smoothly, and because it’s a nice area to free him up as well as help him better understand the fetch.

 

I’ll tell you this, the dog wants to work and has no quit in him. And, as several people have observed, Dillon truly wants to please me. There’s so much to like in what he does, I just need to be patient and work through this.

Cian is the baby of the group. He’ll be a year old on July 2.

 

He doesn’t get as much work as the other two, and the main focus right now is helping him learn self-control. We’ve done quite a bit of foundation work so he has a great down, and understands moving off my pressure. He is also super biddable and very keen.

As you can see, he also has a very long tongue. I hope he never trips over it.

There you have it. Three different challenges, at three different ages. They definitely keep me on my toes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dillon’s Day ~ Slow, But Steady

One of the pitfalls of training alone is that it’s sometimes hard to see improvement which, in turn, can lead to frustration and discouragement when we get to feeling like we’re spinning our wheels. Thankfully, I have friends who turn up from time-to-time and aren’t afraid to tell me what they’re seeing. Such was the case over the past weekend. My original plan was to have one of them work Dillon because it’s so much easier to see what’s going on when you aren’t in the thick of it. Yes, I could just video our session, which I have done in the past, but I really wanted to know if I’m the source of our problems. The only way to do that was have someone else handle him. Dillon, however, is apparently a bit of a momma’s boy. No way was he working for anyone else. So much for that great idea. Watching me work with him, however, they both agreed Dillon is doing far better than he was the last time they saw him. I definitely need to hear that because, you know, what I said up there.
I know I’ve mentioned more than once that I’m finding Dillon to be quite the challenge. Not only is his working style different than what I’m used to, he watches me — a lot — which I’m sure must be something I caused, I just don’t know how, plus he’s still a bit immature. I don’t give up easily though, especially not when I see potential. Bringing out that potential is my responsibility. I made a commitment to myself and Dillon, among others, and I intend to honor it, even if it does stretch me as a trainer.
After spending some of our weather-induced downtime musing on our problem areas and the things I’ve already tried, I decided what I needed was a pen that wasn’t large enough for Dillon to ever feel as though he was in fear of losing his stock, yet offered a strong draw, as well as room to do some gather/fetch work. Enter the holding pen/alleyway turned training area.

Roughly 55′ x 16′, with a smaller 12×12 pen at one end, which adds to an already strong draw in that direction, this area comes complete with chickens. They refused to leave when asked and did get their feathers ruffled once or twice. It took a while, but eventually they went on their way.
In any case, controlling stock while allowing them to move toward a draw is one of the things we’re having issues with. When the stock heads toward a draw Dillon prefers to position himself in their path and hold his ground to prevent them from continuing on, that makes it a tad difficult to repen stock, move them through a gate, or take them anywhere they truly want to be.


This clip is a little dark from shooting into the sun, and for a lot of folks it won’t look like much beyond the basic stuff any young dog should know. You could even pick it apart because Dillon’s slicing his approach. The thing is, for him to leave my side, even in this small of a pen, and actually go on a ‘gather’ is monumental. One of the biggest hurdles I’m trying to overcome right now is lack of a gather/fetch especially toward a draw, as it was in this case. He’ll take his flanks if I’m between him and the stock, and if they aren’t in a position to get away from him, but sending him from my side typically results in a straight-on walking approach and a drive away or hold to a fence. Honestly, that’s what I intended to capture. I wanted video of a ‘bad’ example. Instead, I got this which, small as it is, is a step in the right direction and tells me my work and patience are starting to pay off.

Rebel Kitten is normally chief of the Distraction Training team but found himself otherwise occupied with Butthead, Dave’s bottle ram. Kudos to him for finding not one, but two substitutes. They weren’t quite up to Rebel’s standards, though, and soon abandoned the job altogether.

 

I’ve done quite a bit of work with Dillon on cleaning out corners and working in the pens to help build his confidence in tight situations. Here he shows the benefits of those tasks by making himself a gap to push through between the sheep and the fence with any hesitation.

Dillon’s bad side is Away to Me. He’s far freer on the Go Bye side. Here he’s fast and tight, and would have likely fallen to the inside if I hadn’t given him an extra push. We’ll work on that, but I believe in facing one battle at a time.

You can see his Go Bye is a better. He’s still fast and tight, even considering the confines of the working space, but he’s relaxed and making the effort to get around.

Even though the pen is only a bit over 50′ long, I’m able to do some fetching from one end to the other. Turning back to the draw, Dillon will often want to charge ahead and stop our forward progression. The pen is small enough that I can easily block him and keep him behind, showing him a clear picture of what I want. These sheep were pretty heavy and content to stay with me. If they would have broke, I would have let Dillon go to head to fix it, then would have encouraged him to get back behind.
Baby steps.

Being as heavy as they were, this group of sheep provided an un-looked for learning experience for Dillon. One he handled very well. After working on a few take & repens, the dark-faced ewe decided she wanted only to be in that pen and tried several times to push past Dillon when we were moving the group to the other end. Dillon held the pressure when she faced him off and even had to make a few cutting horse maneuvers to keep her from bolting past. When one of the others joined her ill-conceived crusade, Dillon kept both of them at bay, moving in step-by-step. When they finally turned off, I had him lie down and then broke him off with lots of praise.
I quickly made note of which group of sheep I had, because that little exercise is going to do Miss Jig a world of good.


In a few days I’m heading off to a Deb Conroy clinic. It’s mostly about Jig right now, but Dillon and Cian will be making the trip as well. I want to run Dillon at least once. It’s always good to get them off the farm and on different stock. It will also be nice to have the opinion of someone as talented as Deb. Who knows, maybe she’ll give me some more tools to add to my box, and that’s always a good thing.

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Spring Has Sprung! I Hope

Sunday was a gorgeous day – finally – and I had every intention of taking advantage of the beautiful afternoon by getting in some training. First, however, I had to feed the bottle lamb. Done with that, I decided a quick walk-about was in order to check the footing in the pens and arena. The day before they had been slick and soupy. On my walk-about I noticed the duck-proofing was off on part of the arena fence. I don’t have ducks this year, so could have just removed it. That would have taken more time than I wanted to spend, so I opted for a quick repair with baling twine instead. Before taking care of that, however, I needed to bring over several wheel barrow’s worth of wood chips to fill in a soft spot in the roundpen, which reminded me that Cian’s outside run needed a bit of TLC. More precisely, it needed a great deal of woodchips put back into it. Out of the four dogs, Cian is the only one that manages to have more woodchips out of the kennel than in it. Not only that, but he pushes them to the back in a huge mound, creating a nice wallow in the front of the run. This time of year, wallow equals mud pit. Finished with those tasks, I managed to find a few more little maintenance things that needed doing. I guess that’s what happens when the weather hasn’t been conducive to anything other than the necessities. Anyhow, by then it was time to do afternoon chores and feed the lamb again. Needless to say, no dogs were worked.

Monday was another nice day and, given that I’d taken care of all those little annoying things the day prior, I was determined not to waste the little bit of free time I had after work.

These two were up first.

I experimented with working Dillon and Jig together a few times earlier this year after a suggestion by a friend, but couldn’t get to it with any sort of regularity to really gauge the results. My hope is it helps Dillon understand what I want, or helps me understand him, I don’t really care which way it goes. To be totally honest, my first hope was that Jig didn’t kill him. Jig doesn’t share well, and only started tolerating Dillon once he became more than a mouthful. To my surprise she never fussed with him, except once when they collided. Even then, it was just a quick warning snap and she kept about her business.

We’re working on the very basics, which is old hat for Jig. One thing I’ve noticed on any gather, short or long, is that Dillon will veer off as Jig brings the sheep in, and position himself to block any potential draw. I wind up with Jig pushing from the rear, and Dillon holding the front.

They really do work nicely together and, surprisingly enough, make a pretty good team. I’m not certain the tandem work is really accomplishing what I want, but I’ll stick with it for a while now that it looks like I might get some consistent training in. I need to give it a chance and not succumb to my tendency to move on too quickly.

That’s something I’m going to really fight against doing with Cian. Those of you who know me, or are regular visitors here, know it’s one of my worst bad habits. Oooh, a little bit of success at Step A? Let’s just take ten giant leaps to Step Z!

Bad, Kathi.

Cian has been in the round pen a handful of times and is gearing up to start some more serious training this year.

He’s starting to get more confident, which manifests itself in him taking some cheap shots on the top side. I have to be very careful of my corrections at that point, as he can’t take quite that much pressure yet.

He squares up very nicely when I step into him, and he’ll down when I ask, and those are both some nice building blocks to start our foundation on. Slow and steady.

Yeah. Like that.

I finished up the day taking Jig out for some one-on-one. I want to make sure I’m completely in her head when we get to Iowa. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and will need to find many off-the-farm places to go train this year because at home she’s a freaking rocket scientist.

I’m thrilled spring has finally made an appearance. Hopefully it sticks around and we can settle into a regular working schedule again.

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I Need a Resounding Kick in the Arse

I believe I’ve mentioned (a time or ten) my propensity to rush my training by glossing over fundamentals, or by seeing results once and then surging forward, certain that tiny success was a sign we were ready to move on instead of staying at that level until I saw regular, predictable results. I thought I’d gotten better after Steve’s clinic. I had a new outlook. I backed up in my training with Jig, forced myself to be patient, to not succumb to frustration. I’ve been videoing my training sessions with both Jig and Dillon so I can watch them afterwards and get a clearer idea of where we are and what I need to do more of, less of, or just differently.

Just like me to have a relapse when things start going well.

I’m calling it The Most Monumentally Epic Set Up For Failure In The History Of The World. I told myself I did this thing to gauge our progress and highlight some holes. In truth, I did this thing because I’m an idiot and I have these great expectations where Jig is concerned and I was certain we could do it.

We didn’t.

I had the wrong sheep, the wrong set-up, the wrong mindset. I got frustrated and fell into old habits (read: flailing about and yelling incoherently). Jig, in true Jig fashion, tried to figure out what the hell I was going on about and do what she thought was right, only to have me get after her more times than was even remotely called for because her attempts weren’t exactly what I was after. I even recognized what I was doing only a few minutes into it but couldn’t manage to stop myself because, “Dammit!” says the Ginormous Idiot in me, “We should be able to do this!”

Only, we weren’t. And part of me knew that going in.

By the time I finally did call it quits, Jig was staring at me as though I’d sprouted horns out of my head. I’d botched things so badly, when I called her over she came to me in that slinky, ears flat manner that’s a sure sign I’ve been unreasonable and unfair. I’m surprised she came at all. I wouldn’t have. I wanted to smack myself. Repeatedly. With a two-by-four. Preferably one with a rusty nail in it. Then offer the opportunity to anyone who wanted it.

I loved Jig up and apologized for being so unbelievably unfair. She’s not as forgiving as some of my other dogs have been. She doesn’t forget such indiscretions easily. She’ll keep trying for me, but I did some damage to the trust and confidence I’ve been attempting to carefully build back up and strengthen.

I’m going to continue to beat myself up about it so as to not forget how stupid I was. The last thing I want is to repeat that performance. I’m also, however, going to put it behind me and move on–or rather back, once again, to the exercises we were doing that were starting to show results and ask my dog to not hold my irrational human behavior against me.

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Lessons in Patience

Some of you have asked me how Dillon is coming along in his training. I don’t mean to ignore him in my posts it’s just that he doesn’t get worked near as often as Jig right now. That’s partly due to time constraints, but mostly it’s because he’s young yet (as I’m constantly reminded by several people any time I whine mention our problems). And he’s a boy. Worse, he is currently suffering from a horrendous case of Young Boy Brain. Or, more correctly, he’s enjoying it. I’m the one suffering. I can only hope it’s not terminal because right now it tends to make me feel like this…

Trust me, that’s no good for either of us.

I fully admit, I’m part of the problem. I have this tendency to want to move from Point A to Point Z at warp speed without pausing in between. Have I mentioned that before? Also, I expect a lot from him. A. Lot. He tries to give it to me, he truly does, but then YBB kicks in and everything becomes a game.

I’m fully aware the bulk of this is on me. So, when I worked him Sunday, I forced myself to be patient. We spent time on things he’s comfortable with, and, when we moved on to something he’s uncomfortable with, I moved in to help him as opposed to watching him struggle while expecting him to puzzle things out and JUST DO IT ALREADY.

*ahem*

Take his gather, for instance. Or his complete and utter lack of a gather. Currently one of my greatest frustrations. I discovered Sunday–when I actually paid attention to what he was showing me instead of trying to force the issue–that if I send him by actually pushing him out into a flank rather than just putting pressure on him to bring me the stock, he accomplishes the task. If I don’t, he approaches straight in and then it becomes a face-off with the sheep. Imagine that.

In my defense, I think I’m just so used to handling Jig that if I don’t consciously reset my brain (and my attitude) when I take Dillon in I tend to treat him like an older dog. An older, more trained dog, instead of a carefree youngster. Which causes me to lose my patience, and get mad at him when he doesn’t perform like one. That is so unfair to Dillon.

Thankfully, he seems to take it all in stride and (unlike Jig) never seems to hold a grudge.

I’ll try to get some current pictures of him working. In the meantime, I leave you with a dose of cuteness.

Rebel Kitten trying out his moves on Linus.

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