Monday, March 28, 2011

Working on the weekend

Thinking Hank


Saturday and Sunday I worked four of the dogs each day.   Some of them got just little sessions and some worked longer.   Hank is doing well on his out, and I moved to the larger area, set down some hay and practiced doing a flank, stop, out, flank from every direction.  The hay kept the sheep still in the middle as long as Hank didn't cut in on them.   It was easy to see when he was cutting in because they would leave their hay.   Otherwise, they wanted to stand and eat.   When he did a good flank or out I'd let him walk up and move the sheep.   The out is hard for him, so I tend to look at what will be his reward for doing it well.  He likes to flank, and even more he likes to walk in and move them. 

Dodge watching the sheep

Dodger, even though he is Hank's half brother, could not be any more different than Hank.   Where Hank is full of intensity, Dodge is matter of fact and plain.   He loves to work, but it is a different sort of challenge to train him.  He really wants to flank around and contain the sheep, he doesn't want to push them.  When I put pressure on him he goes more slowly and carefully around them.   So I've been working with him on walking into them and pushing.   After his training session yesterday the sheep, especially one white wether, were being very impatient about their hay.  They kept running into the barn to try to take apart the bales, get tangled in my water bucket electric cords, and generally cause havoc.   So each time they tried I encouraged Dodge to walk up and push them out again.    He was doing more on his own each time and required less of me walking with him. 

Sprite does well walking in to a certain point, and then she starts to feel the sheep bubble push back if they don't want to go somewhere, like a deeper area of snow.  If they aren't moving she gets excited and wants to jump at them.   So I've been holding her on a line to get her to just calmly walk in and hold that pressure.    Jumping at them is a last resort, along with biting, but with these sheep the dog can move them just by keeping the pressure steady and I want to show Sprite that.   Since I have the ram in the working group, leaping at him is a pretty bad idea as he is willing to fight back.  I'd like the dogs to hold steady and move him without biting unless he comes after them, then I encourage them to bite.  

Pepper is perfectly willing to walk up on the sheep, but her preference is a nice big fast flank.   It seems to be her joy in life to run around the sheep.  She seems to already have a good grasp on go bye vs. way to me.    So she's been working a lot on a steady walk up and hold the sheep, and patience.   When she does walk up she goes fast- like Ben I think she would like to drive them at a gallop.   It's nice to see in the beginning they are willing to drive fast, but I have to show them that slow works better most of the time.   If you drive into the sheep too fast they are likely to squirt and split. 

This is a video of Pepper learning to drive last fall.   You can see she starts out walking slowly but when she makes contact with the sheep she speeds up.    Now I am trying something different, which idea I got from Tenley.  Instead of starting next to her, I leave her way back, I stand near the sheep and have her walk up to the sheep.  That way am am always next to her or in front of her, never behind,  and I can use pressure to get her to flank squarely or to stop without having her turn around and look at me (as she did on the video- this can become a bad habit).    I know she has plenty of confidence driving in front of me, so much that she wants to tune me out, so I'm literally staying in her view this way.   

Pepper driving movie

Ben this weekend was working on driving straight and steady also.  In some ways he is like Pepper in wanting to drive fast, but he has far more experience so I don't have trouble with him running around to the head, or jumping at and startling the sheep.     I have trouble getting him to flank squarely since I didn't really enforce that very well in training originally.   He doesn't have natural square flanks, he has flanks that push.   He also for some reason has trouble with go bye/away.  He seems to pick randomly sometimes, or go the way he thinks my body language is saying.  I think he has trouble with the words, I know he is not just being stubborn, he's really trying to be right.    Luke was kind of that way too- directions were hard for him, just like some people have trouble remembering left and right I guess.  


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