Friday, April 29, 2011

Tessa in the Big Field

Yesterday in the drizzle I took Tessa out to the big field to try her out there.  We first practiced in the small pen some of the commands she knows:  get around, lie down, walk up, out, stay.   Then we took our sheep through the gate and she did a nice wait while I got it open and let them through.   Then I called her to me, picked up the rope and had her "go bye" while holding the rope and walked with her around the sheep, pointing the stick at her when she tried to go in toward the sheep.   Lucky for us the sheep are so excited about fresh grass they don't take off running for far corners of the almost 5 acre field.   If they did run off  I'd just walk with her on the rope until we got them in a corner somewhere.   Sending her after running sheep that are already far away would not be a good idea at this stage. 

When she was thinking "go around", and the sheep were standing in the open rather than against a fence, happily eating grass, I dropped the rope and let her go around.   She did a nice circle, then started to get tighter so I pushed her out, then walked away from the draw.   She settled into walking behind the sheep then.   As soon as the sheep began to pass me I would make another turn and push her out.  

After a few minutes she started hanging out at the draw side, not wanting to go all the way around.   I did not see this in Sally, but have in some of the other dogs when they want to control the sheep and have figured out a spot they can hold them without running around and getting out of position to stop the sheep from running to the draw (where the other sheep are).  

This can be good and bad in my experience. 
The good:  it shows the dog is really thinking and reading the sheep, wanting to be in control and not just run around like a crazy nut. 
The bad:  if you want to actually walk the sheep toward the draw it takes a bit of work to get the dog to give up her position there.    Just pushing her around with the stick won't do it usually, they just go out wider but still hold the same side, which is what Tessa did.
So I have to show her that she really can go around to the non-draw side and not lose the sheep.  What I did was down her, walk to a position way off to the side, way off to the right, and then send her left to the sheep's heads.  It worked, and I expect it will take more of that as well as a couple of other tricks I have up my sleeve (from training Kip) to get her flexible on that.  


The pictures are from today.  We have sun!

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