Monday, June 13, 2011
I introduced Sprite to shedding today, via the technique I learned from Bob Vest. I learned so many things just from the two clinics I went to with him. When I use those techniques I remember him and hope he is in stockdog heaven knowing how many people appreciated what he taught them. The first clinic I went to I remember thinking you don't often run into a genius at reading and training dogs. I have seen a lot of good trainers and compared to them I am barely passable, but Bob was truly great. He got one big old dog of a breed that I can't remember, almost the size of a Great Dane, interested in working by pushing cows back over toward him. The dog showed little interest in sheep, but when the cows started coming toward him he realized he was a working dog. He may have been a Catahoula mix.
The first step is to get the dog used to coming through the sheep. Bob used a large group of sheep in a small pen, and with the dog walking on a line behind him simply walked through the group of sheep, saying "That'll do". This may sound simple, but if you've tried it with a group of well dogged sheep it may not be so easy, as they tend to want to clump and run. You have to read the sheep and have the dog and you in the right place to split them. Today I practiced a couple of times with Hank, just so I could see how easy it would be with this group of ewes and lambs and to brush up on my skills. This is review for Hank as he has done the more advanced version. Then I tried it with Sprite. There's really almost no way the dog can mess up this step if the person is doing it right. Although one time when Bob was demonstrating with Tyler, Tyler got excited as he got in the middle of the sheep and heeled the only leg he could reach, which happened to be Bob, who didn't get excited but just kept going.
We walked through the group of sheep a few times and then I went on to the next step, which is to call the dog into the sheep as you stand in the middle of them up against a fence. First I had Sprite help me line them out and make a nice big hole, then called her in. I was actually thinking she wouldn't do it, or it would be difficult for her, since is sensitive to the sheep bubble, but she did, her biddability winning out over her desire to group the sheep together. I did that a couple of times, then we went out to the big field to work on some driving. I love my Spritey dog!