Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nationals, and lessons

Ganesh, opener of ways
I spend most of Nationals in Renea's RV (thank you!!!!) but the last night the RV had to go home so I stayed at the Super 8, watched over by this little guy.    When I saw him at the front desk I knew it would be a good place to stay, and it was. 

Sprite and Hank, competitors

Luke and Pepper, visitors
I took 4 dogs, not knowing if I would get any runs because I was on the wait list for everything.  I ended up getting into everything I signed up for, but changed my mind on Sprite's advanced sheep run at the last minute and let someone else have it.  I was confused by the new rules on staying at the same level and I actually could have trialed her in open again, so I was kicking myself later when I figured that out.    Hank was in sheep and ducks in the Nationals trial and Sprite was just in advanced ducks.  Except for Hank's sheep run I was happy with how they did.  Sprite scored a few points higher than Hank on ducks because she actually got hers through the center obstacle.  Hank was being very stubborn on "out" and coming in at the wrong moment.  

On sheep, Hank would not drive to the panels, and I was very frustrated with him just standing there holding the sheep.  But I did get some very helpful advice from Shannon Wolfe on how to work on that, so I'm trying it.   I went by there for a lesson later on.  

First of all, Hank is slipping side to side because I have not taught him to hold a line, so he's following the sheep; he tends to miss the panels because he's not on a line (not a rope, but a straight line with the sheep), and then when I get excited and give a bunch of commands he gets worried and looks back to me.   Then, he doesn't want to push into them because of the worry so he stands and holds them.  Also, he needs work on taking the inside flank.

So, the first thing to work on is how I start the drive.  Instead of just saying "walk up" and letting the dog take it from there, I am now giving a couple of flanks to get the sheep headed the right direction, and then saying "there, walk up".   This shows the dog where the line will be and lets them learn to hold it.  I wasn't expecting instant results with this, but it seemed to really help him out right away.  

The second thing was to brush up on the inside flanks, which we did by flanking him from the balance point around 360 degrees several times.    Then to be next to him while driving and emphasize "HERE, away" or "HERE, go bye".

The third thing was to have him drive them into a corner and then keep driving them until they scatter and he has to come out and cover.  It's very important to stay calm and let him know it's fine if he makes a mess, he knows how to fix it again.   This should get to his reluctance to push in.   The first few times I tried it he was really slipping side to side and letting them go around the corner, but then he figured out what I wanted and was actually driving them straight into the corner.  

It's really helpful to have a good trainer take a look at your dog and figure out what you need to do to improve.  

All these things are working with the younger dogs too so I can hopefully head any problems off before they start.  

Shannon's dog Miska working in the pens
I spent a lot of time working in the sheep pens, which was fun and kept me busy while still being able to watch the runs.   And I helped a small amount by being a fence for the cattle drives as they were moved from barn to arena and back again each day.  

Aside from a flood in the RV and some rainy weather some of the days, Nationals was really good for me this year and I had a great time seeing everyone there.   I can't wait for the next one!

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