Thursday, June 27, 2013

About training

And just because I am in the mood to post, I started writing this yesterday morning

As I sit here grazing sheep, I think I will write my thoughts from the earlier training sessions this morning. I started my day working 5 very different dogs (thought they all are related) ranging from 1 year to 5 years in agility.

These dogs remind me that no two dogs or people learn equally from the same methods, or at the same time. Different things are perceived as corrections, and all respond to various rewards differently.  And by corrections, I would refer to anything a particular dog would react to as a negative.  Could be as simple as withholding a treat, a look, repetition, a verbal.  Now, I feel these are part of training, up to the point that they start to shut a dog down. This threshold obviously varies quite a bit.

For example, the 2 dogs who are helping me as I graze sheep. On stock, Dari (the younger) responds very well to verbal corrections, while my corrections to Dari hurt Tommy’s feelings and worry him… Which makes me realize that I need at times to work dogs individually.

When I started playing with Dari on agility equipment, she had a strong aversion to the movement of the puppy teeter board. Instead of forcing the issue, I just did other things with her, then one day had her out in the agility field while working with Tommy. She followed him over all the equipment and did the teeter. Its amazing when not training can help with such progress. She needed more confidence, which is coming with maturity.

Bug and Rango (my youngest) are 1 month apart in age. Rango turns a year old tomorrow (June 28). To say that they are different would be an understatement. Though both are very happy and bouncy. Bug in many ways is easier, willing to experiment, works well offering behaviors for the  clicker, food motivated, responds easily to pressure on stock.  Though she does not have the play drive I would like, I think it would be easy to build.
Rango is much more sensitive. His default when unsure is to come for attention, stand and wiggle.  However he is rather fearless, with no concern about the rocker board, even learning to balance it! He loves affection, and is driven to play ball. Food is not so much of a draw when he gets tired.  He also is very pressure sensitive on stock, and like his mother, wants to control those heads. Being a goofy male  (and Lizzy’s pup) I am expecting a slow maturing boy. Patience I say…

Tommy is watching the sheep while I type, making sure they do not go out of bounds.  It is fascinating to watch dogs learn the job of tending, the willingness of some to take initiative and “fix” the sheep, others just become anxious until given permission. The patience learned while grazing is invaluable.  Stock handling does not mean constant motion, running around, or even information as to what to do.

I have been taking Tommy, Dari, and Lin with me to do chores in the morning. One thing I ask them to do (and correct them when they do not) is watch the gates when I put the grain down for the sheep.  Dari places herself in a down front of the gate, with a “you better not come here look,” normally Tommy just stands and stares.  This morning all 3 were lying down, blocking the sheep, until I put the grain down, and asked them to “get around.”

musings from this morning

Musings from this morning...

Life on the farm
Watching lambs frolicking, the wonders of new life, the attentiveness of the momma ewes, the baby ducklings hatching, peaceful grazing/tending of the sheep, the routine of the daily chores, all are part of the pleasure of the farm.  Having the space to let the dogs run, the stock to tr on, the room for agility equipment are bonuses.  Of course there is the dark side, the work, chores when it is nasty outside, sick livestock, those hard decisions, the predators, work to do, things to fix.

I appreciate the good of it all, and am grateful for this being my life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I have not written here since december.  Much too long of a break.
Thought I should update as I sit here in my front grazing sheep with Tommy and Dari. Without a fence, the dogs become the perimeter control.  Always good for the dogs as they learn patience, as well as working on their off balance flanks, outruns, and just general work.  I like it when the dog starts moving without direction when the sheep start to go places they do not belong. I also like it when the dogs will take flanks and commands without me having to get up from my chair!

And so, in the last 6 months what have we done? To much traveling between judging agility and stock (I am now an ASCA stockdog judge), my clinics in Nashville and trialling. Though ASCA trials are my preference, I did compete at the AKC Aussie Nationals herding trials, with Tommy in Advanced course A sheep (we qualified 1of our 2 tries) and my friend Sally's girl Choca in started sheep and ducks (A and B). Choca q-ed both duck runs (great ducks) and one sheep run (pretty dogwise sheep). Tommy also finished his AHBA herding championship!  Baby Dari (who turned 2 the end of March) also had a good spring, earning her started sheep, duck and cattle titles with several really nice runs, and then turning around and earning her AHBA level 3 ranch dog sheep title. But enough of the bragging.

Training wise, I have been slacking.  I need to get up early, so I can work all the dogs.  Tommy needs mileage driving, and confidence, and mileage.  He really is a good dog to work with, as he tries to please.  He also has such nice outruns, and is good about gathering stock even out of sight.  Its the driving that holds us back.
As I entered Lizzy in Nationals, I have to "knock the rust" off of her, and work on everything with her. We need to become a team.  Pieces and parts are there, and she really is a talented dog, however the months without training have allowed her to become sloppy, and forget flanks. So lots of driving and off balance work are needed, as well as chore work. Lizzy did make me proud in the cattle farm trial when she decided to hit a heel! We were loading the cattle in a trailer.
Dari is coming along nicely.  She has no qualms about driving stock away. We do need better off balance flanks, for driving, for penning, and for grazing. She is a pushy little girl who does like to bite. She is also very quick.  The wonderful thing, verbal corrections are working well on stopping her cutting in on outruns. They keep getting better and more consistent. She really is a fun girl.
My little Bug is also making me proud.  She works nicely off stock and will balance nicely (well, one side she tends to overflank). We usually work in smaller areas as she will bite if given too much freedom. At this point, lots of turns, stops backed up to the fence, and I'm starting to use flanks.
Rango is also going to be a good little stockdog, once we get this teamwork thing figured out.  He seems to be going through a phase where he would be happy holding them in a corner. Like Bug, he also is bad about biting. He does have a lovely rate, and loves to control the heads. And I certainly do not want to loose appropriate bite, just keep him from having opportunities to grab unnecessarily.

That would be all for now. If I can get the video's posted on U-tube of Bug and Rango from the beginning of the month, and find the link from January, I will post them.