Friday, October 24, 2014


Finally, I think Champ and I have made a breakthrough.  We are on the same page now.  We have had two, maybe three, big breakthroughs happen after a couple of lessons.  It always pays to have another set of eyes watching you, especially when progress has been slow.

Champ has been hell on paws for me to get to the handler's post quietly.  You would like them with their thinking cap on and surveying the field for sheep.  But, he would get so riled up he would wear behind me.  If on leash he would pull me.  If off leash he would lunge ahead of me.  I found the secret at this trial.  I take him off leash some 50 feet before the handler's post.  I keep my hand slightly outstretched on the side I want him on.  As soon as he starts any of that rocket man crap in front of me or wearing side to side behind me, I get in his face.  I make him go back away from me 10 steps.  Tell him to stay and then I pat my leg gently and ask him up.  If he gets too stealthy and too keen, I do the same thing to him.  It has really helped calm him going to the post.  It also has calmed me not having to fight him about it.

We have been working on giving him more freedom and me being quieter with him.  This has been the first trial that he has taken almost all of my whistles.  You could see him trying so hard.  Hopefully I will be able to get even softer with my whistles.  The 2nd class at Fire Ridge I let a few panels get away from us....on purpose.  He had a nice line and I didn't want to overhandle him.

I have been tring to make his first step on his lift and his drive a quiet, thoughtful step in order to help him get a better feel for his sheep.  This has helped him to stop pushing so hard and fast.  The sheep like him better for it and it helps me to be able to concentrate easier.

We still have a long way to go.  He still is not a confident driving dog. His parents are, so I'm sure I have confused him along the way.  But, now that we have turned a new page, maybe he will become more confident!  I have always trusted him.  He's a beautiful outrunner.  I think I will become a better handler now that I am seeing results from changes in MY training.

I have a few more lessons coming up.  I'm really looking forward to them.  There is always something new to learn :0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jing Tang Jet

That's my new name for Jet….Jing Tang Jet.  We have started him on some Chinese herbs to hopefully shrink his tumor and prolong his life :0)  We…meaning the very CARING Vet I met at the last trial.  She didn't know me from Adam and took the time to assess Jet on the spot.  She also took the time to prescribe and send me the herbs for him.  In this day and age, I find this very unusual.  I couldn't help but like her as soon as I met her.
This is Jing Tang Jet's gravesite.  If it keeps raining, we can fill it with Koi.  I'm hoping we can!  I'll take a Koi pond over a grave any day.

Jet has been off the Prednisone for almost 3 weeks now.  He is eating, drinking, pooping and peeing normally.  He did develop a few upper respiratory symptoms..clear nasal discharge with some sneezing.  Seems not to be viral or bacterial. It is intermittent.  It happens usually in the middle of the night. Most likely related to the head shaking he has been doing for a year.  Everyone has looked in his ears….no one sees anything wrong.  Getting older isn't for sissies.  I'm just so glad he feels better.

Lots coming up in the next few weeks. This weekend a long weekend with my girlfriend, Melodie, that is flying up from SoCal.  Carport going in this coming Monday. Several days later I am taking off in the RV to Milton Freewater, Oregon for the Fire Ridge sheep trial.  Champ will be able to trial 3 days in a row in Pro-Novice.  Two weeks after that we will be taking a couple of lessons with Patrick Shannahan at Joe and Heather Haynes new farm.  Thanksgiving with my neighbors and new friends. Then, I plan to do one sheep trial in Arlington along with the Jack Knox clinic in mid December.  That about sums it up.  Lord willing' and the creeks don't rise, Wayne, Kilt, and Trouble,  and my son and daughter-in-law will be here for a few days around Christmas time.  Lots to plan and look forward to….lots to thankful for.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sheep Trialing

This is such an interesting sport and so much to it than the average eye could ever understand.  Ten years later and I am still learning new methods, new ways of applying quiet pressure, releasing pressure, and understanding the subtle differences between each individual dog.  It's an ongoing process.  I guess that's what makes it so interesting.

I rarely take lessons, but have started taking lessons twice a month now.  Always a revelation, I tell you!  It's not that I don't want to take lessons;  it's because they are usually far away and expensive.  I need to pick up some tips for Mr. Champ, so I'm making the effort while the money lasts.

I have noticed that we are at a lack of progress stage.  For a few months here, I don't think Champ has learned anything new.  He should be learning something new every time we work together.  That was a signal to me that I needed some HELP.

Champ has a good foundation, but lacks the feel and thought processes.  He still wants to push and get up at warp speed.  Push is okay, but the quickness of  his work is hurting us.  He kind of becomes a bit mindless.  He gets mesmerized and isn't "thinking."

Yoko is a soft dog, but able to move most anything.  I am too tough on her.  She is extremely obedient. If I give her a direction at a trial she may continue circling until told what to do.  I am trying to be softer with her and let her think more on her own.  She has her father's thoughtfulness and finesse.

Today, I let each pen 3 sheep several times just so I could see with my own eyes the differences in their working style.  I had one lamb, one Katahdin and one wild eyed Barb.  Yoko was phenomenal.  She can lean, drop a shoulder, lift one foot in order to shift her sheep just where she wants him.  Just like Jet.

Champ, on the  other hand, puts too much pressure on the sheep, moves too quickly, over flanks, and just lacks any finesse at this stage.  So, we will work on that aspect of his training.  He needs to get up slower.  He needs to flank with thoughtfulness.

The other killer for us on the trial field is what I call his "ten step down."  He will give me a down, but not until he has crept through where I wanted him to lie down.  I have been tolerating it.  No more Mr. Champ.  I'm starting to get tough about it.

That's the hard part about sheep dog training.  How much pressure is too much and visa versa?  It is difficult to know.  But, I am finding out if we are at a stalemate for a month or more, I haven't been putting the right amount of pressure on at the right time.  I was worried the other day when I was truly pissed at Champ for his creeping down.  He was pissed at me for getting on his case.  I was mad at myself for getting all over him.  But, you know what, he came back the next time we worked better than ever.  That shows me he is taking advantage of me.  Haha  What's new?

The good news is that "both" are shedding well.  I always had difficulty with Yoko coming in too slowly, but she seems to be getting over it.  Champ, on the other hand, is happy to come in at warp speed.  He is really enjoying sorting and shedding.  This is good.  If you don't have a good shedding dog in open…not good.  Champ isn't quite ready for open until I get him thinking, feeling, and stopping a bit better.  He will be 3 yrs. old in December, so I figure we will be in open sometime next year :)

I will be trailing Champ at Fire Ridge in Oregon in a few weeks.   I hear it's a tricky PN course.  The trickier the better.  I love a challenge.  Onward and upward...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Farm Day

Thank goodness Farm day is singular.  I'm not sure we could have done demos all weekend.  Because, by the time Saturday was over my dogs and I were beat.  The weather held up, no rain, people filtered in throughout the day.  Sometimes there were 10 people, other times there were 50 or so people watching.  Usually they get about 300 spectators for the day.  Several people were spinning wool and we had a gal shearing sheep for the spectators, too.  I received numerous people thanking me (us) for the demonstrations with the dogs.  Bonnie used Bob and Gull.  I used all three of my dogs and Patricia used Tess and Patch.

I think Yoko did 30 sets of weave poles and did the rings on the stick trick before each run of the weave poles.  She was pretty darn cute picking up right where her father, Jet, left off.  I really didn't know she was such a ham!  She has some of her daddy's showman blood. And, when she was through doing demos she did her famous leaps into the swimming pool.   She also took a couple of lambs in and out of some cones lined up.  Weaving with sheep :0)
Bonnie Block did course work with Bob.  The crowds loved it when he made the panels with the sheep.  Lots of applause.  Same with Patricia's Tess.  Bonnie brought Gull out for the audience to watch.  She explained how and why the sheep reacted the way they did with him.  Someone made the erroneous remark that sheep were stupid.  I think they now know that sheep are pretty darn clever in many ways.  So we dispelled that myth!

Patricia was outstanding as a commentator on the mike.  There were lots of questions.  One i kept hearing all was, "How long does it take to train a dog to this level?"  And, while were were doing field work, Old Jet and Old Patch were behind the gate with the audience entertaining them and their wee ones.  Both of these old dogs don't mind having their ears pulled and their rumps pounded on by the little ones :0)  The little ones move too quickly for me to allow Champ and Yoko around them.
When it was Champ's turn to do the loading and unloading of the trailer, I put him on leash and asked the kids to step back.  He was only interested in one thing, WORK.

And, work he did.  Several times I cringed for the safety of his toes and back, but I let him handle the situations as he felt they need to be handled. Thankfully, he is a "thinker."  He over thinks on the trial field.  He is much happier with me more out of the picture to allow him to do what he does best.  Some of my favorite traits this dog inherited is his ability to go nose to nose with most any sheep.  He gives them the opportunity to make the right decision.  He has a lovely on the ground heel bite and the perfectly placed nose bite.  All in the genes.  I rarely have to ask him for anything other than a quiet, shhh, shhh, giving him the okay to take care of business how he deems fit.  I love his mother's ranch work.  I bred him to Buzz, because I loved Buzz's sire, Hap.  I am really please with how Champ is turning out.

The loading and unloading wasn't all smooth sailing.  Occasionally I'd get dumb and dumber going through the chute first.  They would crowd each other getting stuck or the lead lamb didn't want to move because of the people on the fence were staring at her.  Champ would then go to the outside front of the chute moving them back out in the open and run them in a different order up the narrow chute.  The small trailer was open at the top.  Adults could look in over the top.  When Champ would get the lambs loaded, he would stand at the small opening in the trailer.  He would take his direct eye off the lambs to let them relax a bit.  He can stand nose to nose this way without disturbing the lambs.  He will wait for a command from me to squeeze through and bring them out.  And, squeeze through he needed to do.  He does it quietly and methodically.  Champ is worth his weight in gold.

The dogs tired as the day went on and so did the sheep.  They wanted to lie down and graze in the afternoon.  I think we all felt the same way!  Bonnie had to leave early.  I picked up lunch for all 3 of us.  I gave Bonnie her lunch to eat on the road.  Come about 2 PM, Patricia and I told the audience, "Just give us 10 minutes to gobble down a sandwich."  We hadn't had time to even have a drink of water.

When we arrived early in the morning, I asked Jet if he would like to come out of the truck.  I was met with a grumpy oomph and he turned his head away.  That means, "No," I'd rather stay in the truck and nap.  Later in the day knowing he would have to pee and poop at sometime, he decided to come down the ramp out for a visit.  When he saw that there was an audience he eyes lit up.  I gave him his lunchbox and away he went.  A little later after he watched a few demos, he went out with his lunchbox and did a little sheep work.  Way to go Mr. Showman.  It ain't over till it's over.  He just needed an audience to get his juices running!

Hopefully, by next year's farm day I will have a group of geese to work for the audience.  The more variety, the more they liked it.  They liked the course work, and Yoko's few tricks and the weave poles.  Lots oohs and ahhs for the weaves.  Plus, they liked the loading and unloading work done by Champ.  When things didn't go quite as planned, Patricia was great as the commentator.
End of day, end of the show, the sheep needed to all pile into the barn for shearing.  It was a small area and Patricia knew they would not want to go there.  They aren't put up in the barn at night.  They always roam free.  Champ had his work cut out for him.  But, actually, besides the 20 or so nose bites, he got er done fairly quickly.  i worried a little about his safety, but let him have at it.  It was very good experience for him.
We all came home.  I had a cold beer and a Motrin.  Then Yoko and Champ had their dinner and a Rimadyl.  Jet got half a tramadol.  All medicated up, we slept like logs :0)