Lately I have been working all three of my dogs in the field and the arena with the other two loose in the work area. I used to leash them up outside of my working area or on the fence. Not anymore. Very rarely does anyone get up without hearing their name first. They are calmer and enjoy watching whomever is working at the moment. They know they will be getting a turn.
I almost NEVER work my dogs on obstacles. I try to vary up their work sessions every time I come out to the ranch. I will work them in small pens, because Terry uses small 4X4 pens at his trials. It's a bit of an art getting in a small pen without causing "confrontation." The dogs need to learn to avert their eyes and scoop them out slithering on the pen fence. This is taught by having them go around my backside into the pen. I don't let them walk in face to face with sheep penned.
Today we worked on shedding a flock of about 40 sheep. I try to do this exercise as much as I can. I make them "wade" through the sheep to get their shed. Kilt is wonderful. I'm working with Kilt on shedding a couple of sheep and then a couple of more sheep, etc. Yoko is getting better. Today Yoko held 5 sheep from wanting back into the flock on her own without a word from me. She really had to work it. I was so proud of her. Too bad I didn't have a camera. I lost my little pocket camera (again). It's so easy to take movies with. :0( And, Jet, I actually had to slow him down on his sheds. He comes through at neck breaking speed. Too much speed. I think I have found a bit of a downshift for him. It looks a lot prettier.
Not too many people have to say "easy" on the shed to an 11 year old dog. Gotta love the Jetster.
Speaking of Jet, we got an invitation to a "invitational only sheepdog trial" the other day for the California State Fair. I'm allowed to bring "one" dog. Since he is 11 yrs. old this year, he gets the nod. It will be towards the end of July. I'm really looking forward to it.
Another exercise: I put the sheep out on hay in the arena, four of them. I sent each dog on an outrun, let them lift, and then stopped them and gave them flanks. Whoa.....you guessed it.... flank? No one wanted to flank. We worked quite a bit on this exercise with Kilt being the best. Yoko still takes off on her outrun like there is no tomorrow. I am asking her to stop and try to think. I'm trying not to "grind down" on her since she is so soft. I'm just asking her to stop and try to "think." She is such a slow maturing dog. If I rattle her cage too much, she can't think. She walks a fine line. I'm still trying to find it.
The other "short" exercise they need are lots of whistles, really fast. Yoko isn't quite ready for this. But, we are working up to it. :0) This was an exercise taught to me by Derek Fisher. I really need to incorporate it more into my work sessions for a few minutes each time I go to work the dogs. Fast, slow, short flanks, left and right, and so forth.
Another great exercise that I have been remiss on working is one that Robin Penland taught me. One thing about Robin, is she is a great teacher. I would come home and take notes after working with her. She taught me an "inside flank" lesson (years ago). Since I'm almost always working by myself, I put a few sheep on some hay. I stand maybe 50 feet in front of them. I have the dog take WIDE sweeping inside flanks back and forth directly in front of my feet. If they want to go around me I pat my leg and step back so they come in front of me. I make them go out at least 100 feet on their flanks in relation to the sheep. The sheep should never move. It's a bit confusing at first, but the dog finally gets it. Kilt is sensational at this exercise, because she was the first dog to learn it with Robin. Yoko is just trying to learn it.
I don't always go to work my dogs with a "plan" in mind. Opportunity just seems to come up as we are working. I see something that needs correcting and we take the opportunity to work on that particular exercise. This way, my dogs are never bored. I'm never bored. This morning I saw 3 goats in an arena. I put each dog on the goats. One nanny in particular didn't want to leave the gate. She was waiting for breakfast. Out of my 3 BC's, Jet was a star. I guess when you get to his age you just don't take much bullshit off of anybody! He walked with quiet power, chomp to the head, walk, chomp to the head, until the nanny moved on with the others. Where were you when I needed you some 5 years ago? haha Kilt was too squirrely with the nanny egging her on to play with her. The next best starlet was Yoko. She knows the goats don't like to be heeled, so she will quickly step to their rear to heel them. But, I had an opportunity to work with her on a nose bite today. That's not her style, but I worked on giving her confidence. Stockwork is so interesting.