It's been over 4 years since I had a puppy Border Collie to work. You forget. It's all done in baby steps. Champ is the first dog ever that I sent out for almost 2 months of training. He was a bit nervous and difficult for me to stop him. He came back much calmer and with a stop. He got calmer working with a pro and with the perfect sheep for him to work.
Now, he needs confidence which equates to experience. I don't have perfect sheep for him to work, so he will have to use his head now. He doesn't take after his mother in respect to penning. Kilt could peel sheep off fence lines and out of small pens at 6 mos. of age. It was her forte. It still is. Yoko at 10 mos. of age could jump up on a hay cart and knock goats off with her teeth. My girls have always been superb ranch dogs. I'm not saying they have perfect flanks....yadda, yadda, yadda, but they get the job done. I like that. Trialing is icing on the cake. First I need and want a good ranch dog.
Champ loves going to the ranch with me and he can't wait for his turn. He is learning lots. When he first came home he had some pretty style points, but he was ranch puppy stupid. If she sheep split, he would follow one bunch and not put them together. He didn't and still isn't happy about scooping them off the fence and working the pens. He doesn't really think goats are workable if they are with sheep. He will leave the goats and bring me the sheep. If a sheep challenges him with a bit of a head nod, I'm not sure if he is even aware. When he doesn't know what to do, he lies down and waits.
All this tells me he is just young and dumb (puppy stupid). He so wants to do right. I am encouraging him to make some mistakes now. We are doing lots of pen work. When he doesn't pick up the goat stragglers. I whistle a look back and walk towards him quietly saying 'look back.' He is just starting to get it. "Oh...you want ME to pick up that mama goat with the nursing baby?" "Why yes, Champ."
I am careful that he doesn't get overpowered. He hasn't been. He has a few ram lambs, a few goats, and one blazed face ewe that will turn on him. But, he just walks calmly at them. If they don't turn he nips their nose and keeps walking. This I love about him. My girls would jump in, nip, and jump out. Champ is what I call a 'steady eddy.' :0) That's an attribute for sure.
He still wants to cue off my body. That is how he must have learned his flanks up north. He only has his directions down about 80%. He wants to see if I am going to move my shoulders, etc. to give him a hint. I am trying to stop this now. He is far along enough to start thinking and using his own brain. He needs to stop using me as a crutch. It's all a work in process. So much fun.
The nice thing about Task Farms field is that I can scatter sheep across the field. That way when I send Champ, he has to REALLY look, in order to fetch all of them to me. We are doing a bit of lane work. He isn't putting the right pressure on the sheep driving up against a fence. This is going to take a few months. He is lovely on the geese, because I am sure they remind him of Suzy's sheep. I move and you move. They move so easily off of him. He was comfortable from the first time I put him on the geese. So, now I am selling my agility equipment and buying geese :0) I have a nice arena to work geese in.
Baby steps Suzanne.......Keep reminding yourself....Baby steps :0)