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...