I worked Gel a bit on sheep this morning. He took commands, even drive flanks, almost entirely on whistles. As I thought he would, he seems much more relaxed taking whistle commands.
As well as he’s working has made me start to consider entering some USBCHA trials this spring. I know I said I wouldn’t, but there are compelling reasons to trial him in Border Collie trials if I can as these trials are a true test of our skills. I made an appointment to work with an open level handler on January 26. Yes, I’m driving three freaking hours to take a lesson. Given that he seems to be grasping the drive concept and this morning he did two long outruns to the right (the side he’s been sticking on) and didn’t stick makes me think there may be hope that I can run him at the pro-novice level and be reasonably competitive. I don’t know that Gel will ever be able to shed (a skill that he needs in order to run at the open level) so at this point in time, I’m going to be happy with running competitively in pro-novice and maybe ranch. Maybe next year I can run him at the prestigious Bluegrass Trial in Kentucky. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, this weekend I’m going to make some drive/fetch panels in order to train with them as that’s where we have our problems, getting the sheep through the panels. It isn’t necessarily Gel’s problem, it’s mine. I have a hard time judging lines and making sure Gel is where he needs to be to get the sheep through the panels. One serious problem that we had, which has now been corrected, was that Gel is what is called a line dog, he holds the sheep on a straight line, which is a good skill to have, except sheep often don’t lift in the line they need to be in to come straight to the handler through the panels. Once he lifted the sheep, Gel held them on whatever line the sheep took, which usually wasn’t the line they needed to be on to make the fetch panels. Previously, I could not flank him off that line, he was drawn into it like a magnet. I’ve worked hard on breaking this habit and now I can flank him (at a distance), in both directions, completely around the sheep. Now that I can do that, I can straighten out the line and hopefully make the panels.
I’m also going to make a holding pen for the sheep in the field that I work in so I can, if I want to, split the group and work on penning.
Another important thing I noticed this morning is that his handling skills have become much tighter. A big difference I noticed in Midge over Gel was that she could hold sheep to me in a pressure situation much better than he could. Gel tends to over flank and when there’s a lot of pressure, he’ll loose his sheep. Midge never did. Gel doesn’t like to go into pressure, but this morning, he looked like Midge when we were going through an area where the sheep often try to escape.
I think everything I’m seeing is just Gel maturing. He may end up being one awesome trial dog when he’s ten or so.
Until my sciatica gets better, and the pain is lessening, I can’t do a lot of agility training as it hurts to move quickly. Also, until we have enough light, training for agility is a bit tough.
A month from now, however, I’ll probably be back doing mostly agility, but for now, we’ll focus on herding. I said this before, I think Gel and I do better with some variety in our training routine.
Fern has learned a new and exciting (for her) trick. She takes a running leap and lands in my lap while I’m sitting on the couch. In my house, dogs are not allowed on the furniture unless invited so I’ll need to nip this new trick in the bud. The look on her face when she did it was one of great glee and it made me laugh the first time she did it. Fern makes me laugh a lot. While she’s small enough so that she fits quite well in my lap; lap dog she’s not.