Last night, after doing the “four dog shuffle” (see above) I brought the sheep into the side pasture. I’ve been working quite a bit in this pasture because there’s quite a few natural obstacles available and there are many dips and valleys and draws to be had. I mentioned a while back that in the Ask the Expert column on the Border Collie Boards, Beverly Lambert said that instead of practicing straight outruns at home, she works on obedience and will sometimes stop a dog on his outrun and make him cross the field in the opposite direction. I did that with Gel and was able to cross him back and forth three times before he reached the sheep. He probably thought I had gone mad making him cross across the handler line like that, but he took his whistles as directed, not always on the first whistle, but always by the second without verbal back-up.
His lifts and fetches have been pretty slow lately and at this point I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll see how he does in the trial on Saturday where I know the sheep will lift much quicker than my group is. When they are out in this pasture, they are much more interested in eating and less likely to run like scared deer which is the norm for this group of lambs. It’s been an excellent opportunity to work on Gel’s driving because he has to lean into them now to keep them moving. Gel is not used to having to lean into stock and I don’t think he thinks much of it. He’s used to stock moving off him just by his presence and he’s not comfortable with having to back that up (yet!).
After the first fetch, I had him drive the sheep up one side of the field, between two trees and then around another tree and back to me. The terrain can be a bit rough in this field so both sheep and dog were doing a fair amount of ditch and brush jumping. It is so much fun to watch him moving those sheep around with nothing but whistle commands and he’s getting so much more confident in his work. I spent a good half hour out there with him traversing the field.
I don’t fool myself, Gel isn’t perfect, he still has a lot of holes in his training and abilities and I’m sure these holes will become clear as day after the trial on Saturday. I haven’t trialed USBCHA in almost a year now. I’m glad we took this time off, that we were able to get together with an instructor who can help us both, and that I’ve been doing the arena trials. It should all pay off in the end.