Except for almost knocking me off the podium, my lesson with Gel went as well as it did with Cian. Kevin said he could see A. Owen’s #Bob in Gel (not the first time I’ve been told that), both in his appearance and how he worked.
As I mentioned, Dawn’s field has a ton of terraces valleys and I lost sight of him several times. Thank God for good outrunning dogs. I made a major boo-boo in the beginning. I know Gel didn’t see the sheep when I sent him first and after he came out of one valley, I saw that he had come in. I know in my heart that as soon as he saw the sheep, he would have kicked out to where he needed to be, but I wanted his outrun to be pretty and at the time he cut in, the sheep were running willy, nilly at the top, so called him back.
I got read the riot act for that … which was perfectly justified.
Anyway, Gel came in a bit short at the top. He would have only lost a few points for his lift, but if he had run a bit wider, the fetch would have been a bit nicer than it was.
So, in training, I need to insist that Gel over flank at the top and to stop when I ask him to. That will eliminate future incidents of landing too short. Generally, he lands exactly where he needs to be, but if there’s confusion or obstacles at the top (as there were here), it would be good to have some say in where he lands. He also said that if I allowed Gel to come in short (i.e. where he wanted to) that eventually I’d have a dog that would continue to come in closer and closer. A perfect example of giving a dog an inch and eventually he’ll take a yard. That said, Gel is an extremely honest dog and I don’t know that would happen with him, but I will train as he suggested. The more control I have over him, when I need it, the better we’ll be in the long run.
From now on, no more fetching sheep to my feet. That’s too easy for Gel, he knows how to do it with his eyes closed. No matter what happens at the top or during the fetch, those sheep are coming to my feet. Not always straight through the panels, but they’ll make it there (without any injury or unsettling of the sheep). From now on, instead of bringing the sheep to me I need to stop him, get a full flank on him and then make him drive the sheep in a different direction. That way, when he is during a true fetch and I ask for a flank, he’ll give me an honest flank (because he will think I’m making him change direction) instead of a half flank which is what I usually get during a fetch. This will make my fetch lines better.
Driving: Gel is bored driving. Can’t say I blame him. So I need to use wilder sheep (which I have in the lambs). Kevin said not to worry about lines right now, but to keep him going and keep him excited about the drive. Just drive the sheep around and around and around. Outruns and fetching are so much more fun for most Border Collies so the constant drilling of driving, often with slow, harder to push sheep, isn’t going to build his enthusiasm for driving. It will be helpful for me to stop thinking about lines and just get his enthusiasm for driving there. Then I can worry about lines and panels.
We worked a bit on shedding, but we only had a group of four sheep that were very hard to shed. He gave me some things to think about during the shed. I can practice at home with my large flock.
He agreed with me that Gel was perfectly ready to run in Open. We surely are not going to be placing for a long time, but he’s more than capable of doing the work, it’s just a matter of polish. He said that I had done a good job training him and that he was a very good dog for me to have started with. He’s extremely biddable and very kind to his sheep.
Kevin had some constructive criticism on my whistles. He said my come-bye whistle was a bit shrill and there were stop tones in it. He said that a couple of times when I blew the come-bye whistle that he saw Gel stop thinking I was blowing stop whistle.
So all in all, it was a very worthwhile trip to Georgia. Wally went with me. It was great to have company. We ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel on the way down and stopped for a burger at Fudrukkers on the way home. Was I ever beat when I got home. It was a wonderful night for sleeping. It rained most of the night.