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TRIALING AND TRAINING
DOG FIRST AID
MADE IN THE USA
SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
Decker's New Weight
I managed to get in today to get Decker weighed at the veterinarian's office. I get a more accurate weight loss using the same scale. Also, usually veterinarian's scale are quite accurate. I promptly walked in, asked if I could use the scale, then with out hesitation walked Decker right on the scale and told him to sit. He did as he was told. I couldn't believe my eyes, it read 76.3. I took Decker off of the scale, and zeroed it out , then put him back on for a second reading. I wanted to make sure that the scale was correctly reading his weight. Yep, just about; his weight has been recorded as 76.5 lbs.
I told Roland yesterday, that I just thought that I was starting to feel his ribs. He said not to get carried away thinking that I am done with his diet; because he still needs to loose more weight. I knew what he meant, but seeing him every day, I don't get to see the progress, now I am starting to see some. Today visit confirmed it, Decker has lost 8.4 lbs, so far. I still think that more weight needs to come off, maybe 4-5 lbs, but time will tell.
Little Jessy Comes a Visiting
Roland and his little girl Jessy came over for more socialization. I was in the house and the dogs were outside. Decker and the girls greeted Roland and Jessy with no problems at all. Later during the visit, Decker came up for attention from Roland. He did this several times. Roland told him that he would take him home if he had the room. He is such a nice dog.
In the afternoon, the FedEx man came to the door to deliver a package, while Decker was outside. I rushed to the door and asked the FedEx man, "Did he give you any problems?', he said no, not really. That was assuring to hear. Little by little, this boy is being turned around.
A Trip to the Beach
I had a lunch meeting with one of the managers from the San Luis Obispo Humane Society. I had decided to take all of the dogs with me because its always much cooler toward the coast in San Luis Obispo. It was going to be a scorcher today at an estimated 106F. When we left to head down to SLO, the weather was getting hot at around 90F. As I am driving down the hill toward SLO, I noticed that the weather was getting hotter instead of cooler. Wow, that is sure weird. Only once in a blue moon is the weather reversed like that. It is usually always hotter in north county than is SLO in the summer, and colder in the winter. San Luis Obispo is always milder that north county.
Well its just my luck! Its boiling down here in SLO and I have the dogs with me! I found some pretty good shade and made sure the dogs had water and open windows. I found out that it was 103F, so I went from 90 to 103F, it figures! I was early, so I looked around in a nearby store for a few minutes, then rechecked the dogs. Not happy with the shade, I moved the truck to a shadier location.
Steve (the Humane Society manager) and I met for lunch and discussed an up coming event that I am involved in. They sponsor a yearly dog walk and fair called the Wiggle Waggle Walk around the park. It is a fundraiser for that local organization. I am going to be doing sheepdog herding demonstrations.
We discussed the event during lunch then headed over to the park where it is going to be held in order to work out logistics. Their will be booths with vendors set up in the dog park located inside the Laguna Lake park. Steve and I needed to discuss where and how, I would be doing the demonstrations. Since we were at a dog park and the dogs were hot, I let them out to play. I kept a cautious eye on Decker as there were two other people at the dog park with their dogs, all having fun chasing the ball.
I had all of the dogs leashed, then once "inside" the dog park (no real fences), I unleashed them. Decker and the girls had a wonderful time running and playing, and chasing the ball. One lady walked by and I simply told her to ignore the Aussie. That made me fell better as Decker had been coming right up to her as he was playing with her dogs. He really like her dogs too, and seemed drawn to them.
After discussing the event on October 23rd, it was still fairly early in the day. I decided to take the dogs to the beach, since I was almost half way there. The beach was beautiful. The temperature was about 75 or 80 degrees and not much wind. The tide was in, and people and dogs were everywhere along the beach, enjoying each other and the water.
The dogs were leashed and remained so until I reached about 50 feet from the water. Then off with the leashes, and time to run. The girls took off and Decker followed. They ran up and down the surf, chasing birds or balls, what ever came their way. They even played a little with other dogs, but not too much as they have a priority of running! I walked up and back down along the surf, checking to see what was up a head. I was looking for joggers. I had been warned that Decker might go after joggers. Being a herding dog, I don't doubt that. There were no joggers at all, just lots of dogs, balls, people and water.
When the dogs got a little too far from me, I used my sheepdog herding whistle with the "that'll do" command on it, and they would tear back to me. Decker doesn't know what the recall whistle is, so he would follow the girls back to me. More and more I would whistle, then use a verbal command, so he would understand what I want.
The Sheep Shearer Cometh
I had 6 goats and a sheep, Ma, the Border Leicester, who all needed shearing. I am so done with doing it myself. It usually takes me at least 1 hour per animal and that makes the shearing job, take all day. I can't struggle with goats and sheep all day any more, as I would get too tired after several hours. So the job goes to Jose, a local sheep shearer. I was prepared for him when he showed up. I had decided that I could not deal with three dogs while holding goats for Jose to shear. Tam and Decker were tied in the barn aisle, out of the way. I would use Kate as she is the most obedient dog of the three and would need the least of my attention.
After the shearing was completed, I released Decker and Tam and they all ran around excited. Decker was curious about Jose's dog in the pick up and went to greet her.
After Jose left, all of the dogs came in the house and were quiet for several hours. I guess watching goats and sheep is a lot like watching sheepdog herding trials, the dogs watching "are there" correcting the animals in their minds. This is a total workout for them. Most of the time when we go to sheepdog herding trials, the girls watch all day, they only get to work once, for 10 minutes. They get potty breaks and a lunch break, but all-in-all, they just watch all day. When the trial is finished for the day, they are simply exhausted! In their minds, they worked those sheep the entire day!
Sheepdog Herding with Decker and a New Dog
I received a call a few days ago out of the blue. She had had my number for over a year and wanted to restart sheepdog herding lessons. She had had two previous lessons with another instructor about two years ago. She has a Border collie that she rescued from Animal Control in San Luis Obispo. The two lessons her dog had in the past, showed promise and she said that he really liked it.
She was very excited about getting a lesson, and we set one up for the next evening. My new student, Mia, was ear to ear with a smile the whole time that she was here. She reminded me of myself, with my very first sheepdog herding lesson. I had sore muscles the next day, just from smiling for so long!
Right now we are just working on her dog and then later we will work on Mia, herself. It always takes longer for the human to learn sheepdog herding, than it does for the dog. It seems like everything moves so fast, and when one is new at something, fast is not what one wants.
She has a real nice petite male dog, Connor, which reminds me of a little fox. He had a tail full of stickers after we were done with sheepdog herding. I showed Mia my Border collies working. She had never seen real working dogs work sheep in person. Mia had only seen working dogs on the movie "Babe", and that is when she fell in love with the sport of sheepdog herding. She was amazed by my dog's speed. I told her that they may be fast, but you don't always want a speed demon out there on the trial field, we need control first.
I explained the "eyed" dogs versus the "loose eyed" dogs to Mia. After explaining eye to her, I took Decker out into the round pen to work him. She noted that she could see the difference between the two types of dogs.
Decker was very good with Mia and her dog Connor. There was no posturing between the boys, and every one got along fine. Mia and Connor will be coming back next week, and we may try the field already. He may be able to handle it. It won't hurt to try. When I was starting Kate, she was never in a round pen. I have gone to it for advanced work later, but I never needed it in the beginning. Tam was only in the round pen for two weeks, then she was in the field. I feel as long as the dog is not wanting to kill the sheep, and I have a reasonable amount of control with him, then why not give the field a try. We will see next week.
A Day of Sheepdog Herding at Dog Day
Decker had an excellent day today. I left home early so we all could catch a walk around Atascadero Lake Park. The lake used to be a low spot in the town, where the rain water would collect. Over the years, Atascadero lake has been developed into a recreation area where many people walk, run or ride bikes around. That was the sort of area that I would benefit Decker. He needs people behind him, and coming at him. This will help in desensitising him toward people and things. He did real fine, but at the same time I made sure that I had a firm hand on his "head". That is the key, to have his mind.
He got to come with us to Sandy's for dog day, and visit with everyone, and get treats from many people. Pat, my friend was there and Decker was especially glad to see her. He has bonded with her, it was incredible to see.
This is how I figured it went. He is a weak dog, like many dogs are. He needs a strong leader to follow. He sucked in to me being a total follower of me and totally respecting me. Last week when Pat disciplined him, he sucked into that strong leadership. He seems to love her almost as he loves me. (if dogs love). He couldn't get enough of her.
He got to sheepdog herd in the round pen and did fairly well. I am working on his walk up, and its just starting to take shape. He does tend to still want to go to head all of the time and I have been stopping that some, as I encourage him to walk up and let him know when he is right.
Sandy gave me a bamboo pole today to use with Decker. I was complaining that I needed one for him as when he was sheepdog herding at home he has been splitting up the flock. The use of a long bamboo pole is standard procedure to use with newly started Aussies. They are dogs which come in straight at the sheep. That behavior needs to be corrected. They need to be able to give to the sheep and curve around them in their outrun, not coming in straight which can cause a split up of the flock.
The long pole with encourage him to just that, curve around the sheep and get behind them. This in-turn will position the dog to be able to fetch the sheep to the handler. Just what we need. I will have to give the pole a try in the next few days.
Though the long pole is a mechanical type of training and I usually teach a natural style, the pole will assist me in getting the point across to Decker just what I want, the sheep between him and me.
Back to Sheepdog Herding in the Round Pen
Today my friend Roland came over to socialize his pup again. Decker almost couldn't wait for her to get out of the truck. He kept trying to jump in. All four of the dogs played for quite a while. I was waiting for another friend to come over and join us with her young dog but she never showed up. After the dogs played, I decided to give them sheepdog herding lessons.
I sorted out the sheep with Kate and put three non-combative ones in the round pen for Decker. I worked both of the girls once then it was Decker's turn for sheepdog herding in the round pen. He worked about the same as before, a tiny bit better on the walk ups. Roland watched, and commented how good he was working.
After I was done with Decker for his first go around at sheepdog herding, I asked Roland if he would like to sheepdog herd with his young dog. He hasn't had her on sheep much at all, but he said that he would give it a try. He worked her in the round pen while I worked the girls out in the field.
When he came back from the round pen, I asked him how it went. He said OK, but both of them were not used to such a tight area, the few times he has sheepdog herded with her they have been in the field. I offered him to sheepdog herd in the big field as soon as I was done with the girls.
While I was working Decker in the round pen, Roland worked his dog on sheep out in the field. He had a real good time; we had a large group of sheep for his dog to herd. She had never herded a large group before but she did real well handling all of them.
After sheepdog herding, the dogs cooled off in the dog pool and I started throwing the ball with the Chuck-it ball thrower. The Chuck-it thrower really lets you throw the ball a lot farther that just your arm alone. Back and forth the dogs ran expanding their lung capacity and keeping their weight down. I like to have the dogs really pant every few days expanding their lung capacity. This kind of sprinting helps keep them in shape for the up coming trial season.
Several times during Roland's visit, Decker came up to him for treats or just for pats. I think that he really likes him.
In the afternoon, Decker and the girls were outside and wet from swimming. I was in the house. I heard Decker barking and barking. I ran out and the UPS man was there. I took off after Decker while telling the UPS man that I would be right with him as soon as I disciplined this dog. Decker took off! So the chase was on. I chased him all over the front yard, around the truck and around the planter until finally Decker looked at me and stopped.
This situation reminded me when Tam was a pup. She was a runner, and I had never had a runner before. One time, when she was in trouble, I was through with her running, and I chased and chased her until suddenly she stopped and turned around and walked toward me. She never ran again.
I dragged Decker all the way over to the front of the truck where the UPS man was standing, made him lay down and "bit" him with my fingers on his side as he lie there, and growled a No to him. After that, he was fine. And I was just thinking that we were through with that stuff, he has been so good for so long. It just shows you that this fear that he has is not a quick fix. He just needs some more exposure and more sheepdog herding. Maybe tomorrow, its dog day!
Decker Herds in the Field
Still energized by Suzy Applegate winning the Meeker Sheepdog Herding Trial (which is a very prestigious trial), I went out after lunch to work the dogs on sheep. The temperature was in the mid 80's, and I was being a little lazy. I really didn't want to especially put sheep in the round pen for Decker. I wanted to see how he would do in the field.
Field work is a more advanced level of sheepdog herding work. No close fences to help guide the dog, and the dog can really get the sheep going. So fast sometimes, that they can run a sheep right into a gate or fence. Keeping that in mind, I still wanted to see where we were, as far as getting out of the round pen.
At first I thought that I had made a mistake, and it was way too early for him to be out in a big field, but he proved me wrong. After about 30 seconds or so, he started to settle and think about what he was doing. I was amazed by him. Granted he wasn't a perfect Aussie out there herding, but he really hasn't been herding that long. I was able to guide him around a smaller part of the field, using the whipflag to get him to bend around the sheep, and a little part of the fencing. He still split up the three sheep that I was using occasionally, but not as much as he could of.
I have seen some crazy dogs out there in the field. Dogs chasing with predator mode turned on, in their brain, ready to kill what ever is in front of them. I have seen some dogs so fierce, that if they were to continue in herding, would need a muzzle put on for damage control. Sheepdog herding is probably not their forte.
Putting a dog in the field can improve a dog's attitude toward sheep herding too. Some dogs get bored with round pens and will start acting slugglish when working or will turn off completely. Others will have the sheep so close that they are extremely fired up and quite hard to handle. With Decker, he was slightly sluggish, but he is a little hard to read for a dog anyway. When asked to lie down, he still would leave the pressure of the stock and walk away to lie down. With lots of encouragement, I am able to keep him holding his pressure on the sheep and lie down at the same time.
With Decker in the field, I do have to move around more than in the round pen because I need to position myself better for Decker to understand what I want him to do. I try to get him to succeed. He doesn't know his commands yet except the lie down-at a crawl. This lesson allowed me to have Decker fetching the sheep for quite a distance. The more that I can set up these kind of scenarios, the faster he will learn. We did fetching the sheep several times until he looked like he was starting to understand and relax when fetching.
I started using whistles with him today also. Probably to early for Decker, but I would like to see a good down (I don't even care if he just stops, but not leave) on him with a whistle. And maybe a walk up with the whistle too. I won't push any other whistles commands on him for quite a while as I want him to learn what the verbal commands are first. It usually only takes a few weeks to have the dog understand the whistle commands anyway, so there is no rush.
All-in-all, all four of us had fun in the field today. The girls got to retrain sheep and Decker got his first experience in a field. They all went for a swim after their sheepdog herding lessons, in order to cool off. After I had gone back in the house, I heard a bark and saw Decker and Tam, wet, wrestling with each other on the lawn. To be a dog!
Sheepdog Herding 101
Today everybody had lessons in herding. Energized by Suzy Applegate winning the Meeker, a trial I hope to be able to go to next year, I wanted to tune up the girls for the upcoming trial season. I am real proud of Suzy, a California girl, for winning the trial with her dog Buzz. Buzz won the Meeker trial just two years ago in the Nursery level. While Suzy is a great handler, it also takes a great dog to be able to handle these tough range ewes. And winning both the Nursery level and then the Open level, that dog is going somewhere in dog history.
Buzz is Tam's uncle, so I emailed Suzy and congratulated her and thanked her for increasing Tams value, and if I ever breed her, increasing her pups value too. I am just excited that Suzy Applegate won the extremely challenging Meeker Sheepdog Trial, almost as excited as if I would have been the winner.
After I gave that terrible demo the week before the Creston Rodeo at the rodeo grounds, when I had rocks for sheep and they wouldn't move, I was anxious to get the sheep fired up. I do a lot of steadying up with the sheep, making the girls steady and walk the sheep slowly and in control. I have been working on actually getting two gates on them while fetching or driving sheep. The walk and the trot gates are just about totally trained with both girls. Its nice to have both gates even when trialing. If I have plenty of time at a trial, then I can have them walk the sheep in a nice controlled pace. If I am in a hurry, and short on time, I can speed them up with a trot command. Though the trot is not as smooth as the walk, in a pinch I have that gate with the dogs to fall back on. So the sheep are kind of trained to go slowly now. Time for retraining.
I made Kate get them up, encouraging her to make them go faster. The sheep didn't know what they were in for. Of course, when I fire up the sheep to encourage them to be a little lighter, the dogs will also get fired up. Kate took several bites, one on the flank which she got verbally disciplined for. The ram also thought he wasn't going to be pushed around and presented his head to her, which she took advantage of to nail him on the nose several times. I usually don't work the ram, but he was in the mix and I was trying to separate him out but he had other ideas. I finally won and was able to separate him from the sheep that I wanted to work.
Kate and I separated four sheep for Decker and put them into the round pen. Working Decker today was great. I made him heal off leash all the way from the sheep pasture to the round pen (about 200 feet). He was totally under control, and every time he would start to go ahead of me, I would give him the Ceasar "tsst" noise and he would immediately come back to me in a heal position. No crazy dog here, just control. I have a hold of his mind.
He worked sheep pretty well, not really ever shutting down. I have started teaching him how to fetch, which he thinks he doesn't really like, and he needs lots of encouragement walking up. He is real bitable, so is learning quickly. I think a couple more lessons in fetching and he should have it. He does like going around the sheep more that straight up in a fetch.
Decker is starting to split up the sheep when I give him an away or come-bye command. This is common in Aussies and a outrun needs to be developed with them. I didn't have a whipflag with me, so I was ineffective in getting him to bend around the sheep. Aussies typically come in straight at the sheep and we need them to bend and include the entire goup, and that has to be learned by the dog. I will need to get a log piece of bamboo to work with. I usually don't like to use such an artificial way of training, but Aussies need more development of their outrun; so many trainers have been using long bamboo poles now to train with.
Early this morning the dogs and I went to our local community garden; I had to do a little hand watering and pruning. The rodeo grounds are immediately next to the garden. Lots of people were gathering at the rodeo grounds to park their cars and catch a shuttle to go to a memorial service. Several people were even walking over to catch a ride. I saw all of the commotion, and decided not to let Decker out of the truck. I needed to work, and would not be able to watch him every second. After a couple of minutes, I had a change of heart and let him out.
He behaved well and a few people walked by pretty close to all of us. Decker just looked, in which I promptly gave the noise "tsst". and redirected his attention back to me. I could feel his energy and see his calmness in his body. He didn't utter a sound. I was very proud of him.
Herding at Dog Day
You hoo! Dog Day again. All of the dogs love this day of agility, sheepdog herding and swimming. What a great day to be one of our dogs. I had a few errands to run before I showed up at Sandy's house for 'everything dog'.
Arriving at Sandy's house, Tam is always excited, and has been a goal of mine to try to keep her calm. Decker is starting to pick up on Tam's excitement and is getting excited some too. I had forgotten my leashes and so was scrambling for spare leashes in the truck. I found two. If I had dug further, I would have found another one. Two it is, and I put Tam and Kate on one and Decker on the other. You think that having a dog supply store, that I would have plenty of leashes, but in due time, I will.
I have given Decker a new collar. When I got him, he had a choke collar around his neck with a tag. I don't like keeping choke (training) collars on my dogs unless I am working them. There have been too many stories about dogs getting hung by these collars and I don't want to take the chance. I would never forgive myself if something terrible happened. None the less, it took me a couple of weeks of getting to know Decker to feel comfortable about taking the choke collar off. I wasn't sure how he would respond to a buckle collar, if he would even feel it as we went on our walks. He does fine with the new collar and it sure makes less noise. No more clanging of metal to metal, every time Decker moved. In sheepdog herding, the general rule is not to have your dog make noise with their collar. This noise could possibly scare the sheep. We want to be cognizant of this especially at a sheepdog herding trial. Herding sheep is hard enough by itself, than to have extra excited sheep to handle.
His new collar is a green tartan plaid buckle collar, one inch wide. It sure looks nice on him and goes with his coloring. A few years ago, I had purchased two of those collars for the girls. We were going to a Scottish Games sheepdog trial and I wanted them to wear Scottish plaid collars at the trial. I have had those collars now for over three years and they still look brand new. Now, I am proud to be selling the same brand collars on my sheepdog herding website, and I know that they are a quality US made product, because I have personally tested it! Decker wore his new collar to Sandy's house for dog day.
Decker was happy to be there,and after settling everybody down, I asked my dog friends if they would feed him some treats. He started accepting a pet or two, and seemed more comfortable around everyone.
When we went over to the other side of the property to work sheep, Decker started whining while I was out in the field working Kate and Tam. A friend from Visalia (about 2+ hours away) had come over to join us too. She is a dog trainer and doesn't put up with much flack from dogs either. Several times I had yelled at Decker to shut up, and was getting tired of it, and soon was going to have to quit the sheepdog herding with the girls out in the field,and run over to him and make him shut up; my friend said that she would correct him. That was good for me. He needed correction, and needed it from another person, and needed it instantly, not waiting for me to come in from the field. I had a water bottle with me and noticed earlier that he responded to it for a correction. My friend picked up on that, grabbed the bottle and brandished it every time he started crying. It worked! And for the rest of the sheep herding time, Decker watched quietly.
Decker also got to work sheep himself. Someone asked me what his breeding was, because he seems to have a lot of instinct. I told them that that is what I saw in him too. And that I was hopeful that once trained, I could place him on a ranch where he could work and get lots of stimulation. That is just what working dogs need; jobs.
After sheepdog herding, the dogs all went swimming in Sandy's pool. The girls absolutely love it, and now so does Decker. He jumped in numerous times from the side of the pool with no hesitation. He is also starting to retrieve the balls in the pool.
What's a Motorcycle Alien?
Tuesday went real well. In the morning, my friend Roland came over with his pup for socialization. Decker greeted Roland as his truck drove up. He was really glad to see Roland the owner of this wonderful pup that he plays with. They played and played, driving the girls mad. I drug out the Bumi for everyone to play tug with. They all had a great time tugging that toy. I had never seen 4 dogs all tugging the same toy all at once. But Decker and Jessy the pup had something different in mind. They soon got bored playing with the girls and set off to wrestle in the grass. Those two dogs sure love to mouth fight. This went on and on, for well over an hour.
When it was time to bring in the sheep from the pasture, Jessy got to watch being on leash. Decker seems to have a lot of instinct and gets real anxious when either taking the sheep out or bringing them in. He kept running from one side of the barn to the other, in order to get the best view possible.
He has warmed up to Roland, and he repeatedly approached Roland and let him pet him! Bingo! The first real noticeable breakthrough. No food involved!
Later in the day, I went into town to run errands, and I brought the dogs with me. Decker in the back rides on a Coolaroo dog bed. I thought this summer in the back of the truck the floor would get pretty hot and I wanted him to be protected. It took a little getting used to for him to lay down and stay down, but he seems to like the Coolaroo dog beds. I have one on my front porch and I see him on it quite regularly.
While in town, we pull up to a signal and a motorcycle with a rider in full helmet comes up to our rear. Decker was scared. He starts pacing then barking, not knowing what the strange thing behind us is. It was some kind of motorcycle Alien! I was able to reach back through the window and grab him at the neck. Then every time that he barked, I would give him a little shake and a big NO! I think he might need a little more work with that scenario, as he didn't get a chance to relax, we had to drive off.
Monday is a New Day
Monday morning the girls, Decker and I went again on a 2 mile power pack walk. Decker was great and gave me no problems during the walk. Later, my Dad, who was present when I initially took possession of Decker, came over for a visit. He brought his dog Stewy with him. Stewy is a senior Aussie, who gets along with everyone and every dog.
Decker had never really met Stewy the time that I brought Decker over to my dad's house, as he stayed in the truck. Decker met my dad at the car and my dad did just what he was supposed to do, no touch, no talk, no eye contact. Decker was fine with my dad's presence. Stewy likes to come to my house, and was anxious to get out of the car. The two boys met and did a ritual pee and everything was fine.
My dad and I visited a while while Decker and the girls played. Stewy being a senior dog, is not interested much in playing anymore, and just laid down beside my father. A lot of Aussies are followers and stick to their owner like glue, following them throughout the house and yard. Stewy is that type of Aussie, so was Bonnie. It used to really bug me that she would follow me around everywhere. When she died, I missed it! Tam developed that behavior, and pretty much follows me around everywhere I go. Usually bitches are more independent than that. Stewy follows my dad around everywhere, if he can.
After my dad's and Stewy's visit, not much else happened the rest of the day, it was pretty quiet.
Sheepdog Herding and Mutton Busting at the Rodeo
The girls and I had been invited to help with the sheep at a local rodeo. Mutton busting has been around for over 20 years, and is a kick in the pants to watch. Little kids climb onto the backs of sheep, grip on for dear life, and then the sheep are released into the arena. The event is much like bull riding, in that the kid who holds on the longest, wins.
The rodeo in the past had been using people to try to hold sheep into a group in the arena. Every time a sheep and child are released, that sheep needs to be gathered and held on the opposite side of the arena in order to draw the next released sheep across. Sheep don't work too well for people, and they had been running all over the arena during the mutton busting event.
When I got invited to help, I thought in the back of my mind a different scenario, which I was skeptical of. I thought that a sheep and kid would be released and once the sheep was free of the kid, I would send a dog to exhaust the sheep back out of the arena. Working just one sheep is not fun. They just can't think for themselves. I learned that lesson along time ago. Never work just one sheep. Take the group to the one then work the group. With this set-up, there would only be one sheep at a time and it would not be pretty.
Instead of one sheep at a time, they wanted us to just hold the "used" sheep into a group across the other side of the arena. "Is that all?" I said. This would be fun. Sheepdog herding at its easiest. I decided that since the sheep were range ewes, and might need some extra convincing, that I would herd with both Kate and Tam together. This worked perfectly. I didn't have to hardly move myself at all. I just stood there and the girls held the sheep in a group. What could be easier? Usually when I am sheepdog herding in front of people, I am under a lot of stress, there was no stress here, I could relax and enjoy the event. The girls have a look-back command, and when a child left it's sheep, I simply whistled or said "look-back", and immediately they would look and retrieve the lone sheep.
It was a hot day, and during the event, I decided that one of them needed to leave their sheepdog herding job and get a dunk and a drink to cool off. I would tell one dog "that'll do" and to go and get a drink, then when she got back ready to continue holding sheep, I would do the same with the other dog. This worked out great and they didn't get overheated.
The finals went well and the girls were working perfectly together in a brace style. If one of them worked close-in to the sheep, the other would back-off and work the back area. They would take turns working the back and the front. Again, I had them take a break in the middle of sheepdog herding and go and get a drink, which both did when directed. I was still getting complements, as the girls were herding sheep. One guy, who must have been totally captivated by watching the dogs, kept saying (loudly) wow!, or excellent!. A few minutes later, I heard him say, "Are you Married?" I just slightly turned my head toward him, then a minute later, handed him a business card.
I have heard nothing but complements about the mutton busting event at the rodeo and the dogs sheepdog herding work. I hope that I have generated some more interest in sheepdog herding. I couldn't bring Decker with us (though Matt wanted to). There were no dogs allowed, and I thought it might be too much for him yet. When we got home, he was in the dog yard happily waiting to greet us.
Yesterday, being dog day, I took everyone to my friend's house to socialize. Decker was fine and in hand visiting with all of the dogs. Nancy, another friend came in the yard with her dog after us, and I herd a little growl from Decker. I promptly and literally put him down and put my knee on him biting with my hand. I waited until he relaxed, then let him up. I heard nothing out of him after that. Later, when everyone was swimming, I was able to take the leash off of him and let him relax in the pool. He sure likes to swim. In and out the whole time. He ignored all of my friends and accepted their presence.
Bible study started for me last night. And as usual, the dogs come with me and wait in the car, Decker included. When we were leaving, I opened the window of the camper shell and was petting Decker. I mentioned to my bible study leader that this was the new dog that I was working with. She is not a dog person so basically glanced at him. Decker growled. My hand was on him so it turned from a pet to a scruff on the neck and a "bad - no!". My bible study leader was loading her truck and I was getting ready to leave when I heard a growl again. I immediately got out of the truck and opened up the back. Decker saw me coming and sucked up to the cab and kind of put his head down. Too bad, that's not good enough. I jumped in and pulled him partly out, scruffing him firmly and my face was in his face. More "no"s and that was that. This is the first that I have seen him aggressive while in the truck.
Today we all went on a two mile power pack walk. We met up with a dog running at us but with a fence between us. Knowing what I know about dog psychology, I needed to stand my ground, in order to not let this dog think that he scared us off, thus creating a future problem. I stopped us and turned toward the dog. He was staring with his tail up. I noticed that my chest was not turned directly toward the dog but at an angle. I rotated my upper body more to be directly facing him. In about two seconds, the dog got the message and lowered his head and tail, turned and left.
That is good for the pack to see me control the encounter.
Ten minutes later we turn back onto our road on the way home, and a dog in his yard, spots us. Bark, bark, bark. Then another one in the same yard comes and does the same. I have had previous problems with these dogs before, and frankly was tired of it, and I don't really like being barked at. Time to take a stand. Empowered by the previous success, I turned and faced the nasty dogs. These dogs are non-socialized dogs, who even run the humans who own them. I kept my pack sitting and slightly behind me. Decker started whining, wanting to see the dogs. I corrected him and made him sit again, slightly behind me. I was in charge, and I wasn't taking any more crap off of these rotten dogs. I just stood there, chest out, head up, in charge of the world. After about a minute or two, the dogs were getting bored with the game. A well ingrained game on their part, as they do this to the whole neighborhood. They were leaving and I started walking again. They came back to the fence barking. I noticed they looked over to the house several times to see if their human was going to call them out of the predicament they were in. No help from the owner. These dogs are just lawn ornaments anyway.
They continued to bark while looking at their house for their human. About a minute later, they decided to leave. I WON! Ha Ha.
This was real good for Kate to see. Her trust in me as pack leader is strengthened even further. These two dogs have been trouble for us in the past. She has been attacked by them twice before. And there will not be a third time. If push comes to shove, I will protect my pack. Even to the point of killing if necessary. Matt has told me the same. If they attack us one more time, he will come over and kill the dog(s) too. While I think that is a very drastic move on both our parts, I understand the emotion. They are our kids, and will not be hurt further. Being successful today with standing my ground was a win-win situation.
The pack is safe and secure, the troubled dogs don't get further "pumped-up" with being dominant with their territory, and I look better as the pack leader. I just hope the rest of the day goes as well. We will see.
We Went to Carissa Plains for Sheepdog Herding
Saturday I was getting a sheepdog herding lesson at my trainer Shelley's Place in the Carissa Plains. The Carissa Plains are a flat semi-arid area of Central California which border the central coast of California on the west, and the Temblor Range on the east. Temperatures can exceed 115 degrees f. in the summer, and can get quite cold in the winter, with temperatures often falling below 20 degrees f. I live 25 or so miles west of the Carissa Plains in a quite different climate.
California is noted for it's extremely varied climates, and the Carissa Plains fits one of the extremes. Winds storm through the area with nothing to divert or slow them down; often breaking the tops of trees right off, or scattering rows of heavy metal lawn chairs across the yard. Mornings are the usually the best time for working sheep and dogs and getting sheepdog herding lessons. The winds are calm, the air is cool, and the sheep are fresh.
Shelley has a wonderful area for training sheepdogs in herding. Her property has rolling hills, mixed with a few steep grades, and meandering gullies just waiting to confuse your dog as to where he is in relation to where the sheep are. This great training facility gives the dog the opportunity to get much exposure to many different terrains. There are only two different terrains that her property leaves out; totally flat land, and land with a lot of trees. I have had one of my dogs have trouble with a trial on totally flat land, which she over came after her first trial, and Shelley has trouble in trials with land with trees. She thinks that the dog might not be able to negotiate through a grove of trees as well as an open field, due to lack of exposure. Regardless of the faults of the land, this property offers more challenges than most and is a wonderful training tool for the dogs in sheepdog herding.
I brought Decker with me to my herding lesson. I thought that he needed as much exposure to the world as possible. When I arrived, Shelley and her husband Randy were at the barn. Randy was saddling his horse, getting ready for a ride. I let the girls out, watching out for Shelley's male dogs as Tam came into heat last week and there is no way she is going to breed with her father or brother. Decker was in the back and I let him out. Randy was right there and Decker got scared (I don't know if it was from the horse or Randy) and growled a little. I started chasing him in order to discipline him. Around we went around and around the truck until finally he was reminded that the growl was not proper behavior.
After that episode, Decker acted like a normal dog. After being tied to the fence with the rest of the dogs for a little while, Randy, who is not afraid of dogs in the least, approached Decker, wanting to visit with him. Shelley and I both said the Ceazar montra: No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact. Randy approached Decker from a non-confrontational stance, Randy's side to Decker's side. Within about 30 seconds or less, Randy was petting Decker. (there goes the no touch!) I noticed that he was petting him on the cheek and on the underside of the neck. That area under the neck, makes low self-esteem dogs feel better about themselves, it will elevate them a bit.
We worked sheep for about an hour in to the sheepdog herding lesson, and then Shelley suggested that she wanted to come over to Decker and pet him too. She did, and he enjoyed the interaction. Shelley said that he was a really nice dog. After we finished our lessons, my other friend Nancy (she was getting a herding lesson too) really wanted to take Decker for a quick walk. Leash in hand, Nancy did just that. I turned away and they left the opposite direction. Nancy was in control. The more humans that are in control of Decker, the better. He will learn that all humans are to be submitted to, and that nothing bad is going to happen to him.
After we were through with our sheepdog herding lesson, we all decided that it would be fun for all of the dogs to cool off in Shelly and Randy's pond. Watching out for Tam in heat, I kept her on leash while all of the other dogs tore down the drive toward the pond. When I arrive with Tam in hand, none of the dogs were in the pond yet. I yelled, "jump" and my two girls along with Decker dove in. The rest followed. The dogs played and played in the pond and had a great time. Tam doesn't have much hair, and is rather thin, and because of that she tends to get cold rather easily. Later, she sat on the edge of the pond with teeth chattering, just like a little kid. She loves the water so much, and for her it is so fun, that she would rather freeze that not get in the water.
On the way home, there was utter quiet in the truck. The dogs were curled up sleeping all the way back. They all had fun at Shelley's place during our sheepdog herding lesson.
The Great Pumpkin Comes
I have decided to add pumpkin to Decker's food. He is loosing weight very slowly, so in order to speed up the process I am replacing pumpkin for some of his food. He didn't give it a second thought and ate his dinner right up.
I have also been giving him Missing Link, a dog food supplement made from whole foods. This dog food supplement, which I carry in my sheep dog herding supply online store, is an all-in-one Omega 3 Superfood supplement for dogs. I feel that since Decker is on regular kibble dog food, he needs additional supplementation of essential nutrients and vitamins. I have had the girls on supplements for dogs, all of their lives, and on Missing Link dog food supplements for over 9 months now. Their coats are glossy, and their eyes are bright, and they have tons of endurance.
Everyone now is on the Missing Link with Joint Support to ensure their joints have all of the nutrients for maintenance and repair. In addition to Missing Link, they get extra fish oil tablets and glucosamine. Decker should loose weight faster with the addition of pumpkin in his diet and a little less dog food.
An Angel in the Making
Yesterday Decker was an angel, today, not so much!
Yesterday, Thursday, was a day that I give sheepdog herding lessons. My student came and Decker greeted nicely, but he was tied to the fence, awaiting his turn to for sheepdog herding. I have started treating him like a normal dog, giving him the benefit of the doubt, as far as greeting people and coming up to them, but in the back of mind, ready to jump in and correct him if needed. He had a great time working sheep in the round pen and then after sheepdog herding work, playing in the pool and then with all of the dogs out on the lawn. I had my friend feed him some treats, but not to many as he is watching his figure, not to EXPLODE!
My friend Roland came over to let his young dog socialize with the pack. Decker ended up greeting Roland as he drove up. I had a wheelbarrow in my hand and Decker was determined to see him and would not come to me, and I couldn't force the issue either as I was dumping the wheelbarrow at the time. He was happy to see Roland, then smelled the puppy and was anxious to get to the puppy.
Everyone played and played. Decker and the puppy have a habit of playing right below our feet as we sit and talk. I decided that I was done with that and "fenced" the dogs out from the front porch. The fence is a piece of chicken wire stretched across the stairway. I usually put that wire up to contain the dogs, but this time it was to contain the humans! Anyway it worked, and the dogs left us alone.
I gave Roland a bag of treats to feed to Decker, and all of a sudden, Roland was the most popular person on the planet! He instantly got three dog's attention with the scent of dog treats in the air. So throughout Roland's visit, he intermittently gave treats to Decker. Decker did good at accepting them too. I made sure that he didn't get too excited and remained calm and not aggressive toward the treats.
After lunch, I had a friend come over from the local garden club. She came to pick out some plants for a section of the town garden that we were landscaping. I was in the basement when she arrived. Decker was on the porch. I ran up when I heard noise, but I was too late, Decker had growled at her and he was hiding around the corner of the house. My friend was not afraid of him at all, which was probably good for him, because he didn't get the reaction or the wrong energy that he usually gets when he growls at someone. When I found out that he had growled, I promptly put him on his side on the ground. He urinated.
I forgot to mention how much Decker weighed. The day after I first got him, he weighted a whopping 84.9 lbs. I thought that he needed to loose about 15 lbs, but now I think 10 lbs might be enough. Yesterday, Wednesday, Decker weighed in at 83.9 lbs, with 9+ pounds to go.
A Good Dog Day
Yesterday was dog day again. The pack and I came and this time I brought treats! This proved successful. I handed several people some smelly treats and asked them if they would give them to Decker. He showed no problem taking them from anybody. Later I played some with a toy with him in the agility field. He acted like a normal dog at my friend's house.
Later we all went to the other field and worked sheep. Decker did fine in the round pen, but cried some while being tied up awaiting his turn to run. He got in trouble for crying but most dogs have to be taught to be quiet while waiting for their turn.
I stopped at the vet's office to weigh Decker. It has been 2 1/2 weeks and I was anxious to see how much weight he had lost. One stinking pound was all he had lost! Can you believe it? A friend of mine suggested pumpkin added to replace some of his food. I had forgotten about pumpkin, so I will be adding it to his food as soon as I pick up a few cans at the store. I must be hallucinating at his weight loss; thinking I was seeing a waist developing and a slimmer underside. He will get a waist now as his food is cut even further and the pumpkin will help with that loss of food.
My friend Sandy, who's house I go to on Wednesdays, commented on Decker's state yesterday. She said how well he seems to be doing and is a far cry from when I first brought him there. That was good to here. When you are close to someone or something, you don't tend to see changes very clearly, because you see him daily. But Sandy's comment made me feel that we are on the right track.
The Long Weekend
Decker did reasonably well over Labor Day weekend. There was only one incident with a growl, and that was directed at Matt. He had just gone outside and saw Matt and uttered a growl. He had never growled at him before, so I told Matt that he better address it. Decker went on his side and that was that.
During the weekend, I had several friends come over. Decker was good and didn't growl or act shy in any way. My neighbor came over for dinner on Sunday. He was a gentleman but as she was leaving, he would lick her hand, but not really approaching further. He is not very responsive to others for affection.
Today is dog day. I will bring the pack over to my friend's house again. This time, I will bring dog treats with me for everyone to offer him. It's time for him to learn that other people are nice too, and they have FOOD! We will try to win him over with his nose, and his stomach.
Maybe Were Heading in the Right Direction
The rest of yesterday went fine. No problems at all.
Today is going great with Decker. He has been on his best behavior all day. This morning, while I was turning out the sheep, I had the middle stall open. The sheep were heading out to the back pasture and Decker saw them. He took off through the middle stall and through the sheep pasture (where they were not) to try to get to them. Fortunately for me, Decker was stopped by a fence. I was surprised by how far he went. He basically did an outrun of over 100 yards. I think that his herding instinct is fairly strong in him. And he came back quickly when called and was told that'll do.
Later in the morning, I was expecting a friend with her two dogs over to work sheep and get a lesson. Before she arrived, I decided to work my two collies and Decker. This would give the sheep a chance to rest and cool down before my lesson arrived. Decker is still improving. My neighbor next door watched and commented later at how fast he is lying down for me. She seemed impressed at how hard he worked when the temperature was so hot. I explained that his instinct is strong enough to over ride a desire to rest.
When my friend arrived with her two dogs, Decker was tied to the fence close to where I was working sheep (so all of the dogs not working at the time, can watch). I warned her about him and she started to hold back and be real cautious. I told her that he was not dog aggressive and did not have to worry about her dog at all, that he was tied up and she could come and sit down on the bench. I told her that if he growled at all, and if I didn't here it, to let me know and I would correct him. Well, he was perfect! My friend said that he seemed excited to see her dogs and he was well behaved the entire time my friend was here. He swam with everyone, and ran around and played after herding was over. He looked relaxed and happy.
After lunch, my next door neighbor came over for about a half of an hour. As she approached the door, I directed her to wait, she knocked, and the collies were a little too excited. I stood in the entry way to see if Decker postured at all. Nope! He was a gentleman. I directed all of the dogs out of the foyer, in order to give the dominate humans some room. My neighbor came in and was accepted by Decker. As the visit progressed, we went upstairs and also into the basement, with Decker following. He just acted like a normal dog. That was nice to see and feel. Hopefully he can keep it up.
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