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.

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