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.

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