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TRIALING AND TRAINING
DOG FIRST AID
MADE IN THE USA
SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
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!
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