Today, all of the dogs and I, played ball with the chuck-it ball launcher, to expend excess energy.  With all of the activities that I do with the dogs, rules of conduct and play are enforced.  The dogs must wait until I say, "go", then they are released from a stay to take-off, and chase the ball.  

By giving and enforcing rules, boundaries, and limitations; the dogs get a sense of pack structure.  Since dogs are only about 1% away, genetically, from wolves, they still strive to create and maintain a pack.  And while I am enforcing rules, the dogs are getting the structure that they need.  I have said in the past, that dogs are like two-year-olds.  Two-year-olds don't need to be on their own, just hanging around all of the time, and not being directed.

Keeping the minds of Border Collies and other smart breeds occupied is important.  The wolf pack leader-alpha, is constantly directing the pack, and making sure they are not doing something that the alpha does not want them to do.  When I direct the dogs, and give them rules, I maintain my status in the pack as the alpha.  

I have seen many people who are not the leaders in their pack.  Often, they chuckle, as they say "the dogs rule the roost" or are "in charge".  I like to boss things around a bit.  I sure don't want any dog telling me what to do or not to do; and most dogs like to be told what to do.  So it all works out, with a human being the leader, and the dog being the followers.

So while I am throwing the ball for the dogs, they have to wait until I release them, before they can go and chase down the ball.  There is more that one reason for making the dogs wait to chase.  The dogs are so fast, and anticipate so badly, that making them wait is the only way that I can get the ball out in the field before the dogs!  

I used to just throw the ball, like normal people do.  But when Kate came along, my strategy had to change.  When I would grab the ball, she would take off out into the field, anticipating that I was going to throw the ball.  Well Bonnie, my aussie/border mix wasn't fast enough to beat Kate.  This strategy helped me to let every dog have a good chance of getting the ball.  I can now throw the ball to the front of the blasting dogs being able to "give" it to a particular dog.  I want all of the dogs to have fun and to be able to bring the ball back to me.

I threw the ball for about 15 or so minutes, then repeated it about a half hour later.  This exercise, believe it or not, has helped develop their stamina.  At the last trial that we gone to, I had problems with shedding.  [Not surprising for me, as it is my last task in sheepdog herding, that I haven't completely gotten my head around.  I know how to set up the sheep, and I know where the dog and I are supposed to be.  I know the theory behind the shed, but I guess I am not completely comfortable with it.  Often, I hesitate when approaching the shed, and that hesitation will get me into trouble.]   At the trial, the shedding was taking quite a while, as the sheep were not playing the game any more, and the dog had to run and run.  By the end of my run, the dog was ready to keep going, and in great shape.  I have seen dogs at the end of their run just beat dead tired!

In sheepdog herding, hesitation, will get you in trouble at home and at trials.  Not only does hesitation show the dog your lack of confidence, but the dog’s trust in you is also in jeopardy.  I have seen a dog that didn't trust its handler.  Eventually, the dog gave up listening to its handler, due to hesitation on the handler's part, and worked sheep the way it wanted to.  A while ago, I dog sat the dog for two days, and worked sheep with it.  It listened to me and basically did everything I asked of it.  I was then convinced, that it was the dog not trusting its handler that caused all of the headaches.  Eventually, due to frustration, the handler gave away the dog to some people who needed a dog for their ranch.

Late in the afternoon, I got out the chuck-it ball launcher, and again threw the ball for the dogs.  They should now have all of their energy expended for the night.  Until tomorrow!

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