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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Can it all be this fun?

Worked Echo again last night. I cannot believe how much fun I am having training this dog. She is so talented. I'm working on outruns with her, and I am starting to see what people mean by a truly natural outrunner. For as young as she is, and for how few outruns we've done to this point, she "gets" it. I started out standing very close to my stock at about 100' out, and she kicked way out -- almost too far out -- and came in quietly behind them. So I moved about 1/2 way between her and the stock, moved over to one side, and sent her to the other side, and she looked gorgeous! Came in nice and quietly behind her stock. So I pushed it to see how far I could ... or couldn't go. I set it up again at about 150' ... got between her and the stock, but closer to her, turned my back to her, and sent her. Her verbal flanks aren't that solid yet, so when she didn't go initially, I gave her a "shhhh" and off she went, just as gorgeous as ever, got behind them and lifted nice and quietly. I called her off and called her back to me and was kneeling down petting her, telling her what a good girl she was, when the sheep wandered to within about 50feet of us. I decided to see what would happen if I sent her from my side. Well, she went straight at them, made a big mess of things, and when I said nothing, she quietly gathered them all back together and brought them to me. I think we both learned something there.

We did a few more beautiful 100' outruns (with me between her and the stock) and called it good. What a pleasure this dog is. Thank you, Echo.

Happy tails!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Trip to Idaho City

Colleen and I took a ride up to Idaho City yesterday afternoon. What a beautiful day!

Wildflowers were everywhere.

We came upon an Osprey nest that was high up in a tree, however, being that we were above it and it was on the side of the mountain, we were almost level with it (although quite a distance away).

There was not just one adult, but five of them! They weren't nuts about the dogs being there, so I snapped a few shots and we moved on pretty quickly.

And, of course, here's the dogs.





And Echo ...


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Blue Sisters

First off, it was a gorgeous day out today!

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Rhonda brought Belle over. Belle is by Helsley's Blue out of (don't quote me on this ...) L.J. Estes' Gena? In any event, Belle is a 1/2 sister to Echo.

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First up was Belle. Belle was started by Don Helsley and is about two years old.

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Here's Rhonda working little Ms. Belle.

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My sheep are none too thrilled about this arrangement.

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Then it was Echo's turn. She is working just lovely for me, although, juggling her and the camera almost proved to be too much for me. I came *this close* to landing on my rear in the irrigation canal, along with my camera, and the sheep would have been arriving shortly after me.

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Echo has really been understanding that I want her a good distance off her sheep. It's great, but it makes it hard to get dog and sheep in the same photo, while walking backwards, trying to get a good shot, all the while making sure I don't back up to the irrigation canal. LOL!

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After everyone was all worked out, we took the girls out from to snap a few photos of them together. After about 40 shots, here's the best one I was able to capture.
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Oh why did it take 40 shots to manage 1 decent one? Because there's an Echo involved! She has quite the sense of humor, doesn't she?

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Yeah ... very funny little girl.

Hopefully, the rest of the weekend will be as nice as today. I have more dogs to work and more photos to be taken. :-)

Happy tails!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Boil the Frog!"

The theme of this week has been "Boil the Frog!" At the Shannahan clinic, we were busy learning the difference between nagging at your dog, or doing a proper correction. Pat told us that someone gave him an analogy. Said that a frog is a cold-blooded animal. Throw a frog into a cold pot of water, put it on the stove and slowly turn the heat up. The frog's blood temperature will adjust to the temperature of the water, and it won't be that big of a deal. However, boil a big pot of water, and drop the frog into it, and the frog is going to jump out! Nagging your dog is slowly turning up the heat on the water. A proper correction is boiling the frog! We also talked about the difference between men and women (no, not like that!) and the different ways we use our voices. When a correction is needed is generally at a place where there's a bit of stress and something going wrong. When a man gives a correction, it's easy for him to reach down and grab a nice deep voice, despite the anxiety he's feeling about whatever is going on. When a woman gets excited, however, her voice goes up ... which, of course, causes the dog to generally go faster. So, it's more of a conscious effort on a woman's part to bring her voice down, demand the respect needed, and make her bubble bigger -- all without nagging. I learned a lot about the concept behind the proper use of other tools, i.e. a jug of rocks, etc. as they are often over-used and become routine to the dog. A lot of this information is going back to the basics, but that's exactly what I needed now that I have two young dogs to work. And I would hate for those two dogs to have to go through the growing pains I sent Zip through. So I've taken all this information and have been sorting through it in my head and trying to apply it where needed out in the field.

Monday night, Katy came over with Scout. Scout is six months old and a littermate to Mo and Rio. No much to correct there. She worked very nicely and is circling and starting to get the idea that she needs to stay off her stock. I needed help getting the sheep off the fence at one point, and instead of grabbing my go-to dog, Zip, I grabbed his daughter, Skar ... Scout's sister. So here I was working Scout with the help of her big sister. Skar did an awesome job and is following very nicely in dad's footsteps.

Tuesday night, we had a thunder storm. Very cool stuff.

Wednesday night, Valerie came over with Bolt, Colleen came over with Reena, and Jaenne came over with Kip and Mo (and some awesome, homemade Korean food!). First up was Valerie. Bolt decided Valerie wasn't really part of anything that was going on and was running circles around her. So I stepped in and helped them to straighten it out and get fetching. It was much better. Bolt was starting to stay behind his stock, and didn't want much to do with me. Valerie, however, needed to "boil the frog" and get Bolt to believe her ... and she did a great job! The second time Valerie worked him, she worked him on the entire flock. At this point, he was finding Valerie pretty scary, so she just turned her back and walked and walked and walked. Bolt did an awesome job of thinking and gathering and keeping the stock with Valerie. He would start to split them, feel the pressure, and back off all on his own. He did a great job, as did Valerie!

Next up was Colleen and Reena. Despite the fact that Reena was carrying her tail pretty high during almost the whole work session, she seemed to be working very nicely for Colleen, listening well and staying off her sheep.

We all came in the house and ate Jaenne's food. It was awesome, as usual. Thank you, Jaenne!

Next up, I worked Echo on the entire flock. She was a whole new dog than the one I worked last week. She was looking, feeling, and really working nicely. I had to boil the frog a time or two because she was coming in very tight, but after that it was easy to give her a "get out!" and out she'd go. She is so much easier to work now that she's not so tight, and being that she's not so tight, she's slowed down a bit, and the gripping has subsided. I am so excited!

So tonight ... I am here by myself. While it was quite windy, I was too excited about Echo and just had to go work her again. For the first session, we worked on squaring out the flanks and keeping her off her stock. Well, we must have done that really well, because by the second session, I was setting up 100' outruns, getting between her and the sheep and she was kicking out beautifully all on her own! Yahooie!!! I love it!

AND! I have a three-day weekend coming up! I can't wait!!

Happy tails!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shannahan Clinic

Well, the Shannahan Clinic was a blast! I learned a ton, and can't wait to put it all to good use! On Saturday, it was Colleen, Ajo, Jaenne and myself, and on Sunday, Janie joined us. It was awesome watching a person go into the arena with their dog, and come out with a completely different dog, and a whole slew of stuff to work on, myself and Echo included. I couldn't have asked for more!

Ok ... some photos ...


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And, of course, Jen:

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Here's a few of Echo (I was the one actually working Echo, but have cropped myself out of the photos). I am working one making my bubble bigger and convincing Echo that she needs to respect it. I'm used to the "loaded with eye" dogs, however, Echo is fast and pushy ... so she's a bit out of my comfort zone, however, I am learning how to work her, and I am addicted! Tight and fast is now turning into pacing nicely and thinking. Woo hoo!

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Taking a break from working Kip, Jaenne opted to bring Mo (Skar's sister) in ... yee haw! Once she got rid of the puppy zoomies, she settled in very nicely.

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The sheeps:

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Pat W. was there with Daisy. I love this little girl!

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The weather was about 95 degrees ... a little hot for us Idahoans who just got out of winter. However, to keep us all cool, the host let us move into the horse arena to do the afternoon sessions in there. The quality of the photos took a steep dive once inside, but I have a few I'd like to share.

Here's the crowd on Sunday.

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There was one sheep who, at one point, decided she didn't want to go with the program. So she went and hung out with Jen.

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After a few minutes, I think she found her brain and decided that what she was doing wasn't very smart, so she stood up ...

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... and finally went and rejoined her buddies. Jen was quite a trooper through the whole thing! LOL

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Well, I am beat and must jump in bed. Needless to say, I'm overloaded with good information and need to process it all, and then start using it here at home. I am going to start taking lessons with Patrick, hopefully on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Hopefully Echo's journey won't be as bumpy as Zip's.

A huge thank you to Patrick and Diane for a wonderful clinic! I look forward to the next one!

Happy tails!

Friday, May 16, 2008

More chat, no photos ...

Ok, this blog is getting really boring with no photos. I'll get some photos this weekend and post them. Sounds good ... now let's see if that really happens.

Worked the girls last night. Echo was up first. I fully expected the rodeo before settling in ... but of course she proved me wrong. Went right to work and was awesome! I decided before I went out there that what I was going to work on was getting her to stay behind her sheep, lie down on balance, and then nice starts to her flanks. She gave me everything I was looking for. Nice, calm, effective movement of livestock. I found myself saying, quite often, "Very pretty, little girl." Even when we had an escapee, Echo was hot on its tail, but didn't lose her head and brought it right back to the flock. She stayed behind her sheep longer than she did the other night, and the tension build-up didn't happen nearly as quickly, nor explode with nearly the excitement, as it did earlier in the week. I could tell when she was starting to get would up, so I'd flank her all the way around and keep going. She was nothing short of lovely. Nice call-off. Listening well. Thank you, Echo Monster.

Next up was Skar. I love working this dog. She's very trustworthy and I am able to relax as little more (the beer was helping, too!). I am still working on the start to her "away" flank and making a little bit of progress. The second time I worked her, I had her in the round pen. She was freezing up a little, but was giving me a nice "away" flank when she would go. She, too, is getting pretty comfortable fetching, and just staying behind her sheep.

Colleen came over and worked Reena. They are looking quite lovely. It looks like Colleen is getting Reena to stop on a dime, and is working on small flanks with her. Looks great!

The weather was perfect. Sat around and drank a few beers (yes ... ME ... I drank beer!) and came in when it got dark and threw a pizza in the oven. Life doesn't get much better than this.

Very happy tails,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A little more specified

Worked Skar and Echo last night.

Echo - before going out there, I decided that lesson was going to be getting her to stay behind her sheep and fetch them to me.

Started out a little rodeo-ish as usual. What didn't help was that I have the sets broken into ewes/lambs so I can dog break the lambs. Anyway, Echo handled it very nicely. When I first started cutting her off from flanking and asking her to stay behind the sheep, I could see the tension building in every step. So I would only ask for a few steps and then let her flank all the way around, and start again. Then I realized it was better if I walked backwards a bit faster. This is no easy feat with the irrigation ruts. LOL. Got kinda dicey a few times, but I managed to stay on my feet. All in all, she did very well, and only got better the second time around when she didn't have as much vim and vigor! :-D

Skar - She's an easy dog to work, for the most part. She's got all that eye, so balance comes very naturally. Typical of a dog with a lot of eye, she is not a gripper, so she's very trustworthy, and I feel ok sending her distances that she's not quite ready for -- knowing no one will get hurt. She may cause a bit of a mess, but quickly figures out how to fix it and brings them all to me. So with her, before I walked out to the pasture, I decided that we are going to start working on her arc on the away side. This is the thing that was giving us the problem initially. She goes straight in on the away side ... or will freeze completely. So I used my riding crop, lied her down, and then asked her for an away flank. She still wants to run straight to them, and then bend off when she gets there. I don't like it. So I am working on getting her to turn her head before she flanks. You can flick a stock wand at her, put all kinds of body pressure on her, nudge her with your foot, and she won't bend off. I have figured out, however, that if I annoy her with the little whip part on my crop, she will sort of turn her head a bit. So I've been rewarding just the slightest give. Then I took her into the round pen and expanded on that a bit. Made a big deal when she gave me even just a little bit of what I was looking for. When we were done, had her help me release the sheep and bring them to the big pature and added them back to the other set.

All in all, I'm very pleased with my girls and am having the time of my life working with them. I can't wait for the PS clinic this weekend, and getting new ideas of stuff to try ... new tricks to add to my bag. :-)

Happy tails!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Moving Right Along ...

Geesh. I never thought updating a little blog would be so difficult. I keep forgetting to do it!

On Saturday, the girls all got together for a meeting of the minds, and we got a lot of stuff decided, and things accomplished, so now we can keep moving forward with Gem State Herding. Woo hoo!

We worked Mo ... starting to kick her out a little bit. And Rio has turned on in a big way. I am excited to see how those two turn out. I worked Skar in the big field. She's doing great, staying on her feet, and really thinking.

Janie brought over some adult sheep, so on Sunday, Zip and I sorted sheep into three groups all with a couple of ewes and a few lambs in hopes of getting the lambs to settle in. I told Colleen we need to work all three sets, so we used pretty much all the dogs we had. Colleen worked Reena in the field, and then added a set to that one and worked Skar. She had to work to keep all the lambs together, so she stayed on her feet and worked very nicely.

Next up was Rio. Wowie! She was twice as much dog as the day before and it was a big of a rodeo! Once she got rid of the initial zoomies, things settled down a bit and her brain started to engage. She's gonna be a fun one!

Then I decided to work Skar in the round pen and see if she would lock up in the small spaces again. Not this time. She was very comfortable on her feet and would balance everything to me. I was even able to lie her down and ask her back up without her locking up. Woo hoo! Big improvement!

Monday evening I spent cleaning house.

Tuesday evening was Echo's night. I took Zip out and split the flock into two groups. This little dog humbles me ... and she's a pleasure to work with. I often forget how young she is. Yes, she's fast, and she's tight, she grips and she splits stuff to holy hell, but she also has a maturity about her that I've never seen in a pup so young, can handle all the pressure I lay on her, and learns very quickly. After she got rid of her zoomies, everything kicked in to the proper gear. She stopped slicing and dicing, and kept off her stock better. She gathered and fetched, and gathered and fetched. I spent some time kicking her out further off her stock and attempted to get her flanks to arc out the way they need to. I didn't push too much, as I have the Shannahan clinic this weekend and would really like his advice on which direction to go with her next.

That's all for now. I am horseback riding tomorrow night, then hopefully working dogs Thursday night here, and then off to Janie's Friday night for the remainder of the weekend. Woo hoo!

Happy tails!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gem State Herding AHBA Trial

Well, our trial was this past weekend. The weather was nice (a bit too warm for some of us), the people were great, the food was a hit, and a very nice weekend overall. The sheep were kinda nutty on Saturday, but settled in nicely on Sunday. Zip had a very nice duck run on Saturday, although a little pushy, but handled it well. His ranch course run ... left plenty to be desired. Part of that was due to the fact that the sheep had never been through the footbath ... with water in it. So, after several attempts at that obstacle, we moved on ... but it set the tone for the whole run. We got the job done, but it wasn't as pretty as it could have been.

On to the HTAD course. Zip's run was pretty nice. Again, pushy, but nice. Got all of our obstacles, had a nice drive, nice pen. I also ran Echo and Skar on this course in level I. Skar's a little easier to run, as she just has a lot of eye and balances naturally. Echo is a little more ... umm ... interested. ;-) Good stuff, though. The upcoming Shannahan clinic will do us a world of good, I'm sure.

For Saturday, overall, Zip took 1st place on HTAD III ducks, HRD III sheep (qualifying run, but not high enough for a point), and HTAD III sheep. Skar took 1st place HTAD I, and Echo took 2nd place HTAD I. Zip took High in Trial and came home with some nice ribbons. :-)

Sunday was a bit different of a set up. Janie was judging, so I was not running competitively in anything. We did the trial first, did awards, and then Janie and I went back and did our own runs. There were a few people that stayed till the bitter end and helped us setting stock and cleaning up, etc. Saw a lot of nice nice runs today, as the sheep settled down a bit. Zip worked very nicely for the most part, had three runs, all qualifying for championship points. So Zip now has his AHBA Herding Trial Championship (HTCh.). I didn't run Echo or Skar Sunday. It was too hot, and the day too long.

I still only have lambs at my house. Janie will bring me by some adults on Sunday so I have a couple of working sets so I can practice. I am really looking forward to the clinic and for new ideas for what to do with Echo. She's a fun one to work ... if I only felt like I knew what I was doing! LOL

That's all for now. I don't know if anyone caught any photos of any of my runs over the weekend, but I am at their mercy. I didn't have time to take photo one. Oh well. A good time was had by all!

Happy Tails!