One of the first things Brian said when I arrived was, “I never said he was a Pro-Novice dog. I said he could handle Pro-Novice in some trials.”
The distinction was lost on me, so I asked, “What’s holding him back? The length of the outrun?”
“No, the drive.”
So we focused on extending Rodeo’s drive a bit. Brian had us do a short gather and then turn the sheep and drive them out to “The idol,” which is a small rock pile about 50 yards from where we stood. Rodeo took his drive commands and did pretty well, but when I asked for an inside flank, he just looked at me.
I tried a “hey!” correction, several in fact, but he still wouldn’t take the command.
“He’s blowing you off,” said Brian. “You need to make him take the flank.”
So we tried again, with the same results.
“Call him off,” Brian said, and looked thoughtful for a moment.
“I’m changing my mind. I think you need to help him.”
I looked out and realized that Brian was probably right. Behind us there were sheep still in the round pen, and I realized that the close proximity of the two groups of sheep might have been confusing him. I also knew from the Rocky Ewe trial that we need to work more on communicating to him the direction of the sheep that I want him to take. By helping him, I could reinforce that aspect of his training.