Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A new addition

After months of deliberation and soul-searching, we finally decided it was time to bring another dog into our household. We have a small house and two cats, so we knew it would be a tight fit.

But in the end we were persuaded by a rare opportunity: a litter of puppies whose parentage we're very familiar with, and who are quite well-bred. On the one side is Skip, who belonged to our original trainer, Dirk Vansant who is now living and training in Belgium. Dirk was high on Skip as a potential trial dog but a farm accident sent him to an early retirement. We hosted him a couple of times after corrective surgeries and he was a real pleasure to have around. His roots trace to a number of fine dogs in Europe.

On the other side is Sookie, owned by my friend Andy Hummell. She came from Laura Vishoot and traces her lines to dogs from Jack Knox, Patrick Shannahan, and Bruce Fogt, among others. Sookie is also a very nice dog who is very friendly.

Our pup is Bonny, a tri-color female who has been with us for a week.

The cats, predictably, have mixed feelings. Our 12-year old Scottie doesn't like her much, but six-month old Ezzio is quite fascinated and happy to chase her and be chased by her. All of this runs in Scottie's favor as it distracts Ezzio from tormenting him.

Rodeo seems to be accepting her, after some initial trepidation. He's not real happy when I close the door of a room to do some private training, but he likes to play with her in the dog run.

Today I brought her along for our weekly training session with Brian. Our friend Judy was there to have her dog Wilson evaluated, so she was available to hold on to Bonny while I trained with Rodeo. Part way through the lesson, Brian used his dog Belle to set the sheep for Rodeo to do an outrun, and the two dogs watched the action together:

I think they'll get along just fine.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rocky Ewe pics

A couple of weeks ago at the Rocky Ewe trial, Diane Pagel asked me to spend a couple of hours with her 4-month old pup Reba, who is out of Scot Glen's Don and Diane's Lucy, to help socialize her. As you can see in the picture below, Reba is almost a mirror image of Rodeo.

Diane was kind enough to take some pictures of us. And now I know why Diane has such great shots on her website. I chose a spot for a picture and she said, "no, no, over there by the road." So I dutifully moved, and the background really enhances these pictures. Thanks, Diane!

Friday, May 13, 2011

blinding outruns

The past two weeks we focused on the blind outrun. Last week was spent almost entirely on a length setout, perhaps 200 yards, with Rodeo and I beginning close to the round pen, which held 3 or 4 sheep.

I sent him on an away flank that would force him past the round pen, and he would have to look up field until he saw the sheep I was interested in.

It was a struggle, to say the least.

At first Rodeo couldn't get past the round pen, running to the fence and staring at the sheep. After some corrections I finally got him to understand that I wanted him to continue down field, but he would only go about 50 yards before stopping and looking back at the round pen.

"No! No!" I yelled, trying to time my correction for the moment that he stopped and turned to look at the sheep in the round pen.

Then I tried a command: "Look back!" But it didn't do much good. Sometimes he would turn his head and look down field, but he didn't find the sheep until I marched down field and directed him further in the direction I wanted him to go.

At the end of the session, Brian asked: "How many times did you send him down the field?"

"At least ten."

"And how many times did he stop and look back towards the round pen?"

"At least ten."

It's safe to say that we've got a lot more work to do.

This week we did some more work with the same exercise, and he showed improvement. He still fixated on the round pen at first, but with corrections he pretty quickly turned and ran down the field until he caught sight of the sheep. At first he would go at them without thinking much, so his outrun was terrible, but I was just glad he found them. As time went by, though, he started to flare out better when he saw the sheep so that the lift and fetch weren't too bad.

Near the end of the session, after a correction away from the round pen, he actually turned and started to look down the field for sheep. That's an important step that hopefully shows he's beginning to understand what we're after.

"I think you'll be able to redirect him at a trial if he goes after the exhaust," Brian declared after this week's session. That could be important on a lot of Pro-Novice courses where the sheep setout can be as far as 300 yards or more. Ultimately Rodeo has to trust me when I send him for sheep, but in the meantime, even a redirect will allow us a chance to finish the outrun and hopefully an opportunity to finish the course.