I probably skipped reporting last months trial. It was definitely skippable. On the Saturday Tsuki was having a little too much fun and I didn't take him out a soon as I should have. On the Sunday I committed to "don't let him do that" and I whisked him out of the ring at the first hint of trouble.
This weekend made it worth it. I was wondering, after last month, just *why* I was going. But I figured nothing ventured, nothing learned and so I went.
Both days were the ASCA A course on sheep. The A course is a problem for us because Tsuki doesn't do well on the take pen. When the sheep act like living popcorn he gets excited and wants to control them, and they get even more boingy and ... well it isn't good. The sheep tend to over react to him, as compared to some other dogs. The game plan was to leave him outside the pen and me walk in and push the sheep out. But when I got there I found that although the walls were too low for my liking the pen was *huge* and they had done such a good job of covering the front that you couldn't see in (or out) unless you were right in the gate. Which meant that if I went in I'd disappear on Tsuki. To have sheep come flying out of the pen and me out of sight would guarantee that Tsuki's "control the sheep" instincts would kick in.
So I opened the gate, held onto it (otherwise it will close on you), had him walk up to me and then tried to get him to "comeby" along the pen sides (his least favorite side). Well the sheep wanted outta there, no surprise, and luckily he was far enough to the side that they were happier to bolt out the gate than to try going over the sides. It wasn't pretty but he did wait for permission before moving so I didn't have him taking off after the sheep while I was still closing the gate. Rather than have big scary dog immediately take out after them I let the sheep move on down the fence line on their own. Tsuki went around the far side of the center chute which was perfect because it put him in good position without too much pressure. The sheep settled down a bit so the first panel went fairly smoothly.
Next was walking them across the back to the next set of panels when the sheep really wanted to take off down the center and back to the pens. Tsuki wanted to liven things up, but I kept a tight rein, so they only tried the move once and we went through the second set. Then its down the fence line back to the repen. About now Tsuki's getting ramped up and every time he tried to push the sheep I'd tell him to knock it off and he'd back off. The repen went smoothly.
This was by far our best run in a trial to date. I was happy to Q, a little disappointed to see it was the minimum score to Q, but what the heck, we finished the course with no out of control problems.
Well ASCA likes to "see the dog work" so they tend to be less concerned about the dog being obedient. On Sunday I loosened the reins a bit. The take pen went a little more smoothly. He had a better idea of what to expect, and I didn't insist on a "come-bye". I let him de-pen his preferred way which is to walk in and stand still. The sheep are always more than happy to leave. It isn't pretty but at least the craziness is only on the part of the sheep, he stays steady. I always laugh at him because he plants himself so solidly and whips his head around to follow each sheep as it leaves. I can just see him thinking "There's one, there's two ..."
He walked out of the pen, I had him stand briefly then I sent him to bring the sheep back to me. He was way too fast and gallopy for the comfort of the sheep but it wasn't too bad, and he slowed down when I told him. However, starting as far back as we did, and with the sheep giving every indication that they would bolt at the slightest excuse, keeping my little rocket bottled was dicey. I didn't want to clamp down, but I didn't want him to push the sheep either. We got down to the first panel, went the wrong way, "daylighted" them (made them come all the way out then turn around), then headed for the next panel. Well now Tsuki is beginning to realize I'm not riding his tail. So he starts pushing a bit. The sheep try to take off, he brings them back. He goes around too far and won't stop where I tell him. They think about leaving. He cuts them off. I stop him and get him to change the sheep going the other way. He pushes too hard and won't stop, they push out past the next panel. I stop him, flank him around and just as the sheep are heading right he decides that circling is fun and won't stop. We spent several minutes on that back panel until finally I got the sheep more or less in a good position against the back fence. I stopped Tsuki and just waited letting everyone settle. Then I gave him a "walk up" to finish the push through the panel and it turned into a kind of "yee haw!" Yeah the sheep went through the panels .... and took off for home with Tsuki in hot pursuit. I yelled a STOP and he did WHEW!
So I get down there the sheep are standing in the corner away from the gate they want to get to. Tsuki's standing there between sheep and gate. I opened the gate WIDE. The sheep said "heck with the dog" and made a mad dash for the gate. Well I opened it a little TOO wide. Although he's never done it before Tsuki went right into the repen after the sheep. YIKES big no-no. I got him out post-haste.
So I'm thinking that I did a lot more work on this one than on Saturday. Tsuki was a little crazier, we moved the sheep more than before, so if Saturday was barely a Q .... Well different judges different scoring.
They didn't post scores, you had to wait until the end. So here they are giving out scores at the end. They gave out the two non-qualifiers, not us. I think "cool" I guess we qualified. They called out the first qualifier, and the next, and the next and about now I'm thinking they lost my score sheet. And then the next. Still no Tsuki. And now the placements. "Dog 129 with a fourth place and a score of 80 points" Hey! That's us. Way cool.
Heh - it takes only two qualifying scores for the Starters title and we had 4 now, 3 of them with me running him. So I earned his title after all.
Next week, agility, the following week another herding trial.
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Copyright © 2003, Diane Blackman