Not quite a year after our first goose herding trial we got our second opportunity. This time I was actually prepared but I can't honestly say I was totally confident. For one thing even though it had been a year we hadn't had lots of practice. For several months both the places I regularly went herding were closed, and the only ones within a reasonable distance didn't have geese. And when we did get a chance to practice that is what it was - no lessons. I think in the year we had maybe two actual lessons. The rest of the time I spent developing bad habits. About two months before the trial I tried getting some real lessons but due to scheduling issues it ended up that I got them just one and two weeks before the trial. Boy! am I glad I did. I would never have been prepared. Having had the opportunity to work in a much larger field than normal was a huge help.
Well it was fun and exhausting. It wasn't pretty but he did get a passing score in the French Trial.
First part is what they call "protection." No it isn't like schutzhund protection. What it means is that the dog walks ahead of the handler to clear a path. For example, some stock get rather ... um .. pushy if they regularly get fed grain. They tend to swarm the person with the grain which is dangerous to the person. So the dog keeps them from doing that just by being there. So we walk around the edge of the small pen and he is supposed to get the geese to move without harassing them. He got a little excited but calmed down OK. Not too many points lost there.
Then you take the geese out - and shut the gate. That shutting the gate part makes things harder because your dog is supposed to keep the stock from leaving while you are doing that. And taking your eyes off a young eager beginner dog is not a good idea. So I did the sensible thing. I told Freeway to "down-stay" let the stock drift and took whatever points off they wanted to give. Probably not many because they didn't really leave.
Then pick up the geese and start heading for a cone about 150 yards out. Freeway spots the sheep in an adjoining pen and decides to investigate. He leaves his geese and takes off. Fortunately he comes back and goes back to work when I call him.
Walk the stock down to a simulated road. The idea is to have the dog swing around and stop the stock and hold them while you check the "road" for traffic. Then you can cross the "road" and take the stock to a grazing area. The dog and handler stay outside the grazing area. The stock actually do graze (or they will if they trust the dog enough). After several minutes the judge will say the graze has been accomplished. So far so good.
Graze is ended time to send the dog to gather them back up. Well this is the point where it fell apart. Freeway took off at a run .... and kept going and going and going. Apparently there was something tremendously interesting at the other end of the pasture (mind you this is 20 acres or so). Recalls have NOT been a problem in the past. But he is thoroughly ignoring me. At first I started toward him, but the geese were headed home. So I decide to run away from him and keep up with the geese. Eventually he decided to go back to work and returned at a dead run. The judge had us take the geese back towards the graze and start that part again. That went pretty smoothly.
The next part is a "y-chute" and a small wooden bridge that the geese ares supposed to go through. They don't think they want to. Freeway is doing mostly what I tell him but it isn't happening. So we take the points hit and move on. Head for another cone and another simulated road. Hold the geese from running into the "road" check for "traffic" and then take the geese back up the "road" to the pen. Now Freeway's job is to keep the geese in the area while I unlatch and open the gate. And then put the geese away. All done and now I can breathe.
We do it again in two weeks - different course, but same general plan. I hope to leave out that long sniff fest.
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Copyright © 2007, Diane Blackman
Created: November 18, 2007