On the Thursday after Thanksgiving I heard there were still openings in a herding trial about 1 1/2 hours from me. On Friday I impulsively decided to enter. I don't know what came over me. I entered Freeway in Geese. Freeway had, at that point, worked Geese ONCE. And that once was my first time. I entered Freeway only for Sunday.
Saturday morning we went to agility followed by herding at our regular Saturday place (Pescadero). I got a chance to work the geese twice. Sunday morning I arrived to find a teeny tiny trial. There were four competitors, and someone I didn't know with a dog there for HCT. Although I had entered Freeway JHD after some discussion I was persuaded to go for HTAD (Herding Trial Arena Dog). Freeway's handler (meaning me) could have improved but mostly Freeway did just fine. His flanks are excellent, as is his habit of standing looking at me when my voice gives him one flank and my body (and the stock) another. He went off contact -sniffing and at one point pooping - but was generally really nice.
Freeway had no trouble staying far enough off the stock - much better than the more experienced dogs in that regard. The biggest problem I had is that although we done driving in sheep we had never done it in geese, and the geese weren't real fetchy (they didn't like the handler any more than the dog so the usual fetch position of handler - stock - dog wasn't particularly successful). Me trying to be in drive position was freaking the poor boy out who would dutifully try to go around and balance to me. That is one thing I noticed with the geese. His balance is really good on geese (his keeping position relative to me and the stock).
And the other problem is that the geese just weren't very much concerned about Freeway. So while everyone else was having trouble staying far enough back I was walking Freeway right up to them before they'd move. And they weren't doing the "stand off the dog" thing. They just weren't worried about him. I'm used to stock being terribly worried about Tsuki, so this was a new issue for me. Anyway we qualified both runs, which was a waste of money as it was the same judge for both runs so no title. Yay for Freeway anyway.
Since Tsuki knew one of the other competitors and since I'm tired of trying to fight him around a course I asked if she would handle him on sheep. She agreed. She is so nice. It was sweet that she was worried about wrecking my run when she's seen him inumerable times and knows how he is. I told her if she felt the need to pull him after 30 seconds not to hesitate and that if he wasn't good for her he wouldn't have been any better for me.
He is always better with someone else. The fickle dog is always ready to go with anyone who will take him to sheep. Did he so much as hesitate, glance back, when I handed off his leash? Not a bit of it. No way could you tell by the way they walked out that he didn't belong to her, nor that it has been a good four months since she last saw him. Last time he trialed at that location the sheep owner (who was also the judge for this trial) was very grateful to me for pulling him when things started to go squirrely. So the judge also knew exactly how he is. When it came to getting the sheep out of a tight space she instructed the handler to take his collar. Not anything bad to do with him. Tsuki is actually fine, but the sheep don't think so and freak out. Interestingly for round two he went into the pen and brought the sheep out perfectly without any freaking out. Maybe it was just because it was a different group. Anyway they managed to complete the course, including trailering the sheep, and qualified both runs.
OK. the judge was being nice. I didn't think he deserved his second Q. But since it doesn't count for a title because he already had a leg it doesn't matter. I could have just saved my money. Oh well, I liked watching him. Judge's comment on the second run was that Tsuki was doing OK, the sheep were just being, in her words "butt heads." *shrug* philosophically I figure if I were a good trainer / handler I ought to be able to deal with it and make it work. The other philosophy paw says - he's seven - I'm taking what I have, making the best of it and moving to the next dog. Freeway is no one's dream herding dog either but I'm learning a lot.
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Copyright © 2004, Diane Blackman
Updated: February 3, 2006