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Freeway's First Sheep

It was a very interesting clinic. Freeway is semi-interested in sheep, and the sheep are not the least afraid of him. He was probably the only brand new dog that was able to "walk-up" within ten feet and only get a few ear flicks out of them. We intentionally did not push the sheep out of their comfort zone.

The introduction process was, perhaps, a bit more mechanical than many herding folks are used to. But it was well received by both the students and instructors attending. Personally the reason I waited for that clinic to introduce Freeway was to see a different way. Marc uses a long line to steady the dog and some other tool (whatever works for that dog) to encourage the dog to get some distance from the handler. Goal number one is to help the dog be right. And if the dog isn't going to be right, to stop it before it goes wrong. AND if you fail in that, stop the wrong behavior, then guide the dog back to the correct behavior.

On Saturday Freeway was mostly interested in figuring out what I wanted. He paid little attention to the sheep. I think Marc was impressed at the fact that Freeway could and would hold a distance sit. When I'm not asking Freeway to do something "wiggle butt" could be his middle name. So he doesn't look like a serious worker until I tell him to do something.

On Saturday we were getting circles at about ten feet from me "flanking" the sheep. Not quite technically since Freeway wasn't doing anything in reference to the sheep. It was my job to help him define and hold that circle. I decided to put Tsuki in his place on Sunday, but today we had a private lesson.

This time Freeway started to relax. He got some really nice straight "walk-ups" on the sheep. This time the sheep were clearly in the equation. But unlike many sheep introductions it was all very quiet. The goal was to keep the pressure balanced. The point was to never get to the point where the sheep would bolt, or that the dog would feel the need to "do" something. So I'd walk him up, stop him, walk him up, have him hold the stop, then flank him to circle the sheep one side or another. The sheep would move and instead of trying to get Freeway around them we would just wait for them to settle and then start another circle. ANd he was holding a nice circle about 20 feet out.

This isn't "herding", yet. Eventually the dog needs to be able to work those flanks without the handler being there, and to stop the sheep flight/movement by making and adjustment in his course. THAT is herding. But the goal is to shape the flanking from the beginning.

Tsuki also did well. I know that a lot of Tsuki's problems aren't Tsuki's they are mine. I lack the patience to lay a good foundation. I plan on working to change that. Once in agility I found a person with a method that suited Tsuki, but none of the local instructors were comfortable with it, and I need the outside eye. This time my instructor and the other two people in the sheep co-op have all committed to giving this method a try. That should be a big help in achieving my goal.

There is nothing new in the theories being applied, just the methodology. Since it is relatively "pure" OC R-R+ (put pressure on, let pressure off) I do at least understand the application. Now if I can find the self-disciple to apply it.





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Copyright © 2005, Diane Blackman     Created: April 18,2005     Updated November 12, 2007

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