Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Herding We Shall Go

With the 3 weekend break between agility trials, I decided it was time to take Spice to see the sheep at Linda's.  Grace came along for her usual lesson as well.

Spice's first time in the "round" pen
Linda gathered several sheep in the "round" pen for Spice to work.  Sustained interest for 5 minutes in the sheep is considered a benchmark for further training a dog in herding.  Spice easily showed interest for the 5 minutes.  Mike alternated between photo and videos during our lessons (Thank You!).  Note in this 50 second clip how fast Spice is moving working the sheep.  All of us were very excited about her enthusiasm for the sheep.

After Spice had her turn she joined Grace in the shade of tree to wait while Grace had her turn.  Both girls were clipped to the fence on their leashes.  Linda and I had to move the sheep for Grace as well as set up a few agility jumps to encourage Grace to stay along the fence for her outruns.  While we were moving jumps, Spice managed to chew through her leash and let herself back into the sheep pen (Note to self - bring vari-kennel to Linda's next time).  So the poor folks at Lupine will be getting another shredded leash along with a note from Spice explaining her excitement for herding!

Grace works her go-outs.
Grace then took a turn with the sheep.  Linda and I continue to be frustrated by Grace's lack of teamwork in the sheep pen.  She wants to work the sheep but she doesn't want to take direction from Linda or I.  We have decided that she will finish her sheep herding career with her current herding title since Spice shows much more promise about taking direction.  Grace further demonstrated yesterday that she will not be able to work the ducks.  Two ducks waddled into the agility practice area and Grace grabbed one and had it down.  I managed to call her off only because I was relatively nearby  - it was a very close call for Mr. Ducky.

Linda and I alternated working the girls so each dog and the sheep could take breaks.  Spice saw the sheep 3 times and worked agility once.  Grace saw the sheep once and worked agility twice.  We worked on getting Grace to weave with me farther away - Linda is convinced I'm crowding her at the trial (I am but she doesn't weave unless I go to them with her currently).  I will spend between now and the Decatur trial in mid-May working the weaves at a distance and we will see if it makes a difference in a trial setting.

Spice rides up and down on Linda's teeter.
Spice worked on Linda's agility equipment for the first time.  Since Spice had gone under the gate to get to the sheep we used two pieces of the broad jump to block the sheep pen gate before we turned Spice loose in the agility yard.  She only broke for the sheep once but the broad jump boards worked and she recalled to the agility area better than I expected (she really likes agility too).  Spice interacted with several pieces of equipment which at this stage is important. I want her to see and interact with familiar equipment in different places.  She even offered jumps (equipment we have been working on at home and at trial sites) she passed while we were moving about the field.  Linda, Mike and I worked her on tunnel and chute.  I rode her up and down on the teeter a few times.  Linda helped me run her through the channel weaves which seemed to work well for Spice's confidence.  Spice now has a much better understanding that the equipment is giving yummy cookies so she is more confident in interacting with it.  We were also excited about how well she worked agility yesterday.

Running in the tunnel

Still running at the other end