Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Herding lesson with Jubilee

This is the second real lesson with Jubilee in which she worked calmly and under control the entire time. I am working the AHBA JHD class trial course at first, then I just do a bit of training. I spent a lot of lessons with her where she blew me off and was pushing the sheep hard and was zooming around them in full circles. In this video, she wants to overflank regularly (cover more than just one side, she wants to do more than half circles--you can see her wanting to come around to the heads of the sheep), she is disagreeing with me about walking them along the fenceline and I am teaching her that she can just cover one angle of them. She is being a bit squirrelly about following the sheep close to the fence and wants me to pull them off the fence so she can cover them more. She does not yet know flank commands by voice alone and sometimes I have to tell her to lie down to get her to change directions behind the sheep. You can see her tail go up as she contemplates running between fence and sheep, and then when she has done it, she is all wound up and excited. This is an area of conflict for many herding dogs and she just has to work through it.

What she does in this video that I am thrilled with is settle down and walk/trot calmly behind the sheep. She begins to "wear" on her own, only covering the area behind the sheep that needs to be covered in order to have the sheep move where we want them. She never pushes the sheep so hard they run past or over me. She starts off a bit sticky on her downs, but she starts to figure out what I am asking as we move on--you can see me try to "push" her out of the down in the direction I want.
She ends up being very responsive to directional/flank indicators from me. She learns to cover and push them along a fenceline without trying to come around to their heads and move them off the fence so she can have more fun chasing them around. And we end the lesson with her calm, clear, in control, and being very smooth. Good girl!

I've gone back and forth on sharing this video. First off, I am in it. ::dies, crawls away, looks for brains:: Second, while it shows truly amazing work to me, it is all in context. She is at a point in her training where I have just gotten control. I don't like the pressure that she is showing. I do like that she is listening and learning. With another lesson or maybe two, I hope, she will understand more of what I am asking and the signs of pressure from me will even out into smooth work and understanding of what is being asked and that responses on her part further the work instead of hindering her fun. That's the hope, at least.

Largely, this control has come from doing obedience work away from the sheep--training for rally. In this training process, she has really come to like the idea of our partnership and engaging with me and the push-pull of I ask, she does, she does, I reward, and from her perspective, she asks by doing, I reward--so she feels like she has control in our relationship, too. I don't know why she didn't get this at a younger age, but I'd say it's because she's always been extremely independent and drivey--and self-rewarding. She's very hard and resilient and not easily deterred when she's in drive. :) And in herding, she knew she was faster than me and was pretty sure that her idea of fun and what the sheep should be doing was better than mine.

This weekend, we go trial for her 2nd AHBA JHD leg, then I'll need to find an AKC trial to get her final Rally Novice leg.

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