OK, I have Star's outruns screwed up...again! It all started last week when I widened him around the end of the e-net fencing. Seems innocuous enough, doesn't it? Not to little Star man. He took it to heart, and is now too wide from my feet. I was so frustrated with myself today that I cannot even tell ya! I should know better, I should be much, much softer and gentler with this dog no matter what he does wrong. He never needs to be spoken to harshly. It's just not necessary.
I first sent him on a fairly big outrun of about 350 yards, and I again sent him from where he could not see his sheep. He squared off completely at my feet, and took the long way 'round. I stood there thinking, "well, that was dumb." I then shortened up his outrun, making sure that he could easily see his sheep before giving the flank. Still too wide, so I said his name to pull him in, which bothered him, but he kept going. After a few repetitions of this maneuver with only marginal improvement, I decided to work on shedding. My thought was that it would keen him up, create excitement, be fun.
Today I had all of my sheep with me, the kittehs and the Dorpers. Adding the Dorpers to the mix for shedding makes it easier, therefore more fun, and allows me to get in the middle of everything to shush, chouse and just generally give Star a shot in the arm. It also allowed me to work on shedding off a few sheep at a time and keep him excitedly on task. It worked, Star made some beautiful moves and by the time we were finished, was coming through like a shot. Good to see.
The other thing that was good to see was a little brace action as we finished. I sent Star, then Mirk for all the sheep that were a hundred or so yards away in plain view. Star got there first, but slowed when he saw Mirk coming, then stopped altogether. My plan is to let Star figure this out on his own, so I just kept whistling steadies for Mirk, which kept Star pretty much rooted to one spot. To his credit, though, he kept creeping up the hill and eventually took over completely once I downed Mirk near the top. The fact that Star will come on at all is a huge improvement, and I'm glad for it.
|How was that?|
I had all the sheep with me again today with Star STILL showing hesitancy on the outrun. I decided to take it off the table completely, and just work on other things. I used just the kittehs for a bit of driving and we practiced making smooth turns around the post. I use the boulders in the field as targets to practice accuracy for panels at a dog trial. Star was smooth and steady, so lovely to steer and Mr. Precision when it came to stops and turns. Forgetting the outrun SNAFU was just what he and I needed, and we both had fun. Lots of praise and one-on-one bonding afterward to try and get us moving forward again.
I kicked out the Dorpers for more shedding practice, and Star was really good today. Very keen, very quick to come through. Shedding set up another opportunity for us today, and for the 2nd time, I schooled Star on a turn back. We shed off the Dorpers, and together moved them uphill towards the trailer. Once at the top of the hill, I walked towards Star through the Dorpers and said; "that'll do," then a quiet look back whistle followed by; "look back." Now granted, Star knew the kittehs were below him, but on my "look back," Star's head snapped so fast it surprised me, but I managed a quick away to me whistle, and he was off like a shot. Now that brought a smile to my face, and also conjured a word of caution received from an International winner. He told me never to practice the look back over much, because the dogs take to it so easily. Over doing it will cause some dogs to look back unprovoked, which causes points to fly off on a trial field. Warning heeded. Star is one of those dogs.
Man, it was pretty today. I actually had my wits about me, and set up outruns that were easily managed and fun for Star. His path, his enthusiasm, and his confidence returned a bit today. It made me think that I need to take him back to the small pen at home, and send him for small gathers there. It's what I've done in the past when we hit this rock in the road, and worked beautifully. The problem was created on the come-bye side, and that is where it has stayed. That's the side we worked on for the most part today, and what I did was send him left from my right side, leaving him alone once he was off. I also set him up in front of me, giving a walk up, then a shush, or giving a walk up and going with him a bit before sending him. His work was much improved. Yes, we're definitely going back to the small pen, for some short, fast gathers.
|A little R and R|