After all their hard work preparing for Zamora, I thought it best to give the boys a break. I did not work my dogs at all the first week after the trial. Our Spring season is heating up, though, so it is time to get back to work with a small, local trial in a week, and the Sonoma Wine Country trial at month's end. With typically 80 dogs to run, there are a lot of points available at Sonoma, and we have to be ready. Last year Mirk was 10th there on the hill field, and I would like to improve on that significantly this year.
I had visitors from Italia, (I will never again refer to it as Italy,) come out today with a friend to watch the dogs work. The communication was spotty, but my Italian heritage was useful, as Antonella, Juno and I gesture wildly when we talk. We made due. My friend, Jan, interpreted, and explained that in as much as Star is so advanced for his age, that he is a very good student. I never looked at it quite that way, but Jan is right. He has learned his lessons quickly, and has, in essence, skipped grades along the way.
I had the Dorpers on site today, and noticed that Star is moving them along easier than ever before. He is definitely growing into his power, and even demonstrated an appropriate grip here and there. Unprovoked by me, it was his decision, executed perfectly with good timing and a very welcome sight. It tells me he is thinking on his own and has learned when and how to do the job at hand most efficiently. You gotta love a dog that thinks correctly for himself. Training was short and sweet today. Just a couple bigger gathers, a bit of driving and a few quiet sheds.
|That'll do boys|
Today was another light day. I asked Star for a couple big gathers and practiced off-balance flanks on the fetch. I finished up with a bit of shedding, and was happy to see this job is getting easier for Star. He definitely understands the purpose now, and comes through on the right ones every time. There is no hesitation in his work, and he is clearly starting to really like it.
I left the Dorpers at home, and brought their lambs and the kittehs, which made a nice mix of light and stupid. Always interesting. There is a wether in the mix, that would hang back. Good practice at keeping everything together. Not that Star needs the practice. He is determined at all costs to keep everything together, which is why it was so hard to teach him to shed in the beginning. But, when most of the group is toddling off, he had to take an off-balance flank to bring up the straggler when what he wanted to do was flank the other way and head the ones that were moving away. It was good practice for Star to listen carefully, and take my flanks anyway, even when he thought I was wrong. I am never wrong, after all. Or am I?
Today was a day of the biggest outruns I could set up. About 440 yards on the part of my training field that is not planted to rye grass hay. When I am working big like this, I use Mirk to move the sheep out where I want them, and Star is usually sent blind, not having seen where I put them. Since the field is almost as long as it is wide, he really has no idea where to look until I show him. His sheep could be anywhere. I start Star on the side I want him to go, then walk with him towards the sheep a few steps saying "walk up... look." Each time he is successfull finding his sheep, our trust in each other grows. Mine that Star will find them, and his that they are out there somewhere. I have been setting things up like this for Star almost since I first taught him an outrun, and he has become an excellent spotter, looker, and finder of sheep. In the beginning, I set up short blind outruns usually hiding the sheep behind a boulder or in a clump of tall grass. Today was a day for the big ones.
Star has been faltering at home, (certainly not at Zamora,) and has been running wide. Today I put sheep down by the creek so when I sent to his worst side for that, come-bye, a tree-line and the edge of the field kept him close. He went out unsure the first time, once slowing to look back, then over the opposite shoulder at me. A couple "shu-shus" and he was off like lightening. Good to see. I don't mind having to encourage him once in a while. It's all part of the process for a young dog.
There are a few unusual words and acronyms that I use in my writing, so here is a short glossary to help you understand what is going on.
RTC - Real Time Canine, which is the title of my journal, chosen because just like Harry Potter, it chronicles Star's life and training neither past or present, but in real time
Kittehs - I recently bought some Border Cheviots that a friend commented would work and flock like kittens. He was right, and I have referred to them as "kittehs" ever since. It is an appropriate nickname.
Day 218os - The number represents the number of days that Star has been in training since the very first day I put him on sheep. Since the day I got him at 10 weeks old Star has been learning, and I have chronicled all of that in previous posts. But the number represents actual training days on sheep which began when he was about 7 months of age.