Competing with a mature dog
Posted 21 April 2010 - 11:36 PM
I run my dog Scott in ProNovice trials. I believe you know him actually (Del Mar Scot). He'll be 11 years old in June. Scott is still quite spry and capable of running a course without timing out and he enjoys trialling a lot. He and are make quite a good team. I've had him about 18 months now. We got 8th place (out of 32) at a local trial this past weekend in fact; our outwork and pen were perfect but we blew it on our drive!
The sheep this weekend were fast hair sheep and although Scott never lost contact with his sheep, the drive was just fast and ugly and at times, it seemed Scott just wasn't reactive/fast enough to fix the waves in the drive. I came away from the run thinking that I should have kept him off the sheep by 40-50 yards as opposed to the 5-10 yards he was at, but then at 40-50 yards, I'm not sure he could catch up to the sheep IF they were to take off. I'm finding this distance/bubble thing to be our biggest nemesis in our runs.
In your opinion, what are the parts of a P/N trial run that an older dog will start to show his age on a course and how do you assist an older dog to perform at his best during the run?
Hi there. Yes, I do know the dog and, at 11 years of age, he will still be quite useful to you in trials. The problem you had with your drive was allowing the dog to push too hard and creating the "waves" in the first place. With light hair sheep, it is extremely important that you keep everything nice and settled and not let the dog "punch" the sheep which, of course, will cause the sheep to bolt and try and leave the earth to get away from this evil thing that is scaring hell out of them. Remember that "Scotty" was a cattle dog long before he was a sheep dog and a good one too, so it is part of his nature to want to push and, as far as I'm concerned, that is a good trait. However, the handler is the one who controls the pace of the sheep by controlling the pace of the dog, so you need to recognise that must keep Scott back off the sheep enough that they are moving comfortably but at a pace that is efficient, not too slow and not too fast. This pace will be somewhere between a fast walk and a slow trot, depending on the sheep. If you see sheep moving with a nice comfortable fluid motion and their ears are flopping about like they have hinges on them, you can rest assurred that they are comfortable and will move where the dog asks them to move. You will notice that I have not given you any distance to keep him off the sheep and that is because there is no set distance to keep him off. That distance is controlled by the movement of the sheep so you keep him off far enough or close enough to obtain that nice smooth relaxed motion that I mentioned before. When your sheep are moving like they did at your last trial on the drive, even a young dog would not be capable of correcting the "waves" as you call them as things are totally out of control. Now, your job is to learn to "read" your sheep so that you can tell when they are at a comfortable pace, respecting the dog but comfortable with him behind them. You won't have to worry about Scotty catching up to the sheep as they won't try and run from him when they are comfortable with him behind them. You will notice a dog starting to get to the point that he should possibly be retired first during the outrun. He will start showing you that he is recognizing that he doesn't have the athletic ability that he had when he was young and will start to cut in a little early, will start slicing his flanks and become less confident because the dog gets his confidence level from his athletic ability. You can really help these older dogs by being a good handler with good timing and understanding of your stock so that you can put the dog in the right place at the right time so that his job becomes easier and he is capable of completing the course without getting too tired. Try to really help him to find good pace at your next trial and really concentrate on keeping a nice fluid pace on your sheep and you will find that life will be much more enjoyable to both you and your dog. Good luck....Straight lines, tight turns and nice pace.......Bob
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