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Dan and Sue's Excellent Adventure Part II


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#101 Sue R

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 06:23 PM

Dan and I flew out of San Diego on Wednesday. Last year, I never managed to see Dan loaded or unloaded but this year, I saw him being loaded or unloaded several times, and have to say that I was very impressed with how the employees at Alaska Airlines handled his big, heavy crate. At each loading point, I am brought a tag from his crate to let me know that he is loaded and ready to go. That was so reassuring.

Here he is at San Diego, ready to load and making a new acquaintance.

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We had clouds much of the way up California but did manage to see Mt Shasta and then, in Oregon, Crater Lake. Magnificent sights!

Mt Shasta

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Crater Lake

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Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#102 Sue R

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 06:24 PM

I only had one hour between landing and departing in Seattle but still had plenty to time to snap this series of photos of Dan (and another dog) being loaded for the longer flight from Seattle to DC.

Carefully carrying that big dog in his big crate.

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On the conveyor ramp.

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"Hi, there, doing okay?"

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"How about a chin scratch, big dog?"

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Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#103 Sue R

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 06:25 PM

We landed at Reagan in Washington DC about 10 pm. I was met by my son at the curb after picking up Dan and my luggage. Dan should have been quite pleased to find a dog-appropriate "rest room" at the pickup lane - except for the fact that this farm/ranch dog didn't realize what a hydrant was for! Nevertheless, I got a photo of him next to the "urban doggie outhouse".

"Where's the grass? Where are the trees? No place to go for a country dog!"


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Yesterday morning, mild southern California. This afternoon, rainy, chilly West Virginia. But home!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#104 NCStarkey

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 06:42 PM

Glad that you and Dan are safely back at home, Sue! Thanks so much for your entries to Dan and Sue's Excellent Adventure Part II!

nancy
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
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#105 WildFlower

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 08:34 AM

Another thank you so for sharing your experiences with us again. So glad that you and Dan are home safe and sound.

Vicki

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#106 amc

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 09:52 AM

And what an excellent adventure it was! Thanks so much for sharing, and please keep us updated on the 'home training' progress!

Amy
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#107 Sue R

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 10:51 AM

Home training is on the back burner probably - a few animals who surprised us with early calving mean I have no access to any group of cows or first-calf heifers without any new calves. Since Dan's "style" is not (so far) very confidence-inspiring in a new mother (or the mother of a new calf), he will probably have to wait a bit for work at home.

But he can still be learning, by going out with us to do feeding chores; learning to lie down and wait while we inspect cattle or do feeding, mineral-giving, and so on; taking walks and practicing "good dog" behaviors; and all the rest of the things that make up the bulk of what happens in between the "real jobs" here on a small farm.

He seemed very happy and content to be home finally, and so was I - the best night's sleep I've had in almost three weeks! Not to mention an afternoon and evening with Ed, along with the other two dogs. Very content. Just wishing I had something here to work with Dan on in terms of on-stock training. Missing Anna, missing the chance to work and try to progress, missing her advice and guidance, missing her cooking, but so happy to be where I love to be - home on the farm with Ed and all the animals!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#108 Donald McCaig

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 05:13 AM

Dear Fellow Sheepdoggers,

It is an excellent adventure and thanks, Sue, for sharing yours. I wish I knew how to tell civilians how much beauty and pleasure attends learning this difficult, gentle, useful work with your dog.

Donald McCaig

#109 Sue R

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:22 AM

The adventure isn't over as it continues each time I use Dan at home. I'll be the first to admit that I am a coward and a wienie, and the hardest part can just be going out there and giving it a try - it's often easier to put Dan in his crate and get Celt, even when I know it's a hard thing for Celt to do (like working young calves) and may not work out. But, because Celt is very familiar to me, quite predictable, has flanks, won't do anything unexpected, and *easy*, I often opt for him because it's less anxiety for me. I have had to make myself put Celt up and get Dan out because, if I don't, we will both be stuck in one place, making no progress and learning nothing, and all this will have been a waste of Anna's and my time and effort, money, and a potentially good dog.

April 3rd - A little dogwork tonight - the cows were moving to fresh pasture but not until we were ready. The dogs and I set up by the fence opening to hold the cows back and when the herd got too close, Dan moved them back himself (with a little help from his two friends, Celt and Megan). Dan seems to understand the "get them back" concept.

When it was time to move them, with over a dozen calves ranging in age from several months to several days old, I opted to walk the dogs around the backside of the herd, as the bulk of the cows and calves drifted on their own toward the opening.

I picked up my courage, set Dan and Celt, and sent them away. Dan took off like the Rocket-Man he is, and Celt opted to stay near me - he doesn't deal well with pressure and (as with Bute before) tends to back off when a dog that likes it up close and personal gets moving.

Dan got behind (although very tight and shallow) the three cows and calves and while one cow turned to take him on, the other two and all three calves headed after the main herd. This cow and Dan had a nose-to-nose for a little bit, and then she also turned and went. Dan took his down, and then walked calmly after her.

Meanwhile, one cow and calf were in among the haybales that were poly-taped off, and I sent Dan to move them out - he understands this job well, and slipped between bales to surprise the cow that never saw him coming. She and her calf turned and got right out to join the group.

A couple of calves were lingering, one on either side of the fence opening. A few of the mothers are quite relaxed and when offered fresh pasture, assume the "children" will be okay and along shortly. Dan walked up nicely on the first one, who popped through, and then I sent him come-bye to the second one, and he went nicely and quietly (but he's fast, no matter what), stopped when told, and then walked up nicely to pop that one through.

Celt was watching all this - Celt has a hard time with pressure, can work adult cattle and older calves well, but does not do small calves. Dan is afraid of no cow and no calf, and was a very useful dog tonight. Ed was impressed, and came down from the tractor to give "his" dog a big pet and some praise - Dan said to forget the pets and praise and either give him move stockwork or throw the ball.

A bit later, while the dogs and I were resting by a haybale and the cows were drifting our way, I made the mistake of trying to practice finger-whistling (which was totally unsuccessful). I hadn't noticed how close several cows had drifted but Celt took my whistle attempts as a "shh, shh" encouragement, and led the charge to move the cows back. All three dogs enjoyed their moment of power as the cows readily yielded to three black-and-while demons, and came back to me with big grins on their faces.

I was thinking, with regards to a post to the expert on the boards, that doing hours of tending with Dan at Anna's this winter was really beneficial. He's learned that he can lie down, relax, be calm, chill out, be aware, and take it easy. A big lesson for him, and good for us both. The older dogs have known that for a long time (Celt is always "on alert" but knows when it's time to not be doing anything) but this is something I realize now that Dan has learned pretty well from all that tending time, and having to wait and watch at a distance here at home.

The tending that we did at Anna's was largely (other than walking the stock out to the back field, and back again) getting up, taking Dan with me, and moving quietly around. He might flank a bit this way or that, as long as it was what I wanted and he was tuned into listening to me. Lots of stopping and letting the sheep drift or settle down, depending. Just lots of "that's cool, dude" mellow stuff. Never rushing, never getting upset, always nice and calm and quiet. And even a little doze every now and then when I could manage to do it.

Taking them out or bringing them back in, I let the sheep set their own pace, usually grazing along the way, with some starts and stops. All the while, Dan would have to pay attention to me and watch his sheep. It was nice to see how we'd be moving along, with me in back behind Dan, and he'd be moving to one side or the other to tuck the stragglers in and keep the flock reasonably coherent. And, if we had a very new mother and baby that just needed to come along more slowly, sometimes we'd go real slow and work along behind her as the flock drifted further on (but drifting, not taking off), and sometimes I'd tell Dan to just "leave them" and we'd go and work the flock, and let that pair catch up, which they would do (or I'd pop the baby under my arm and mother would come along so we could keep up and they would not be left behind). Just adapting to whatever opportunity presented itself. I think that our tending chores were the most fun work we did.
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#110 Sue R

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:22 AM

When I would get upset over something, a friend used to ask, "Did anyone die? If not, get over it." When things go wrong, unless something happens that you can't fix, work on, or restore, it will be okay and will be a learning experience.

Some of the absolute best learning experiences at Anna's were when things did not go according to my plan. That's when I had to think (most likely, quickly, or occasionally with time to reflect a bit) and figure things out. Figure what I had done wrong. Figure what had gone wrong and why. Figure out how to do it better so it didn't go wrong again. Figure out how to fix the situation that resulted.

One day, it was just a few sheep heading down a fenced lane when they should have gone through a gate. Had to trust Dan and send him on that sort-of-impossible outrun - which he did just fine, running right along the fenceline and around them, screeching to a halt in front of them, and turning them back - ripping off bits of a couple of pads on the pavement, but doing the job and fixing the problem created by our/my inexperience.

One day, it was the whole flock, escaping into a grove (I didn't realize there was an open gate into the grove and, worse yet, that the gate could not be closed to prevent Peggy Sue from following them). What to do? Well, gather and put the sheep back through the gate, then worry about Peggy Sue. So we did and guess what? Peggy Sue followed her sheep back through the gate.

One day, it was some very clever sheep that saw their chance and took off for the environs of the night pen - down the lane, up another lane, kitty-corner across another area, up another lane, and out of sight. And Anna with a gouty toe could not help so Dan and I had to go up and figure it out entirely on our own. And we marched off (pulling up big girl pants, again), found the errant and wily sheep, and brought them back where they belonged.

I hate it when things don't go in the perfect fashion that I imagined. But, I have to admit, that those times have probably been the most productive learning experiences I have had because I have had to see what went wrong, figure out what I needed to do, and do it. And if Plan B didn't work, then come up with Plan C. And nobody died, fortunately.
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#111 Sue R

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:25 AM

April 5th - Remember the saying about the hardest part being the first step? I took Dan out to feed the bottle calf, who is terrified of him for good reason. Dan tried his hardest but the calf fled for the security of the group of seven heifers and two cows and their babies. That's when I hitched up my big girl pants, and took Dan down to bring them all up to the pens.

Since the heifers hate Dan (tried using him on them before the CA trip this winter and...), I've not taken him out since they started calving. And (and this is the big one) one of the two cows is pretty aggressive towards dogs this year, being the one that calved down in the woods by the sawmill field, and who was quite upset by all it took for us to get her and her calf back inside fencing that day.

But, Dan's been good about taking his downs and listening to me, even though his flanks and so-called-outruns are still way too flat and tight. I walked him around where I could send him just a short way and he did pretty well. He only blew me off once when he was in a tight spot - once the animals were moving out of the corner, he stopped for me.

Now, too bad they all took off for the pens at a gallop - I would not send Dan or any other dog to head off that bawling, racing, bouncing crowd. Instead, Dan helped me put the calf through the gate and into the barn to be fed (Cocoa, as Ed calls him) was waiting near "his" gate. Then Dan went out and had to lie down behind the fence while I supplemented the heifers - but one and her calf did not go in the pen.

So I positioned Dan once or twice to let her go but she was not trusting him and doing it, so I took him around her and just let him cast himself - viola! Mission accomplished pretty nicely.

Nothing pretty about most of our work but it got done and the dog tried his best and listened. Getting those big girl pants on is the hardest part of it for this cowgirl...and now I can begin to use Dan on a group and for a job that I have been too chicken to do up until now.

He's really trying. Thinking better, listening better, and moving better. More maturity, too. But still we just need to work on it, and Ed is very supportive and encouraging of that, now that he's seen what Dan is capable of doing at this point in his training.
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#112 Sue R

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:27 AM

April 8th - Coming back from checking on cows with Ed and the dogs, I noticed a bunch of smaller calves had slipped under the fence and into the adjacent pasture, down towards the bull's bachelor quarters. Ed took Celt and Megan and sat down in the house pasture while I took Dan to put 'em up.

We went through the fence onto the road and, lo and behold, one calf in the road. Dilemma - which pasture had that calf escaped from? East side of the road (where several cows were complaining about the bunch of smaller calves that were taking a break from their mothers) or west side of the road (where several cows were looking across the road and also complaining)? So I let Dan walk up the road because he zeroed in on that calf right away, a nice and steady walk up. I figured that if he walked up nicely, the calf would most likely show us which side of the road he belonged on because he would tend to head towards his mother and his home field.

Well, the calf seemed somewhat undecided but Dan was pushing him gently and I figured they would get it sorted out right if Dan stayed nice and steady, letting the calf show us. Finally, we both could see that the calf was wanting to go to the east side of the road but the bank was steep and he was hesitant. Dan was getting a bit frustrated as calves can be pretty uncooperative and was giving an occasional air-snap when the calf would not take the hint to turn and move. The calf eventually chose to head up the bank and back in the fence.

Then we headed back down the road to move the smaller calves up and through the fence. Dan was great, quick but not racing or diving, taking his flanks as the silly calves would not group but kept stringing out along the fence, wanting to go back with their mothers but not wanting to try the fence. He got all but one and when he put that one in, he boldly followed through - but, as most of two dozen mothers and mothers-to-be were on the other side of the fence, took his "that'll do, here" promptly and returned to me. Good boy!

After we rejoined Ed and the other dogs, and were heading to the house, we saw that a cow and two calves were now down in the field, across the driveway from the bull. So Celt and Megan were put up, and Ed turned off the fence and headed up the road to be ready to open the gate to let the cow back through (and avoid every other cow coming down into fresh pasture or to flirt with the bull - whose time won't come until the beginning of June). The cow saw Dan and me coming, saw Ed up the field, and determined that the better part of valor was discretion, and headed up the field with her calf.

The other calf was silly, and not sure what he wanted to do but Dan did a nice walk-up (he is a calf-putter-back-through-the-fence-where-it-belongs extraordinaire) and worked to scoot him back through the fence. He got distracted by the mother on the other side of the fence and slipped under the wire to work her but a quick, "Dan!" correction, and he was back on our side of the fence pushing the calf. Job done, good dog!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#113 Sue R

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:33 AM

I am avoiding using Dan on any new pairs - too much opportunity for aggression and upset mothers. Even just using him when I am results in some outrage on the part of the mothers but I'm being very careful to choose my situations and yet not allow my anxieties to prevent me from making training and work opportunties from what situations are available.

I'm dealing with cattle, with mothers and babies, and that is not the same as dealing with sheep - even though there are quite a number of similarities as well. Getting a mother upset at a dog (like the cow who calved down in the sawmill field was, even though Celt did nothing wrong - she was just too newly-calved for it to be smart to try and shift them) can result in a mother that stays dog-angry for an entire season, or maybe the rest of her life.

I'm writing these things here both because it's an ongoing learning and training project, and also to get my thoughts down where I can refer to them when I need to. And, hopefully, to share the journey with like-minded people!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#114 Sue R

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:09 AM

April 9 - I have deliberately avoided working with Dan with the heifers. That group includes two cows, one of whom is a bet "testy" this calving season (the one that calved on down the road). And Dan's speedy and enthusiastic approach is not very confidence-inspiring in the cattle, and particularly not the first-time mothers. But two nights ago, they all were out in a back field and I hitched up my britches, got Dan, and we walked on out.

The field is an odd shape - we call it the triangle field but it's sort of L-shaped, like two triangles that join on one edge, forming a rough L. And it slopes pretty steeply downhill from the two edges that run alongside the south hayfield. Hard to envision but lets just say that it's not flat, smooth, and easy to keep an eye on things there.

We had to walk past a couple of pair on our way out and while Dan kept hoping, "This one, Mom? This one, Mom?", he stayed with me until we got out where we could see the rest of the cows and not be too far to send him for the furthest. His "outruns" are a bit fast, tight, flat, and short so I didn't try sending from a distance.

And his outrun went to the right, furthest pair, but was fast, tight, flat, and a bit short, but he took his down and stayed there, giving that heifer the chance to choose to turn and take her calf and join the rest of the group. They all headed uphill towards where I needed them to go, Dan did blow off one down, and then I found (as they all were out of sight), them by the gateway standing, with Dan standing quietly, not riling them up, and looking back over his shoulder occasionally to see if I was coming "with further instructions."

He moved them through the gateway and I called him off as they took off (as they usually do). This time, they did not head for the pens but stopped at the water tank for a fill-up, so we walked on over and waited until they were done. When they were, I sent him away and he got them heading to the pens, and we both walked along behind. He took his downs, walked politely, flanked up near the pens to turn them in the right direction, and walked up to put them in the pen tidily. Good boy!

April 10 - The next evening, the heifers were already in the area of the pens so we didn't have much to do. But I took him out, sent him where I needed him, and all filed into the pen without much fuss. Then I had him bring the bottle calf to me a couple of times, which is a real challenge. The calf is scared of Dan who, while he works with his turbo-chargers on, has been quite polite, and I'm trying to get the calf to realize that when he moves off Dan, he is okay. The other part of the challenge is the pen area - the heifers and their calves are inside, and Cocoa (the bottle baby) runs around the pens seeking the security of the group. And one more challenge is that Dan is distracted by the pen-full of heifers when I send him around after the calf. So it's a good exercise in practicing discrimination - "Not that, this!"

So, while last year's trip to CA resulted in a dog I could work with at home somewhat, this year's trip really, really made a difference - more maturity in Dan, more partnership, more listening, my doing better at using him and guiding him, a dog that I can accomplish things with in our real-world situation. Good boy, Dan!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#115 emilyfalk

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 07:34 PM

Go, Sue!

That last paragraph sounds great. I'm not skilled enough to know how to quote it, but...good for you and Dan :)
Emily

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#116 Sue R

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 04:58 AM

Thanks, Emily! The problem is that I should have learned as a mother with teenagers that you do not brag on your youngster because, almost invariably, a wonderful and brag-worthy time will be followed by a bad day of some sort. Yesterday was that day. I won't say how many fields the heifers and calves were into in Dan's and my efforts to bring them from one field to the next (actually, I will - we went from triangle field and house pasture to pens, to north hayfield, to house pasture, to south hayfield, to house pasture, to triangle field (far end, of course) to house pature to pens (finally!).

Lots of yelling in frustration on my part. Lots of not listening on Dan's part. Lots of diving and dashing and counterproductive movement on Dan's part. Just an endless spiral down into chaos. I should have probably quit when things went south the first time but I thought I was just giving him opportunity to settle down and work with me. Was it just him? Was it just me? How much was it the cattle? Was it all of us? Probably.

Years ago, our son had a young Aussie. He became frustrated with the demands of being responsible for a dog and traded Mac to Ed for a really nice calculator. Now, when Dan and I are not doing well together, Ed will tell me he has a nice calculator if I'd like to trade (Ed has 49% of Dan and I retain 51% so I have the decision-making power). Last evening, I came in to ask if he still had that calculator! It was one of those days!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#117 Sue R

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 06:54 AM

Last evening, I worked Dan for chores for the first time in several days. The heifers were gathered by the pens when we went out, and it was just a short bit of easy, close-by work to move them into the pen. Except that two calves came up from down in a brushy area and, while one readily went in through the partly-closed gate, the other was not being bright and didn't.

So, of course, his mother had to come out and we had the two of them to put him. She would have gone easily if he would have followed her but he was being silly and the two of them started away to the house pasture. I sent Dan and he headed them pretty reasonably but again the calf bolted down the field and his mother followed. Young calves just do not work well off the dog unless their mothers have taught them.

I sent Dan and he battled them all the way to the other end of the field. If he had Celt's big outrun, he'd have readily stopped them by getting out in front and using his eye and presence from a reasonable distance - but he is prone to get into the flight/fight zone and that does not work at all with calves because they panic and go - any which way!

They all wound up in the south hayfield and I was about to call him back when I saw his thinker switch into high gear, and he went to the other side of them and strive for balance to gain control and move them back towards me, over two hundred yards away. With an occasional "down" to slow the action and help him (which usually resulted in a "stand" or "slow down" which was functional for the situation), he worked without any other comment from me.

He brought them out of there, and it was a dogleg fetch to and through the gateway. He knew where they had to go to come back to me and figured that out on his own (which really impressed me), and then he had to balance to prevent them from heading west to the triangle field, which was where I could see them wanting to go (as the mother had had more than enough of this upstart dog).

He brought them up to the pen and I opened the gate (I did not want to lose everyone else again) and stepped back, with Dan on a solid down at a little distance to reduce tension - and they walked past the gate. Twice. But leaving Dan lying down, I was able to walk around and move them into the pen.

Mission accomplished! Good dog! Good work! Lots of learning opportunities!
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#118 Sue R

Sue R

    Bark less, wag more

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 04:22 PM

Today was the first time Dan and I had the opportunity to work with sheep since our return from Anna's in February. This visit for a lesson has been planned for a couple of weeks, in conjuntion with an overnight with son and family, and dropping off a bedframe for the oldest granddaughter.

My worst enemy is, oftentimes, myself. As the day drew closer, I began to feel apprehensive. Sure, I had been quite pleased with Dan's and my progress at Anna's (and she was, too). And, I have been quite pleased with our work here at home, particularly in the last couple of weeks. But was I just fooling myself? Was I seeing good where it really wasn't? Was I seeing progress where it really wasn't? Was I seeing better time on my part where it really wasn't? Was I seeing some maturity and thoughtfulness on Dan's part where it really wasn't? Was there progress on cattle but not on sheep which are more likely to get both our adrenaline going and our anxieties ramped up? Were we both going to look like hapless chumps?

I found myself looking for excuses to not go but I couldn't. I'd said I would bring the bedframe down (not that there was a big rush on it) and the family was expecting my visit. I'd said I'd bring something by to the lesson and I guess I could have mailed it instead. But I packed up dog and gear, and we went on down yesterday.

Dan, a lover of small children, enjoyed the grandkids. He enjoyed the evening at the park while our son played soccer and the kids played at the playground. He was quite thrilled at being surrounded by lots of active children and very well-behaved. He did finally reach an overload point when being petted by two polite young girls, when the one stepped back, shrieked and flailed her arms about, and generally set herself up as a potential dog bite victim. (I was watching Dan closely at this point, seeing no obvious stress signals but feeling that the tension was building, maybe just because he was getting tired mentally.)

We set out this morning for our lesson and my heart was in my throat as we got closer and closer to the moment of truth. Mark had it planned that I would work Dan, and we would do "farmwork". Gathering, wearing, driving, going through gates, doing things that would not be any sort of drilling but that would produce "results" for the dog - getting the stock from here to there.

Dan was quite keyed up - he *loves* Mark and he knew where we were and was looking for sheep from the get-go. We gathered (not too good); got sheep out of a tight corner area (not too nicely), did some driving across the pasture and along a fenceline, in both directions, with and without a lot of pressure towards the barn (much better); gathered and drove sheep out of a poly-taped pasture area; drove them across a creek (with steepish banks) and down a field and back across the creek; back out of that field, across the creek, and up the field; back to the barn (well, they took themselves, Dan got a break); out of another tight spot, working to get them away from the barn and a rocky area (nice, close work); and then Mark did some flanking and balance work with Dan in the field (as he was well aware that I was pretty used up at this point, and he wanted to end with some easy balance work).

What did we see? Dan did some nice, thoughtful, slow driving. He took corrections. He needed more work on his down. The tension would build and he would blow up - in the past, he would dive and grab or shoulder-slam a sheep just for the fun of it. He did do some of that today but it was always a result of tension building up and not just an arbitrary because-I-can-do-it-and-it's-fun-and-exciting.

We tried using "no" gently as a correction - if he was sidling as a preparation to moving around to the heads when driving, if he went in the wrong direction when given a flank. If he was walking up slowly and calmly, we just let him keep moving. If he needed a down, I told him down (and, if he did not respond *right away*, he got a shake with the rattle paddle - which was just a "verbal" correction that was remarkably effective when I got the timing right).

If Dan was wrong, and dashed around when he shouldn't, the correction should be quick, short, and forgotten - and he would be redirected to continue working. Big problem for me is that I tend to "harp" on things and I need to correct and redirect right away.

Mark was quite pleased; I was happy with a lot of the work; I did a bit better on my timing and corrections; and I was very glad we went. Dan? He's exhausted but hoping that I'll take him out for chores. I wish I had photos but I can barely keep on my feet, moving around the field, watching the sheep, watching the dog, and listening to Mark. A camera is out of the question!

PS - I saw it again, that if I raise my voice with emotion or any anxiety, Dan just blows up (and so do I). As hard-headed, tough, and stubborn as Dan seems to be, he is sensitive and wanting to get things right - and I have to do my part to keep things calm and relaxed, and let him think and not just react.

To say "no" got good results. To say "NO!" got bad results. One is a correction, and the other is a cry that something bad is happening so do something quick! I know which is the right response and now I just have to train myself to be consistent in being right, and that will help Dan to get it right, too.
Sue Rayburn - Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, but not the brightest firefly in the jar.

Celt, Megan, and Dan

"When the chips are down, watch where you step."

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown

#119 Mark Billadeau

Mark Billadeau

    Bill Nye Wannabe

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:17 AM

:)

There's nothing I believe in more strongly than getting young people interested in science and engineering, for a better tomorrow, for all humankind.

Bill Nye



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