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Sue R

Dan and Sue's Excellent Adventure

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Sue, i think it will really help working with somebody like Anna who knows those lines so well. Having trained 4 dogs of a similar breeding to Dan, i can say they can be a handful, but worth the effort.

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Day Two! We worked in a different field today, a large, rectangular field with the remnants of a large fallen tree towards the far end. First, a visual of the field with our less-than-eager "volunteers" - Winston, Big Daddy, and Rusty - near the old tree. (As Jodi noted, Anna could readily hitch a ride on one of these big boys).

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/001.jpg[/IMG]

The goal for today was more of the same - avoid circling (and flanking, as it would encourage circling) and concentrate on getting Dan calmly (!) walking up on his sheep in a straight line (and not a line that would encourage circling and the orbiting that would follow that).

If Dan did not get up calmly and showing an effort to feel his sheep, we would give him a down. To quote Anna, "Why does it take saying it three times to get any results?" and "Down does not mean leaving one end in the air!" If he got up moving slowing and showing some feel and reasonable pace, we let him keep moving. For me, that's easier said than done.

Here's Anna working on this -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/015.jpg[/IMG]

And again -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/016.jpg[/IMG]

It was okay to not be "at 12 o'clock" if Dan was where he needed to be but he needed to be coming on with "straight" in mind, and not an approach to flying around to the heads.

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Here's one of the unflattering photos that shows Dan blasting around. And the sort of correction that would stop Celt in his tracks had no noticeable effect on Dan. Once he turned on his jets, only good timing and personal placement would do the trick - but, as the day went on, as on Day 1, there were times when you could see him make a choice and, gradually but increasingly, the right choice.

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/039.jpg[/IMG]

We did several sessions each time out, sometimes Anna and sometimes myself. Fortunately, I didn't know my number was up next when Anna said to stow the camera and grab the crook. No time to panic! Plenty of time to find that I could not walk backwards fast enough to stay in front of my sheep and in charge of the situation. It was not pretty, but it did improve with each try.

Dan was showing that he *could* do it with some pretty work but would also show that he had a limit and would get keyed up and blow the good work with some flipping and flying. We had to figure out how to set it up for success and to let him realize that he both got his sheep and had control when he was right, rather than when he was wrong.

Here's a photo showing some distance and nice walking up that I managed to get with Dan, in between the frustrating "getting nothing done well" bursts -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/030.jpg[/IMG]

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And then, Danielle (Chesney's Girl) came for the afternoon and (bless the enthusiasm and resilience of youth) she went and worked with Dan while we took photos and enjoyed watching and discussing. With a fresh eye, she worked him just a few minutes before she noticed something we were doing that was not working as well as we'd have liked.

Danielle discovered that if she put a more distance between Dan and the sheep (and herself) before she told him to walk up, she would get some nice and calm response on his part - plus, she'd have more distance to see any problems developing and be in the right place to deal with them. And, the sheep would be more relaxed so that she could get ahead of them. A win-win situation, and it paid off with some nice progress.

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/040.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/045.jpg[/IMG]

And, she was right. We all could get some very nice work from him, just getting up at a walk or slow trot instead of blasting out of the blocks, coming on in a straighter line with less likelihood of blasting around, and taking his downs more calmly and quickly.

At the end of most sessions, my boy was ready for a dunk in a stock tank. It took him a try to figure out that getting into a fenceline tank was more challenging than a free-standing tank, but he wiggled on in and enjoyed the refreshment of a drink and a dunk.

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/048.jpg[/IMG]

Today is my first scared-to-death day - Anna's at work for a long day, and my homework is to take Dan out and work him multiple times (school sheep are already in the field we are using) and concentrate on more of the same - listening and taking his downs, getting up and walking on straight and calmly and in balance, not blasting around and orbiting.

That's Dan's job - my jobs are to control my voice (he really responds badly to shouting or a raised tone of voice, and does so much better with a calm and very quiet voice), correct appropriately (and know when to correct and when he's really right and I'm wrong), work on walking backwards "faster than my old grandmother" ("Remember, walk *long* not rapid small steps."), be consistent and persistent - and work, work, work on good walk ups and encouraging him to feel his sheep.

Oh, and take old Trucker B out for a spin on the school sheep. And do the laundry, and maybe a little housecleaning. And try to take the time to take Peggy Sue for a ride. And to not forget to put up Peggy Sue and all the sheep for the night, and the chickens. Gosh, I'd better get off the computer!

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[quote name='Sue R' timestamp='1297356297' post='382100']
Danielle discovered that if she put a more distance between Dan and the sheep (and herself) before she told him to walk up, she would get some nice and calm response on his part - plus, she'd have more distance to see any problems developing and be in the right place to deal with them. And, the sheep would be more relaxed so that she could get ahead of them. A win-win situation, and it paid off with some nice progress.
[/quote]

Excellent observation. I too have found with Devon that if I put more space in bewteen him and the sheep before I ask him to walk up that he keeps his distance much better. But it is easier said then done sometimes! :lol:

Thanks again for posting!

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[quote name='Sue R' timestamp='1297356231' post='382097']
"Why does it take saying it three times to get any results?" and "Down does not mean leaving one end in the air!" [/quote]
What she said.

Mark (taking mental notes for later)

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Day Three - nobody here to take photos so I'll have to just give a verbal report (feel like I'm in school again, and I am).

We moseyed on out, taking a roundabout walk so that Dan wasn't anticipating going straight to where the sheep were eagerly (not) waiting. Plus, we picked up a lighter-weight stick on the way, to try rather than Anna's old favorite wooden crook.

I was very pleased in that, after a rocky but short start, Dan settled in to show me some nice work. Taking his downs, getting up without rocket boosters engaging, walking up. trying to balance.

I say "trying to balance" because with the school sheep that want to be right at my feet (or, even more so, right behind me - nobody wants to have the legs closest to the "wolf" - sacrifice Sue instead!) there is nothing easy to balance on. While Dan isn't reading his sheep terribly well yet, there are some good glimmers, and he's always aware of their heads. Wanting to see that they have their heads in the right place, maybe?

Early lessons that enforced what I saw yesterday with regards to my voice - he listens quite well when I keep it quiet, soft, soothing. A reprimand when he's blasting does nothing but turn up the tension and the speed. A reprimand when he's done "a bad thing" and I'm reading him the riot act, has an effect - but it still can be quiet and calm, just serious and meaningful. Sure saves the vocal cords and helps reinforce that I need avoid anything that he can interpret as hysteria, loss of control, loss of confidence, etc.

We'd get some really nice work that pleased me and then things would go south. And, when that happened, it often happened two or three times in a row, and then back to good work. Was it me? Sometimes, because I'd notice that I made a mistake and this was his response. Sometimes, I think it was just that tension was building in Dan and he was blowing it out.

An example of my mistake was not remembering a few times something that Anna pointed out - in conjunction with Danielle's observation to give a little distance (more room to work, lets the sheep relax more, and so on), was Anna's good suggestion the I slow down a little when I tell Dan to "walk up" from his down.

Why? Because if I was moving along with the sheep (or, absolutely being non-productive by speeding up with the sheep) he would tend to feel he was losing the sheep and would have to hurry (and then he'd wind up blasting around, etc., etc.). Oh, did I realize that one time when it was glaringly obvious that I was not encumbered by the sheep being bunched around me and I took the chance to move back just as I asked Dan up. Big mistake.

So, the next time, I remembered to slow down just a bit right before I asked him up and, viola!, nice! The dog needs training but he's got instinct - I'm the one that Anna ought to take a stick to.

But, in spite of the frustration that it's not all getting good all at once, I have to step back and realize that the good is getting to be proportionally more of the session and the bad is getting to be less of the session.

We both have a lot to overcome - all my errors and issues, and some of the things that may be working against Dan.

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Sounds like a good day so far. Can't wait for the next installment--Dan is going to get to take the sheep from one pasture to another. There's nothing like doing an actual "job," even if it is a made-up one, to give a dog (and his handler!) a sense of accomplishment, and to help him understand *why* we're insisting on his doing things the way we are. Dan's light bulb: "Ohhh!!! If we walk in a straight line behind the sheep, we can TAKE them where we need them to go! Woohoo!!"

Next thing ya know, he'll be putting the whole group up at night,
A

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The mid-day work was a downer. I wasn't getting as much nice work as in the morning, and I certainly was feeling a higher level of frustration and impatience. Not good on my part.

So, instead of riding Peggy Sue this afternoon, it looks like I need to take Dan back out for another session - and hope I do a better job for my part, and expect him to do a better job on his part.

Meanwhile, the oranges are picked (had to wear boots - they fixed the pump and the irrigation has been going all day), the laundry's done, and I need to do some housework. Want to earn my keep, right?

Well, and the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, birds are calling, and time's a-wasting. And I'm feeling like such a failure.

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[quote name='Sue R' timestamp='1297379255' post='382157']
And I'm feeling like such a failure.
[/quote]

You're not going to learn this overnight, Sue. You've got some bad habits to break, too. Try not to feel discouraged--it sounds like you and Dan are making great progress. :)

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[quote name='Sue R' timestamp='1297379255' post='382157']
The mid-day work was a downer. I wasn't getting as much nice work as in the morning, and I certainly was feeling a higher level of frustration and impatience. Not good on my part.

So, instead of riding Peggy Sue this afternoon, it looks like I need to take Dan back out for another session - and hope I do a better job for my part, and expect him to do a better job on his part.

Meanwhile, the oranges are picked (had to wear boots - they fixed the pump and the irrigation has been going all day), the laundry's done, and I need to do some housework. Want to earn my keep, right?

Well, and the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, birds are calling, and time's a-wasting. And I'm feeling like such a failure.
[/quote]

When Kyzer and I were out for training last fall, I was put in a small arena and told not to come out until I was confident I could make him bend, make him stop and make him take time. It took me two days and I thought I was the biggest loser shepherd on the planet. But, when I did finally come out, we were a team and I was completely confident about my control. Since, I've had to put myself back in an arena a couple of times - I think it's always a little bit of of a two-step (in the forward and backward sense), and you have to be able cut yourself some slack so you can learn from the backwards part and Dan can, too.

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Thanks for the kind and supportive words, and the personal experiences. I want this "journal" to be honest, and so I'm putting in the good, the bad, and the ugly - in an effort to be honest about what's happening.

Meanwhile, this evening's work was a bit more optimistic. I didn't feel progress but I didn't feel like we were back-sliding. Well, maybe a little progress?

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I know a good parent, a good teacher and a good leader leads best when speaking in a calm, confident manner. Yelling never works, tension always increases the problem. Yet, we repeatedly chose this path, it is a constant battle to keep our wits under control. I love your journal, thank you for letting me take a peak into a lifestlye that I am not lucky enough to be involved with. I am always impressed with the life lessons one learns when you interact with your dogs. Good luck tomorrow... and you are doing a great job Dan!

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Often we learn faster by finding out what does not work. Would you rather be learning these lessons here on the snow & ice and in the cold wind or there on green grass and in the warm sun?

Keep posting and keep working at it.


Mark

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[quote name='Mark Billadeau' timestamp='1297422978' post='382202']
Often we learn faster by finding out what does not work. Would you rather be learning these lessons here on the snow & ice and in the cold wind or there on green grass and in the warm sun?

Keep posting and keep working at it.

Mark
[/quote]
Hmm, let me think on that...

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Day Four is only partway gone, but it's been eventful. Our first field for the day is this lovely one -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/010.jpg[/IMG]

Anna had a large group of sheep and larger lambs, 30-40 head, separated off into this field. A wash runs through it and that's the "sandy road" that seems to move down the middle length-wise. I was pretty pleased to see that Dan did okay with this larger group (not such a surprise) but one that had younger. less-dogged sheep and lambs. He did some nice work -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/012.jpg[/IMG]

And had some "oh, poop!" moments when I got to see Ms Anna G show her speed -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/009.jpg[/IMG]

Probably my favorite picture from this session -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/015-1.jpg[/IMG]

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After working with this group, we took Dan over to work with the four school calves. I think the sky over southern CA got a bit more blue as Anna worked with Dan to get those boys out of the narrow end of the field where they like to lounge. If Dan hadn't been so bound and determined to get to the heads, he might have gotten them out of the corner and up the field a whole lot sooner and easier for all concerned.

As always, when he'd work calmly and feel his stock, things would go quite nicely -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/018.jpg[/IMG]

And, when he got quite tired, he had a nose-to-nose moment with the calves in the corner, and reminded Anna of his mother, Riddle, as he stayed calm and steady in the face of a calf that was trying to decide what the best plan of action was. I was amazed - I'd wondered if he'd gotten kicked in the head or something because for a while there, he was working like a different dog. He was just too tired and was actually using his head instead of his after-burners.

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/029.jpg[/IMG]

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I have been very frustrated but, with Anna watching me work with Dan mid-day, she noted that the problem I was experiencing with him not taking a down and then diving (not often gripping, but occasionally) was - tada! - because I was letting the school sheep get past me. She stopped me and told me about this and I then realized, every single time after, that that's exactly what happened when Dan blew off his down and blasted and dove.

He was doing it because *I* was losing the sheep in his mind. If even one went past me, or if I walked alongside the three rather than in front of or even among them, he would fly up and around. Once he got to the other side (at which point, I'd turned around) and was at balance (Dan, sheep, me), then he'd lie right down.

If I'd wiggled out from among the sheep to get after him (for my own problem, I now know), he move around until he was at the new balance point and lie down readily.

So, I am feeling an enormous sense of relief - realizing that he's being right when I am right, and being "wrong" but only when I am wrong. Now, that's not to say that he doesn't mess up and dive and take a cheap grip sometimes - he's got a long ways to go, but I realize now that what I was thinking was him being a butt-head was him trying to get to the heads of the sheep because I wasn't doing my part - I wasn't keeping him at a good pace/distance; I wasn't moving backwards well enough to let him have a nice, straight, feeling walk-up; I wasn't anticipating in time but rather reacting when it's too late.

I hear Anna telling a friend "He's a piece of cake". I remember JK's comment, "Your dog's biggest problem is you" with regards to Celt. Well, it's the same thing with regards to Dan, but I am feeling much more optimistic.

Poor Dan, he's got to deal with me. But a happier me.

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Again, Dan is so different from Celt - this is a dog with a great deal of presence, no lack of confidence, and even when he is at a good distance and right, the stock still want to move off him with alacrity. Such a difference, and such an adjustment for me to make.

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Karma, Anna's young LGD is a gem. She seems so bright and so observant (well, that's her job) that she even appears to be picking up on something that the Border Collies do - she sort of "gathers" her sheep sometimes, like when the sheep are being put up for the night.

Anna got a call, "Lamb out!" from the farm manager, Kathy. So we popped into the truck and around to the other side of the grove where Kathy was waiting and watching. The youngster was by some landscaping, and Karma was right there keeping a close eye on him. Good Karma!

Here she is with "her" little lost lamb -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/001-1.jpg[/IMG]

And looking very smug and contented once her errant lamb is safely back with it's worried mother -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/008.jpg[/IMG]

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Later on, Dan's last outing was back to the calves, and he did quite a bit better than this morning, or at least it seemed that way to me. Anna worked him a bit and then let the calves head back to their corner. On the way there, Anna practiced a down whistle with Dan, which he picked up quickly (he's been on a down whistle before). As Anna noted, whistling was a lot easier than yelling!

Here are a couple of shots of Dan with the calves -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/011.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v470/edsuerayburn/Dan%20in%20California/012-1.jpg[/IMG]

The dog is "dog tired", and ready for dinner and a good night's sleep. I don't know how Anna does it - she makes the Energizer Bunny look like a slacker. A real slacker. And she's got homemade pizza in the oven for our supper. Breakfast was pancakes, eggs, and bacon - with plenty of OJ, oranges picked and squeezed by yours truly.

Life is very good!

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