Today the weather looked more like a Spokane spring day. I can totally deal with days like this. Vickye decided to do to do all the things today we didn’t so yesterday because of the inclement weather. She wanted to go ahead and take care of business and do some things in town if I would watch the clients for her Birthday. Of course I said I would.. She then told me she would be home in time for me to go and fix those dogs. She was there last year and knew exactly what I was talking about. She was so proud of us last year it was almost like having our own personal cheerleader along. We have been discussing strategies since the snow has melted off enough to work the stock. It’s my thing this Dog trailing but she is my number one supporter and sacrifices more than anyone to make it possible. For her, we want to be the best we can be. Yes, I know I’m a very lucky man!
Vic returned home right at five pm. just like she said. I didn’t give Hope a heads up that we would be over to work on the fetch panels. Tonight I’m going to shorten up the distance and work on this in short increments until I’m at the desired distance; getting the results I’m looking for. I’m not going to accept any shoddy workmanship from any of the dogs, even if I have to be so close that I’m almost over top of them. At least till they get an understanding of what I’m asking for and what I’m expecting. I thought I had addressed this for the last month, so maybe it’s just me exerting my control to another level. When you have two judges counting, those three head of cattle are worth 30 points and this year I want us to have them all!!! Last night as I was writing up the day, I remembered exactly how I felt deflated when we missed those fetch panels by inches. I thought back to how I had stressed over the driving and cross driving, and the new to us “look back” for a double lift. How I had faith that the dogs would lift and fetch the cattle to me so I really did not put the time into straight lines and fetch panels at a distance. In my mind it was just a given we would hit those. I was sadly mistaken.
Whew Hope was at home and ready to rumble. I’m sure she knew I would be determined to work on the problems from last night. Tonight I pace off 75 yards from the fetch panels to the handlers post. That is a full 50 yards closer than last night. I walk the grass down in this area so it was visible to me. Looked like a little muddy circle out in the marsh. Then I took Tait and Kane and hooked them up to a pole out in that pasture. If I’m this close I’m at least going to work the younger less experienced dog first. Tonight I’m not allowing any shoddy outruns or any ignoring me. I’m close enough that I can run all the way to the lift area if need be. First I took Tigr to the 125 yard mark from last night and had her lay down. I sent Tigr on her outrun and she was looking sharp. So I rushed to the 75 yard mark I had made. But the cattle broke and ran for an area behind the round pen in a sort of ally way. Tigr was wide enough and deep enough but still they beat feet to that back area making a near impossible lift. Tigr went back there and got them out somehow and here they came over the levee. I was proud of her just for the lift out of that area alone. Shows me how much confidence she has in herself now. Tonight I know I’m much closer but she appears to be listening better also. Because it is going better than I expected, I stop and try reflecting back to last night. What is different other than my closeness? I still hear the black birds singing, I still hear the frogs. I still hear the traffic and the same bull bawling. The sounds of their feet splashing water and the suction sounds are the same. Even the wind is blowing in the same ear as before. The differences are so negligible that I can’t make any logical excuses for last night. Tigr did really well so her next run I will try from a little farther away next time.
Kane is next and I decided to run him on the away side where he had trouble last night. I also set him back to the 125 yard marker and moved up about 25 yards myself towards the lift area. This way I could pressure into him on the outrun flank if he wasn’t headed wide enough, like I said I’m not accepting anything shoddy. There is a little levee and last night they used it as an excuse to not run wide enough. Thus when they came over the levee fast and close it disturbed the stock which began running away. Starting out fixing a mess isn’t my idea of a good outrun. So if I allow a little levee divert them into the stock what excuse with we have next time we are in a strange field? Kane did exactly what I was expecting from last night. He started running the inside of the levee which would have brought him over the levee close to the cattle. I blew a re-flank “Awayyyyyyyyyyyy” Which he ignored in his hast to get pass me. I ran into him with a “get”. He was determined to run by me so I blew a shrill “LIE DOWN” I pressured into him more and blew another wide “Awayyyyyyyyyyyyy” With that over the small levee he went, going out wide and coming in deep. I think me forcing him to listen here on the outrun set the tone for the rest of the run. Tonight I have a dog that is listening to me. I’m still a good 25 yards closer than last night so I will back off some more for his next run. But I’m much happier tonight. His next outrun was to the bye side and he was really wide and deep. I didn’t say a word and no added pressure was warranted. His lift was very nice and he hit the panels with two out of the three head. The one that missed I’m blaming myself on. I feel that I can move back farther for our next run.
Tait has been whining to go. He was so happy when I was walking over that his eyes sparkled. This rough tough dog can be one of the kindest souls on earth. I also set him up on the away side because this is where we experienced problems last night. Once again he also was going to cut the width of the outrun so I pressured into him the same as with Kane. After the second redirect he finally took it and sailed over the levee going out much wider. He came in as deep as possible and lifted the cattle. Tonight he is listening to me even as far away as the lift area. Once again I’m wondering if 50 yards closer is the reason why. All three head went through the panels pretty easily. From the bye side he was really wide coming in deep took all his flanks as he was fetching the cattle. I’m going to move back father with him next time for sure.
After Taits run I walk over towards Hope and ask her what’s different tonight? She tells me that everything is basically the same. Why are the dogs listening so well tonight? Do they sense my demeanor is different? Was the 50 yards that drastic of a difference? I really think it’s because I have been lackadaisical on their fetches letting them determine how to bring the stock. Then once I decided to inject a few commands they simply were ignoring me.
I decided to move back to the 175 mark from last night. It’s Tigr’s turn again so I sent her on the away side. Even though she was much better last night than the boys I decided I would insist on her doing a perfect outrun. I pressured into her and she went up and over the levee. She was traveling at warp speed and got to the top side in a hurry. After having such good results it is was a little hard for me to remain planted at the 175 yard marker. I didn’t blow any encouragement to her as she lifted the cattle. Three times now she has completed exceptional lifts one on the run and the next two off the grain. She is getting full of self confidence. She was listening to my every wish flanking like a pro. This is so different from last nigh,t I move out even more to 200 yards from the panels and send her again. This time she sailed over the levee going extremely wide, once she hit the top side as deep as possible I didn’t make a sound. She has grown so much and I’m so very proud of her. Tonight I’m very happy with her results.
I moved out to two hundred yards with the boys. I know this is a long distance to move all at once, but I think I got my point across to them. If at any moment I see they are not listening on the lift, fetch I will go after them on the run. Well at least as fast as I can run in water from ankle to about four inches deep. These outruns are tough I know, much harder than any flat open dry fields. Sometimes the stock disappears from sight for a distance then re-appears just to vanish again in 20 yards. They do have to think on these outruns. I also moved the panels because I don’t want them getting course trained. Because it has been so easy the last few times I placed them so a small creek like ran between the panels. They are twenty feet apart. I sent them both from the away side so I could make sure they understood how I wanted them to go wide even if there are natural obstacles in their way. When I blow a wide command I want a wide outrun. When there is a levee to cross, cross it. If there is a pond to swim, swim it. A creek to jump, jump it. There just can be no excuse for crashing into the stock when a great outrun can prevent it.
By the time tonight is over both boys and Tigr are all three listening well and hitting the panels regularly. I have moved almost as far away as I can in this pasture. I’ve set this up to be much harder than anything they should see at the finals. Tonight at 300 plus yards they are listening and responding in an appropriate manner. Tonight I’m going home with a much better feeling knowing once again I’m on the right track in the way I’m handling. There is little things I will think over and decide how to correct or how to get the dogs to understand what I’m expecting out of them. These are all just exceptional dogs and it’s really what I teach and how I teach it that gets the results or lack there of. Thank You Vickye for being such a wonderful unserstanding wife and person. You are truely the best!