Sunday was the first time Molly and I competed in the winter mock AHBA Ranch Dog Trial series. We showed up after most folks had already done their first run and i was informed that we had chosen an interesting trial to start with as this was by far the hardest course yet.
For our first run, our sheep were disinterested in coming out of their lane, let alone going around the course. Molly approached and i think i actually saw a little cloud above one sheep that said RUN AWAY. And they did, in 4 different directions every time she approached. I found that before we even left the first field, i was already back to my old voice that is loud and carries across the valley. I heard myself echo for the first time; anywhere else that would have been impressive.
That run didn’t go so well.
The second run we had an entirely different flock of sheep and while we still weren’t successful at the free standing pen (shocking), there were a lot of good things. She got to the top of the outrun and pulled the sheep off the food pan with a person and a dog nearby. Also, she didn’t circle her stock to control them, rather going for the long swinging arches, but whatever. She didn’t circle. As we were trying to negotiate the pen, she did a good job of quietly pulling the sheep out of the arena corner. After discussing Down a few times near the L shaped obstacle (BTW the opening was about 1.5′ across) we somehow got our sheep lined up really nicely. Pause, lets me clear i have absolutely no idea how this happened. Which leads me to believe that Molly just finally understand what i was trying unsuccessfully to do. Molly took her down and walk up and even did a little tiny flank to rework and turn the heads in the right direction. She wasn’t hot on letting the sheep out of the L shaped obstacle at first though. Which lead to proving that she did have a ‘Get Out’ and Stay. The rest of the course was the kind of alley work that she’s been doing the last few months. So pretty uneventful. Most importantly, i kept my voice to a minimum and in return, my dog didn’t take off for the water or freak out.
We took a break we went over to the big long alley and found lambs!! Lambs in alleys have been our homework, though i’d been a bit chicken. At first, i have to be honest, i thought Molly was following the lambs up and down the alley. She might have been until in the middle of one of she little pushes i stopped her. Then the sheep stopped and we all just took a breather. Some of the sheep turned around and faced Molly. I asked her quietly to Walk Up, sheep turned quietly and off they went. She pushed them into motion. When they started to come off the fence and try to walk the center of the alley, i called at her to Come and then Walk up. She swung out to put them back on the fence and continued to push away from me.
I think we’re almost ready to try some little drives out of the alley. Almost.