It seems like the successes i enjoy the most are the ones that I don’t do on purpose. The thought process is like this: oh, well this location is sorta different… what can i try here? Oh, there she goes. Lets see what she does.
No joke. Now don’t think that she just takes off and causes messes. She downs and recalls nicely about 90% of the time, even at a dead run in large spaces and has good manners in small spaces. When I say ‘oh there she goes’, she’s taken about 4 steps and I’m noticing something new in her body language. Usually in relation to the sheep, but sometimes in relation to me. I like to capture those little moments of instinct and mess around with them.
We spent some time in our new favorite big field with Lisa and my other favorite red dog, Brynn. Brynn did beautiful drives… and we were struggling with inside flanks today and did some great small flank & circle work. Molly got to multitask, drinking in the stocktrough and holding the sheep at the same time – one of her favorite things. In finding not so much success with other skills, I watched her do this little multitasking stunt and decided to try asking her to walk up from this position. She was already paying attention to them without me anywhere in the sight-line. Also in standing next to Lisa and Brynn, the sheep would be less likely to fetch to me. Like holding a side… sortof. I only asked for 4 or 5 steps before i called her off, but she was beautiful. Nice well mannered and thoughtful steps with a little eye.
Our other fabulous little surprise was on the way out of our new favorite field. Since Fido’s was doing their Ranch Trial Training there were sheep in new places, including the alleyway to the field. I noticed that with both Brynn and Molly walking in the alleyway, the sheep were driving nicely. Not freaked out, or really even showing signs of stress at all. I asked Lisa to close the gate behind her and started the process of having Molly fetch the sheep to me and then swinging around and pushing them off me. First just walking with her as we pushed the sheep and she steered (i’ll have to take a video, it’s pretty funny). Then having her walk in front of me, taking her walk up and then lying her down when she was about to flank around and calling her back to me.
At this point, she seemed to really get it. Lying her down and calling her back is a new thing, but she was totally in tune with what was going on. I remembered how Elsie had told me that my homework was to start the walk up as she got in front of me in her inside flank. So she’s be walking perpendicular away from me. However, in a 8’x20′ alley, there really wasn’t enough room to guarantee that she’d take the flank. Instead of risking a bad experience i decided to improvise. While she’d not be learning to take them away from in front me, it seems that something that can be installed as we go.
At one point in all of this i noticed that once she got about 10′ away she kept trying to fetch on the Away side. She’d get just far enough to turn the noses before i caught her and told her to down and the recalled her. After the third time, i’m not sure what happened but instead of saying That’ll Do, Come just came out of my mouth and she pivoted and came around. Heads turned and i wasn’t about to call her back… so Walk up. And Up and off they went.
So AWESOME. I repeated, but was too chicken to try to Away side flank. It’s still soft and i need to keep working on it. Next weekend.
I tested this new game on different sheep in a similar space, and repeated the exercise. At first she was a little unsure as we had inadvertently gone from superbroke puppysheep to the light trial training sheep. Despite that it didn’t take her very long to get her head around the larger flightzone. Whhheeee!!!