The week before Winnemucca

2/22/11

Charm has been getting the majority of my time here lately. Today is no exception, she is starting to work with me instead of fighting me on this driving. Today I started out with some simple fetches then made the fetches some what harder. I placed a rubber tub of oats in the pasture. Ha-ha now we got something going on. Those steer did not want to leave that grain. They seriously wanted to keep their heads buried deep in that tub forcing Charm to hit heel to get them out. Heeling isn’t Charms specialty. She prefers to jump up and grab the tail of high on the back leg. This tactic isn’t working well for her today. Two would come off the tub and circle as she was lifting the remaining three. The three would then lift as she tried to push the remaining two and so on. Her dilemma here was she couldn’t effectively lift all five head at the same time using her normal tactic. She finally put on her brave face and walked in cool as a cucumber and hit a heel with a near simultaneous bark. They all five lifted towards me. At a trial this would have been a time clock killer. Hummmmmmmmmm” wonder if I could get her to drive them off that grain?

I don’t know how other people train their dogs to do certain things, maybe I should learn. Still I look for techniques to enhance my ability as a handler to get the most out of these dogs. Every thing they learn in a working situation, helps us as a team, to perform different tasks efficiently. Now how am I going to get Charm to understand I want her to *drive* them off the grain? Quickly I put two leashes together and attach to Charm’s collar. We start walking towards the rear of the cattle as they are eating the grain and I’m whispering “walk up” Good girl “Walk up”! She is now tugging at the end of her leashes, trying her best to get at those steers. Sppppppppp “walk up” good girlllllllll. Because of the reach of the leashes she could only do a very low heel. The steer would then kick out at her but go way over her head. Soon all five are moving away from the grain. Wow this worked far better than I even imagined. So I reversed the order of things, instead of having her fetch them off the grain then go into drive mode, I had her fetch them to the grain, then drive them off. I added several pieces of baling string to make a long line. This stopped me from influencing the movement of the cattle. Soon Charm was pushing or driving the cattle all over the pasture. I think we just had a major break through. This is the first time she has enjoyed driving practice.

1/23/11

The start of another wonderful day training, its kind of cold this morning and the ground is just starting to thaw a little. Well at least its not going to be all muddy.

This morning I took Kiki and put the cattle into the pasture. They are healthy now so are roaming freely around the two pastures outback. Two was in the pasture with the horses and I wanted them in the pasture with their brothers. Kiki is surely a bright spot in my life. She makes these simple tasks look so mundane. Within seconds they were sorted off the horses and in the pasture next door. Her reward for a job well done– was a pat on the head while I was muttering “Good Girl” as she was placed on the chain in the waiting area.

Charm was loaded ready to go today. She must be full of herself for doing such a good job yesterday. She was just giddy lying down waiting for the outrun command. I set her up on the Bye side and gave her a Sppppppppp.  Charm was off like a rocket, going as wide as the fence lines would allow, turned in deep on the top side and lifted with confidence. I could see a new demeanor in her today. She was so full of life, fluid in her movement, every thing was business, with a fun element added in. I placed my back to the fence line and gave her an “awayyyyyy” flank.  She took off counter clockwise looking like a old pro. The moment she caught the lead steers eye she wanted to return to balance. “Away, away, away” I commanded vocally. She hesitated then its like she recalled yesterdays lesson and passed between me and the stock in the appropriate direction. Wow was I ever pleased. I went right into the pasture gave her a big hug, some pats,  good girls, petting was lavished all over her. She was just beaming her body was almost quivering with anticipation of her next command. I decided to pull her around and start a short drive. She was taking her inside flanks so well I was sort of in awe. Its now almost 11 am and its starting to snow. SNOW??? Holy smokes I didn’t ask for this snow!!! I have only a few more days to get Charm ready for her début in her first trial.

Once again Kane just makes every thing look so easy. His flanks are crisp and sharp. We do both vocal and whistle commands and he is Johnny on the spot. The only reason Kane needs this is to keep our timing and understanding of each other. Now its really snowing hard, we called it a morning.

Its now 4 PM and snow has stopped for a while. We received an even four inches of white powder snow. What the heck I have a big trial coming up and a dog that is needing to drive. Once again I use Charm for the chore part of this job. She expertly fetched the cattle from between the horses, plus off the round bales of hay. Just a few weeks ago this task would have been over her head. She has matured a lot in the last year and its showing through her work ethics. Once she had them away from the horses they had to pass through the gate to the pastures next door, I decided to move away from the gate so she would have to cross over in front of me to ensure they went properly through the gate. This worked like a charm!!! ha-ha couldn’t resist! We then went straight into a drive. Charm took them across the pasture about 50 yards and so far I’m still in the pasture next door. Wow what a difference a few days can make. Charm is still enjoying her new found method of controlling stock. I think she is starting to realize that the stock isn’t getting away, they aren’t stampeding into the next county. She is still hesitating on her inside flanks. This shows she is thinking and trying to do them correctly. Once again I covered her with loving pats and praise.

2/24/11

OMG it’s a winter wonderland here. We received 14inches of white powdery snow since yesterday. The wind is whipping this snow around and in some places there is drifts over three feet deep. The gates are very hard to pry open this morning. The wind cuts you like a knife and the gusts of wind sends blasts of snow all over you. It stings anywhere its touches your bare skin. It only takes a few minutes before you realize jeans will not protect you for very long. After letting the dogs run for about 15 minutes I was an ice cycle headed for the warmth of the house. The wind had filled my barn floor with snow. The dog kennels well covered in white even though they are inside. Thank goodness for their hay filled closed in area inside their kennels. Once I warm up and put on layered clothing I’ll come back and work a few youngsters.

Charm isn’t as tall as the snow is deep in areas. She is running full blast and it looks like  snow dust spraying across the pasture. The wind is carrying this snow dust clear across the pasture to the fence line. Charm don’t seem to mind the -10 wind chill factor. Even in layers, with a heavy beanie under my hat it is still freezing out here. We are not going to work long today. Her outrun was beautiful. Once I caught a glimpse of her face I started laughing at her. She was almost white with all the snow covering her.

Soon as she finished her outrun we went into a drive. Now all of a sudden these steers don’t want to run anymore. The snow is having a big effect on them. Without adding a lot of pressure they only amble slowly through the snow. Charm wanted to go around to head, yet I’m holding her back. I was wishing I had of thought to bring the long line. Well lets use this as a form of teaching patience. Not just for Charm, for me also. Slowly but surely we marched them across the pasture. Now I’m shivering and so far everything has been a positive training experience for Charm. I decided to call it a day right here. I have many sidewalks to shovel and I know this will be her only work for today. Hmmmm, she didn’t dive into the stock tank today hahaha. Fresh grass hay for everyone to sleep on tonight.

A Little update

After watching the weather report on TV I decided it might be prudent to put the calves in the barn tonight. possibly  going to be seven below zero. They said add the wind chill factor and it could be like 22 below. That’s cold!!!! Anyway I went out in the dark, whew it was very cold. Almost instantly my breath froze to my moustache. The steers and horses are hiding out near the trees I believe. I thought of using Kane; but Charm is so in need of experience, so I figured why not and called Charm out of her warm kennel. Sent her on a Bye command and she zipped out of sight. She went to the side of the barn then across behind an old truck sitting out there. Appears they weren’t in the trees at all but using the old truck to buffer them from the freezing winds. They haven’t been placed inside the barn now for over a week o now this is no longer a mundane type task. I must say Charm kept them in complete control, no gripping no overly pushing, just clean calm work. Because of the darkness, I decided to just let her fetch them into the barn. “GOODDDDDDDD GIRLLLLLL” Charm. I gave her an extra ration of raw beef, scratched her ears with a gloved hand and told her— nice job good night girl.

2/25/11

When I got up this morning it was still one below zero. I turned around and went back to bed. Around 7:30 am the dogs all started howling, next I heard sirens going by. Appears none of them froze last night because I heard four distinctly different howls. I still want to sleep in but it isn’t happening. Oh well I have cattle in the barn that needs to get to water, so I start bundling up.

It is absolutely gorgeous outside. Blue sky’s forever. With the white snow the brightness is intensified twenty fold. Even with the cold biting my ears I was taken aback, and had to breath in the sight of this beautiful cold winter day.

Charm is loving this being the main working dog here of late. Her whole demeanor has changed. Instead of rushing to get the basket ball, she is standing by the gate ready to go to work. The other dogs don’t even exist at this point. Today was no exception. I had to admire how much progress this little girl has made in such a short time. I opened the gate and gave her a cross over flank, she hesitated and looked at me for reassurance. Once again I told her “away” quietly and she passed in front of me, very calmly lifting the cattle out of the barn with ease. This little exercise turned immediately into a drive. Today Charm didn’t get nervous about the steer rounding behind the pick up truck. She walked behind the steers and took one single inside flank that pushed them into the pasture where I wanted them to go. “That’ll Do Charm” I said  in a cheerful voice. Charm came running wiggling, showing me how much she appreciated this opportunity to work for me. This is now becoming a fun project for me and Mz. Charm, yes it is.

Kane once again showed that these steers are much to easy for him. Or is it he just makes it look so easy? He is taking every command without any hesitation at all. He is in total absolute control. There is no challenging him, no kicking at him or anything. They just accept his control without question.

Afternoon

I got on the tractor to take a round bale of hay out to the stock. I decide to use Charm to keep the cattle off the hay until I had it in place. No, no Charm if you fetch them they come to the hay! Plainly she wasn’t understanding this new method of working stock. Gosh they wanted to come and yet I didn’t want to let them come, Ummmmmm what’s up with that?

Walk up “walk up” Good girl—-hesitation. A are you sure look from Charm towards me. Sppppp get em! Really are you sure look? Charm was truly confused with this method of working off the tractor. Once the steers are eating on the hay bale there was no way for Charm to come between the steers and the tractor. I stopped the tractor and step off where I could see Charm and the cattle plainly. I left the tractor running and set the roll of hay on the ground. The steers are eating on the round bale, so I decided to try to build Charms confidence a little. Walked to the barn and got a few pieces of baling twine and tied them together. I didn’t want to confuse her by letting her get around into fetch position One end of twine tied to Charms collar the other wrapped around my glove. “walk up” Sppppp “walk up” Charm seemed to like this. She walked into the larger steers face and he had no intention of leaving that hay bale. Sppppp “get em” she lounges forward gripping him on the end of the nose. He turned bumping the others so nothing but heels was turned toward Charm. “walk up” Sppppp “walk up” Charm is a high heeler and I’m not exactly sure how she don’t get her head kicked off, but she got them moving. I tighten up on the twine so she can barely reach the heel, that way she was heeling low. She kept hitting heels until they were off the bale and moving across the pasture in a drive, I let got of the twine, its still attached to her collar. I got on the tractor as fast as I could and still keep a eye on the action. Charm has them under her spell now and me being on the tractor isn’t seeming to influence her actions or presence on the steers. They still want to turn and come to the bale but Charm is pushing them at times backwards. I place the bale in the feeding area and gave Charm a full flank command. She very eagerly went around to balance and fetched them to the bale. Whewwwwwww adding a tractor with food made this a brand new adventure. Maybe tomorrow I’ll put some grain in the bucket and see how that works LOL Like I said always looking for a way to teach. It’s around 14 degrees outside and Charm is panting from this little session. Must have been very nerve wracking for her.

Only two days Training left before we head to the Winnemucca, NV Cow Dog Trials.

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