There is an odd place you arrive at when you’re training, where you have to make some decisions about what kind of dog you have and what their shortfalls are. I have a dog that feels pressure – for better or worse. The good part about this is that she feels her sheep and does a pretty good job of giving them room most of the time. The bad part is that she feels pressure from everything: stock, other dogs, fences, stocksticks, me, the length of the grass, the direction of the sun, the day of the week… Being this tuned into pressure can put her in a position where she doesn’t want to do some things. This is not new. The first real homework we ever got in stockwork was the barbell exercise . Which is as much about small spaces as it is about control at distances and basic penwork.
When learning inside flanks, our biggest problem isn’t as much the obedience part – doing the right flank when told, stopping when told. Rather its doing these things when dealing with the pressure. We are at that place where we have the tools. The hard part is installing those tools. The original progression was to do the flank exercise. Then start moving that toward the fence, where eventually i’d be up against the fence and she’s coming around between her sheep and in front of me. That’s a lot of pressure, especially if the direction she’s traveling pushes the sheep toward the draw. Thankfully we have some foundation from doing the motion of inside flanks in 2010, but now we’ve added the ‘they’re going to get away’ fear of working in the open field. We’re having to take inside flank training from a bunch of different sources and add and remove steps from the progression to match the dog.
The place we’ve gotten to, and i want to stay at until she’s *super* comfortable is to be able to do this close to the fence but not quite AT the fence. The double upside of doing this close to the fence is to start training in a stop under the worst pressure – in between the fence and the sheep. While she’s still fast, she’s starting to slow down and get comfortable. So the balance here is to not get her so comfortable she forgets to feel the pressure.
The one down side that for the first time i can remember – she crossed over. Crossing over means that in the process of the outrun she made a course correction and came in between the sheep. I sent her on the Away side, she started that way, crossed in between me and the sheep and did the flank on the Bye side. It was too far, we’d just be working inside flanks, she’s been doing a little driving, the direction i sent her was higher in pressure… lots of possible reasons. I was so shocked i didn’t even say anything – naughty! I’ll be keeping a good eye on that though.