Monday, March 12, 2012

Search for Confidence: Herding Part 2

A little while ago on February 4th, Addie and I got the chance to go to another herding clinic hosted by Red Creek Farm. This time America also attended with us.  Right as we arrived at the farm Addie started whining and quivering with anticipation. I was quite surprised since I hadn't realized she had enjoyed herding so much the last time. It had just seemed a bit "meh" to her, like an okay activity but nothing more. Apparently I was wrong.

When we arrived we met Carol Ann again, who unfortunately did not remember us. I can not say I blame her though. She has only met us once and it was 5 months ago. Oh well.  She was in charge of the beginner group this time, and I was so grateful. Like her father Hubert, from our previous herding post, Carol Ann was very knowledgeable about herding and teaching different dogs to herd. One thing Carol Ann did that I really liked was that she was so willing to explain things.  I got many tips on how my handling skills, or lack there of, affect Addie's responses when she is herding.

Addie and I were the only people there in the beginning who had been to a herding clinic before so Carol Ann had us go first. I was a little nervous at first, but Addie picked it up again immediately and my nerves were completely calmed.  While we were practicing America stood at the edge of the fence and she and Carol Ann talked a bit.  Carol Ann commented about how perfect Addie's intensity is.  When Addie is circling the sheep she's usually chomping her jaws a little.  Carol Ann said the way she was doing it was great because she is prepared to use her teeth if she needs them, but because she doesn't need them with the calmer, dog broke sheep she doesn't go out of her way to use them. As we were leaving the ring the first time, Carol Ann also commented on how Addie was an easy dog to work with. I felt so proud when Addie got these compliments.

Unfortunately as the day progressed Addie got tired quickly and would start refusing to work once she was too tired.  This was completely my fault.  Last time we went to the herding clinic I walked her beforehand and she did well.  This time the walk we took was unnecessary and actually hindered the practice sessions.

At this herding clinic, and I would venture so far as to say every herding clinic, Border Collies reign supreme. They are everywhere.  The entire time we were there we were surrounded by about 30 or 40 Border Collies and a few other, random herding breeds. As soon as America saw all the Border Collies she immediately started commenting about how Sadie, Addie's best doggy friend and a Lab/Border Collie/other mix, is JUST like these dogs.  After a while I kept noticing it as well. Every "weird", I've-never-seen-a-dog-do-that-ever thing Sadie does these full blooded Border Collies were doing too! It such an experience getting to see "Stupid Face" on other dogs, instead of just Sadie. This trip really made me start to see and appreciate the Border Collie traits that Sadie exhibits so strongly.

All in all it was an amazing day, made all the better by America's company. We hope to bring Sadie with us next time.  When I first told America about herding she and I both agreed Sadie could NEVER do it.  Now, after seeing so many brilliant herding Border Collies who make stupid face,look like total idiots when they aren't working, but still can magically transform into fine-tuned herding machines we've rethought our original assumption. She just MIGHT have herding potential that we just never realized. If you have any herding or confidence boosting stories. Tell us about them. We love to hear from you!

Tessa & Addie

P.S. Sorry for the delay in blogging. I've been super busy with work lately. Also sorry for the lack of pictures. It was drizzling on the herding clinic day. =(

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DINOS - Dogs In Need Of Space

I found this over on K-9 Solutions while I was catching up on my blog reading today. I was so happy when I saw her post and even commented thanking her for spreading the message.  This is just a simple repost of some of her same things. Definitely check out her post and see what else she added!

I want to print this out and make a poster or something. I think it's so useful, helpful, and informative.  Pass the message on.

Tessa & Addie

P.S. Do you have a DINOS? Although Addie is doing fantastically better with greeting strangers she still has days when she just needs a little space.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Search for Confidence: Herding Clinic

In my last real post titled "Search for Confidence" I briefly went thought my last year with Addie and our journey with PetSmart, Obedience training, and the CGC.  I also made mention of our new journey: a search for confidence.  Well on October 23rd we attended a herding clinic hosted by Red Creek Farm in Townville, SC. It was only about an hour away and Jon and Carol Anne Tholkes were well recommended by Linda.

Hubert helping a man work with his Australian Cattle Dog
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't insanely nervous about this herding clinic before I went.  I managed to leave earlier than needed, how I don't know, so Addie and I went for a walk in town before we went to the farm.  I'm not sure if the walk was good because it calmed Addie down or because it calmed me down. Either way, I think we both felt much better afterward.
We arrived at the farm a little bit early; the clinic didn't start until 9.  I got to finally meet Carole Anne; we had e-mailed back and forth a few times, so she knew I was planning to bring Addie, who was a little difficult. I also got to meet Jon Tholkes, her husband, and her dad, Hubert Bailey. I'm not sure how most herding clinics work, but this is how this particular one worked.

Lady with her Spanish Water Dog. She also does agility,
conformation, and grooms dogs for a living.
There were 3 different areas set up for herding practice.  The novice area, where Addie and I "trained",  was approximately a 50 ft. round pen with very "dog broke" sheep, meaning that was pretty docile and didn't scurry around too much. The intermediate area was about two or 3 times that sizes being about 100-150 feet long and about 50-75 feet wide.  This area had several obstacles in it.  There was a Catch/Release area where the sheep could be pinned, along with cones, poles, and fences to avoid, go around, or direct sheep through. I assume these sheep were a little less dog broke, but I don't actually know this.  The next area was for the advanced herders. It was a giant open, yet fenced in, field with a few panels of fencing and nothing else.

Lady with her galumping young GSD, he had serious
Puppy ADHD
The way it worked was everyone divided themselves into the group that most suited their dog's skill level. Then each area had a "herding trainer" to help assist in anything we might need.  I had hoped Carol Anne would be taking the novice pen because I had spoken with her the most, and Addie tends to warm up to women a bit faster than men. At first I was a little bummed when her dad, Hubert, took the novice pen, but I quickly got over that. He was extremely friendly. I told him "Just don't pet my dog.", and he was more than happy to oblige.

Once in our respective pens, everyone took turns practicing for about 5 minutes at a time with the sheep.  There were different skill levels even within the Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. Addie and I were total beginners, but some people had been to a few herding clinics before, had Herd Instinct Tested their dogs, or were working their new dogs and had done more advanced herding.

My favorite shot of Addie herding. She's getting into the
groove of things, and we're herding without Hubert's help.
We saw a lot of different types of dogs at the herding clinic, albeit the majority of the dogs were Border Collies. In the Beginner group we had several Australian Cattle Dogs, a Collie, a Spanish Water Dog, and one adolescent German Shepherd Dog. In the more advanced areas there were even some Shetland Sheep Dogs and a(n angry) Pumi.

First Addie and I watched the lady with her Cattle Dogs run around the pen.  Hubert helped her a bit at first.  A long drag ling attached to a chain choke collar was placed around the dog's neck and it was allowed to drag it around the pen while it herded sheep.  The herder was given a leather whip to help control the dog if need be.  One thing Hubert said that made me immediately love his training techniques was that the whip wasn't to hurt the dog.  It was to discourage them from being a little too predatory with the sheep and not enough herding.  The part I loved the most was when he said the intensity of the correction should match the intensity of the crime. This is something I strongly agree with in my own corrections with Addie from time to time.

Walking toward the sheep
After the cattle dogs it was mine and Addie's turn. The first time we were in the pen, we were also in the pen with Hubert.  I placed the drag line on Addie and held it loosely in my hand. I was instructed to start walking Addie around in a circle, and as we did the sheep moved away from her (as they were supposed to).  Gradually I gave more and more slack on the drag line and got closer and closer to the center of the pen with Hubert.  He told me to drop it; I did, and Addie continued walking in her small circle around the sheep.  I was so proud! I had not expected her to get the basic concept so quickly.  This continued for a little while, us just letting her walk around in circles moving sheep slightly to our knees. Our first turn ended here.

Addie tends to circle the sheep clockwise. This was me
attempting to change her direction so she'd run

After the other dogs had a chance to practice as well it was our turn again. Again Hubert joined us.  I put the drag long on Addie, and again she picked up herding very quickly. At some point Hubert told me to take the drag line off of her, and as if by magic she just opened up. I could see her enthusiasm for herding the sheep increase a little. It just goes to show that there is always more to learn. I think Hubert knew something about my dog that I didn't.  The drag line was just hindering her.  Once it was removed she felt more comfortable to do what she was bred to do.  Sooner than I would have preferred, Hubert left us in the pen alone.  This was a terrifying moment to say the least. I was given the whip and just left there. Me, Addie, and a bunch of sheep. What was I supposed to do? Hubert did stay close by outside the pen and instructed me to make my circles a little bit bigger.  I would correct Addie when I thought she was getting a little too intense, but then Hubert would correct me.  Again, more to learn.  Addie's intensity was too much I had thought, but to Hubert it was perfectly okay.  Her intensity was fine. She was just beginning to enjoy it a little more when I would "correct" her. So I have to learn what intensity is okay for Addie to have.  This was pretty hard I must say.

Instead of circling the sheep counter-clockwise,
Addie would circle around the sheep and move them
so they would move in a direction she was more
comfortable with: clockwise.
After a little while we took a small break from herding and everyone in the novice pen went over to the intermediate and advanced pens to watch them.  Advanced was really impressive!  These dogs were learning to herd at great distances with nothing more than whistles to direct them.  The handler would have to send the dog down to the sheep and direct them as to which direction to go, left or right, to bring the sheep back.  It was amazing to watch. I didn't get to see as much of the Intermediate level.  They were stopping after each run to talk about what had gone wrong, what had gone right, and how to do things better. I did get to see the really angry Pumi owned by a really angry man herd. It was not particularly impressive, but it was a bit funny.

Bumbling GSD started to get the hang of it and looked
pretty impressive near the end of it.
After our break we went back to herding. We had lost a few people as the day had gone on, and gained a few. This is the point where we gained the Collie lady, who had originally been herding in the intermediate pen. Addie and I again had a turn.  By this time I was not using the drag line at all, and when offered the whip I told Hubert I didn't really think I needed it, and he agreed.  This was one of my proudest moments with Addie as we practiced.  It was just Addie, me, and a bunch of sheep.  Addie did her thing beautifully.  I would give slight verbal corrections which probably weren't needed.  Hubert had mentioned at some point that I should encourage her more.  Tell her how good she is doing. Again, more to learn.  I don't think I normally forget to say  how good she is doing, but with all I was having to think about I'm not surprised I wasn't doing it as much.

This is what a GSD looks like after a
4 hour Herding Clinic.
After our last run the lady who brought her Smooth-coated Collie to the Beginner group approached me. She asked how long Addie and I had been herding.  When I told her today was our first day trying she was VERY surprised.  I took it as a HUGE compliment when she told me it had taken her 3 weeks of training to get her Collie to the point that Addie and I were. She seemed really impressed with how well Addie handled things, and I was proud she had done so well. I later came to find out that the lady with her Collie had also competed many, many times in more advanced trials with her Shetland Sheepdogs, so she was not new to herding in the slightest. This made her compliment even more special to me.

Our day ended at 1pm.  I had a blast and was extremely tired as was Addie.  As soon as we go home we both scarfed down some food and immediately passed out together on my bed for the next 3 hours. All in all it was just a great day! I look forward to future herding clinics. I can't wait to go back for more!

Tessa & Addie

Have you ever taken a "weird" or "wonky" class with your dog? Are there any neat learning clinics in your area? Tell us about it. We love hearing from you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is it over yet?

If you've been following this blog at all you've probably noticed the serious lack of blogging lately. I have one reason and one reason only. Christmas. Expect full updates after Christmas! I'm currently working my toosh off (50+ hours a week) and have had almost no time with my dog much less time for blogging. There is one cool thing Addie and I did in October I still haven't blogged about. It is coming, promise! I can't wait for Christmas to be over. Addie's Christmas present this year/mine is to go hiking with Sadie and America and as many doggies and friends as we can find!

If I don't get to post again before Christmas I hope everyone's Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Holiday, other-commerce-driven-excuse-to-not-work day, etc is amazing! Addie and I will probably be back in the new year with loads of stories to tell and questions to ask!

Tessa & Addie

P.S. Addie is probably counting down the days until Christmas is over...4 days to go!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

My friend found this on Reddit and felt the need to share! Thanks friend!