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AMiller's Achievements


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  1. I would recommend attending one of the upcoming trials listed on the TSDA page. There won't be any more until February, but I'm sure the members will be more than happy to help you in your search. My mom, who was looking for a puppy to start trialing with, came out from CA and went to a trial with me this summer. We talked to a few people there and were able to find a great puppy for her that I took out to CA a few weeks later. I know that at least a few of the members also have friends or relatives who are into agility, so they might have some good connections for that also. The TSDA folks are a great group to get to know, and I'd bet they'll be able to help you find a puppy if you decide to try that route.
  2. Hi Ellie44 - I'm glad you enjoyed the thread. Everyone who I have come into contact with so far in this herding journey has been so helpful and kind. The folks here on the boards as well as those I've met in person have been very generous with advice and encouragement (as you can see with the many replies to my questions in here)! I haven't updated this in forever (I've always been pretty terrible at keeping up with updating social media) but things are going great for me and Sam. We actually just completed our final Novice trial last weekend, and will be moving up to the Ranch class as soon as the trials start again in February! Although it can be very challenging at times, herding has been fun and extremely rewarding. We're only 9 months into all of this, but we're slowly and steadily progressing, which is all I can ask for! Best of luck to you! I hope you get addicted like the rest of us .
  3. Our Second Trial! Last weekend Sam and I competed in our second trial! I was hoping (of course) that it would go well, but more than any other part of the run, I really hoped that her outrun would be good, since that's what we really struggled with at the first trial and that's what we've been working on really hard for the last month. Saturday evening we were the last to go. The sun had gone down already and it was getting pretty dark. I remembered my stick this time (which I forgot last time, but really need more as a security blanket for myself than for signaling to Sam.) The trial was at the same location as the last one, and I sent her "Come Bye" for both runs at the previous trial. I set her up for an "Away" outrun. I sent her. Her outrun was beautiful! (Especially to my novice eyes!) She started by running out a ways, and widened enough as she got nearer to the sheep that they didn't move until she was at the top! I was so excited and so proud of Sammie - she did it! Then, before I realized it, one sheep was running for the exhaust pen. The other sheep were running straight for me, but I hadn't moved from the post (the judge said the line was from the lift to the pen, not the lift to the post). I told Sam to run around to get the separated sheep. She gathered them back together, but was moving too fast, too close into the sheep, and the sheep were too excited. All of the sudden I realized that I was giving Sam the opposite commands (Away instead of Come Bye, and vice versa). She was doing what I meant and not what I said, but half the run was done and I had commanded her backwards the whole time. How much damage was I doing for the future? Should I switch back to the correct commands - would she get it or become confused. The sheep were approaching the pen, and I needed to get the gate open. I lied Sam down while I turned around to open the gate - but the gate got stuck! I started opening it incorrectly, it jammed, and I couldn't open it until the sheep had passed by the pen. I got Sam up and began to use the correct commands, but we had missed our opportunity. The sheep were too excited and they just ran circles around the pen. I lied Sam down to let the sheep relax for a moment, but every time she got near them they would bolt. The time ran out - the whole event passed by so quickly! I had two feelings leaving the field - I was so excited that Sam did a real outrun, and at the same time was feeling quite silly for completely losing my wits and letting the rest of the run lose control! The judge was very kind and told me to just calm Sam down at the end of the outrun/the lift and keep her farther back from the sheep. I was excited for the next morning, and was sure I would do better (and that would hopefully help Sam do better too). I had learned that no matter how excited you are about something going well, don't think about it until the run is over - keep thinking about the next step, or it might just get crazy! The next morning, Sam did another great outrun. I tried to calm her down at the top, but she was very excited and did a full circle around the sheep. By the time the sheep were about a third of the way down the fetch, I got Sam to lie down and listen. She kept farther off the sheep, and they went straight into the pen to finish the best run we've ever done together . We still have lots to work on, of course. Until our next trial (at the same place in two weeks) we will be working mostly on getting Sam to lie down as soon as she turns in toward the sheep from her outrun, and then calmly approaching the sheep. Of course, I'll also be doing my best to make sure her outrun continues to improve (hopefully!).
  4. Thank you all for your advice on the outruns! There's so much to think about from all of your posts! To try to sum it up, It sounds to me like the consensus is that the most ideal run very much depends on the situation (whether the ideal run is pear-shaped or otherwise) and that a good outrun is mostly about feeling the sheep as the dog covers the terrain and/or obstacles to get to the top of the sheep. Also, it sounds like one of the most common problems dogs have during an outrun is the dog being too tight at the top, not the shape of the run before getting there. In a practical situation, it seems that so long as the dog is wide enough, the shape of the outrun shouldn't matter (with the exception of the dog potentially getting too tired if it is constantly running way too wide). Regarding the trialing aspect, it would be interesting get different judges' opinions to see if they take points off for the shape of the outrun, or if they only take off points for the dog not being out wide enough. That is, would judges care if the outrun is as efficient as possible, or would they leave time to decide whether an outrun was efficient enough or not? (Although I would guess the answer probably differs from judge to judge?). Although I will continue our story by posting here about Sam's and my second trial that we went to over the weekend, please feel free to continue the outrun discussion if anyone has any more comments on it .
  5. Although it'd be a lot of work, one idea is to install tile around your posts. Home Depot has backsplash tile on netting - you could cut sheets to the width of the post to keep from having to install individual tiles (which could be extremely tedious!). It's not a very practical idea, but it sounds like that isn't the main goal of the project anyway. You could use wire that is used in making rabbit hutches for the window screen material. We used to make and repair rabbit cages pretty often, and the material was pretty sturdy as well as easy to work with (the smaller mesh sizes were especially strong). It may be hard to find though. Also, if you plan on sitting/hanging out in the top, it may be easier/more comfortable to get into the second story of the house if the whole wall with the window screen folds downward on hinges (and locks into the normal/upright position). Especially if you made the top removable, then you could sit up, above the height of the roof, and let a foot or knee hang out the side. I don't know what your dimensions are of the space or the access door, so maybe it would be plenty comfy without that option . If you don't want to make stairs, you could make a ramp similar to those used for chicken houses (with the pieces of wood placed across it for "steps" that help with traction). Or you could put carpet or some other fun texture on a ramp. I think it's a great idea to use the area beneath as storage! It sounds like it is/will be a fun project!
  6. Mr. McCaig - Thank you very much for your advice. I worked Sam again yesterday evening, and she did exactly what you are warning me of here - her outruns seemed to be plenty wide, but they were much more of a "C" shape than a pear. I will definitely stop walking between her and the sheep and will try what you suggested with downing her if she cuts in. Hopefully I haven't done too much damage yet! I also appreciate your advice to down her the moment I am suspicious of her tightening. I often find myself debating whether or not she's cutting in (especially as she goes from ~9 o'clock to ~11 o'clock), then once I realize she is too tight, she's already begun fetching them to me, and it's too late to correct it. This will be really helpful in speeding up my reaction times!
  7. Thank you for the tip Samantha - We have one week left until our second trial, and right now we are working on getting her to do a proper outrun as far out as possible - hopefully we'll be practicing farther than the trial length by the end of the week! Outruns! - And what exactly is an ideal outrun? Outruns, outruns, outruns! Over this past week, Sam and I have been practicing lots of outruns! We've been mixing a little bit of other work in as well to keep it from becoming too predictable and boring for her, but we've been focusing on outruns. I'm still trying to determine what a "perfect" outrun looks like. To the best of my understanding, an outrun is wide enough so long as the sheep don't move before the lift. But when does an outrun become too wide? And - in a pear-shaped outrun, where is the dog supposed to start running outward to make the larger, bottom portion of the pear? These are all questions that I'm trying to answer by watching others run their dogs, but it's definitely taking a while to figure out. If anyone has a link to a video or good article about this, I'd love to read it . As I'm working on getting myself trained, Sam is coming along great! We went back to the basics - her placed at 6 on the clock, me walking most of the way to the sheep that are placed at 12 on the clock, then sending her around. Then, setting up the same situation, but only walk half the distance. Then, continue to walk shorter distances toward the sheep until I can send Sam from my feet. Next, increase the distance between Sam and the sheep, and start walking most of the way to the sheep again. We've been doing this for about a week, and she's performing quite reliably with the sheep about 3/4 of the distance from us that they were at the trial. We have just less than a week of practicing left, but I'm hopeful we'll get the distance before Saturday! If not, hopefully we can get close! A nice side effect of all this outrun practice is that Sam is really getting the hang of the fetch. Whenever she does a good outrun I let her drive the sheep to me (if she cuts in on the outrun and won't take a "get out" redirect I don't let her have the fun of driving and have been setting her up to start the outrun over again). She is starting to drive the sheep to me in a straight line, and correcting them herself if they start to go off in one direction. I still have to direct her to a side if the sheep get very far off line, but I've been having to give a whole lot fewer commands! A negative side effect of Sam understanding that she needs to fetch the sheep to me in a straight line is that when the sheep get significantly off line (let's say 2 o'clock) she will take the come-bye command, but won't go far enough around. She tried to drive the sheep straight to me from 2 o'clock (not along the actual fetch line). Instead, I want her to take the come-bye command farther around the sheep, push them straight to my left, back on-line, and then continue bringing them straight to me. Somehow I have to communicate that she should bring the sheep to me without any guidance from me, but when I do give her guidance, she must listen to it. Right now, my method of correcting this is: if she doesn't go far enough around, I'll ask, ask again, then get closer to her/the sheep and have her go a full circle around the sheep. The I have her lie down, I go back to my "post" and I ask her to do the original command again. It seems to be working a little bit (hopefully without some other negative side effect I haven't picked up on yet!) It's amazing how these dogs pick up on everything so quickly! It sure is encouraging to me to learn as quickly as I can so I can (as much as possible) avoid causing her to develop bad habits .
  8. A friend of mine has taken in a 14 Month Old Border Collie named Meg. She is a short-haired, black and white, unspayed (I believe) female who was bred for work (I think she's registered with ABCA). We don't know exactly what happened, but too much force was used on her when she was started training on sheep, and now she is scared of most everything - people, dogs, venturing out of her kennel. She has been in her current home for about a month, and exposed to sheep several times. She shows interest for about a minute, then starts searching for a way to escape (if she's not in an enclosed pen, she runs back to her kennel). She is very friendly, but also very timid. She feels safe in her kennel, and has begun to play with other dogs some when she comes out (although her tail is typically tucked under, and it doesn't take much for her to spook, put her head down, and run back into her kennel). She seems to like people (once she gets the courage to approach them) and seems to really enjoy petting, but lacks a lot of confidence. My friend was hoping to get her interested in sheep again and then find a working home for her around here. However, it doesn't look like she'll be working sheep any time soon, and she may never become a working dog, so a pet or sport home would be best for her. We've reached out to people we know His plan is to take her to the local shelter here, and hope she gets adopted out, unless we can find a better option (I think she might only get 6-8 days at the shelter? ). We are located near the Midland/Odessa area of Texas. I have heard of Arizona Border Collie Rescue and All Border Collie Rescue in Texas from these boards. Are there any other ones around here that you all might recommend (that might be closer)? Also, what's the best way to get a dog into a rescue? Do you generally have to drive the dog to the rescue area? I'm guessing she would be a good candidate for a rescue group? (Hopefully)?! She's a very sweet dog, and I'd love to see her go into a good home - if anyone has any tips on getting her on a good path for that, please let me know. Thank you! Also, if you or someone you know around this area might be interested, please feel free to PM me!
  9. @Camden's Mom - Our next trial is in two and a half weeks It sounds like there are only two left here before there is a break in the trials for the (very hot) summer we have coming, so I've got to get them in now (that's my excuse anyway! ) Catching Up My husband and I just returned from a wonderful trip back to CA to visit family and friends! Sam and I had two training sessions last week, so I need to catch up on those before we work again this week! Tuesday - This was our first work after the trial. We had pretty poor outruns at the trial so I wanted to keep this lesson really simple to set Sam up for success. We did mostly balance work (with my back turned away from her this time!), practiced getting back, and did a few short outruns (maybe 20 yards, max). Keeping things small and slow really allowed me to focus on communicating with Sam. I tried using my body language in different ways to see what worked for Sam and what didn't. Turning toward her and calmly raising my hands above my head worked great for getting her to lie down with just one "Lie Down" command. Lately I've had to repeat the command 2 or 3 times to get her to stop. Hopefully the new body language will continue to work as we continue to work farther out as well. I also tried turning my body toward the direction I was going to ask her to go before asking for a direction. That is - if she is balanced at 12 o'clock, I would turn toward 3 and then ask for "Come Bye." Or if she's at 3, I'd turn toward 5 or 6 and ask for "Come Bye." This seemed to help a lot with asking her to go away from the balance direction (from 3 to 6, as in the previous sentence). Sam likes to think that she should be balancing all the time - even when her silly handler suggests that she go the other way so I foresee (hopefully!) this becoming very useful at least for the next few weeks. Thursday - We worked on outruns some more. As our next trial will be held at the same place, I'm guessing that we'll be running a similar length outrun. My goal is to extend the length that Sam is comfortable with so that we don't end up having the same issue with a super-tight outrun (you've gotta set goals high, right?!). We kept the outruns pretty short again (maybe 40 yards or so?) so that we could address any issue of her cutting in before we extend to the length we've been doing, then farther. I didn't realize it, but my mentor pointed out that she was really cutting in on top (starting at ~10 or ~2). I thought she had a small issue with this, but I didn't realize how far back the dogs are supposed to stay. It's so tricky getting that distance / depth perception figured out! My mentor suggesting picking out landmarks at 10, 11, and 12 (or 2, 1, and 12) before sending Sam out - that way I would know right away if she was cutting in. The first couple outruns I asked her to "Get out" immediately as I saw her cut in. She didn't, so I told her to lay down, ran out to position myself between her and the sheep, asked her to "get out" again, and got her to go farther away from the sheep (that is, increase the distance between her and the sheep, not just allow her to continue around in the proper shape of the outrun. - That distinction was hard for me to understand at first.) After doing this 1-3 times on each of a few outruns, she very noticeably moved outward when I called "get out" when she was in the process of an outrun. The top started to get better too, but there wasn't nearly as much noticeable progress at the top as there was along the sides. This Past Week - Sam has been staying with my mentor while we've been gone, and he said that he worked her a couple of times during that time (so kind of him!). I can't wait to see her (and our lab!) this evening after work and to see what she's learned while I've been away
  10. Our First Trial! Sam and I competed in our first trial over the weekend - and it was awesome! Was it perfect? Absolutely not! But it was a ton of fun, and I sure learned a lot! The first day we had to outrun, lift, fetch the sheep to the pen, and pen. The second day was the same, with the exception of fetching the sheep to the post, settling them there, and then penning them. On the first day, Sam began her outrun - straight up the field toward the sheep . I asked her to get out (which didn't work), then to lie down (again, didn't work), then to come bye (which didn't work either). She was only interested in going straight down the middle. I was thinking to myself - well this is it, we're certainly not going to finish this if I can't get her around the sheep! Then I called her in to me and sent her in a come bye again. It worked! (Sort of). She was certainly not wide enough, but she got around and behind the sheep! I'm sure the lift was messed up by the tight outrun, but (from my perspective) she did great on the fetch! She took all my commands, and even flanked relatively squarely! The sheep walked straight into the pen (they were very gentle, which I'm sure helped!). We ended up scoring a 33 out of 60, and placing second out of 3. As competitive of a person as I am, it's almost weird to be very happy with a score just above 50%, but I am absolutely satisfied with it. The outrun was longer than we've been practicing, so Sam messing up on that wasn't her fault - something to work on before the next trial! Also, the sheep were set up in a field of trees (which there aren't very many of where we live!), and were placed right in the middle of the fetch panels used in the nursery class (we've never practiced with any obstacle right next to the sheep before). With all of those considerations, I would say Sam performed as well as she possibly could have - what a dog! The second trial played out almost exactly like the first. We got a few less points (27). I'm not sure exactly what caused the point difference (maybe more redirect commands on the outrun, or maybe a worse lift?) as I'm still learning exactly what the correct thing looks like, and what I'd be losing points for. That score got us a second place again. After the Sunday morning trial we were all invited to hang around for help with our dogs (there are such generous and helpful people in this sport!). What a great learning experience that was! 1 - Keeping Back From The Sheep - The first thing that they told me was that because Sam has a lot of eye, she must stay back farther from the sheep to keep her from getting too intense and putting too much pressure on them. I have a hard time being firm enough to get her to listen to my "get back" command, even when I feel like I'm being really-super-duper gruff/tough. I'm going to have to work on that. Both my mentor and the man who was hosting the trial can easily get Sam to give to the "get back" command (to where she turns away from the sheep and gets farther from them), but I have a hard time with it. It's pretty clear she knows the command (as she takes it from them), I just have to figure out how to get her to do it for me. 2 - Balancing on Her Own - Next, a lot of us practiced a balancing drill with the dogs. The dog is expected to balance without being given commands (a command here and there is ok, but not for each direction change). The handler walks away from the sheep (the sheep follow), and the dog follows behind, keeping the sheep at the handler's back. Handler walks, turns, walks, about face and walk through the sheep, walk, walk, walk, turn again, etc. Sam and I have been doing a lot of balance work, but I've nearly always been facing her. An interesting point made was that it's better if the handler walks forwards (not walk backwards where they can see the dog and sheep). Although looking over your shoulder was ok, one of the experienced handlers said that this shows the dog that we trust them balance and to bring the sheep to us - that is, to follow their natural instincts. (He also said that walking backwards was a good idea for puppies, or dogs you can't trust yet). This was really interesting to me, as I've never thought about whether or not a dog thinks we trust him or her, and how that may affect his or her performance. Interesting! It makes sense though if you are working toward a goal of the dog performing the outrun, lift, and fetch without help from the handler, that you must be able to trust them with minimal supervision, or on their own. 3 - Using Body Language - The third major thing I learned was how important it is to use my body more. As I recently graduated, I remember very well the teachers who, conveying the same information, made learning easy, and those who made each little step a struggle. The way I understand the concept of using more body language (vs. verbal commands) is that body language is easier for the dog to understand, since dogs rely so much on it to communicate themselves, therefore it makes learning easier for them (and we become that teacher who makes learning easy). I'm not sure how this plays out when the dog is working far away from the handler (I was so distracted taking in all of this, I forgot to ask that part!). But the idea was, if you're doing the balancing game and you want your dog to lie down, turn around and face the dog, lift your arms over your head (and slightly forward) and then ask for the lie down. To ask the dog to move out, use your hands as if they're pushing the air between you and your dog, etc. Again, very interesting! If you're a new handler who hasn't gone to your first trial yet - you may be ready before you think (I wouldn't have thought I was ready if my mentor didn't tell me he thought I could do it). You don't have to be perfect to start! Going to the trial really showed me what Sam knows well, what she sort of knows, and what we really need to work on. Plus I met lots of new people who I could watch, and who were happy to offer their suggestions for me - it's great!
  11. A Hole in the Fence I got a call today while I was at work, which was a bit....terrifying - someone said they had found Sam. The problem was, Sam wasn't lost. We left her in the fully fenced backyard with our lab earlier today... What on earth was going on?! I asked the person who found her to describe her to me - sure enough the description matched exactly. He found her wandering the streets six blocks from my house. I asked if there was a yellow lab with her - nope, only the border collie. My husband and I grabbed our things and took off from work (we work together and share a car). Thank God Sam was safe - hopefully nothing happened to her during her adventure - we would have to wait until we got to town to find out. The more pressing question now was: where was Daisy? If she wasn't with Sam she could be anywhere, and she hasn't ever learned to run freely around cars without getting in the way, which could mean disaster. After the drive back (which seemed soo long) we drove to the back side of our house, in case, by some chance, she happened to still be in the backyard. When we got close, we saw where Sam escaped - she pushed out a board, and squeezed through the hole. We looked into the yard - and there was Daisy! I left to pick up Sam, who was happily visiting the nice man who picked her up (and fed her a pork chop to boot! Lucky girl!). Thankfully, neither were harmed, and both are happily lying around the living room again. What a scare though - especially the day before our very first trial! We will be very thoroughly checking our fence this weekend...something we will be doing more often in the future. Now I know that just because the fence looks like it is secure, it may not be. After all of that, Sam and I were able to make it out to one last practice lesson. She did great! There were a few small errors we both made, but overall, it went really well. Hopefully that means tomorrow and Sunday will go well also! But as everyone here has pointed out, you never know! I'm sure it will be fun for us either way!
  12. Thanks for the advice in your replies! Although the trial will be small (Novice, Ranch, and Nursery) I'm definitely looking forward to watching and learning from everyone who's there! @Northfield Nick - oh, wow what a first experience ! And, although I hope we are able to finish our runs, I plan to call it quits on any run if it's turning into a mess (hopefully I have enough foresight to see a mess starting!). Hey, What's Over There? Yesterday we worked on practice runs: outrun, lift, fetch, pen. It all started out really well! Then, (picture me facing away from the pen) the sheep kept being drawn to my right the whole way from the set-out to the pen. Unfortunately (because this was made harder), but fortunately (because it turned out to be a better training opportunity), Sam's weak direction is "Come By." Through this lesson's work, I have developed a new theory on the problem from my previous post: Sam only likes to take direction commands that bring her closer to balancing or just a little bit off balance (that seems like something that could be an obvious answer now that I think about it, but of course things are easily missed by a newbie like me!). We'll see if that theory survives more than 1 training session . As you can probably guess from above, it was really difficult to get Sam to understand that the goal is to get the sheep to walk straight to the pen, not to have her always balanced straight across the sheep from me. Picturing the sheep in the center of a clock and me at 6, Sam would take the "Come by" command if she was at 12, but would only go around to 2 or 3. I tried several different ways to get her to go farther around. The following descriptions begin with Sam lying down at 2-3 on the clock, the sheep holding still (for the most part) and Sam's body leaning, ready, to take the "Away" command (because that is what she seems to think she should be doing next). 1) Ask for "Come By" (CB), when she starts in the Away direction calmly say "Nope, lie down." Then ask for CB again. Repeat 3-4 times with none working. 2) Move myself to ~9-10 on the clock, then ask for CB. This sometimes worked. A couple of times, after she wouldn't take the CB, even with me at ~10, I moved toward 11 and had her CB in a full circle around the sheep. The goal was to be able to move closer to 9, then 8, then 7...but again, we ended up not making much progress here. 3) Ask Sam to "Come in Here" then CB. Let Sam "Walk Up" and let the sheep move toward me some. Repeat the sequence. Repeat again. Repeat again. This actually seemed to make some progress! I'm sure it probably didn't help with her flanking square, as she was cutting across the clock from ~2 to ~5, but she was keeping the sheep in a straight line! After doing the above, she seemed to get it better! While experimenting though, she ran in and almost gripped (although she didn't either time, yay!)...twice, and at one point the sheep took off out of the field, across a ditch, and around the barn . But we got the sheep back and, thankfully, were able to get back on track! While Sam is figuring all this out, I'm working on making sure to keep my voice calm (not speaking super fast), and only as loud as it needs to be even when the sheep start running, or start off in the wrong direction. Sam seems to respond much better if I can keep it quiet, calm, slow, and steady, even when I'm in a hurry for her to do a command. We did two final runs, and Sam really started doing better -she actually began taking the Come By command well enough to keep the sheep pretty straight! - so we were able to end on a high note! What a fun lesson!
  13. Understanding vs. Obedience The last couple of lessons have brought up the question of whether Sam is not understanding what I'm asking or if she's choosing to disobey commands that she knows. As my first trial is coming up next weekend (I am now going for sure! ), I've been practicing "standing at the post" for the first time. Also, as we've just recently begun to pen the sheep, I've been standing at the end of the gate during parts of the last several lessons. This standing relatively still is causing me to use my body a whole lot less when giving Sam a command (instead of walking a few steps to my left and calling "come by" I'm standing still for the most part, and just giving the verbal command, then shifting my body and lifting my arm if she doesn't take it correctly). Several of the training books that I've been reading recently (general training - not specifically geared toward Border Collies or herding) have said that if you speak a command at the same time as you gesture the command, the gesture will always overshadow the verbal, and the dog is likely to not learn the verbal command at all. With that in mind, I believed that Sam was confused by me transitioning to verbal commands without much gesturing. Then (of course, there's always a but...) at one point during our work today, Sam gripped a sheep when she should not have. I ran toward her vigorously shaking my flag and calling "Get out of that! - Bad Girl!" in a gruff voice, until she got back from the sheep. After that, she took my direction commands beautifully - until we completed the lesson ~5 minutes later. She chose the correct directions and flanked really square almost every time. Hmm - interesting. So was she just not listening to me earlier in the lesson? Did that correction just happen to occur at just about the time she was really understanding my new way of giving the commands to her? Did my tone of voice continue to be more serious without me realizing it? I'm not sure. We'll see what happens tomorrow! Another note on a different topic: I learned a simple, but very effective tip today. Sam had begun to run the beginning (first half/two thirds) of her outruns too tight when I sent her to get the sheep from my imaginary post. Picturing myself at the center of a clock and the sheep at twelve, my mentor suggested lying her down a few feet away from me toward 4-5 or 7-8 (depending on the direction I was going to send her). It made a world of difference. This may be because when we typically are focusing on her outruns I'll walk a short, medium, or long distance from her toward the sheep, and work on pushing her out at that point if she's in too tight. By placing her in one of those two positions though, even without pushing her out (verbally or with a gesture) she was just better at getting a good distance out on her outrun. Amazing!
  14. Hi everyone. I've been lurking on these forms for a few months, and have learned a great amount from all of your posts - thank you for all of the information you all share! I want to start this post to record training my first dog for her first trial. A while back I read the post on Kelso the rescue dog. It was so neat to read through his journey that I've been inspired to record my own dog's journey (albeit a very different kind of story). My hope is not only to be able to look back at her training as we progress, but also that (maybe!) this can help another newbie in the future learn from all my training and trialing ups and downs! I'd love to hear any tips or comments from anyone reading along as we go . Here's a quick back-story: my family always had pet BCs growing up, and I completely fell in love with the breed. I wasn't able to have any dogs during most of college, but did get a Lab (my husband's favorite breed) just before graduation last June. I still wanted a Border Collie, but decided to wait until the Lab was (mostly) out of her puppy stage before getting another dog. I met my mentor and watched him run his dogs for the first time around the beginning of the year. Since then, my mentor has been very encouraging and extremely helpful. I began to learn as much as I could, and I got my first real herding BC, Sam, at the beginning of March . Sam will be 2 this fall. She started her herding career with one month of professional training, and then she lived and worked on a cattle ranch until I was lucky enough to get her. Since then, Sam and I have been training ~3 times per week, and we are looking forward to our first trial either next weekend or next month (I'm not yet sure if we'll make the first one). Here's a summary on our story so far: When I first got Sam, we just bonded at home for most of a week. When we first visited sheep she gripped several times during each of the first few training sessions (which I think was more terrifying for me than the sheep...although she only took a little bit of wool off the sheep each time, I was sure in my mind that she was just about to eat one alive the first couple of times). Thankfully she had a great "down" on her when I got her. That really helped us to both settle down and think about the next move when things got wild! At the beginning, we worked in a round pen, mostly on circling and getting the directions figured out (she was pretty good at them, so this was mostly for me!). We then started working in a larger pen, and eventually moved outside of the pen to the open. Thankfully my mentor has several good dogs, and he would keep one nearby to fetch the sheep in case they got away (which they did a few times!). We worked on directions more, mini-outruns (really mini!), struggled with getting her to stop crossing over to the other direction between me and the sheep, and started working on her flanking square (her favorite thing to do was run straight at the sheep, then go around them just before she got to them). Once the crossing over went away, we started larger outruns and began to get her to work far enough off the sheep (she always wanted to stay in too close!). She stopped running in towards the sheep as much, but still wasn't flanking square by any means. In the last month we've really been working on "get back/out", flanking square, and extending her outruns. In the last week, we've added penning too - which has gone surprisingly well so far! Currently, she is doing well with outruns at ~60-80 yards or so (I'm terrible at guessing distances...) although she still tends to get tight just as she goes around the sheep to balance/lift. She is doing much better at the "get out/back" and circling at a distance that keeps the sheep relatively calm. She has always had a good pace when driving the sheep toward me, but she does still struggle with the flanking square (and then getting back) when she has to take a direction command as she's fetching the sheep to me - but she has been improving a lot on that in the last week. I have really been enjoying this training (and from the look on Sam's face after a lesson, she appears to be also!) and I am really looking forward to starting to trial (I may already be hopelessly hooked on herding ). I certainly wouldn't be surprised if we have to retire if we end up going to the trial this next weekend, but I'm really looking forward to see what she does running different sheep in a different environment (and to see how well I can handle her in a new environment too!). And who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and both do alright ! I figure the first trial should be a good experience either way. Alicia
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