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Everything posted by rac

  1. My experience is that a dog will really run on an outrun when they're confident. Can you continue to take your dog to unfamiliar places until it's not a big deal ? I'm not a big fan of hiding sheep so the outrun is blind for the dog. I think the time would be better spent teaching re-directs which would be more useful in more situations. Blind outruns can have a negative effect on the dog's confidence especially if it doesn't find the sheep. I find escaping sheep to work well for a dog that tends to slow way down as it nears the TOP of the outrun but not the whole thing (keeping in mind that they still need to be deep enough). Ray
  2. Or just send me an email at raynamy (at) 4fast (dot) net. Ray
  3. imo it's best to begin with a whistle that you can reliably get a decent sound out of. You may not be able to effectively use the whistle you think you "ultimately want to use". We're all made differently and there's different styles of whistles to choose from and try. Most of us wind up with a drawer or a cigar box that has all the whistles that we've tried over the years. Some to be tried again, some never again The whistle is a tool, when you learn how to use the tool well the work becomes a little easier. You can also liken the whistle to a musical instrument. How many kids express an interest in playing the guitar. Their well-meaning parents go out and buy a cheap instrument that isn't really playable. The kid's fingers hurt and in a few months he becomes discouraged thinking that he 'can't play the guitar'. Bear in mind that cheap isn't always bad, but you generally get what you pay for. The reason I began making whistles is that all those years ago I couldn't find one that performed well enough for me. I had some that were hard to make a sound with and others that would quit on me if I blew too hard. Faced with choices like that which whistle do you take to the post ? I decided to try to make my own. I experimented with different materials, shapes, blowholes, the whole nine yards. I felt I owed it to my dog/s to come up with a whistle that would help us and not be a hindrance. When I started using it at trials people noticed it and thought it was cool and wanted me to make one for them. Nowadays I also get referrals when trainers are confronted with a 'whistle-impaired' student. Sometimes the student just needs a better whistle.
  4. GG, Probably the best whistle for a complete novice would be either a triangle or one with the nubs or 'wings' on the bottom (like a plastic whistle). The wings and the corners of the triangle are both designed to catch the corners of your mouth to help prevent you from spitting it out while you're using it. Then you can blow the whistle with a more relaxed mouth because you're holding it with your lips and you don't have to clench your teeth to hold the whistle in place.
  5. Liz, I would say the "best sounding" whistle is the one you like the best. It's mostly subjective.
  6. I've recently ordered some buffalo horn from my supplier and the quality of the horn they're getting now is better than I've seen in some time. So I'm going to be making buffalo horn whistles again for anyone that would like one. I've been making whistles for some years and had actually stopped making horn whistles for awhile due to the poor quality of the material that was available. I was the first to make a shepherd's whistle out of Corian, and as far as I know the first to use buffalo horn for a whistle. I'm flexible as far as meeting customers' needs about the shape and size whistle they prefer. Some of the top handlers have been regular customers of mine for years. PM or email me to contact. $40 horn, $30 Corian (includes shipping in US). Thanks. Ray Coapman (raynamy@4fast.net)
  7. I would practice playing familiar songs to get better with pitch and breath control. Play them until others can recognize what tune you're playing. If you can blow softly you can blow harshly but the opposite not always true. Work dog as much as possible with soft whistles, it will learn to listen much better and possibly be a little more responsive. Good luck. Ray
  8. Just to mention my general agreement with Elizabeth and Amy... It's generally not considered good medical practice to use lab tests or modern imaging to go on fishing expeditions. How these tools should be used is to confirm what the diagnostician already suspects based on the careful history and physical exams that were done. In my opinion you've been referred to a very good ortho specialist, you should consider learning what his opinion of your dog's condition is before you have the MRI. If Dr. Richardson wants an MRI then fine, he'll have a good reason for ordering that test, and he'll have something specific that he's looking for. Remember he is a specialist in this field and may have seen other cases like your dog. Your dog may yet need an MRI, but, just as easily, he may not need one at all. Good luck in whatever you decide. Ray
  9. I've taken one of my dogs in the past to Dr. Richardson and I have the utmost respect for him. Years ago my Sally had a lingering little thing going on with one of her hind legs. You could convince yourself it was almost anything if you looked at her long enough. The local vet had no real idea either. I would try to rest this little lameness out of her and it would come back then I'd try to rest her longer and it would come back. This went on for about 4 months. I had to find out what it was, so I asked around my friends and one recommended Dr. Richardson, an ortho specialist (used to be in private practice years ago). It took over 4 hrs to get to the clinic. They do real orthopedic medicine there, you'll see this when you walk in. Dr. Richardson took what I consider to be the most thorough history that I've ever seen or heard from a vet. After this I told him that what I wanted out of this visit was a diagnosis and a plan. He started examining Sally and his first instinct was to see if she'd react to pressure behind her knee. He hit the nail right on the head. He took her for x-rays just to confirm his suspicion. She had what's called a gastrocnemius fabellum fracture. It wasn't full blown yet, none of the fabella were broken/shattered but the gastrocnemius was beginning to tear away from its origin. I had my diagnosis and plan. There was room for hope, but the condition was certainly in both legs even though only one was hurting at the time. The visit cost me $200 including the x-rays. I tried to rest this out of her per the 'plan'. 3 months crate rest then slow reconditioning. It came back the following winter. Surgery would have meant 6 months crate rest to recoop with no guarantee of success. Long story short.... it was the beginning of the end for her trialing career. The good thing was I went forward with eyes wide open. I finally knew what was wrong and could make better decisions for Sally. Dr. Richardson is the real deal, good luck there. Another of my older dogs hurt her back when she was about 8 years old. Peggy went out in the side yard with the other dogs and when she came back a minute later she couldn't walk up the steps of the porch. Local vet gave her steroids and 'rest'. Something was really wrong though. 3-4 weeks later I was beginning to witness the decline of my dog. I took her to a neurosurgeon and he said that she was certainly a surgical candidate, but he wanted to apply some more "tincture of time" just to see if there'd be any improvement. I went home and Peggy's decline continued. Again... long story short.... I found a chiropractor that had experience with dogs and had some good reports about his work. I made an appt and went to his office to see him the next day. She improved at the first visit and he wanted her to start working again after the second visit. She had likely subluxated one of her vertibrae (in her lower thoracic/upper lumbar region). His exam was with his fingers, he doesn't even do x-rays (if he needs a film he sends people to a local radiology practice). The initial regimen was moderate exercise followed by a massage of her lower back. She needed periodic adjustments for the rest of her life. I was able to get her back on the trial field a year or so after her injury and she won some places at trials after that but no more wins. So this was a dog that could've had a back surgery (again with no guarantee for success), and was saved from going through that by chiropractic. She lived to be 15. Both of these doctors did well by me and my dogs. You will meet Dr. Richardson, and if you'd like the name of the chiropractor you can PM me. His practice is actually with humans. He went to Palmer and began working on dogs when he was in school. He's very good. I'm naturally skeptical of chiro because I was trained in the medical model, but no more. When I saw how Peggy was helped I began to have him work on me at our visits after he saw my dog. I know it sounds funny, but it's true. BTW his rates are very reasonable Good luck with your dog, and PM me if you want the name of that chiropractor. Ray
  10. rac


    I agree that some dogs will develop a pace (the pace that THEY deem appropriate to the situation) over time and with experience. You may not like their pace, however, and also may not have the patience to wait for them to accumulate all the experiences they'll need to achieve their "light bulb moment". You can wait a decade for a dog to develop pace, and, IF this happens, are you really seeing the result of the dog finally processing its experiences into a reasonable working speed, or are you just watching a dog working that's getting a little long in the tooth ? I also agree that working a dog that has the "feel" for different kinds of sheep is a joy to work with. Seeing how it keeps itself off flighty ones, and the handler getting fooled when it brings the sheep quickly, butting in with a 'stop' or 'slow down' command then seeing that the speed the dog chose was actually best because it keeps them together and keeps them moving. Unfortunately not all the dogs possess this attribute. Pace can be taught (or to say more correctly, you can teach the dog to work slower), I know because I've seen it and done it (and taught others). It's something that the dog will have to be reminded of from time to time. And if the dog is young I'll work it 'stop and go' until I see how it works when it's finally a young adult. One can go a long ways working a youngster 'stop and go', and I feel it's generally better to wait and see how it matures. Obviously a good stop is necessary to work a dog 'stop and go', and it is also necessary later on if you decide to work more specifically on slowing the dog down. The first step involves watching the dog working the sheep and observing just exactly where and how the dog gets the sheep running. The dogs have different methods so you have to see how this happens. Is it when you ask the dog up as it's rising off the ground, or is it as it approaches the sheep, lifts the sheep, or after it has them moving. It's important to identify what is happening and when. A trainer or a more experienced eye can help here if you're kind of new at this. So firstly you must have a good stop given with one fairly calm, quiet command, not a "maybe now maybe later" stop that needs several commands to become reality. Next you need to identify just where and how the dog is accelerating things. Ray
  11. Donald, I think we're both on the same page. Have a good holiday! Ray
  12. I agree with not using the flank command words until the dog is doing close to what you want, less to unlearn later that way. As far as the 'stop', I will see that the dog is stopping reliably (on-balance) then I'll add time. Asking for an extended stop at this early stage IMO may be asking the dog to do something it may not be capable of (and it may lead to a struggle or an outright pi$$ing contest so why go there now?). When I add time I usually do something with that time... like maybe walking the sheep away a short distance to begin their assisted outruns... basically just making the circle bigger. This also gives me chance to get an idea of where and when they might try to slice if they're going to. While the circle is getting bigger I'll begin working in off-balance stops, gradually at first. By this time I've usually started using flank command words. I use "stand" for a stop command and generally allow the dog to choose the position it wants to be in. Making the dog lie down for each stop isn't really advisable, and what I'm really interested in is that they stop when I say. All along I try to keep it fun for me and the dog, because if one of us isn't having fun something is probably not right with the situation. Another thing I try to remember is to try to work just inside of the dog's envelope most of the time, carefully choosing when and where to try pushing out one of the edges of that envelope. This way the dog is mostly succeeding and not mostly failing, and progress is still being made. Good luck. Ray
  13. Have you experimented with seeing how you set her up for the outrun might affect the path/route she takes to the sheep ? Ray
  14. No, Gloria, your message did not sound like a complaint to me, there's no need to apologize. I merely took the opportunity to explain how I've come to my most recent position. I also added some hopefully helpful info for Tea and her friend, Pete, if he should decide to start making whistles. I learned everything I know about making whistles the hard way, and I thought I might save someone some time and trouble. The tip I offered to you about keeping the whistle in your shirt is not only for the whistle's longevity but for your own personal safety. The whistle is attached to a lanyard which is tied around your neck. If you leave that swinging in the wind you never know what might come along someday and grab it. Of course with me being human my position on whistle making is subject to change without notice and at the slightest whim ,but this is how I feel about it now. Again, good luck. Ray
  15. Just a few points... Firstly, I'm still making whistles out of Corian, and Corian makes a very nice whistle which is unaffected by heat or moisture (which does affect the horn btw)). I've personally been using Corian for the last several years and many top handlers are among my faithful customers. I was the first person in the world to use Corian to make shepherd's whistles. I researched this because of some complaints I heard from folks complaining about the taste of some of the horn whistles when they were new. Corian caught on quickly, and as of a couple years ago there are many more colors available (including solid black like the horn). Buffalo horn, being a natural material, naturally comes with flaws. I've been tossing out 25%-30% of the horn that is shipped to me because it's not suitable for whistles, at least it's not good enough for me. What's even more frustrating is to work a piece into a whistle and have a flaw uncovered in the process. This forces me to throw the piece away wasting not only money but the time I just spent on that piece. I got some horn to satisfy a pent-up demand last Christmas season and it was the same story... not being able to use some of it and having to waste time on hidden flaws. I simply won't send out a whistle with marginal qualities which is one of the reasons I'm still making whistles. IMO horn from sheep/rams is not suitable for whistles. It's not as dense as buffalo horn, and it soaks up with saliva with use and becomes soft. The leaves will then compress closer together and the whistle will eventually become unusable. Sheep's horn does have a nice translucent honey color though It looks great, but its weaknesses are discovered with use. Water buffalo horn is dense enough to withstand being in the mouth for sometime without deteriorating, but even it will require some maintenance (like regular cleaning and occasional treatment with an oil or some kind of "replenisher") that some folks are unwilling to do and consider a nuisance. Much of the sheep's horn is hollow which means that most horns won't have enough material to make whistles from. I've also tried other kinds of horn none of which is as good as buffalo horn for whistles. Over the years I have, in fact, done a fair bit of investigation on this, and there are reasons for using what I use (and reasons for not using what I don't use). And Gloria, a couple reasons why my personal whistles last so long is that I keep it in my shirt when I'm not actually using it to work my dog. I also recommend holding the whistle with your lips and not your teeth and keeping it clean for optimum performance. Good luck. Ray
  16. Couple things to consider... It's going to take some time before this dog works for you like it worked for its previous owner. Some people will tell you it takes a year to get with a dog to where you become a team. A trained dog should do what you ask until you tell it to stop (walk-up, flank, etc). You are probably doing something different than what its used to. Did you work the dog with the previous owner at your side telling you what and what not to do ? Giving the same command over and over could easily be confusing the dog. For instance, multiple walk-up commands can easily cause a dog to stop ("so why does she keep asking for something I'm already doing?"), and multiple flanking commands will usually not cause the dog to stop but will cause most dogs to flank wider and wider with each command (a beginner can find this frustrating when all they wanted was a quick flank around and what they wound up with was the dog over on the edge of the field. Are you trying to drive the sheep a fairly long distance away while standing in one spot ? If so then refer to my first statement. In fact when most people I know buy "trained" dogs they still go back to the basics with the new dog for awhile almost as if they are training it (stopping, outside and inside flanking, etc etc). This way you know for a fact that you're both on the same page. And by taking several steps back in the level of expectation you're going to be working a lot with the new dog 'at hand'. And this will help the two of you to build a relationship out in the field and learn to trust each other. Did you call the previous owner and ask their opinion ? Have fun! Ray
  17. Along with how the sheep are handled by the set out crew, what sets the stage for your run is the outrun. By the time you get the sheep to the post to turn them you have already had a chance to lose more than half your points (for a P/N run). Try to set up each phase of the run with the previous phase. So your lift is set up by the outrun, the fetch is set up by the lift, and you should begin working on the turn once the sheep make the fetch panels. And, as follows, you should be setting up the entrance into the shedding ring/pen (and the attitude the sheep have when they get there) when the sheep pass the cross drive panel. You should be watching the sheep first. The sheep will tell you where the dog is and what its influence is. Spending too much time watching the dog will cause you to get behind. Also try to get to where you can tell if the sheep are comfortable or antsy. IMO Pearse gives good advice about slowing the sheep down (esp. after the fetch panels) and watching how other handlers negotiated the turn before you. Are those that are executing good turns bringing them in at a walk ? When does this walk begin ? Try also to notice if there's a draw for the sheep somewhere during the turn or just after it, you might be able to use it or avoid it later. Try to notice how much flank it takes to turn the sheep. Do they turn when the dog is up on their rear flank, their shoulder, or up on their faces ? IOW, How far up does the dog have to be to turn them, how far up makes them stop ? (Are some of them wool-blind and some not ?) How fit is the flock in general ? If they're spent by the time they've come down the fetch line then you'd better be walking them or you'll run out of sheep during your run. When I actually make the turn at a trial I happen to stand on the other side of the post than Pearse mentions, but this is just a matter of preference. I like to keep the post between me and the sheep. Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the run, the turn included, is an exercise in allowing the sheep to escape in a controlled manner. There should be enough time on the course to get it all done, try not to hurry too much. Good luck. Ray
  18. I agree with Julie. I carry a stick, though, all the time when I trial and most of the time when I train. I find it helps if the dog is used to it being there. The only time I use it is at the pen and once in a great while to help at the turn. I bought a dog long ago that I found was stick-shy, and he taught me to shed with the stick held in my hand that is away from the dog and sheep. I always turn to face the group that I want the dog to take, and my stick is always in the hand away from the dog. If I turn to face the the other end of the line of sheep I change the stick to the other hand. I've done this for so many years that I do it without thinking about it. And this way the dog is coming in to your hand not the stick. Ray
  19. I sought out the specialist that was recommended by a friend. No referral was needed. (I think the referral requirement is something that may be mostly used by insurance companies that insure humans to prevent patients from running to a specialist before getting checked out by their primary doc first.) I would ask around and see if you can find out what your friends' experiences might be and if they feel they could recommend someone. I drove about 250 miles one-way to see this vet. He was working in a group practice with other ortho vets. A couple things I liked about him at our encounter was the history he took, not jumping to conclusions and tunneling in on the wrong thing but listening to all the details. Another thing was the fact that his first recommendation wasn't surgery (important to me because he's not going to make money from resting the dog, he makes money from doing surgery). He offered surgery, though, if the rest didn't work. I told him after giving the history that I wanted a diagnosis and a plan when I went home and that's exactly what I got. He took x-rays only to help confirm what he already knew, not to go on a fishing expedition. The treatment was 3 months of crate rest and leash walks. Afterward she needed to be reconditioned slowly before I could work her on sheep again. This worked, but it took many months to get my dog back in the field. He told me right up front that the condition was in both legs so we might have trouble with the other leg later on. If he was to operate right away the recovery was going to be 6 months in a crate and no guarantee of success. So he actually did have the best interest of the dog at heart. Her other leg did start acting up some months after we went through all this, and rather than put her through the regimen again I retired her from competition and used her for less strenuous things. I was happy with our experience. The vet was very professional and his competence was never in question. Good luck with your dog.
  20. I agree with getting an ortho vet to check out the problem if you can't overcome it with rest. A trial dog of mine once had a hind leg problem that kept coming back after rest periods, this went on for months. The ortho vet took a careful history and went right to the problem. This dog's problem wasn't particularly common, and after she got back on the field eventually wound up having to retire early from competition because it also developed in the other leg. "Rest and leash walks" can be good advice, but sometimes a more exact answer is required. Ray
  21. I try to start inside flanks by following directly behind the dog (and 15-20 yds back) as it's driving. I'll mix short outside flanks with short inside flanks. If the dog hesitates on the inside flank I'll help by stepping back toward the center line and extending my stick a little to block it from wanting to go around behind. In time the dog will stop caring so much which side of the line I'm on. Then I'll slowly make the flanks bigger. Pulling the dog off a fetch and all the way around is the last step in this process. I've had to use a fence occasionally but not often. Starting small seems to make it easier. The dog is well aware what side of the center line you are on, so a small flank at first can be a big deal. Have fun.
  22. A very good handler/trainer once told me that "just because a dog can do a 400 yd outrun doesn't necessarily mean they can do a 400 yd fetch". You might try working inside her 'envelope' a little more often and pushing out the edges of the envelope more gradually. Work mostly so she mostly knows success. An idea to try that I just thought of when you test to see where the edge of the envelope might be would be to send her on a long-ish outrun but walk/jog up the centerline so the fetch isn't so long and you're closer to the top when she gets there. You can use your imagination with ideas like this, make it fun. Patience is a good thing Good luck.
  23. I'll try to address the second issue first, and please bear in mind that it may take trying several "solutions" to find the one that works in your case. Also know that what you're asking your dog to do is fairly difficult, that is to hold one side that has pressure then flank around to the other side without slicing. If I were watching a dog of mine take a flank like you described I would set the scene up again and try stopping the dog before the flank and allow the sheep to walk on a bit to increase the distance between the dog and the sheep. By doing this you increase the chances for a good flank. And if this only worked marginally or not at all I would again stop the dog, call the dog off the sheep by at least 10-15 yds, down it again, and have it just lie there and look at the sheep while you slowly count to 20. Then give it the softest flank command that you can (do you also need to soften your whistling in general? Hard whistles sometimes equal harsh responses.) while it's looking at the sheep, not you, and see if it doesn't do a half-decent flank. If it still doesn't give some distance to the sheep I would increase the distance that I'm calling the dog off and the time I'm making it wait (next time count to 40, next time to 60 etc). At a trial you may notice some handlers working their dogs with continuous commands and flanking their dogs from one side to the other without a 'stop' command in between. They do this because they know their dogs. Sometimes, though, they'll slip in a 'stop' command, and this may be because the dog is getting a little spongy and they want to check how the dog is responding. Another reason is because of the difficulty of what they're about to ask the dog to do. Distance between the dog and the sheep can many times be your friend, and if you don't have distance in some situations you have to create it. Time can also be your friend. A working dog wants to work... period. When you step in and take the sheep away the dog will (given enough time) try to figure out why you're not allowing it to work. Time and distance can both be your friends and it doesn't involve shouting or threatening the dog. In fact when your standing there counting it doesn't look like you're training the dog at all, but you are. You say that your dog is "amp-y" anyway, so trying to instill a sense of patience wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for her. I frequently use time and distance to correct flanks and pace, and it can work well. Simply put, the dog works the way we want, and the reward for doing it properly is being allowed more work. I don't think flanking the dog repeatedly and/or in circles (schooling) is going to help. The problem needs to be addressed directly and while it is happening. Sticking at the top is a tougher problem because it may only happen when the dog is far away. Does she stick only when the sheep are far away and only when they are looking at her, or does it happen unpredictably ? Are the sheep in question being held with food ? Ray
  24. Good topic and good tips from everybody. Walking along with the dog (from the side and from behind) that's beginning to drive is fundamental. When the "sheep turn" is the dog turning them toward you (or back to you), or is it just following whichever way they go ? If the dog is just beginning to drive I'll walk along wherever is needed to keep the drive going, and I don't particularly care where the drive goes as long as it continues (targets come later). I find most dogs will start driving easier if you walk off to the side, often they prefer one side at first. Some don't mind taking them straight away from you though. Almost all of them will try to hook around and bring them back to you. If this is what's happening then I would try to firstly keep inside their comfort distance and see if that doesn't help. Then I would try to get to the point where I can walk behind the dog and just a little off to one side and try to notice when the dog is first starting to creep up to turn them. When you see this try moving over to the other side of the centerline (that comes from the sheep through the dog) and see if your change in position doesn't push the dog back the other way. If you catch it early enough you won't have to say anything, and if you're inside the dog's 'confidence bubble' the dog should just keep on moving. Keep doing this and the dog should care less and less about where you are. I like to use this technique to teach inside driving flanks as well. I like to work within a dog's confidence bubble most of the time so they'll gain confidence (duh) about what they're doing more quickly. Then I'll stretch it out as they can handle it. I don't think I'd worry about pace until the driving is more firmly established. You might confuse the dog by wanting it to push and then insisting that it back itself off. If the sheep get running I'd probably just stop the dog and start again. Most dogs are pretty pacey anyway when they first start driving. Ray
  25. I would have to say that I probably don't teach the "lift" as such. I see it as developing along with the dog's other sheep handling skills that are learned in the early going when we're doing short outruns and fetches and circles and flanks and the dog is figuring out its 'method'. So I see the lift as an extension of the general timbre of the work that is set by the trainer and the dog, an extension of the general way they do things. Your time to have an influence on how the dog lifts would be in the early going not after sending the dog X100's of yards to gather sheep. The only trained dog I ever bought had his former trainer (overseas) mess with his lift in a big way.. to the point of using an e-collar I was told long after I purchased him. His lift was always erratic. One day good enough to win, the next day drawn in by the sheep's motion and trying to grip the first one that moved. Contrast this with a dog that feels the sheep on the outrun and bows out (forming the large part of the inverted pear) to give the sheep room so they'll still be standing in one place when it arrives behind them. I see this as a product of both nature and nurture. Some dogs will never be able to do this, and some can develop this kind of feel with coaching. Some are born this way. I also don't automatically associate a slow approach on the lift with "weakness". I'll take a dog that approaches the lift slowly, methodically, and confidently anytime over one that busts in or establishes contact too harshly/rashly. To me a good dog will come with a fuse. The fuse will burn slowly as the sheep decide what they're going to do (at the lift or any part of a course). If one of the sheep becomes defiant or unruly, trying to take advantage of the dog's patience, then in time the fuse burns down and the sheep gets a nip. And as much as the lift establishes the tone of the run, I feel the outrun establishes the tone of the lift. One of the things I notice when I'm up top setting sheep is how many dogs are allowed to finish their outruns waaay too close to the sheep. I see many dogs finishing right on the butts and this startles the sheep most likely blowing the tone of the entire run. This too, IMO, is taught in the early going. You can compromise with a dog in some aspects of the work, in others you cannot (or should not). Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Ray
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