SoloRiver Posted September 30, 2007 Report Share Posted September 30, 2007 Hi Jeanne, I have an eight-year-old bitch that I've been running in Pro-Novice (Ranch to you easterners) and plan to move up to Open this fall. Fly was bred and trained in Wales and imported at the age of three with pretty much everything but a shed and a look-back. She's always been super-classy and ridiculously biddable; trainers often comment on the quality of her training. She may have been someone's nursery dog in the UK and brought along perhaps a tad too fast because of that. When I bought her I was told she was "not the most powerful dog in the world" and that's turned out to be true, which was not a problem when we were on the east coast and all the trial sheep were hair sheep, as she is a kind dog and has a calming effect on flighty sheep that other dogs find difficult to handle. Fly also "keeps" well in that even if she wasn't working really regularly (which happened while I was finishing school), you could always take her out and dust her off and she would work just as well as she had the last time. She has no grip, has never even thought about gripping as far as I can tell. Fly has a ton of eye, too much probably, which makes her the perfect Working Border Collie magazine cover model (Sept/Oct 2005) but sometimes difficult to move where she needs to be. Since we moved out to California a few factors may have combined to lessen her confidence such that she is having a harder and harder time moving sheep in crunch situations. First, she has been overfaced by range ewes at a couple of trials (the first ones she wasn't able to lift, and with the second group moving them was so laborious that we timed out on the crossdrive). Second, we had to take a hiatus of about a year from training/trialing due to my workload, during which she saw sheep maybe twice. Third, the sheep we have available now for regular practice (rental time) are sort of a bunch of buttheads -- they are all mature hair or hair/wool crosses, have been living at the place for a few years, get worked regularly by all manner of dogs including non-Border Collies, and are reportedly used to beating up the owner's dogs on a regular basis, so they can be cranky and velcroed to each other and just generally a pain in the ass to do certain things with. When we go out for lessons with our trainer we don't have this problem (plus we have him) but we don't go out there every week. There are probably other factors in the equation I'm not smart enough to identify. The upshot is that Fly appears to have lost a lot of confidence. She is getting stickier, which does not surprise me as it's not unusual for strong-eyed dogs to do so as they age, but she also appears unsure. For example, when sorting or penning she is incredibly reluctant to walk up, and looks up at me with what I interpret as an unconfident expression, like she needs reassurance that I don't know how to give her. A few weeks ago, she quit on me for the first time ever -- I sent her to get the sheep out of the corner where their pens are (they really, really like those pens) and she couldn't get them. Next thing I knew she'd run into the water tub and would not respond to recalls. I would have worried she was overheating, but she had only been working for several minutes and it wasn't hot outside at all. She was basically hiding. I admit I lost my patience and she could probably tell, which I'm sure doesn't help matters. What I am wondering is if there are simple exercises I can do with these buttheaded sheep when we go to practice that will give Fly some swagger. I have been trying really hard to remain totally upbeat and positive and put her in the right place rather than correcting her for doing things wrong, because correcting her just makes her less and less confident. She has always been super at outwork and is a master of the perfectly straight fetch with no commands. It's close work she hates. She is a happy, exuberant little girl who has always worked sheep with an expression of maniacal glee, and I hate to see her with that unsure expression in her eyes. Thanks, Melanie Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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