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Bonnie and Sheep


Maja
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I went to my instructor's yesterday. Unfortunately, it was blowing very hard and the sheep were very easily spooked. I was expecting his old flock of sticky woollies, but my old Cameroonian rams that he now has, hasn't been idle and most of the flock is half Cameroon. So i wasn't ready for the the flock scattering the way they did. But once I got a grip on the sheep and the dog it was ok. My task now is to improve Bonnie's confidence, since she does not seem to have much power over the stock when she is working calmly. I should walk in straight lines only if she is at a decent distance. And a few other pieces of advice, but the most important is to give Bonnie more self-confidence.

 

Next time we herd at home (on Monday I hope), we are going to go out into the open pasture. Since Bonnie gathers the sheep well and her stop is decent, even if we accidentally scatter the flock, there should be no problem I hope. I will try to make a movie of this session.

 

Maja

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So here is a movie from our first session in an unfenced pasture. the sheep really wanted to eat the grass, and Chief Shepherd requested that Bonnie lets the sheep have some breakfast, so quite a bit of the work was Bonnie lying down and watching the sheep munch ravenously (the grass is always better on the other side of the fence).

 

 

At the very end when Bonnie puts the sheep back into the fenced area, and she shows that she knows what gates are about. It isn't obvious, because you can't see her at first, or hear what I am saying. Zoe and her lamb are on the wrong side of the gate, and Bonnie does not know directions yet, so all I said was "up" and she went off-balance to bring them around the gate. The video caught only when I move to help her, but the original decision was hers to go off-balance and bring them around. I was very happy about it.

 

Maja

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Hi Maja,

The one thing that worries me about the work I saw was that Bonnie seems to be wearing excessively behind the sheep. Finally at around 4:30 she starts walking straight in, but it looks like you're stopping her before she has a chance to start the wearing. That kind of wearing would be appropriate on a large flock where the sides might drift out and need tucking in, but on that few sheep I got the sense that they weren't really moving off Bonnie because they wanted to graze and she didn't know what else to do and so instead of walking straight in to move them, she wears back and forth. This is probably due to the fact that she's used to sheep that are very light and move off easily and so just doesn't know what to do when the sheep aren't really inclined to move.

 

At the gate, it looked like she almost came around to head them and stop them from going through, but then she came back around behind them to push them through--I'm not sure if she did that on her own or at direction from you.

 

J.

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Dear Julie,

 

It worries me too. After the 5 days’ clinic, Bonnie at home finally got a half decent lie down, that is she’d obey and stay in lie down. With this I managed to increase her distance. All this happened when we moved form the training area to a larger pasture. Once she increased her distance the sheep calmed down, and yey! she started having a much better grip (metaphorically of course) on the sheep. Snowball simply gave in, and they all trotted dutifully wherever was required. Bonnie then also started pacing herself as she noticed that the distance was giving her more power. So all was fine and well, so now this was a perfect opportunity for the handler to step in and make a Big Mistake. Which, of course was exactly what I did. I started practicing in the training area again, which closed in the distance between Bonnie and the sheep.

 

The outcome of this is that Bonnie lost her budding sense of distance, and thus lost her power over the sheep. I have go backwards now and fix it. Today, we went out to the open pasture, and the sheep were only interested in munching, and just would not move for her. I was at my wits’ end, and both Bonnie and I were both getting pretty desperate. But Bonnie would not grip the sheep. Finally, I saw the obvious solution, and I called my husband and asked him to bring some oats. After I bribed the flock leader Zoe, we were able to resume normal work.

 

My husband had cut the video at this moment, and probably Bonnie was thinking about heading the sheep, since the first thing that day the sheep escaped, but she checked herself and did it well.

 

Maja

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sometimes I wish Bonnie belonged to someone else - someone more competent at herding. I've had thoughts to send her for a couple of week training, but I think I would miss her too much. Anyhow, today, I finally figured out one exercise (talking about slow learner :rolleyes: ), and Bonnie started to broaden out. She still comes in too close to the sheep too close at the end, so it means that at the end I am still doing something wrong :D . But it's something anyhow.

 

 

Julie,

How about we swap Bonnie and Ranger for a few months, eh :D ? I could throw a lovely Cameroonian ram into the deal :D .

 

Maja

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Yesterday, I thought I'd use Bonnie for the evening chores. I have a video of us going to get the sheep, and then you can see a little of the character of the cameroonians. Bonnie hadn't done anything wrong - went on balance, lay down and waited. When you see the sheep they are already slowing down. Then there is Bonnie taking the sheep out of their enclosure whither they had hidden, and then you see what the sheep do after they exit. They did that i think three-four times and Bonnie brought them back each time. Until they gave in, and the last time Bonnie brought them out, we all walked out of the enclosure like civilized creatures all the way to the hay rack. This however (it's inevitable!) happened when my battery died. Then I have a beginning of driving.

 

I hope I did right by doing the chores with Bonnie. It's messy, the sheep feel very sure of themselves and feeling their oats (and I didn't even give them any oeats ) and Bonnie was very excited, though she did her best to control herself. We did some mowing the sheep away from the feeder.

 

Bonnie is now 11 months old.

 

 

the camera work is so-so because I was concentrating more on Bonnie and the sheep.

Maja

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We are back from the seminar with a short video:

 

 

I was told that I walked way too fast the first time :lol: . Bonnie was actually more obedient than at home in the beginning. Her wearing, I think, definitely improved. On the second day we have different sheep. I like working on them, they are bigger, but they are tricky and unpredictable, but they behaved admirably. On the second day I only corrected Bonnie (by just saying "hey!" if I felt the sheep were going past me, otherwise she did what she was fit.

 

The sheep on the first day were a Polish breed, they are mostly raised for hide. The hide is prepared with some wool on it, and the mountain people make beautiful coats and vests out of them. The sheep on the second day are for meat.

 

Give a yell if anybody is interested in me continuing Bonnie's herding topic :).

 

Maja

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Maja,

I watched both videos, and there are times when Bonnie does seem to be pacing herself appropriately, but she's still doing a lot more wearing behind the sheep than I'd like to see. And with the music I couldn't tell if you were asking her to lie down all those times or she was doing it herself. Again, teaching her proper pace would help if she's lying herself down, because if she wasn't coming on so fast in the first place then she wouldn't have to lie down to compensate.

 

Other things I noticed: It seems she never quite completes the flank when going to the right and tends to overflank a bit when going left (but that could be camera angle).

 

Was that a tiny bit of driving you were trying to do in the clinic video on day 1?

 

What else did your instructor say besides that she's working too close? (And she might need to be close if the sheep are heavy, but if she's weaving back and forth behind them then she is likely too close.)

 

She seemed to show a lot better pace on day 2, especially around 4:10 on the video.

 

Anyway, if you can give more details about what you were trying to accomplish (trainingwise) in the videos, then I might have more to say myself! ;)

 

J.

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I watched both videos, and there are times when Bonnie does seem to be pacing herself appropriately, but she's still doing a lot more wearing behind the sheep than I'd like to see. (1) And with the music I couldn't tell if you were asking her to lie down all those times or she was doing it herself. Again, teaching her proper pace would help if she's lying herself down, because (2) if she wasn't coming on so fast in the first place then she wouldn't have to lie down to compensate.

 

(3) Other things I noticed: It seems she never quite completes the flank when going to the right and tends to overflank a bit when going left (but that could be camera angle).

 

(4) Was that a tiny bit of driving you were trying to do in the clinic video on day 1?

 

(5) What else did your instructor say besides that she's working too close? (And she might need to be close if the sheep are heavy, but if she's weaving back and forth behind them then she is likely too close.)

 

She seemed to show a lot better pace on day 2, especially around 4:10 on the video.

 

(6) Anyway, if you can give more details about what you were trying to accomplish (trainingwise) in the videos, then I might have more to say myself! ;)

 

I inserted numbers into your reply.

 

(1) On day two I only corrected her very mildly/quietly "hey!" and only if the sheep were pushing past me, otherwise I let her figure things herself. What you can see at the end of Day Two is what she actually did a lot of, but the cameraman had lots of problems operating it and I have very little material to show. On day one you couldn't hear much of what I said because I spoke quietly, and there was a lot of barking and commotion near the camera, and on day two, I was too far. So I thought I might as well add some music :).

 

(2) Exactly, it's frustrating to me that I can't seem to be able to slow/stop her, it's either a trot, or lie down. So now I try to use actual "lie down" only very, very rarely. Bonnie is particularly good when I walk normally, not backwards. It is something opposite to what I see in many other dogs, where the dog would "have at it" as soon as the handler takes his/her eyes off the dog.

 

(3) I will pay attention to this next time. She does prefer "away," and she often overshoots that direction, unless of course she has a good distance.

 

 

(4) Yes, it was, and again on Day Two it came out better, because I managed to get Bonnie to walk in front of me, not next to me, so the sheep walked in a straight line, but I have no video of this since we were allegedly too far into the fog at the time :lol: .

 

 

(5) She was too close, the sheep were very light, but since she didn't flip-flop much I didn't press the point on the first day. Without making any excuses, Bonnie tends to work closer if the sheep are a little skittish (which makes thing a bit circular of course). That packet of sheep had been working that morning with quite a few non-BCs and they were skittish. The next day it was nice and calm and quiet, only three BCs, and the sheep were lively but not spooked (there was a little flip-flopping that day, but not much, and better distance without my intervention). My friend (much more advanced than I) who was watching day two said Bonnie's distance was pretty good.

 

Anyhow, I was told that

I walk and do things way too fast (a turbocharged Ferrari were the words actually :lol: ),

I don't give enough time for Bonnie to carry out commands, to digest them,

I don't make sufficient pauses between practicing different things ,

I should start naming directions whenever Bonnie does a good bendout (all these were for day one).

On the positive side - Bonnie was very biddable, and I spoke in a calm vice and and didn't use gestures.

I was given some suggestions on how to practice bendouts, but I don't have a good vid to illustrate it, but it had to do with me going past Bonnie and to the side more, sot that she swing farther and then I have time to run to the sheep.

 

 

(6) Well, most of the video of day one shows just what I had been practicing at home since last time my instructor saw me. We then practiced distance on flanks but I don't have any good vid to show. I find that practicing at clinics allows mostly for the instructor to see what I had been doing wrong and to give me pointers what to do at home, I go home, try the new things in peace and then what I go back those thing usually have improved.

 

Bonnie can work very well for about 20 min. and then her thinking goes downhill. So even if I practice with her more at a clinic, it's not so good anymore. I don't know if her mental endurance is proper for her age (11 months) or whether I should work on increasing it, and if so then how. Physically she can do fine - she is tireless, but I can see that her brain is not working so well. Even if she rests and comes back later the same day, it's not so good.

 

On day two I only had 20 min. and even though she was doing great, I forced myself to stop. It's hard, when you had driven almost 4 hours to get there, but I thought it would be best for her. But that day the instructor was gone, and I just had a little session with my friend. The purpose was to use different sheep from the previous day, work in the open (relatively - there is a fence at the back) and take it easy, let Bonnie digest previous day's stuff. Oh, and I wanted to try those white gates, but again the camera man failed, we did fine, all the sheep got through the gates nicely without a mishap. I have to make a couple of them at home.

 

Of course apart form the training itself, I am learning to deal with the fact of people watching me work (although I prefer the open meadow (day two) because all the world just floats away into the distance, and it's just me, the sheep, and the dog) and Bonnie is learning to work when there is a little crowd present, and other dogs too, some of them raising some ruckus. I think this is useful too?

 

Thank you so much for all your comments, Julie, I greatly appreciate them. I am sorry if I am too long winded, but I was trying to answer thoroughly.

Maja

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Here is a video from today. In it, I am mostly trying out the things I was told about at the clinic, except for one exercise. Of course please keep in mind that this is my interpretation of what I think I am supposed to be doing, the actual particular intentions of my instructor's might have been different :D . The one thing I am trying which is my own idea is stopping and slowing Bonnie down on the flanks. I have noticed that she somehow thinks she is supposed to do flanks at Mach2 or even 3. I use "stand" as a stop or slow down.

 

From the things I have noticed myself - Bonnie overshoots both sides sometimes, though her away is better overall than comebye. She is hard to stop after an "outrun", she is hard to stop without completing the flank, and I use my arms in a couple of places unnecessarily. I still use lie down too often (maybe I should have a few sessions when "lie down" is a dirty word :lol: ). At 3'20, Bonnie goes from side to side, but I think it is justified, am I wrong?

 

There is the original sound but the wind noise is bad unfortunately.

 

 

Maja

P.S. But you you think she is improving? We haven't done any herding between the videos (clinic Sun/Mon and the last Fri)

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  • 2 weeks later...

On October 30, 2010 Bonnie will turn 12 months, so I thought I will put in a sort of summary of all that we have been working on.

 

So the video begins with (1) Bonnie taking the sheep out of their sleeping quarters, then there are (2) a few of our "outruns", (3) peeling the sheep off the fence, (4) introductory exercise to shedding (5) learning self-control -watching another dog practice-off leash, we also walked along the fence on your left while the other dog worked (6) stopping sheep escape (there is another dog behind me who scared them off, the ram was attacking Bonnie so she is quite previous there) (6) taking the sheep back home. Of course it is from a few different sessions.

 

 

Of course there is a ton of work, and I am sure you will see many mistakes and weak points (since I see a lot, you must see even more), but I consider it a success that after almost six months of putting up with me as her handler, Bonnie still herds and appears to be very keen on it :) .

 

So here it is, and it concludes the videos of Bonnie in her first year :) .

 

 

 

Maja

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I definitely do not have decent sound in all the parts, in some you can't hear everything I say, because I speak quietly (e.g. in peeling off the fence I actually sent Bonnie on come bye and away), in some you can hear my friends rather than me, some other there is a lot of wind noise. And then there is me chirping "here, Bonnie, here, here! Bonnie-Bonnie here!" :lol:

 

However, I am working on a decent video with "outruns" for Mr. Bob, where I hope you will be able to see the actual distances between all involved elements. And I hope there will be sound, because I wanted to ask something about timing, since it's pretty obvious that Bonnie brings the sheep to me at Mach3 at least.

 

Maja

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In many of your posts, you're asking for advice or opinions on whether or not there's improvement.  When there's no sound, it's hard to judge what's happening.  I have a dog who I can send out and he'll gather quite naturally.  His fetch is lovely.  And seeing that on video with a song in the background is beautiful.  Remove the song and turn up my voice and whistles and what you might hear is me trying to stop him and asking him to flank off the fetch and cross-drive one way or the other and him walking right through that and continuing to fetch the sheep to me.  (I don't have this problem with this dog, but you get my drift...)

 

A very important part of training that I am learning the greater intracacies of is sound ... the tone of my voice, the tone of my whistles, the volume, having the emotion leak through into all of it, etc.  Whoever said you can't "yell" at a dog with a whistle hasn't heard me train my dogs.

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I understand, it's jsut that there seems to be wither the wind blowing in the field, or me yelling right smack into the microphone or soemthing :D

 

Here is the video I have from today, which I already posted for Mr. Bob, and you will see what I mean about the sound.

 

 

The outrun is 44yrds.

 

In the next short vid you can hear me clearly (it's also from today):

 

 

I hope one day I will write that best seller and buy a camera that can filter out the wind.

 

Maja

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I am doing the exercise for shedding only because Bonnie has a very strong gather, otherwise I would wait. It seems to me it gives her some extra confidence with sheep, which she needs. But if people that know better think that it's a terrible thing I am doing then I will stop and wait until the proper time of course.

 

Driving meaning when she is not on balance as in cross-driving? I have tried it because she has a very strong balance, and I have been wanting to start on driving very early, so that she does not become fixed on it. Unfortunately, with those sheep it is very difficult - when I am behind them they don't want to move, when I am on the side they turn towards me. When we approach them form a distance they are liable to to bolt. In November, I am going to pick up my ewe from her honeymoon visit to my old ram, and I am planning to work with Bonnie there so that she begins to get the idea of what's the desired result, because with my sheep she is obviously clueless what's the weird thing I am trying to accomplish. Then I think we will try to continue at home.

 

But if you mean driving on balance then yes we do a lot of it. In order to get the sheep to where we practice in the open area we have to move the flock about 300yrds (there is a fragment of bringing the sheep home at the end of the movie with music).

 

I also do close work in the sheep's winter quarters which is a square about 8 yrds on the side. She works calmly there and I am pleased with her. In the movie where she takes the sheep out I let her go ahead and head them (she is on "up" command - which means "get going and do what you think is proper until further notice" :D ), because the sheep are very liable to bolt on exit. However, more often than not, Bonnie brings them out so quiet it is not necessary and she stays on balance.

 

And today it's Bonnie's birthday :D :D :D . This is Bonnie exactly a year ago:

 

P14202031.jpg

 

I do think there has been some improvement since.... ;):lol:

 

Maja

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