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Range ewes 1, Fly 0


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Yesterday Fly and I went to the Zamora Hills SDT out by Sacramento-ish and encountered those fabled western range ewes for the first time. We were almost the last team to go in Pro-Novice. The ewes were getting tougher as the day went on, with a lot of folks timing out, but they were still fair and workable and even as far as I could tell. Most everyone was getting through at least the first part of the drive. The course was very hilly, and the outrun longer than Fly and I are used to running at this level, I think about 400 yards. I worried that Fly would cut in too soon and miss her sheep.


That's not what happened. I sent her left and she executed the most gorgeous outrun I've ever seen, probably one of the best that day since many dogs went out very wide and an equal number cut in too soon or crossed over. Fly's outrun was pretty, economical, and just wide enough.


Had she managed to lift the sheep, I'm sure we would have had a perfect outrun/lift score.


So she gets up to the top, and nothing happens. I give her walk up whistles, I gaily shout encouragement, I try little flanks to loosen her up. Nothing. The sheep turn around and face her and she flops back forth ineffectually. I know she won't be able to move them, and I know the judge is probably ready to call it a weekend and have a beer, so I leave the post to help my dog. The set-out person ends up needing to send her dogs to help Fly start the sheep moving, and Fly finally brings them and we get them off the field.


Fly is seven years old and has never gripped in the four years that I've had her. We had a fair amount of success on the smaller fields and lighter sheep back East, but there were also times that Fly had trouble moving them along at a good pace. Still, it has never happened at a trial that she simply couldn't shift them. It has happened a couple of times doing chores that I couldn't get sheep moved with Fly, and had to go get Solo instead. (Sheep only have to be told about Solo, and they start moving right away.)


I've always known that Fly was not the most powerful dog, but have never seen her this weak. In my lessons with my new trainer we have been working on giving her real tasks to do, not drilling for trials, and increasing her confidence, because he recognized this problem in her. He believes it is possible that whatever she had was taken out of her in her early training in the UK, because she is too classy, talented, and well-schooled to have been this weak from the start -- if she had been, the trainers would never have bothered to take her as far as she's gone in the first place. Fly came with everything but a shed, including, apparently, the beginnings of a look-back since she'll take one in many circumstances. We are also working on shedding with her and she is progressing nicely with that.


What can I do to work on this problem with Fly? We are limited in our amount of sheep time, and I think not drilling her during the time we have is the right thing to do. I'm more worried about my attitude and how I can impart confidence to her than specific exercises, since I trust my trainer on these points, but any advice is welcome.

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Sorry that I don't have any helpful suggestions - except to say that my trainer sounds like your new trainer, in that she 'trains through work', and for the same confidence-building reasons.


Just wanted to thank you for the story (hope it is going in the book you're going to write osme day) and to say that if I'd known you needed her, I could have sent Kirra to help move those girls.


(Sheep only have to be told about Solo, and they start moving right away.)
You could substitute Kirra's name in there for Solo.



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I wouldn't lose heart too much because Fly couldn't lift the sheep at Zamora. I had a group with a fighter the first day of Open there and it took my dog a bit to lift the group. I figured out why when they came down the field and the old bitty was running out of the group and trying to attack him. We got around the course with the group but sacrificed a lot of line points trying to manage her. The sheep were for the most part pretty good, but you might have had a bunch with one of the 'cranky' ones.

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Hi Geri,


Thanks for the comments. I was worried at first when I got there and I saw they were running five in a bunch, but as I watched I realized they were even and fair. I did expect that they would give Fly problems, only I thought we'd at least get to the drive before we timed out or something.


Fly had one gorgeous outrun, though, I must say.


I think Fly is the only dog who couldn't lift them at all that day, but I missed the beginning of Pro-Novice and all of Nursery so I can't be sure. Other runs crashed when the sheep fought at other places on the course, split, ran in various directions, or just plain decided they weren't going to move. As far as I could tell, they weren't going after Fly. They were just standing there looking at her, saying, "Make me." And Fly said, "Please?"


Yup, NancyO, Fly turned 7 last Christmas. I can hardly believe it myself. Hopefully it isn't too late in the game to give her some extra gumption. I'll post this over on LittleHats and see what Amanda thinks too.


Thanks folks!

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