Category Archives: Herding

Herding Clinic with Roy Sage – April 20 & 21, 2013

I am a bit behind but two weekends ago, Bear and I headed to St. Norbert, MB for three days of herding. This was my first herding clinic so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I’m new enough to the sport to know I don’t really know anything.

There were a variety of dogs and handlers at the clinic including mixed breeds, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Swedish Vallhunds, a Dandie Dinmont, a Poodle and our friend Astrid, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. I only recall one border collie in attendance!Some dogs were new to herding some have been attending classes for the past year or so. Some of the dogs took to herding like dicks to water and others needed some encouraging to interact with the sheep. Regardless of what happened in the ring, Roy, the clinician, had something nice to say about each dog and their work.

Over the weekend, Bear and I made progress in a few areas and discovered a few new challenges. Below are the highlights:

  • We managed to get Bear to work a little further away from the sheep i.e. not plastered to their butts. When Bear works farther back, the sheep panic less and Bear barks less.
  • I discovered that Bear barks mostly when I turn him from moving in a  counter clockwise direction (away)  to circling clockwise (come by).This means he’s turning left, which was the same way he turned in flyball…at least he’s consistent.
  • We were able to move sheep in more of a straight line than we ever have.
  • Not once all weekend did he try to dive in and grab wool.
  • Bear worked in a ring with 2 border collies in attendance…staring at the sheep…as border collies do. He gave them a brief glance and then went back to his sheep..no hard stare, no lunge, no nothing.
  • We started working on walk-ups and getting Bear to move towards the sheep at a speed slightly slower than Mach 10. Sheep don’t like Mach 10. and moving slowly towards the sheep is a skill we need for driving at the intermediate level.
  • We started a few call offs – calling Bear away from the sheep. He was better than I thought he would be. Leaving perfectly good moving sheep is going to be one of the major challenges for us if we ever progress to the intermediate level.
  • Roy believes Bear is barking not at the sheep to get them to move but at me because I am preventing him from doing what he would like. I would agree that frustration and barking go hand in hand with Bear.

Roy said he thought we could ‘go far’…not sure what that means. I think our progress will mostly be limited by how often we can get out and train on sheep and right now, it’s around once a month. Roy did leave us with some ideas for ‘dry land training’ without sheep and I will write more about these as we give them a try.

Other highlights of the weekend included: Meeting some new people including another rottie owner and someone who lives not far from us, great food and company (as always) and and two incident-free nights in the hotel with our friends Stephanie and Astrid!

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Filed under Herding, Notes, Problem Solving, Training

Herding – April 6, 2013

I was supposed to be at agility trial in Thunder Bay this weekend…but low entries led to a trial cancellation. While disappointing and distressing I was *gasp* left with a free weekend. This gave me the opportunity to get one more herding class in before the herding clinic on the 19th.

I spent most of the class trying to figure out where I should be in relation to the sheep and when I should leave Bear to work. Apparently I have been in the way and to be honest, it always often feels that way. As usual, our second run was better than the first, likely because Bear is tired.

Today, however, with some great guidance, I got a few minutes of some nice calm work from Bear . Calm for him, that is. Now the challenge is for me to do what I need to do to keep it that way. Aside from calmness being easier on the sheep (and me) it will also the difference between a higher score and a lower score in a trial.

Today’s experience reminds me a lot of when I learned to drive a standard car. I knew what I should be doing, I knew how it should be done, I could get the car in gear occasionally but I lacked the timing and coordination to pull it off consistently until I had practiced (and stalled out) many times.

Unfortunately, the real problem with herding is not getting the mechanical timing right but coordinating the movements of living, breathing things with tiny brains – some of whom would rather be in another pasture, one of whom thinks wool tastes awesome!

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Herding – March 30, 2013

Yesterday, since I had to drive in to Winnipeg to pick up dog food for work, I decided to bring Bear with me and go herding for the first time this year. We have not been out since our first trial in September but we are attending a clinic next month so I figured it could not hurt to get Bear out to see sheep – especially if it might prevent a meltdown in a few weeks.

I still have a lot of things as a handler to figure out including, staying out of Bear’s way when he’s doing what he should, walking in a straight line and staying on my feet!

As usual, Bear was his whiny, groan-y bark-y self (boy can a bark echo in an indoor arena!) but I was nicely surprised by two things.

First he was able to work with one of the resident border collies in the ring. The dog was occasionally ‘helping’ because in his eyes, I’m sure it was clear we had no clue what was going on. Typically bad things happen when Bear gets this close to a dog while he is so amped up. Yesterday, he looked at the dog – and if dogs could shrug, that’s what he did  then he continued working the sheep. It may be because the dog does not even seem to register that Bear exists or maybe he’s just one of those dogs that never sends one confrontational ‘vibe’ to other dogs. Bear is the king of picking up on such things and dealing with them in an equally confrontational way. I don’t think he would be ok working with just any dog but this one, named Pistol,  is now in the ‘tolerable dog’ category.

The second thing that surprised me was that Bear was able to work close to the sheep without having to use his mouth (for biting). There were a few times he would use his shoulder to move a sheep or a nose poke – but very little nipping and certainly no grabbing and holding. If we can keep this up and build on it then maybe, just maybe, there’s hope that I can teach him to drive sheep away from me which is something we’d have to do at the next level – if we ever get there!

We’ve got some excellent opportunities coming up this year in herding that include two clinics and a trial this spring and two trial weekends in the fall. For the spring trial my goal is to finish our Herding Started Title, we need one more leg. I think we will also give the Stock Dog trials a try. I’ve had to check out the rulebook because I don’t think I saw any Stock Dog runs last year and they look really fun. The Stock Dog classes are designed to simulate common farm chores. Dogs are moving stock over larger spaces than the arena trials and the obstacles are actually farm fields, pens, stalls and trailers, not simple 4×8 panels. It sounds interesting but not like something we would have been able to accomplish without any previous trial experience – I am looking forward to the extra challenge!

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Looking ahead at dog related goals for 2013

Now that things are slowing down (relatively) for the winter I’m taking some time to consider what I would like to work on this year. I had  look at my 2011/2012 goals and, while we worked  little bit on all of them, the only ones we achieved was fixing the back up 3 steps for rally and getting started with Nose Work. Two is better than none right?

RIGHT!?!?!?

What  have discovered is that it’s really hard to stay motivated to do something when that something has no real application in our competition lives or our daily lives. I have given up on the long stand/down – we aren’t likely to ever compete in any event that requires either exercise. Same goes for retrieving.

We are at a point in our competition/trialing/testing career that there are more things we could do than I have time or money for. Planning ahead will allow me to invest my training time and money on things that:

  • Will keep Bear fit and healthy.
  • We enjoy.
  • Will make life easier for us (by us I men me!)
  • Will help us to be successful in the competition ring.

To this end, here is a list of things I’d like to try accomplish in 2013.

Agility

  • Improve weave pole entrance at high speed.
  • Improve Bear’s ability to focus when highly aroused.

Health & Fitness

  • Improve Bear’s overall fitness and muscle tone with FitPAWS equipment, his backpack and his cart..
  • Improve Bear’s flexibility by performing daily stretches.
  • Keep up the with Bear’s daily supplements.

Tracking

  • Teach Bear to identify and indicate human scent indoors.
  • Improve stamina and focus on longer tracks (<100 yards).

Lifestyle/Home

  • Reduce (or eliminate) barking at work.

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Filed under Agility, Goal Setting, Health & Safety, Herding, Problem Solving, Rally-O, Scent Work, Tracking, Training

2012 in Review: 12 dog related accomplishments

Now that we are officially into the year 2013, I have been thinking about what a huge adventure the year 2012 was for Bear and I. We tried some new things, we succeeded at some things, we failed at others. I smiled a lot, I laughed a lot, I cried a little. Below are some of the great adventures we had this year.

1. Bear became a senior: Bear turned 8 (ish) at the end of December so 2012 was his first year as a senior. Aside from some lymph node swelling (NOT Cancer thank god, just a viral infection, we figure) he has been happy, healthy and fit as a fiddle. That doesn’t stop me from worrying about every little thing or dishing out all the prophylactic supplements that I can.

2. We met sheep: Meeting sheep was fantastic – the fact that Bear did not kill a sheep was even more so! Bear’s Herding Instinct Test was probably one of the best ‘dog’ experiences of the year.

Bear3_thumb.jpg

3. We went back to Agility: Finally, business at the daycare is steady enough and I have enough of a routine that I could make time to go back to agility. We are behind many dogs Bear’s age but we are still having a great time.

Think he's having fun? I do!
Think he’s having fun? I do!

4. We entered our first Tracking Dog test: This was not a great time in the conventional sense but I stuck my neck out there, it was a learning experience and I’ll be damned if we go back and fail (as miserably) next year. Tracking-Test_thumb.jpg

5. Bear recovered from an iliopsoas injury: Not sure what started it but we managed to recover nicely with the help of a great vet, a great canine rehab therapist and a great canine massage therapist.

6. I attended my first online training class: The challenge of teaching classes and owning a dog daycare is finding time to train and someone to train under. The online Scent Work class gave us a great opportunity to work on our own at something completely new!

7. I judged at my first out-of-town Rally Trials: I had the wonderful opportunity to judge 3 times in Regina, SK. and had the opportunity to judge some wonderful dog & Handler Teams.

8. I made the switch to Raw feeding: After much consideration and a period of feeding both raw and kibble, I made the plunge. In hindsight, it’s not as big a deal as some make it out to be and I am happy I have made the switch.

9. I retrained the A frame contact for agility: I used Sylvia Trkman’s running contact method and have been thrilled with results. Since we made the switch we have missed a total on one contact in the trial setting.

I love A-Frame photos, they always seem to highlight just how powerful a dog's hind end is.
I love A-Frame photos, they always seem to highlight just how powerful a dog’s hind end is.

10. I developed curriculum for 4 new classes at Two Brown Dogs:

  • Novice Brain Games – Foundation behaviours for any dog sport
  • Advanced Brain Games – Advanced foundation behaviours for any dog sport
  • CARO Versatility – An introduction to CARO Versatility Exercises
  • CARO Novice Working Level – An Introduction to CARO Novice (now called Rookie)  Working Level Exercises

11. Bear and I earned 8 New Titles:

12. I accumulated 37 Continuing Education Credits towards my CCPDT recertification: In a little over a year, I have actually completed the number of hours required to recertify in December 2014.  I won’t bore you with the complete listing but you can see some of the seminars I attended here.

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Filed under Agility, Herding, Rally-O, Scent Work, Training, Trials and Tribulations, Triumphs and Sucess

CKC and AHBA Herding Trials – September 28, 29 & 30, 2012

Two weekends ago, Bear and I attended our first herding trials ever.

We attended a few classes this spring and Bear is getting better and better with the sheep. I am also getting better at handling so I was hopeful we would be able to at least achieve either a Herding Tested title under CKC rules or a Junior Herding Dog under AHBA rules.

FRIDAY

Our first run ever went much smoother than I had imagined, we made it around the course, Bear did his downs when asked and did not even try to grip sheep. It seemed like the run lasted forever but we were done in under 3 minutes. In hindsight it was the nicest run of the weekend and the judge even said it was one of the nicest Junior Herding Dog (JHD) runs he had seen in a long time – I was thrilled! There is no score in JHD runs, it’s a pass/fail evaluation, but we received “good” (highest evaluation category) for each element of the course!

Our very first Junior Herding Dog (JHD) run on September 28, 2012

SATURDAY

Our first run on Saturday morning was a CKC Herding Tested run. Bear was quite rested and wound up so I decided to use my ‘down’ cue a bit more to keep Bear off the sheep. He was quite vocal and I was worried that between the barking and trying to come around to the front of the sheep, the sheep might just decide to make a run for it! Of course, if you ask Bear, getting the sheep to change direction is a wonderful game – but it makes for a less than smooth run.  That being said, we made it around the course in under 2 minutes and qualified in our first CKC run.

Our very first Herding Tested (HT) run on September 29, 2012

Our second run on Saturday was well after lunch, the sun was blazing and it was around 25 degrees. The heat did not dampen Bear’s enthusiasm and we made it through the run quickly and efficiently, earning our second Herding Tested Leg and our Canadian Kennel Club Herding Tested Title! My videographer was in the city shopping so we didn’t get a recording of the run – just imagine it was nice!

Our third and final run of the day was just around supper time – it was around 30 degrees Bear was fresh as a daisy and held it together (no gripping!!!) and once more, we made it around the course successfully, earning our American Herding Breed Association Junior Herding Title.

Our second Junior Herding Dog (JHD) on September 29, 2012

SUNDAY

After earning our Herding Tested title on Saturday, I decided to move Bear up into the next class – Herding Started. I already knew we could make it around the course obstacles – even if I was no longer allowed to lead the sheep through. What I was not certain of was whether we would be able to get the sheep out of the sheep pen successfully and safely or if I would be able to call Bear off the sheep. The pen anxiety was a result of a not so successful experience in a round pen and the call off concern was a result of never having done an off-leash call off.

The first run of the day was a bit nerve wracking. We actually successfully took the sheep out of the pen – I went in with Bear and gave him the easy cue as the sheep were nearing the gate and a down cue as they left. I then called him out of the pen into a stay while I closed the gate. By this time the sheep were on the other side of the pen – Great. Another less than successful experience came to mind. The one with sheep running all over the arena with a large black blur behind them. The one where I was running all over the pen and left out of breath and hoarse. This went on for about 5 minutes. I was able to collect the sheep and make it through an obstacle but the sheep were quite wild and running like crazy for the exhaust pen gate. Finally the judge said “thank you, that’s enough” and I managed to collect Bear and leave. I was thrilled with maintaining control in the take pen so considered the experience an education. Next time, I get sheep that wild, I will call it much, much earlier and leave the pen before Bear has the opportunity to be silly.

A few minutes after the run, I was told that one of the sheep in the group I had was actually removed from the trial flock the day before. She was young, too flighty and (I assume) likely to injure herself. I assumed that the luck of the sheep draw was part of the game but we were going to be given the opportunity to re-run the course again, once all the other classes were complete.

The second try of the first run was at least a million times better. The take pen was under control (Yay!), we made it around the course without the run looking like a game of sheep-bowling (WooHoo!)….and Bear actually walked away from perfectly chase-able sheep…YEEEHAAAW! We re-penned the sheep and I left the ring feeling so much better about things. I had no idea how herding is scored so I was not sure if it was a qualifying run but I was sure that it was a huge improvement from the first try.

Guess what? We QUALIFIED! I know we placed 5th, I can’t remember the score.

The second run of the day and our last run of the trial was even better then the one before. Sheep made it out of the pen safely, around the course reasonably and Bear heeled away from the sheep with me again! we qualified for a 6th time that weekend and came in second place, earning a pretty red rosette!

ALL IN ALL

herding

Bear showing off his weekend loot!

All things considered, I was (still am) beyond thrilled we earned two titles and I learned a lot about herding in general (saving that for another post). After watching some more advanced runs with some really nice scores (98-99) I can see we have a lot more to learn and I can’t wait.

Having been to lots of dog events, I am never sure what to expect when I go to trial in a new venue. Bear was the only Rottie there and actually only one of two dogs in the trial not in the CKC herding group (the other was a terrier).  I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and how encouraging people were. A few people mentioned how nice it was to see a Rottweiler working and both judges mentioned the Rottweilers they had worked with/judged/evaluated and I have a few more kennel names to add to the list of people to check out whenever we’re ready for another dog.

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Herding–September 12, 2012

Last Wednesday we made the trek to St. Norbert for our last chance at herding before the trial at the end of the month.

On the weekend we went down to Bottineau, ND where I purchased a stock stick so now I look like I know what I am doing. My stick is plain white with a black handle and it’s nothing fancy – it cost $13.99(USD) – but it’ll do.

After Bear’s sheep biting episode the last time we went herding, I decided that I would approach herding like I try to approach other high arousal situations. We did some settle work before it was our turn and in between runs. We played the “look at that” game with the sheep and were generally able to keep the barking down to a bare minimum outside the working area.

This week the sheep we were working with were less cooperative than they have been before – meaning that the instant we walked  in, they ran to the other end of the field and when we walked towards them, they bolted again. Bear was in quite the lather by the time everyone was settled enough to let him off leash. He managed to hold his stay, round up the sheep and bring them to me….then we actually tried a Herding Tested course which involves walking around the ring through 4 panels. The sheep were so sensitive that they did a lot of running which turns Bear’s prey drive on big time! However, I managed to position myself (by running) close enough to him that I could tell him to ease off with a verbal cue. I had to do this a lot and by the end of the run, between the running and hollering easy’ I was tired and my throat ached. That being said, Bear was very reasonable with the sheep – not nearly as much dive bombing.  Quite a few times, he tried to come around and head them off at the front but apparently, this was because I was using too much pressure to get him back off the sheep which meant he naturally moved to the pressure-free zone up front. Even with the flighty sheep, we were actually able to move them sheep around reasonably getting at least one sheep through each panel which would be a qualifying round at the herding tested level.

The second time around, we were on the same sheep, the dog before us had a real hard time moving the sheep off of the fence. They would stand and stare at him, even when he was literally standing with his nose almost close enough to sniff their bums. I was worried about these flighty sheep turned sticky because I didn’t know how Bear would handle things. Would he bite? Would he dive bomb? Turns out he did neither. He shoved his shoulder in between sheep and fence and nipped at the sheep, but not the high arousal, clamp down kind of bite like before. The instructor said this was acceptable, given the sheep’s reluctance to move. It took us a few tries to get the sheep off the fence but we managed to do it, get them around the course again and return them to their favorite pen. Bear was much more responsive this time, almost no barking.

This is it for us and sheep before the trial at the end of the month. I entered 4 Herding Tested runs and hopefully will come home with a herding tested title, if not, at least we would have had the chance to get out on sheep 4 times with a knowledgeable person. Hopefully I can convince someone to come with me to be my personal videographer/photographer.

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