Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Herding, Drill Team, and Tracking - Oh my!

What a weekend! We started out by going to the herding clinic. What a blast! We got to work with goats twice and sheep once, plus I got to work the goats a bit with this cute guy:
I would recommend Brian Abingdon to anyone interested in herding. His laid back, straight-forward, matter of fact attitude makes learning something so foreign so much easier. I mean, let's be honest. You sign a waiver that says if any of the livestock are injured or killed you are responsible for the replacement cost. It's a little scary to think you might be responsible for hurting another animal plus paying for it. Some of them are fairly expensive. Now, granted, Brian's cavalier attitude was kind of humorous but not my own. He calls the animals props. They're props used for us to learn. He'd jokingly lecture to the dog that it was "his goat" - particularly when his BC's were getting a little too pushy with them. And he said that if one gets hurt, it happens and he knows where to get another. Yes, that's reality, but thankfully he wasn't one to over-react which makes going into a gated off space with a Great Dane and three goats a little easier. Here they are:
And here is who I dubbed the ring leader:
He definitely wasn't keen on Vegas and made practicing a bit difficult as he kept breaking from the other two and me. I can say that Vegas was getting the hang of it the second time around and while I felt like I constantly was telling her what to do and gesturing with my arms, she was tuning into me and definitely not off looking for goat poop. After lunch we got to work with these fuzzy fellows:
This time we had the whole arena. Of course my goal would never have been to herd them through the course that was set up - between and around gates and through a Y-chute in the center, we did manage to get them around the arena twice or three times behind the gates.

All in all, it was a very fun time and I look forward to doing it again.

After we got home Saturday we had about 45 minutes before having to load back up and head to the barn to practice with our drill team. I'm excited to say all of us were there this time and we made some progress. It seems like we've had so many ups and downs that cause choreography changes that we haven't really learned what we've done. But this time around we solidified some things and were able to move through the first half or so of the song. We set our next practice for two weeks and in the meantime each need to come up with some ideas for a few 8-counts. Should be fun to watch other groups online. Thank God for YouTube!

Sunday morning we got up and headed to Champoeg Park to meet Bess and Orra. It was clear and sunny, albeit cold. The park was very soggy and made me really wish my hiking boots were more waterproof. Suffice it to say, my plans to stick around for a hike afterward with the dogs changed quickly when my feet got wet right away.

To begin Beth had me lay a track for Orra so it had some time to age. For her I headed out 50 paces, set a flag, paced five more then hung a right and headed 50 paces, stuck a flag, five paces, then turned left for another 50 paces and dropped her article and goodies. It was really cool watching Orra complete her track later - what a champ she is. She hadn't been out in four months but she nailed that puppy like it was nothing. Very cool!

For Vegas, Beth began by laying a 5-10-15 track. She set a flag, went five paces, set a flag and article, paced ten and set an article and flag, paced 15 and placed the flag and article. Each article had a goodie to reward Vegas. Beth was really awesome giving me pointers and telling me exactly what I should do, when to back up and start her again from the previous flag, reminding me to let her lead out on the line, etc. Vegas wasn't as quick to get it, but she did show progress by the third track.

We repeated the steps above two more times on fresh, double-laid tracks and called it good for the day. It was a lot of fun and a very simple way to get started. We discussed getting together this coming weekend, too, on Sunday and she suggested I try to get Vegas out at least two more times to track.

I'm excited to say we went out again tonight. We used the park down the street from our house. Because of the gear and needing to keep the dogs off the grass area while I was laying track, I went ahead and drove down there. I had a pair of gloves and a sock for articles plus dehydrated beef liver and Fido's Best Elk Jerky. Leaving the dogs in the truck I double-laid the first track, repeating what we'd done Saturday with a 5-10-15 pace track. I got Vegas out, brought her to the track, and hooked up her harness. She was kind of spacey. She found the first article and treat then pretty much wandered or stood aimlessly. I got her on it and into it again and we made the second and third articles quickly. I swapped her out for Leo and let him run her track. He was slower to "get it" and I really had to work back to the article to move ahead each time.

I set a laid a new track again and Vegas picked up on it much quicker this time. Her turn was over way too quick and I re-laid the same track again this time for Leo thinking it would be a bit easier for him. We had the same trouble as the first time. As Beth said, "Our dogs have a hard time working independently." She's right; we don't let them very often. It's a relearning process for specific activities and it'll just take time. Leo's turn over, I moved ahead a bit and laid a third track. This time Vegas did well from the first to the second but the third she really was melting down. Perhaps she just felt the need to get out and romp and was too distracted. I'm not sure if it was that or a lack of understanding but I felt her shutting down a bit.

After we were all done and I had picked up the flags and articles, I let the dogs romp around the park. They were thrilled!

And tomorrow we have our third nose work class again! Yeah for a fun dog week. Just need to figure out when to fit another tracking session in....

1 comment:

  1. You guys have been very busy!

    I'd love to try herding, but I think that's one aspect of dog activities that I think Malamutes shouldn't participate in. Someone did try it with theirs once. They said that it scored off the charts on the predatory instinct test, but failed miserably at another one. She said that the dog zeroed in one on particular sheep, and the whole rest of the herd could've fallen off a cliff and the dog wouldn't have cared. I still love watching it though, and I'd LOVE to see Vegas herd!

    I hope to do more tracking this year. I really want to get a tracking title on Layla this year, but it's hard finding appropriate land (I live in a portion of the state where it's a lot of dense forests and not so many open fields), and also finding the time between work and school and everything else.

    I hope you can fit in another tracking session! Reading about yours makes me feel a little less guilty for not tracking myself :)

    PS ~ I thought of you this past weekend. We were at an agility trial and they had these awesome rainbow "New Title" rosettes. A woman from our training group got one and I told her how awesome I thought it was, and she seemed pretty indifferent. I guess not everyone cares about the cool rosettes!