I took the dogs to the farm this morning. Worked Hannah but we had a frustrating session. She was doing fine but I’m not seeing progress in the areas I want to see improve, i.e. taking my flanks at a distance. I was getting irritated and then she shut down and wouldn’t even take a walk-up. So I took her to water and put her up while I worked Mira. I figured we both needed a break. Then I brought her back out and did some fun stuff, took the whole flock out and had her drive them up the field. Then as they strung out, did some “shedding”, pushing different groups off to different parts of the field, then started teaching “look back” to go get them. She actually did quite well, although crossed over a few times on the look back. I need to get better at knowing which way she will want to go naturally and either send her that way, or be in a position to enforce the other flank when I ask for it. Next time we go out I’m going to do just close work on 3-4 sheep.
I think I might have made a little progress with Mira. She was doing her usual thing, diving at the sheep when she got close, and I totally lost it. I charged at her and yelled and threw my stick. Amazingly she didn’t run away! She did slow down after that, but also stopped trying to dive in and grab. I have to develop the attitude that “these are MY sheep, not yours, NO CHASING!” I had been being too soft on her, fearing she’s shut down if I got after her. But I was at the point of giving up completely so figured I had nothing to lose. I was impressed that she took that much of a correction from me. Would have shut Hannah down for the day.
There are actually some things in Mira that I wish were in Hannah. If I do breed Hannah I am going to have to find a male with a lot of power, and also who doesn’t do this zoning out & working on their own thing. Hannah’s very talented in many ways, but she has virtually no presence. She can walk right up to sheep and they hardly move. I’ve had her working the whole flock in long grass, and they are very, very heavy. She has to really work at getting them going. Our next trial will be on really tough sheep so we need to be able to work them. I’ve read a lot about ‘presence’ and am not sure if its something a dog can develop or if it is just something they are born with. I think with more confidence they will have more presence, and Hannah’s confidence is down right now because we’ve been doing so much new stuff. Hopefully that will change as we get better.