As I just mentioned, Hannah has been put up to rest her feet all week. This meant that I had to either stay home, or take Mira out to the farm and use her for all the stuff I usually do with Hannah. Typically, when we get to the farm, I take the dogs for a short hike to potty and shake out some beans. Then I put Ross and Mira up and take Hannah to the sheep. Hannah gathers the flock, sheds off some sheep to work, puts them through some gates to the field in which we are going to work, then we train. When we are done, I leave the now tired sheep out and switch Hannah for Mira. This is how we trained Hannah – my instructor would always have tired sheep waiting for us and then we would train on being precise with our wearing etc.
I decided to give Mira a shot. I keep hearing about trainers using their young dogs for all sorts of stuff, so I figured why not? That said, Mira has really very little training on her. She has a stop (sort of), a lie-down (once really, really tired) and one flank (away). That’s it.
Nevertheless, she got the job done! I was really, really impressed. She was able to gather the whole flock (about 40 sheep now), shed off a group, drive that group away, shed off a few more then drive them back and forth through a gate until we were down to a nice working group. At one point I let too many sheep go back into the barnyard. Not wanting to gather the whole flock again and start from scratch, I sent Mira after them and told her to “go get’em!” She went through the barnyard, through that gate into another field and stopped the three escaping sheep. She then brought them back all on her own, including going around a 90′ turn. I said nothing other than encouraging her with ‘good girl!’ every so often.
I was really floored at what this dog could accomplish. It made me realize that I have been focusing way, way too much on precision. So she can’t square wear perfectly – she can shed, drive and gather a large flock! She’s young and the precision will come with time. Poor Hannah. I really think we put way too much pressure on her when younger. I know my instructor really wanted to make sure I didn’t ‘ruin’ my dog, and it would have really been impossible for me to do the kind of stuff I am doing with Mira, with Hannah because I just didn’t have the sheep sense then. But still, I feel bad!
Tomorrow I’m going to try really hard to find a balance of keeping things under control without putting too much pressure on Hannah. An open handler gave me some very good advice. She told me not to worry about my lines tomorrow – I’m not going to place, so don’t even try. Instead, work at making the experience positive. She said don’t flank Hannah and worry about precision as that will blow her mind and get her to ignore me and head the sheep. Insteady, just walk Hannah along calmly and steadily and get around the course. If we miss the panels, who cares?
Who cares indeed? Seriously, what difference will it make in the world if we have crooked lines and miss the panels. I really hope I can keep this attitude tomorrow! Wish us luck…