Well, I guess it was inevitable.  The world is once again white.  Considering that last year the world turned white before Hallowe’en, this is a pretty darn late start to winter.  I love snow, but given how much I have to drive now, I am glad the weather held off.  If the snow gets too deep, it will mean the end of training until there’s a thaw.  I do think its good to have a nice break over the winter, so this doesn’t bother me one bit.  Most years I train until Christmas and then just do agility until March or April, depending on how early spring arrives.

I went out and trained at the farm again on Sunday.  I arrived quite late, having had to work for most of the day, and just did a bit with each dog.  Kestrel’s wearing is really nice and she’s starting to take her flanks.  If she’s had a bit of exercise before going to stock, she has nice pace and good focus.  I think she’s ready to start doing a bit more and I may start to seriously put flanks on her the next couple of times out.

Mira’s stop is still missing, and while she listened beautifully to Janet’s whistles, she took a while figuring mine out.  I’m sure it’s because I don’t blow consistently, and to be honest I wasn’t even giving the same whistles for the same command each time at first! It took me a while to figure out what came naturally for which movement, but I eventually started being more consistent.  And no surprise, she started listening!

I decided to try penning (getting the dog to put the sheep into a small, free-standing pen) with Mira, which we haven’t done before.  She is taking her sides some of the time, but not always.  She will still take the side that is more comfortable for her, making me wonder if she really understands her flank commands or if I am just getting fairly good at setting things up so the dog wants to go the way I send her anyway.  Time for her to learn her off-side flanks (i.e. flanking against the way she would naturally want to go, off balance) and getting those down pat.  For having a dog who won’t take her flanks means penning is pretty much out of the question.  Fortunately the ram lambs I was working are pretty docile and didn’t react at all to my waving and flapping about to get Mira to take her flanks. I also need to work on squaring them off as every time she would flank she would come forward towards the sheep as well.  Again, this makes penning almost impossible.

Mira of course really didn’t know what it was that I wanted her to do, so I can’t blame her for not doing it well.  We tried and tried and tried, and then suddenly she popped them in the pen!  I expect that once she understands what is wanted of her, she’ll be able to do it with no problem.  I don’t do a lot of chores with her, and I probably need to start doing so.  I think becoming a chore dog would be really good for her.  Of course, that’s Hannah’s job and Hannah quite likes it!  It’s hard to find enough work for more than one dog on a small sheep farm, especially when you don’t own it and only visit a couple of times week!

I am not quite sure what to do about Mira’s stop, or rather, her lack thereof.  Hannah doesn’t have a great stop, but she’ll take a lie down when told to do so firmly.  Kestrel has a great stop.  She drops like a stone, and pops back up again the second I ask (or sooner).  I often have to holler and even run at Mira to get her to stop, which is not conducive to quiet stock handling.  If the sheep I was working were at all skiddish, they’d be the other side of the farm if I did that.  I need to find a way to get her to stop more easily.  She also sometimes sticks once down, as if afraid of getting up.  Janet suggested that I need to reward the stop by letting her get up right away after she lies down.  Perhaps that will be what we work on tomorrow.

Hannah was still being a devil yesterday and I actually stopped working her and just walked off the field out of frustration.  She simply was not listening and refused to take my flanks repeatedly. I  think it had something to do with the ice in the field.  She didn’t like stepping on it and would go quite out of her way to avoid frozen puddles in the dips and crevices of the field.  I don’t mind her doing a funny shaped outrun to avoid ice, but when she starts to avoid listening, it becomes a problem.  Several times I sent her left and she went right (or vise versa) and I had to stop her and send her again.  The last time she refused three times in a row to go the way I asked, so I called her back and walked her off the field.  Somehow I have lost my dog – she was working beautifully in November, but that’s gone.  Tomorrow I think we will just go back to some basic wearing.  And she won’t get to work until she’s had a good, solid run!

Yesterday I took Mira and Kestrel for a hike at the local quarry (turned park).  It was cold and blowing snow, yet I ran into 4 different groups of people out walking their dogs!  I used to have that place all to myself, especially during weather like that, but more and more people are finding out about it.  I don’t mind as long as they are dog savvy and comfortable with off-leash dogs.  I saw a “dogs on leash” sign in the parking lot, which made me cringe.  I have been walking dogs in this area 20 years, and that sign is the first such restriction I’ve seen.  I hope it is not a harbinger for things to come!

We don’t care about snow!

Mira teaching Kestrel to mouse

Tandem Mousing

No, the dogs aren’t OCD.  There really are mice out there.  Hundreds of them in fact.  If I keep my eyes down while walking, I see them too, darting helter skelter!