Oh dear – I should have been in bed well over an hour ago now!  I am going to be tired in the morning. I have to get up early to go to my agility lesson.  This morning I could barely get out of bed by 8:30.  I have slipped into a late to bed, late to rise routine, which I am not particularly happy about.  This happened because I’ve had somewhat of a return of my chronic fatigue symptoms, which means I become really low energy later in the afternoon – usually from 4pm until around 7 or so.  Then I perk up and have lots of energy until around 1am.  When I’m feeling low, I get nothing done.  Then I get frustrated and down.  As my energy picks up, I scurry about trying to make up for all the stuff I didn’t get done earlier.  The next thing I know, it is 1am and I’m still up.

Tonight is no exception.

After dragging myself out of bed this morning, and letting the fog clear from my brain, I took the dogs for a nice hike in the conservation area.  I was feeling pretty low energy, and surprisingly so were the dogs.  I expected them to be quite wild after their weekend of doing nothing, but no, they were pretty calm.  They have been getting a lot of regular exercise these days, and even Kess is almost two now.  So perhaps they are all mellowing nicely.  Also it was overcast with storms rolling in. I find these low pressure days make us all rather low key.

Speaking of Kess mellowing, she’s been becoming more interactive with me lately.  The last two nights in a row she’s asked to come up on the bed, and once there has slept all night in the spot I allocate to her.  This is very unusual, as she typically sleeps in a crate (her choice).  She’s also been coming over to me for cuddles and otherwise showing more affection and attention.  I am, of course, encouraging this as much as possible.

I also mentioned a while back that I saw some tension between Kess & the other girls.  That seems to have just been a hormonal thing while they were in heat.  I am seeing none of that anymore.  Fingers crossed it stays that way.

I worked all afternoon and then took the dogs to the farm this evening to train.  I probably shouldn’t have gone as I was still feeling rather low energy.  And by the end of training I was feeling emotionally low too.  Tonight was one of those nights were I wondered what the heck I am doing.  Am I ever going to get good at this endeavour?   They say it takes 10 years to be a really good handler, but is that with, or without owning your own sheep?  For tonight I felt like it’s going to take me a hundred years, not ten.  Despite all my effort, my dogs simply are not running very well.

The problem, of course, is that I am starting to prepare for this trial in mid-July.  For a trial I need precision and dogs who listen to me.  I, unfortunately, seem to have neither.  And tonight I was getting pretty tired of it.

I started with Hannah as she got short changed when we worked on Friday and ran out of sheep and light.  I decided not to train in the big field as the pasture is almost up to my knees and makes working already reluctant sheep even more difficult.  Instead I took a small group into the back pasture where the main flock is kept.  That grass is already shorter, and part of it had been cut over the weekend.  So I used Hannah to round up the main flock and put it in the barnyard, and then (after coaxing the llama to also go into the barnyard) brought out a small working group to train with.

We pushed the sheep into the back field and then I started doing a few outruns.  I can’t even remember what my focus was with Hannah tonight.  I try to have one thing in particular that I am working on with each dog, which I decide before I go to the field.  I think I just wanted to see if Hannah would listen to me.

She didn’t.

I mean, she works just fine, but there’s always a few second delay between when I ask her to do something, and when she does it.  This is Hannah though and through.  She does this at home when out in the yard.  I call her to come in, and she continues to sniff about and take her sweet time before she comes.  The other dogs are all in the house and then she looks up and wanders over to me.  I have to get after her to get any kind of quick response.  I am sick of this.  Tonight, in particular, I was fed up with that behaviour.  Being tired and cranky didn’t help.

To fix this I find myself putting her through drills, which she finds immensely boring and useless.  It doesn’t help that the sheep are very, very dog broke and extremely pokey.  No excitement here at all. So my bored dog does her job half asleep, eating a little grass along the way, or sniffing some sheep manure.  She’s bored, I’m bored.  Not a good combination.

I put her away and brought out Mira.

Mira was working fairly well tonight, but it has become very clear that she won’t take her flanks at any distance from me.  So I worked on getting her to flank with me just a little farther away than usual, but still close enough to insist.  I also worked on having her come around off-balance and stopping in places she doesn’t expect.  She, like Hannah, anticipates too much and then ignores what I ask in favour of doing what she’s used to doing.

I think with Hannah, and to a lesser extent with Mira, I have created a lot of the problems I am dealing with because I stayed too long at one stage – specifically wearing – and entrenched that behaviour to the point that the dogs default to it unless I practically stand on them.  I knew this was a problem at the time, but I didn’t know how do go to the next level.  I now know a bit more and am able to move Kess along more quickly.  Hopefully I can avoid some of these problems.  Of course I will create (and have already created) others.

With Kess I worked on getting an outrun.   I kept them very short – about 30-50 feet – and sent her from each side several times.  Some were looking not too bad, others were pretty terrible.  Half the time she goes out slowly and comes almost to a stop when she draws even with the sheep.  Then she walks straight at them, pushing them sideways.  So not what I want!  Perhaps I need to bring the whip out to put a little pressure from a greater distance.

I came away very frustrated in general and wondering if I should indeed sign up for this trial.  Will it just be a waste of money?  Is trying to compete spoiling my enjoyment of training?  But without the goal of a trial, what will get me to work through these issues?  I don’t know.  It hasn’t been a great day on the morale front.  I had best just go to bed and try again tomorrow.  Agility in the morning should cheer me up.  As long as I’m not late…