Saturday, July 30, 2011

Say What You Mean......

Mean what you say! 

I think I need to put those words on a tee shirt...my version of a tattoo.

The other day I was contemplating how each of my dogs handle different.  I need to be aware that Sally can be tight...and regularly I have to give some sort of "clean-up" command.  If I run Nell with "clean-up" commands...she gets wide because her natural self is pretty clean.  I was working her with a friend and I actually hit myself in the head when I gave an un-needed "clean-up" command and she took it. "Say what you mean...if you need a come bye..say come bye.  If you need a come out...then by all means say come out."  It would be good to listen to myself and apply what myself is saying!

Then there is the "mean what you say" portion of the cliche.  How many times have I said something that I did not mean, or had no meaning at all...to only have my dog not listen or attempt to do something different.  I'm trying to loose all that nonsensical verbal that slips out of my mouth when training dogs and trialing.  My goal would be to stick with words that I have put meaning to and then make sure I get what I asked for. 

Say what you mean....mean what you say....all very calmly of course!

In other news...I am soooo freaking excited!  I got into LaCamas for Open!  Happy Dance.....happy dance! The only sad thing is...it was a friend's pull due to a very busy life that got me in...it just won't be the same without her.  It is funny, I was thinking back to a conversation I had with a really nice semi-local open handler five years back when I first started trialing.  She told me that over the years....some of your best friends will come from the sheepdog world.  How fortunate and blessed I am to have this come to fruition in my life!

Seize the day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Crooks & Crazies

Laura over at Crooks and Crazies wants to know.......so here it is.   In the comment section of my Mentors and Anti-mentors post....a few friends shared some of their "stories from the field" that had me laughing as well as embracing that "it happens", even to the best of them!

1. Most embarrassing moment:

There have been a few.....but the biggest one was running Sally in Nell's spot at the regionals.  It was one of my first open trials with two open dogs and I was helping to put the trial on. We ran real early....3rd I think it was....and put down a decent run.  As I walked off the course....my good friend and course director, Cheryl came over to break the news.  As I processed the information...it dawned on me....I not only ran Sally in Nell's spot...but now Nell could not run as she would be in Sally's spot!  Not good.......not good at all.  Making lemonade out of lemons and being one of the hard workers for the trial which pulled me the sympathy card, they went ahead and let me run Nell.......however, I was DQ'd as I walked to the post.  I have to admit I fantasized about swearing every-other-word just because I could!  Nell ended up gripping out on the first leg of the drive!

The next day, after checking the running order 1,000,00 times and getting the help of good friends who were now watching my back....Sally ran first and made it into the double lift.  As you can imagine, I have developed a neurosis about running orders, and much like the compulsive hand-washer, I FREAK out when I can't have a copy of the run order to keep with me and check bazillion times.



2.  What is my favorite whistle?  Well, I am a fan of the cat call........and of course have been known to use whistles to notify my children I had arrived at their middle school to pick them up. Funny how they hear that whistle and know it is me.

Okay, getting serious.....I am telling myself my favorite whistle is my pinkies.



I do use two pinkies when I attempt to finger whistle on a run but I could not figure out how to get them both in the shot AND take the picture.  After seeing my pinkie...I think I need to contact eyeherdewe to order up some child-sized common pinkies to whistle with.  Anyway, I keep thinking if I tell myself how much I love to whistle with my fingers on long runs where Nell needs so many steadies that I have to take an oxygen tank with me to the post.....maybe I will get better!

Thanks Laura for the fun topic.......

Seize the Day!!!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I LOVE This!!!!

Every year at this time, I find myself at a local ASCA trail....Australian Shepherd Club of America.  This trial is a fun little trial where the dogs get to work sheep, ducks and cows.  I remember my first year there....the owners of the ranch were so nice, friendly, supportive and well...encouraging.  Snook met ducks for the first time the evening after the first trial day....and the next day I ran her on them.  Gosh I think that was 6 years ago...how time flies. 

6 years later, I still enjoy this trial.  As I pack the car and make preparations, I always make my mental list of what I want to work on with each dog.  This year, for the first time ever, Snook was co-pilot and did not get to work in the trial.  She is so arthritic...it kills me to see her in such pain. 

Sally got to work sheep and ducks.  The first sheep run, my goal was to do the whole thing with finger whistles....which I did.  They were fine but they still need work.  I also worked on pace.....ASCA judges seem to like a quicker pace with no stop in forward motion, lines not being so important.  So I worked with Sally feeling her sheep and not using her eye inappropriately.  Same thing with the ducks.....I think Sally might need to find a ducks anonymous group to join!  She loves them so much!!!!! We were able to keep a nice pace without compromising lines; goal met!

Nell....well Nell was a little naughty in a good sort of way.  She ran on sheep and ducks as well.  Nell loves ducks too but in a different sort of way.  She was good on them....just fast.  Fast with control but still fast!  Her sheep runs were all about using her eye to keep the sheep on the fence.  Like a drug.....she kept wanting more and more....holding the sheep and catching their eye.  There was some serious dog management going on for me with her runs.  I've come to the conclusion that Nell is a big field sort of girl...so that is where she will run.

Bella, Bella.....I signed Bella up for ducks, sheep and cows.  We were working on communication and understanding...looking for her to be supple and tension-free no matter what happened.  All I can say is...I had a lot of fun running Bella. 


A friend gave me a pre-cow run pep talk and told me to channel paint drying.  So Bella and I did...well, I did and then held Bella back into a slow pace, all the while giving me sideways dirty looks!  Once we got to the corner panels...all of which were shaded up....Bella had to put some 'cowgirl-up' into the show....which she did!  I tried to keep calm....enough said.


I appreciated the post run chat with the judges.  Not knowing that much about working cows....it was good to get feedback from folks who really do run them in real life.  For me, it was fun working Bella on the cows for a number of reasons.  Mostly because I had to trust her more than I generally ask her to trust me on the sheep.  When Bella got a little over her head...I was able to settle her back into calm work.  It just felt a bit magical....trust, relationship...all the things I have been working on with this dog....coming together for us to walk out onto that field and do something really out of my comfort zone.  I was also very pleased to see that, after her cow run, where she had to face bite to turn a cow, she could settle in and work the sheep with such open flanks and trust in me to finish the run.  All that and a buckle too...she earned high combined "other" breed. 

Gyp and Grace hung out socializing and meeting dogs that were not border collies.  Grace is really coming along in hanging out and being a dog. Gyp, however, saw the cows and thought perchance she should have a go!

Maybe some day, Miss Gypsy Rose.  Maybe some day.......

Seize the Day!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mentors and anti-Mentors take 2

Blogger edited my blog...leaving out whole paragraphs...which might have been a good thing...but here is the semi-original...uncut and raw!

The Rocking Dog Ranch Urban Dictionary definition of Mentor:  One who, at the end of the day really wants to see a person get better. Though they might mention good, they are honest with the input.  Their intention is for the mentee's gain.

The Rocking Dog Ranch Urban Dictionary definition of Anti-mentor:  One who is just darn right mean and says mean things for one of two reasons 1) they really want to make a person feel bad about themselves or 2) they really want to make themselves feel superior. 

This weekend found me at yet another sheepdog trial.  The highlight for me was 1 point off my shed with Sally on Sunday.  We've been working on shedding.....Sally and I.  Today I can sit and giggle at the 9 points added to my score for a lovely shed.....giving me a 29!  Yep a third of my points came from my shed!  Holy guacamole, Batman!  As my friend, Geri, says...."besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"  I was very glad to have one I call "mentor" at that trial.  Free perspective was given when it was shared that, on set-out, that group of sheep that Sally pulled were very likely to give a dog a run for their money, and just as likely to end with a sheep win!  Sally and I held them together and made it to the pen....a run to be proud of despite the score.  I really might not have found my way to that conclusion had it not been for the conversational words from someone I have trained with for years, knows me and my dogs, knows my progress and struggles.  Obviously this person did not see my run....from the top setting sheep, the trial field was unviewable.  I'm not even sure this person knows the impact of their words to my thoughts but it was just what I needed.

Mentors are invaluable....and good mentors worth so much more.  My first run with Nell was less than one to write home about!  WAAAAYYYY <<<<<<<< Her first go I could not convince her to try to go through the TRICK gate....the one in the corner that was open into another pasture where her sheep were waiting, the one that has never been open when she comes to train or trial on this particular field, the one in the shade from the trees lining either side of the fence, that gate.  Gone was her clever "look back" from the trial before.  That day, "look back" meant to run all over the field and finally end up  finding the open gate into the field that had yet another open gate and into the exhaust sheep and bringing the entire freaking flock!  Nell would tell you I am a nit picker!  She would also tell you, if this were Vegas she would have won that jack-pot and the story would have stayed in Vegas and not ended up on my blog! I left the post.....

After Nell's not-a-run, a friend that has given me lessons and I love talking dogs with...mentioned that I might consider keeping my cool at the post  (my interpretation of her words btw).  Me, well I thought I did a pretty good job of "keeping my cool" and I broke out into the tantrum that I was proud to have held in!  Hair tendrils waving, spittle flying, a tourette outburst of swear words cleverly used as nouns, adjectives and verbs, all while jumping up and down. Okay, I hear ya....next time I need to leave the post a good minute before I hit panic/excitable/begging.  I will practice my fake smile and my parade wave (elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wrist) all while sweetly saying..."Nell, that'lldooooo" and will have a, "just wasn't our day, she must be coming into heat" up my sleeve.  Got it!

I pulled Nell from her second go in open....we have some work to do....some tools to buy the next trip to Home Depot. She-who-has-been-doing-this-for-a-while reminds me that Nell is young, new to open, and has trained and trialed on that particular field with the sheep on the hill over to the left...just where Nell wanted to get them.  No excuses....Nell and I need to have the communication in place to over-ride Nell's "I KNOW!!!!!" to be able to work as a team any time/any where.  That said, I believe that leaving the post (timely) and pulling from a run might be what is best for my relationship with my dog for that given day.  Whether anti-mentors agree or not...this is a journey and I am glad to call it mine!


It was fun to hang out with the Idaho tribe.....Eyeherdewe and I exchanged beads for firewater. I'm hoping she will be a guest blogger here one day...where you can hear the truth about the temper tantrum I re-enacted!!!

I continue my learning journey.....one is:  to die to expectations for the run and handle what is presented. I think my excitement about seeing how Nell would handle these sheep kept me trying beyond reasonable to get her to them.  Oh that is a hard one!  The next is to be a mentor...not an anti-mentor.  Life is short....everyone is trying their best.....the day really does look much better through rose-colored glasses!

Seize the day!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

True Confessions of a Maker

I've had long lengthy conversations....pre, during, and post clinics....about "get" vs "make".  I've been told I am a "maker" so I am going to publicly come clean.  After much thought, and though I have disguised "getting" as taking the wrong answer away....I am a "maker".  My "making" is subtle....as in "dark chocolate not counting as a carb" subtle.  An example of my watered down make:  I put a long line on Bella way back when I first got her.....she would quit me when I verbally corrected her, I would just step on the long line so she could not leave the field and shush her back onto the sheep.  Defensively, I would argue I was not MAKING her be correct.... I felt I was being pro active taking the wrong answer away....so she could either do nothing or work but not leave. This seems to be one of those Jedi/Zen/Ninja topics that appear to be "glass half gotten full" or "glass half made empty" depending on the viewer. Not blatant "make" but not "get" either.  I've decided that I most definitely am developing my own style of training!

This past weekend found me local...trialing in Scio at Sheepthrillz.  I've been known to work dogs on this field when I can get away from my ranch to a new field and different sheep so all my girls were all familiar with it.  Bella ran pro novice twice on Thursday and yet again I toyed with "speaking to her on her outrun" to see if I could take some tension away.  What I found was Bella does best when I give her information instead of command or correction on her outrun (which is her highest tension I see on the course).....so I blew her out without stopping her and whistled her over into the pressure point her second run.  That seemed to work well for us.....and my deep thoughtful idea on this "make" is I am helping her and with that trust in our relationship she will start seeking "right".  Will this take her ability to think and read sheep away?  Will this make her mechanical?  I'm not sure but we are able to trail and work together as a team. Time will tell but my heart says the more we strengthen our relationship with trust in each other, the more Bella will give me as my partner.  She did give me the first pen of the day....a day that saw only two pens ....and landed in first place...I think we are on a good path.

I also learned or re-learned that I must hold up my half of EACH relationship.  I can not run Bella as I do Nell or Sally...both of which handl different, and I continue to work on remembering that as well!  So when the sheep went through the first drive panel and started, at a clip, up the field to the set out....my better move would be to stop Bella and gently flank her over to start the cross drive.  Lesson learned on the first go when I sent her over as I would have Nell and ended up with a body-slammed ewe and a very tense Bella. 

What I left the trial with  was, as much as I train and work with understanding on each of my dogs....I need to raise the bar for myself.  Each of my dog handles and works so much different from the other.  I am thankful, as that fact alone is teaching me so very much.  Now I need to live up to my half of each relationship!  I guess I am a "maker" with myself as well!

Seize the Day!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Observations from Down the Road

I trialed at Magnolia Farms over the weekend.....and was lazy and did not take one photo.  We camped about a good 1/4 mile from the trial field and it was hot.  Plus I ran three dogs....so hauling the camera and the dogs with me seemed silly..until now as I blog and I wish I had photos to go along with my story!

Sally and Nell ran open and I must confess I enjoyed the learning process with each.  Saturday, Sally and I did not get our shed....leaving 30 points on the field!  That fact alone gave me great thinking material for the night......as I asked myself, "what am I (emphasis on the I) doing so that Sally does not want to come through for the shed.  Sunday....we got our shed. And it was earned....not a gimme like Nell's shed from Saturday.  Sally's shed felt great and I have some better understanding on how to help my dog. Besides the opportunistic shed in the form of two black-faced lambs that could have cared less about their friends....Nell's run started out "off" with Nell hunting pressure and me grumpy about being forced to climb the Mt. Everest straw mountain.  I spent a part of the run attempting to get Nell to realize this run is supposed to be team work and not 90% Nell and 5% me (the remaining 5% being good luck on those black-faced lambs).  That effort in having Nell recognizing the team spirit of trialing made for a fabulous run on Sunday with a not so fabulous ewe.  No money...nor points...but I was very happy for how my girls worked for me.

Bella ran pronovice both days.  I employed some of the ideas presented at the recent clinics and evaluated the result (or lack there of) as the run proceeded.  Hmm...no softening on the outrun with "speaking to" and a stop and blow out did not solve the "not so right" top.  However, the sheep were set on hay leaving  some wiggle room and I was able to get ahold of Bella which made for two nice runs  ending with the gate closing on the pen X2.

Yesterday I used Gyp to move the rams into greener pastures to graze while I visit Idaho.  The rams were crafty and Gyp had to work hard to cover and move them. I was fun to see her method being correct and her finding some feel.  Since arriving in Idaho...I have not seen hide nor hair of either of those qualities.  It appears light katahdin lambs are not her training friends.  And those lambs have made it abundantly clear that Bella and I still have work to do, although she looks much better.  Bella needs to finish her outrun well no matter what the sheep do, bending out might be a better answer than falling in, and she MUST stop.  The quest of understanding, trust, confidence and obedience continues......this journey does not appear to have any radical miraculous answers but instead is going to take time.

Idaho is hot right now.....over 90 which really does bring out the most negative qualities in my personality!  I'll trek back home to cooler and greener tomorrow but have most certainly enjoyed my visit.  Tomorrow, I'm hoping to put a little more time on Bella and give Sal and Nell a spin before we get in the van for the ride home.

Seize the Day!