I was using Rainey to sort sheep last night and she did quite well. The ram faced her and she never flinched and he decided that moving was a good idea. She had to do two lookbacks to get hidden sheep out of the marsh. She took both and went out blindly where my whistles sent her. She got the waywards ewes and brought them back smartly. We got the remaining ewes sorted and I must remember that she has only really been teaming with me for not very long time frame. I only started to run her in trial a little over three months ago. She struggled with her debut with me but placed in the top twenty (I think) and since then has won a few PN trials or placed very highly. She still does struggle but is getting better and better and I help her though her weakness.
One of her weakness has been driving. At first, I had to encourage her every step, cheerlead and sometime be by her side. It was a major effort for her to put one foot in front of the other. Scott worked on her to get more push but her gas tank was running low. So she came home from his training, knowing wonderful flanks, whistles and homework to do on her drives.
So we drove and drove and worked and worked. Janet ran her in some trials and some she would show how brilliant she could be, while other she faded on the drive. She was a one person dog and it was evident in the middle of the summer, that she was my dog. Janet tried her best to get her to work with her, but she made her decision to be my dog.
I made her my main working dog, sometimes she would so hard that she would collapse when she got into the house. The work was hard and long; the sheep would be surly or ewes with lambs who challenged her every move. She would move 100 ewes, pack them in a pen, sort sheep for lessons, be a backup dog, drive flocks form pasture to another and stall work. When she had to drive the sheep, she would struggle but I would keep whistling her on. I taught her a grip so when the sheep stalled or would face her off, she could pull that tool out and use it. With each grip, she got more confidence. Sometimes I would stop her just before she would grip, after giving her the grip command, the sheep would jump and she was able to see that her intent was just as good.
I took a lesson with Scott and he was pleased and gave me some more pointers. To lessen the drive commands, but until she was more confident, do what I needed at trials. So at home, I would lessen the drive commands, she would stop, turn to look at me and if she went forward, I would give her a small tweet. If not, I would walk a step forward and tweet to her. Her confidence grew.
We continued on the trial field and on her drive, I would work her fast and flanked so her eye would not slow her down. I did see the first part of her drive; she would be slow so I had to be aware of that. However on her crossdrive, she would get into a zone and push and on the last leg, she was on the sheep hard. She was a good penner and could read her sheep quite well. She had a good way with the sheep and would not upset them; however if the sheep were very heavy, she had to lean into them. She doesn’t like heavy sheep so we worked on that quite a bit.
The trials came and went and she won quite a few and timed out on the drive on others. I thought for sure on the range ewes she would have issues, but her lift was one of the best and she lost a couple of points on the fetch. At the drive, they stood up to her and when they charged, she stood her ground. She did time out on that run but I was happy with her as she tried her best.
On the light hair sheep, she calmed them and lost three points on her entire run. They really liked her and her calmness allowed her to walk them smoothly through the course. At the trial, I helped her when she was struggling, often giving her a series of commands so she didn’t have time to stall out. She is very biddable so took my commands on the fly. She tried hard to do everything proper and precise.
I was happy with her progress considering just over three months ago, we stepped out as a team. Now we are a team and she is getting better and better. She has taken over her mother duties on the Sunday lessons, playing backup dog, sorting, and assisting the pups and doing the chores. Rainey thinks she is the only dog to do the work and often I use her. However, she draws the line at working poultry. She is in the same camp as Nan. Poultry is fine as long it is in her food bowl. Live poultry should be avoided at all cost.
As the night drew to a close on Saturday, I had her drive the flock to the far pond. There seems to be a certain area where she stalls and everyone stops. It is about even with the front edge of the pond. Tonight I started her to drive the flock; softy gave her a walk up and turned my back to shut the gate. I fussed with the gate and then walked over the hill to see where Rainey and the flock had stopped. Much to my surprise, she had driven them well past the area she normally gets stuck and around the pond, still pushing with some authority. I stood and watched in amazement. She stopped once, turned and looked at me, decided I was useless in not giving her any commands, figured she to take charge and continued onward. She pushed them to the fence line and I called her back.
She bounded back in happiness , tail swinging in joy as I praised her. She jumped on the front of my coat, her tiny paws leaving mud paw marks on it and I ruffled her ears, telling her that she was good girl.
She answered back, “I have always been a good girl. But today, I was exceptionally good!”