Sunday, February 10, 2013

A whole year later

Well here we are.

A year has passed, I graduated from college and am off and running with new projects. Perhaps I'll find more time to post about Rye this year.

Rye is doing well in agility. He enjoys running with me. We are doing running contacts on the DW and AF and I am enjoying that. My winter project is to get him weaving - bought him a new set of weave poles.

He is looking great on sheep. Progress is slow because we can only train on weekends. His siblings are at Scott's for training this winter so I have some "competitive anxiety" knowing they will come back so much farther along than what Rye is. That being said, after a few dark moments this summer, I've come to really enjoy working Rye. Each time I take him out, he changes and improves. It is an exciting period of our development as a team.

I am still not convinced he will make a Nursery dog, but I'm confident he'll have a career as an adult.

Life is good :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rye's first whistle

Rye got to hear his first whistles on sheep yesterday. He has been stopping pretty well and liking the stop (not fighting me on it but for the very odd occasion). I don't normally stop him this often but decided to take advantage of having lambs at Fido's and introduce him to the stop whistle for a short training session.

I will not give him a steady diet of this in his training at this stage, but was curious to see what he would think. I love the couple of stops he skids into on the whistle and the look on his face is clearly "TA DA! Go me!!"

I was pleased with the result!

I love when he buzzes the sheep about 3 minutes in and I just laugh. Moments like that make me smile, what good is the journey if we can't see the humor in it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, Rye!

Photo by Look Back Photography
Editing that ruins Look Back's work by Monique

Today is Rye's (and Sagan's and Ben's and Reba's) first birthday.

Rye is a charming dog who is easy to live with. He is definitely becoming a teenager, testing my patience at times. Lora can tell you she has to remind me that "f*#&@r" is not a name or a command ;) He looks lovely on sheep and is now ready to work several times a week. He enjoys agility training for fun and I think he will be a great demo dog for obedience classes as he continues to mature.

I love my Rye. He is a neat blend of both his parents, athletic and affectionate, intense and calm, fun and serious. I am enjoying our journey together. Thanks Diane Pagel and Scott and Jenny Glen for helping me bring such a neat pup into the world.

So Happy Birthday, Rye. I am looking forward to many happy years for us together!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Starting off on the right paw

Starting a dog feels like a huge responsibility to me. Will I take too much out? Will I let the dog walk over me and learn bad habits? Will I be able to see the dog objectively since he belongs to me? Overthinkers like myself wallow in such internal diatribe.

To help keep myself in check and honest, I made a list of the things I wanted before I actually started training Rye. By started training, I mean intentionally applying and removing pressure to shape his habits into good herding rather than simple instinct. I firmly believe an adequately mature dog will take training, while an immature one won't. I feel like I see plenty of people "putting training" on immature dogs - and it results in reduced confidence.

So, I've been exposing Rye to sheep about once a month. He had his 4th exposure today. He's almost through the checklist, which gives me hope because I have a mini lesson with Scott next month to assess Rye's fitness to begin taking training.

Here are the things I was hoping for before really starting Rye:

Q: Does the dog acknowledge the handler when sheep are nearby?

A: Yes. Rye has been exposed to sheep without being allowed to work many times. I think this has really helped him. Of course he would love to drag me to sheep so he can work, but he can listen to things like sit or lie down, turn to me on his name and settle nicely.

Q: Can the dog stay while I go to the sheep?

A: Yes. Rye was consistently staying where I put him until released. I was actually astonished by this. He has been able to do this somewhat before, but showed a significant change in his relaxation and maturity compared with 1 month ago.

Q: Does the dog show desire to gather?

A: Sometimes. On initial exposure, Rye would gather a bit but it was not his top priority. He has a fair bit of eye and would prefer to just walk straight up and drive the sheep to wherever they might stop. I could position myself so this looked like a gather, but it was not a true gather. He would come in on balance when I removed pressure by giving the sheep someplace to go.

He had a very strong desire to head and would focus on a single sheep at a time.

Today Rye showed his first real "symptoms" of gathering. He would bend a bit to get around the sheep, and would come in on balance without me giving any "hints" by relieving pressure. He also was watching for the group of sheep rather than just 1 sheep at a time. He would also happily take a stop on balance.

Until the intent to gather is very good, Rye will only be able to work at places like Fido's that have secure fencing. The 7-strand wire at our home sheep field would not contain the sheep if something went badly with a gather. I am hoping his gathers will be adequate to where we can start working at home the beginning of November.

Q: Can the dog go cleanly between the sheep and the fence?

A: YES. This was a very significant change from 1 month ago. Rye was going very nicely between the sheep and the fence (even when the sheep were smashed up against it and I didn't particularly want him to do so hehehe). He would put his head down and sensibly squeeze between without racing or gripping, and went around the whole group rather than just pulling 1 or 2 away from the fence. Big change.

Q: Can the dog stop (with or without handler pressure/help)?

A: Yes, he can and will stop when asked without handler pressure about 80% of the time, if it is on balance. I did not try asking for off-balance stops because it seemed insensible.

Q: Can the dog take pressure to change the shape of a flank?

A: Some. I can change the shape a bit, but increasing pressure does not get an increased result so I will wait some more on this. He is doing so much better in other regards I have no reason this will not click into place sometime soon.

Q: Can the dog go both directions?

A: Yes. This is a nice change. Previously he could go both ways but had a very strong preference for one direction. They are much more equal now.

Q: Can the dog take pressure to change directions?

A: YES. This is another big change. He changes directions fluidly now, and is naturally square when doing so.

Q: Can the dog call off?

A: Yes. While I still have him dragging a long line for safety, he was calling off very very nicely today. I can not call him off while he is moving, but can call him off once he is stopped.

So overall we are most of the way there. I'd like to see him be more ready to take a bit of pressure to create shape since he seems to have a lot of eye. Because of this, I am being cautious to be sure he is quite ready and mature to take it. My hope is more maturity means it will take fare less pressure to achieve the desired result. Rye's ability to listen to me and concentrate today was easily doubly good compared with only 1 month ago. Good boy.

I'd also like to see him having a much stronger tendency to gather. I've seen this come on almost with a "light switch" effect in other young dogs, so am biding my time on this one a bit longer.

SOOOO.... do you have a list? What do you like to see in a young dog before you start training? I'd love to hear your input.

Happy trails,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Playing with photos

So... today I finished my finals. My reward: playing with a little photo editing :)

Here is my first try using Picnik for anything non-utilitarian (ie just for fun).

SOOC image

Edited image

I was trying to get an old-school feel with the partial black and white fade, and also resolve some of the composition issues that can come along with shooting with an auto-set point and shoot camera by modifying the focal point and softening the edges as would happen if I were better able to control the aperture and focal distance of my camera. I was bothered by how prominent the fence was in the SOOC image and very happy with the way the subject focus changed with the edited image. I can't decide if I like the full color soft focus version or the fade to B/W version better.

Fun project :)

Addendum. Here is an additional image just for Michael.

Focal point edited as above, but with focal fade to B/W
so the color of the dog is unchanged but the background fades.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Some lesser known sheepdog skills...

Skill #1: Watch "Sheep TV"

Skill #2: "Learn by osmosis"

Skill #3: "Be good on your tie-out"

Skill #4: "Be cute so they let you off eventually" :)

In 3 more weeks I'll put Rye on sheep again. In the interim he has been working on finding assorted ways to show how clever he is while simultaneously making me nuts. Those skills in no particular order: Climbing stepladders, opening 3 different kinds of drawers, throwing his toy OVER a 4' gate to try and convince people on the other side of the gate to play with him, and always managing to be lying quietly on his bed when I think I hear him up to no good.

In more serious news, he is enjoying his foundation agility training and is learning a few more tricks. Obedience is coming more slowly but we continue to practice on a regular basis.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Big Day: Rye's first time on sheep!

I was very pleased with Rye. He is nice and keen and stayed engaged for the full work. Video is worth a zillion words. Enjoy!

He is clearly not ready to take training so I will put him up for a month or so and then put him on again and see where he is at. Once he can start taking some pressure I'll begin working him regularly.

He was pretty funny though. He was not ready to quit when the time came, and certainly wanted to take me right back through the fence to the sheep. What an adventure we have ahead of us!