Reese and I are back home from another herding clinic, our second one in two weekends. The first was a Kathy Knox clinic, and this past weekend it was a double clinic with both Jack and Kathy. Both weekends were incredible I guess for their own reasons and some of the same.
The first weekend which I touched on in the last post was incredible as it had large pastures to work in, really large, not quite sure about the size but long outruns were in order for the field dogs. Seeing the dogs run in the larger field was just awe inspiring, you can read about sheepdogs and watch DVD's and see it on T.V. but nothing beats seeing a good trained stockdog work.
Over the hill the dog goes, out of sight of the handler into a larger pen to gather the sheep and bring them out a small gate, with whistle commands from the handler all the while she can't see the dog. Over the hill comes the rush of fleece followed by a black and white dog keeping them in line all the way down to the handler - incredible! There are no words to describe it really it is just amazing, and one of those things you have to see.
The connection between the handler and the dog and the trust between the two, and seeing a dog do what it was bred to do is the best thing ever. Talk about happy content dogs.
Reese worked in the round pen at the first clinic. We are going back to correct some bad habits she has developed, starting with respecting the sheep and recognizing that there is a handler in the ring that is there to help her and that it is someone she can trust. The first weekend, she had some big breakthroughs in that by the end she was giving to the handler and was starting to call off her sheep. A simple thing that should have been the first step in her training but wasn't. So we are going back to square one and basically starting over but also trying to keep a few things that are there, and get rid of some history that we wish wasn't there. Reese made some big changes in just one weekend. I couldn't have been more happy with how she did.
At the second clinic I learned a ton as well. Probably more than the first about the training aspect just because there were more beginner dogs, working in a smaller field, working flanks, short outruns and some driving. It was amazing the smallest change in something the handler did made significant changes in some of the dogs.
There were dogs that were in the round pen and of course Reese was one of them. It was interesting in that most of the dogs could have gone back to the round pen to work on something, but most people want to get out of the round pen as soon as possible and not look back. In reality the round pen is a tool that could be used to help many of the things you are trying to train.
Reese had huge changes this weekend. She started to be calm watching other dogs work. She continued to not drag me to the pen and instead walked up the gate at the round pen and waited to go in. She gave to the handler, she called off each time she was asked and I wanted to cry. The last three or four times she worked she looked up at the handler as she came off with a happy look on her face clearly enjoying this new found understanding that if she comes off the sheep, then she gets her sheep back. In fact today's runs she was actively seeking Kathy out to take her in to work the sheep.
The run this morning she had a bit of chase in her with the sheep, but our goal for the weekend was to get her calling off the sheep and respecting the sheep and the handler and we weren't so concerned with the work in the middle at this point. Reeese called off the sheep very well which is what we wanted. During her afternoon run she worked really well, gave to the handler on both her flanks and was starting to read the sheep. And she came off the sheep each time she was asked. Huge, huge changes! So proud of my girl.
These clinicians were both great and I learned an incredible amount not just about working stockdogs, but dogs in general. These people really get it, and they both have a way with the dogs that is amazing to watch. So glad I had the opportunity to attend both weekends.