Saturday, January 22, 2011

Training Highs and Low

First the highs...
Got to take Tag herding TWICE this week! She is really a lovely, natural worker on the sheep. She doesn't have quite as much natural feel as her sister, but plenty of push (a quality which Gyp lacks). She is sensitive to my pressure and always wants to keep trying, all resulting in some really nice work for my not yet one year old girl.
We just started working on some jumping, and Tag is doing AWESOME!!! She is a gorgeous, naturally tight jumper. Yet again, doing some lovely work.
Last week, we worked on turns off the DW and she was catching on phenomenally well. This week at training, she was doing 90 degree turns off the DW well, especially considering this weeks weirdness (see the low)

Now for the low...
Tag is being weird and sensitive this week and is lacking the confidence she has had lately and I do not like this new development. Since she is unsure, she is slower and more hesitant on the contacts. I can't think of anything that would have caused this development in the last week, and since she is being more sensitive overall, I'm wondering if the change is hormone related.
That being said, since Tag is not stretching out how I want across the contacts and is therefore higher than I have come to expect of her.

I decided that we are going to limit any contact work over the next week... if we do anything, it will only be low DWs with straight entries and exits to just get her flying again. When I see more confidence in daily life, I'll start the contact stuff again.
The other day I was bored and decided to play with a new agility trick. I decided to teach Tag directional wraps (right/left) on verbal cue. I've never taught right/lefts because I am directionally challenged and am with my dog 99% of the time and really haven't needed that particular tool. My plan is to use this ONLY as a command to go and wrap in the direction I say. I'm sure I can find lots of uses in that context.
I have been taking pictures (even keeping up with my 365), but have yet to load the recent ones. The plan is to upload them tomorrow.
Hopefully we'll also get to go herding again this week. Tag is the first dog I've trained from the beginning (besides Tika, but she hardly counts since she's so naughty about it). On a side note, it is amazing I went as long as I did without a BC to help around the farm. I don't know how Tika and I managed.
I have a busy week ahead, full of school, lab work, and sheep club activities. Hopefully the wool lab will be mostly finished by the end of the week and the lambing and shearing barns will be ready for use (the shearing barn needs to be since we shear next Monday-Wednesday!) Otherwise, lots of dog play and hopefully a hike or two are on the docket for the week. Oh yeah, and playing with my belated birthday present... new video editing software. So excited!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This and that

Yesterday involved more lambs, training (mainly for Tag, but all three girls got some work), and some long delayed hang out time with some friends. Today, however, cleaning, dog play, and laziness have ruled.

Anyway, Tag's training.... We are eternally working on her running dogwalk. When I am driving forward, she has lovely contacts. When we drive into nothing, she does fantastic, slight turns are fine, and for some reason she does well on tight turns (serpentine-type turns). However, our big hang up at the moment is turns ranging from about 45-90 degrees. Where we are currently snowed in, we can only get to contacts once a week, twice if lucky. I am currently debating how to work turns.... I'll let everyone know when I figure it out.

A-frames are lovely. Tag had never seen an A-frame before Christmas but the dogwalk training seems to have just flowed over. We started on a low contact but raised it quickly. Watching the video, I'm not thrilled with the high flying over the apex, but it's not as obvious when I'm running. At this point, I am going to let Tag decide how she wants to run the contact. She has yet to really miss, other than the one time in the video where I did a horrendous front cross. By the end of the A-frame segment, I saw some improvement on the acrobatics, so we shall see what happens.

I'm happy with the teeters for now. I see more confidence every time I train. Tag is such a thinker and I can really see her processing with this obstacle. I remember going through thinking stages early in the dogwalk training, so I'm not too worried about it here.

And in case the video doesn't work, here's a link:

Here are the 365 photos from the last couple days.
Day 4: Tika, asleep on my pillow. These guys sure make it hard to get up in the morning. All three girls are champion cuddlers, especially Tag. She LOVES morning laziness.
Day 5: I found some magnets while cleaning today. These two seemed particularly appropriate for the day. The only thing that could be changed is that all three dogs were bathed last week. You wouldn't know it after their farm fun.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lamb Party at the Farm

This is always a fun time of year at the farm. Amidst being buried in snow and frozen to the core by the frigid temperatures, lambing begins. We lamb early so we have fresh sheep to work in the spring, and our setup allows the ewes and their lambs to have plenty of shelter and heat if they need it. This year, we discovered the joys of dog coats for the lambs to give the newborns a little extra cover. Here is a view of the mountains from the "ranchette" (the house barn/pasture), where all the ewes come to lamb.
We had a lamb boom last week... seven lambs one day, and about 6 more through the next couple days. Here are the new babies.
For those who are wondering, these are hair sheep (bred for meat production). They never grow wool, but rather hair which they shed every spring. Our sheep are a composite of Dorper, Katahdin and Barbado breeds, chosen to produce fast growing lambs with colorful coats which shed completely (some hair sheep keep some long hair through the summer... we select against this trait). We also select for lambing ease and prolificacy. So far this year, we have an amazing lamb crop! Big, robust lambs with tons of color, lovely bodies, and lots of bulk.
Really, though, aren't they just so cute? I mean really, could you resist that face?
This lamb is one of our favorites so far. She is about 2 weeks old, and is quite the big girl already.
Keli and Tag really wanted to come in to help.
Speaking of Tag, we got a little bit of training in today and man is she ever doing some lovely work! We did some contacts, all at full height... GORGEOUS!!! She is really comfortable with the aframe, both going straight and turning. She is awesome on the dogwalk, particularly straight but is starting to understand turns and is doing some lovely work on that front as well. She is increasingly confident on the teeter and is getting faster and faster. I am absolutely in awe of this puppy. I'll try to get videos tomorrow, but am not making any promises.

And the photo of the day... lots of lambs

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Today was a relaxing day for the girls. Lots of sleeping, some bone chewing, and a lot of hanging out. I had a lot to do around the apartment, since I've been gone for a couple weeks. I am so lucky that the girls are willing to spend a day chilling out.
Tag is an amazing hang out dog, most of the time. When I'm up and about, she is always ready to go but is also more than willing to sleep all day if need be.
The snob look. Love her!
And here is the photo of the day.... I think Tag has the prettiest eyes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 in review

2010 was definitely a year of some pretty significant trials, tribulations, joys, and most importantly growth.
I learned a lot about cars.... how to change an engine (bad engine we pulled is pictured above), what to look for when purchasing a vehicle, what problems can be solved easily and what problems I will never work on again, what tools are absolutely necessary for me to have available in the new digs, and much more but we'll stop there for the sake of time.
I learned a lot in classes. My favorite classes include a course on genetics, more animal production and management classes and an animal reproduction class. I'm working with the department a lot now a days and will be doing more this spring, as I am working closely with the sheep program as a lambing coordinator/manager. I am doing a sheep and sheepdog seminar/presentation for local students and producers in February. This is my last semester as an undergraduate... next fall I plan to start into the graduate program.
Tika had her final litter (the two puppies shown above). Two gorgeous puppies, sired by the lovely tri boy, Wandren Park Akadia Ovation (Bravo). These babies are quite the hooligans but sound like a lot of fun for their owners. Jasper, the boy in New Mexico is studying to be an agility star, while his sister Trudy is in Idaho getting ready to strut her stuff in the conformation rings. I can't wait to see how these babies grow up this year! From last year's litter, the big boy Polo has made a splash in his first few agility trials while his sister Muppet is getting ready to trial.
Gyp and Tika continue to do well. Although we haven't trialed much this year, they remain invaluable to me. I regularly take at least one of the three girls with me to school, and Gyp helps me with all the sheep chores, not only at the farm but also at school. We have had tons of fun hiking, travelling, and just hanging out this year. Hopefully everyone will stay in good health and spirits throughout the next year. I have decided to jump Tika at 12 inches from now on, meaning she is pretty much retired from AKC agility. She will continue to tear up the USDAA ring in performance. Gyp is doing well in agility, and you never know... I might even enter her in a herding trial at pronovice. We shall see.
And finally I come to the biggest change around here, Tag. I had the pleasure of helping to breed and whelp a litter of border collies, born in January. The parents are dogs I have known since they were puppies and loved all the while... to say this was my dream litter is an understatement. I was able to watch the litter grow from day 1 and try as I might, Tag was mine from the moment I saw her. She made it clear that she would be coming home with me as soon as her eyes opened and only pushed the point as she grew up. Tag has tried her hand at herding and agility already. She is quite the child prodigy at whatever she puts her mind to... she has GORGEOUS running contacts already and has amazing feel on sheep, particularly for such a young dog. Tag has already made me a better handler and trainer and I am thoroughly looking forward to what she has in store for me in the next year. The plans are to enter her in agility trials this summer and we'll see what she does herding wise.
Looking forward to the new year. I have a lot to look forward to, a lot of goals, and many friends and family to count on along the way. On a side note, I am determined to document my life more fully so am following the lead of numerous friends and doing a 365 project. Here is day 1...
The girls love playing with my room mate, Juan!