Sunday, July 16, 2006

The night before last we went to Jayne's birthday dinner and had a lot of fun. It was so nice getting out and talking with adults again and it was really nice for Nic to get a chance to talk to other AP parents too! Unfortunately, most of the time he gets crap about CC, CIO etc at the office and doesn't really know any other AP parents so it's nice to balance the naysayers with parents who parent the same way we do.

So anyway, we went to the herding clinic and tests today after almost zero sleep and... we had a blast! Laurent was a sweetie the whole day, flirting with people, giggling, smiling and just generally being way too cute.

I was really pleasantly surprised with how well behaved Sierra was. I'd worried that she'd forget her head in the excitement and not listen to me and/or go nuts over the other dogs and be a wild child. We've had real problems in the past and though
we've been working on it this was going to be really exciting, a new place, lots of dogs, lots of people and sheep, so... I worried.

With the herding my only goal was she had a positive experience* and maintained our training**. (*Her first time on sheep she got swatted with a rake and shut down, so I wanted her to learn sheep=fun.) (** I didn't want to practice ignoring cues, teach that in charged situations it was okay to ignore them or worse, have not listening be rewarded by something as super cool as access to the sheep/chasing them.

Instead she did really, really well! She chilled out nicely when put in downs, stuck close on and off-lead, ga
ve lots of attention, showed interest when dogs visited but wasn't over the top, came away when called in a conversational level voice and ignored other dogs walking by and even a few who ended up stepping on her or coming over to sniff. At one point an older puppy accidentally trampled on her and she maintained eye contact, never once even glancing away! Sooooo proud of my girlie!!! YAY!

Before we went in and during down time we rewarded calm behaviour, eye contact, ignoring other dogs etc. She was on the sheep a total of 4 times, the last 2 being the tests. The Australian Shepherd Club of Victoria, our hosts, did an excellent job of introducing the information, keeping things very fun (esp our two volunteer "sheepdogs" who taught the handlers by pretending to be the dog and letting us "herd" them *G*) and organizing everything!

We arrived fairly early and left about 5:00 so it was a long day and Si had good behaviour throughout! :-) The first test I thought she did pretty well, esp with coming back toward the rake after initially moving off. By the second test, I could tell it'd been a long day and she was starting to hit the point where like an over-tired child her behaviour was going to start going downhill. I tried to take her aside and do some fun training to give her something to focus herself and relax her, so we goofed around with targeting the target wand, eye contact and down-stays. Even so, the second test was more than she was ready for after that long a day.

Hindsight, I shouldn't have run her in the lurecoursing between tests and ideally should have quit after the first test. End it on a really super high note. She was still fine after the second but it wasn't quite as nice. I *almost* asked to be excused rather than continue to push her when she was showing signs of flagging and pretty much at that point they declared the test over. From what I gather she did fairly well but we need to work a lot on getting her to not go to head so much and not split one off so she can herd it back up.

So we had lots of fun, behaved well, got two passes, though the first was definitely better than the second and with that she completed her instinct certificates which makes her U-AGI Samilyn Too Qute To Be Tru CGC HIC now. :-)

Quick explanations w/ each photo:
This is just before I took her lead off, with the lady in the corner being our judge and giving me instructions on what she'd like us to do. As you can see she is giving me nice attention and even though there are sheep nearby... good pup!

After the lead came off, we had to either walk the dog up to the sheep and then move them or send them ahead of us to move the sheep towards us. We did both at various points, though it definitely SOUNDS a lot more simple than it is! The rake is in lieu of a shepherds crook and is used to direct the dog. In this case, she should stop going toward my left-hand (holding the rake) and swing back around to my right as I'm walking backwards so the sheep come into me. (Yes, that does make you dizzy...)

Last but not least, just a shot of the little red dog having fun...

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