The first task we focused on was one of our biggest - the stock stick, which had gotten to a point where she saw it and was already anticipating pressure before we even got to the paddock. She's not bothered by sticks or stick like objects in general or in other contexts - so I could use literally the same one as a target wand, run it all over her body,as a prop for freestyle, for fetch etc. so it was purely the fact it'd come to represent an (albeit usually considered mild) aversive. That's been the biggest turn around as well - madam is a wiggling, waggling ball of happy eager dog she usually is and moves off it without issue. Hopefully this will transfer over nicely to non-bucket flocks once we've got latency and distance more where I want them. (Yes, I'm going to proof this to death before reintroducing it and pondering on how to structure the reintroductions so that I can maintain nice fine slices of single behaviours. LOL)
The next we worked on was a basic cast out. She already knows that - well in so far as we'd worked her before and she knew 'get around' meant get your bum out around the sheep and start fetching even if it was too fast, too close in to them etc. so not really what I want as my ideal cast! I started with a basic one anyway to get it firmly on cue and in relation to our flock-o-buckets before I started tinkering with increasing the width she was running out relative to the 'flock', the spaced-ness of her flock and then combining that with my distance from the "flock".
So it went:
- flock close together, me close to flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
- flock close together, me standing .5m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
- flock close together, me standing 1m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
- flock close together, me standing 2m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
And so on to get me standing back further from the flock. Then we spread the flock:
- flock spread .25m apart from each other, me standing .5m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m foot of the flock
- flock spread .5m apart from each other
- flock spread 1 m apart from each other
- flock (which had a population explosion at this point *G* and gained a few dozen members) spread .5 apart from each other, me standing .5m away from flock, cast out and going within .5m of the flock and so on so she had to go around a 'big', semi 'loosely grouped' flock
Then those sheep started being further away from me. They went back to being fewer (about half the flock took a tropical vacation...) and closer (it's cold out) but instead of being 1-2 m away, they were 3-4m away and then began drifting apart again. At this point, now we're working on getting her further back from the flock.
- flock spread .5 m apart from each other, me standing back 1-2m, her going around within .5m of their 'bums'
- flock spread .5 m apart from each other, me standing back 1-2m, her going around within .75m of their 'bums'
- flock spread .5 m apart from each other, me standing back 1-2m, her going around within 1 m of their 'bums' and so on... 1.5m, 2m, 2.5m, 3m etc Then they started spreading apart again... so the flock was 1m apart from each other, me back 1-2m, her having to work progressively wider around their bums. Basically I want her to be comfortable doing what is asked regardless of how far I am from her, how far back from the sheep she is working, how far back the total space from me to the sheep and the sheep to her is or how wide spread they are that means she has to arch out wider to maintain the wider 'space bubble' around the sheepies.
We've also got 'back' down pretty well - very confident on her part, complete with occasional hind foot kicking chutzpa. LOL
We've got 'look away' and 'look bye' (turn your head and shoulders out in the direction, to widen the angle of her path when she's cued to move) pretty well too. Bye is not as solid as away and she'll sometimes offer away still so we need to go pick it apart a bit. Probably (maybe?) to do with handedness as well? That does link with walk-on and we've just started chaining look away + walk and she's got walk-in (straight in) pretty well.
With regard to walk in, I'm pondering teaching it from her being oriented to different directions - ie 2 o'clock, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc. on a radial but debating where exactly I want to consider the 'target spot'. We've enough on our plate it can wait but I'm pondering away anyhow.
It's a fun experiment for us anyhow and hopefully getting us closer to where we need to be. It's also a fair bit of thinking of how to restructure things and getting some much clearer/more precise definitions of exactly what I want for the ideal/perfect/finished behaviours in each case.