Working Amber

One of the first times I have worked with Amber, at Action K9 Sports with my new Garmin Virb chest mounted camera.

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Step one and a lesson learned

I spent part of Thanksgiving working what will be my ‘new’ dog; Getting to know her and her to know, and trust me. I plan on running her in January at the SD Classic. Hopefully she will also be spending some time at home ahead of the trial.


Since she really doesn’t know me I started her in the arena just moving sheep around, simple flanking with stops and walk ups. For the most part she would take the commands as long as I positioned myself correctly for her to take those visual clues. So I did this for about 20 minutes until her tongue was lolling. I let her get some water and took Scot out to work him.

Oh. My. Gosh!! I had heard that dogs would experience something like jealousy, but not sure I really believed it. But Scot was clearly agitated at me working another dog and when I finally let him loose to work I saw a dog I rarely see. Obedient to the point of surprise he was even stopping when I asked instead of sneaking in a few extra steps. This includes a decent drive, something he hates to do under most circumstances.

The change was staggering. I look forward to tormenting Scot in this way many times in the future!


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Scot on a set and hold

Scot on a set and hold

Turns out that stockhandling can be dangerous. I think I knew that, but it was still something of a shock when I found myself flat on my back, breath knocked out of me and taking inventory of body parts. Seconds later there was a crowd around me telling me to be still. Fortunately all my parts were/are intact and I got out of it with a hyperextended right knee and a sore shoulder.
The knee was a result of a ewe zigging when I expected her to zag and the shoulder was from the impact after flying a reported 4-5 feet in the air after getting clipped by the ewe.

This was on day three of a day three day trial and instead of my normal position at the ‘top’ setting and prepping sheep for the runs I was exhausting the sheep after each run was ‘finished’. I say finished here because the incident occurred because on the run in question the dog was not yet ‘done,’ at least in its mind.

Ranch class was running and the run is supposed to be over after the pen. The handler was to un-pen the sheep and maybe ‘push’ the ewes toward the exhaust area and pen. I usually let the sheep wander toward me before sending Scot to move them along. They would probably come all the way over on their own, but using Scot sped up the process.

In this particular case the dog was aggressively pursuing the sheep back to the exhaust with a look in its eye that I did not like at all. So I started to move forward between the sheep and the dog to block the dog.

Time out for icing

Time out for icing

Now keep in mind I have done this many, many times without incident, to me, the dog or the sheep. But on this particular day one of the ewes ran right into my right leg, right at the knee and sent me flying. According to reports of those witnessing the event I flew a good 4 to 5 feet in the air landing on my right elbow and wrenching my shoulder. Fortunately the ground was relatively soft and impact wasn’t real hard.

Almost immediately, or at least it seemed that way I had a crowd around me telling me to not get up and to be still. One of the first questions was whether to call 911. I did a quick inventory of parts and I could tell the trouble would be the knee, so checked range of motion and it was pretty good. Sore and swelling rapidly, but no real pain when bending the knee. So I said, no need to call an ambulance. As a plus some of the handlers present were pros. At least one nurse and a retired LAFD officer so I was under good care.



But as the shock wore off I could tell I was OK. I would be sore for a few days, but I could tell nothing was seriously hurt. The swelling is still present, although not as bad, and the yellow and purple bruising is coming to the fore as you can see in the photo below a week and a half after the collision. Another week or so and I should be back to normal. All I can say is thank goodness it affects my walking more than my cycling as I have a tough century to ride almost 2 weeks after the incident.

Remember to be careful out there!

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The next step

So yesterday I worked the young dog that is likely to be a new addition to my pack. Amber will be two in August and is a long-short hair mix. So not short haired, but not as much hair as either Scot or Beag. Overall I spent about an hour with her total for the morning. No idea why I didn’t take a photo. Next time I will be sure to do so.

My instructor/breeder didn’t really think she would work for me, so I took her out to the arena and tried to get her to work a largish group of sheep. At first she was more interested in drinking water and every little distraction grabbed her attention, but eventually I was able to garner her attention enough to start flanking the sheep. She wasn’t really taking voice commands, but she would honor the direction I wanted to send by my position. She showed good balance for me and did a great stop when I downed her. I tried whistles to no avail. Talking with Terry later I found out that she hadn’t started Amber on whistles so that made sense.

We did this for about 10-15 minutes just moving around the arena with me helping her flanking around the sheep, stopping and changing direction with a lot of praise whenever she did what I wanted. Extra praise for stops. I really want my next dog to have a good, solid stop since that is one of the frustration areas working with Scot. I love that she goes all the way down when she stops. Scot usually only stops his motion and doesn’t really LIE DOWN.

After resting awhile with me paying a lot of positive attention to her, we worked a smaller group of sheep in the big field. I tried to get her to do about a 50-75 yard outrun, but she was hesitant, but eventually made it above the sheep and brought them to me in a not too bad fetch. Then it was just some more simple flanking with me correcting and praising accordingly. I corrected her, just by stopping and repeating the ‘away’ or ‘come by’ until she took the direction I wanted her to.

Then I just started walking to see what she would do. She handled that great, moving to keep the sheep with me no matter what direction I chose. Flanking a little closer than I would like, but not enough to force the sheep into me as I walked. She was also very diligent about not letting the sheep wander or escaping. Overall very satisfying.

So when I went to report the results, Terry was surprised she paid that much attention and I made a comment saying we’ll see if she did OK at the house this week, she said to wait ’til she trained her up.’ So I have a few weeks to wait to see if she’ll fit in with Scot and Beag.

More to come . . .

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The Next Dog Conundrum

I presently have two border collies, one is a working dog the other a “Barbie Doll Border Collie” and doesn’t work. She also has Canine Addison’s and has no interest in working although she did a little before she was diagnosed. She is the reason I’m into herding.

Both BC’s are almost seven and Scot doesn’t have the stamina he used to. He is still an awesome stock dog, to use to set, move and hold for trials, my favorite part by the way. I like the work, stock setting, to actual trialling any day. His other issue is two-fold. First is that he is stubborn, very. Mostly I have dealt with this and he works well for me. However the other part of this is he HATES driving.

If you don’t know, driving is basically the opposite of fetching. You are moving the sheep away from you. Scot is fine with this up to the point where he knows I can’t ‘reach’ him to correct. Then he’ll overcorrect until he is circling around and starting to fetch. This limit something around 50-75 yards away from me or the post. So on AKC A or B courses he fine, but for USBCHA, beyond ranch level you need a drive. He has titled in both A and B so really USBCHA is all there is.

So, enter thinking about a new dog. My herding teacher and breeder already has a dog picked out for me and she’s a sweetie. BUT, can I handle another dog, another border collie, a younger, more energetic border collie?

I live in a small house, basically a two-car garage converted to a house. It’s perfect for me, don’t want anything larger. Will another dog make the place too small? Will the extra shedding push me over the edge? Do I want the added expense of more dog food, more dog treats, more vet costs? More, more, more.

This will probably be a mistake on my part and brilliant from her breeder, but I do have the opportunity to bring the new dog home for a trial period. I figure when I do that I’ll probably be hooked. Maybe. We’ll see.

I’d love to see comments on whether you think dog number three is a good or a bad idea.

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IEHDA AKC Trial A Course SheepIEHDA AKC Trial A Course Sheep

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Trials and Tribulations of Stockhandling

This weekend I learned a lot about pacing and that Scot is not as young and in shape as he used to be. But then again, who is?

Exhausted Scot

I have come enjoy working set out and general helping at trials more than actual running. This especially true lately as I have come to the probable limits to what Scot will do. He has a serious issue with drives at distance. The actual distance he will actually drive depends on many factors. Some of which are, how tired he is, how tough I am being with him or how likely I am to ‘impose my will.’ Each of these, depending on severity will lengthen or shorten how far he will drive before he decides that he will over flank and begin fetching the sheep back to me. This seriously frustrating as we are now at a level where we MUST consistently drive bigger distances to compete.

Both days we were competing in Pro Novice, but doing set out for Ranch as well as moving the stock around prior to start. So when it was our turn to run he was SLOW. Scot overshot the outrun and the sheep, at this trial in particular, will head for the exhaust area at any chance. Scot is usually fast enough to cover, but not today. Too much work ahead of his run and too much urban life.


So on Sunday I made a point of making him be still until it was our turn. His outrun, lift and fetch were good, not great, but he didn’t lose the sheep and he and they were under control. They rounded the post and started driving to the gate. He was probably 10 yards from clearing the gate when he over corrected and started fetching. After about 3-4 minutes of trying I called the run.

Stock to be handledMost of times when we have had mistakes they were mine or because of me. Not this time, it was all him. Whether it was because he was tired or what, it was his decision not to drive that caused this particular run to implode. ARGHHH!

Next out


There is so much fun and frustration. He is a solid dog and I couldn’t ask for better dog to start with, but I think that with my schedule, I am approaching his limits. Time for just focusing on that which we both do well.



At the Top

(From L to R) Belle, Scot, Baxter and Dr. Dave at the holding pen above the course.

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Set up complete

Set out pen for SD Highland Games

This is the just complete set out pen for the sheep dog trials at the SD Highland Games in Vista, CA Saturday and Sunday June 23-24

The San Diego Highland Games start tomorrow (Sat. June 23). Myself and 5-6 others just finished setting up holding pens, obstacles and fencing to help control the paths of out-of-control sheep.

It’s hot, sweaty work and oh, so worth it. This is the one event I really look forward to every year. I am the primary set out person this year and I am really looking forward to it. It tends to be a little stressful, but the outrun is really narrow and the sheep often have to be ‘held’ in place rather then just setting on the hay.

I tried just competing one year as was bored silly, so ever since I have made a point to work as well as compete in this event. This year I even took a fews days off work to help out with build out and tear down on Friday and Sunday evening. I have yet to have a good run here, but the atmosphere, the event location is so much fun I continue to come every year.

Any time people ask me about herding events this is the one I suggest they come see. It is taylor-made for spectators and even has an announcer who also happens to now be an AKC herding judge as well as running Australian Cattle dogs himself. Although this event is border collie only.

Come out and see us!

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Of Beds and Balance

As I have said before, one of my favorite dog blogs is The Other End of the Leash. Below are a couple of articles that just re-enforce that feeling.

The first is right up the urbanderder’s need list about dog beds.

Ah, who doesn’t love a good bed? Anyone who has traveled knows the value (and rarity) of finding, Three Bears style, just the right bed. It appears that our dogs share the joy of a perfect sleeping place, and I thought it would be a useful discussion to ask all of you what your dogs like best.

Read more . . .

The second post talks about balance, in both the herding aspect and the ‘life with your dog’ aspect.

But easy it’s not, it takes skill and experience. And while thinking about balance (see the photos below), that finding it in many other contexts isn’t so easy either. That’s as true in dog training as it is in sheep herding (not to mention the rest of life). And as with sheep dogs, some balance is innate and some can be learned. Over twenty three years of working with aggressive dogs helped me find a balance between reinforcing good behavior and practical, humane ways of inhibiting ‘bad’ behavior (often just management, but if we’re talking about biting people, the word “just” should be deleted).

Read more . . .

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Interesting article on origin of dogs, or not

From an article from the NY Times

genetic study of modern breeds does not “get us any closer to understanding where and when and how dogs were domesticated.”

Interesting read . . .

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