Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Herding Lesson

Sat was Iris' first herding lesson! We went with Julie and Honor-Bug, who also had a great lesson. Bug went first, and I had Iris lay down and watch him. I don't think she took her eyes off the sheep the entire time.

When it was Iris' turn, Colleen had me walk her around the outside of the pen and asked her to stay in each of the corners. Iris was pretty interested in the smells, but didn't seem to notice the sheep yet.

Then I asked Iris to down-stay, and I walked up and touched a sheep. She held her stay next to Colleen (which was awesome for Iris! I've never asked her to stay with a stranger and walked away).

Now to see if Iris was actually interested in sheep. Colleen came in the pen and we walked up toward the sheep.

The sheep moved away and Iris really tuned on. It was so cool. She does herding at full speed, but she does circle to the outside instead of running straight toward the sheep.

See how she's making a wider arc than the sheep are? Good girl!

Herding for Iris was done in short bouts of full speed interspersed with sniffing. I think the sniffing was a combination of interesting smells and stress sniffing. Even though she thought the sheep were cool, she wasn't quite sure what I expected of her.

Then it was my turn with the rake. The rake is a kid's garden rake, and it's used to guide the dog and get the dog to change directions. It really just acts as an extension of your arm. Sort of the same way I'm supposed to use my arm to guide Iris around the agility course. Colleen commented that Iris is pretty pressure sensitive, which doesn't surprise me given how sensitive she is to my body language in general.

Figuring out the rake is hard! The idea is to keep it near the dog's girth to get the dog to move forward and to move it in front of the dog to get her to change directions. I had a tendency to keep it too far forward which was confusing Iris.

Look at that stay while Colleen was explaining to me how to use the rake. Such a good girlie.

Iris and Bug both got to rest in their crates, andJulie and I got to practice our handling skills with Colleen's Belgian Tervuren, Hannah. Hannah quickly figured out that Julie and I are softies! I was lucky and Julie had already tired her out a bit before I worked with her.

I think Iris had a good time, and I definitely enjoyed it. Iris was a completely different dog than she the first time I introduced her to livestock. I think it was a combination of a less stressful environment and me being in the pen with her. Colleen noticed that Iris was more relaxed when it was just me in there with her. She certainly doesn't look like a dog who's afraid of sheep, does she?

We have another lesson at the beginning of Sept, and I'm really excited about it. I can see how herding could be addicting! In the mean time, we're going to be practicing down in various locations. I realized that while Iris will down very reliably at home and at agility class, those are the only places I've really practiced it with her.


Jules said...

Iris was great! She was so into the sheepies.

I know what you mean about asking her to down in new places. Bug& I have been working very hard on "wait" in the car and at home, but take it to Colleen's field? Good-bye!!

ann-and-partner said...

Yay Iris!! She looks great!