Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shifting Gears

Friday morning Riff and I worked on contacts. He needed a little help with his 2-on, 2-off.    He was totally ready to play!  What a sweet dog. 

The agility dogs out at LeapDog Ranch get used to geese flying low overhead. 

The weather has been fabulous!  But I still wish it would rain. 

Saturday morning I was invited to the sheep ranch to watch members of RESDA (Redwood Empire SheepDog Association) practice working their novice dogs.   

Still not sure how easy it might be for Riff and I to shift gears between agility and sheep. 

One of the handlers at the practice ( I mean 'shepherds'?) is an "Open" level competitor in the USBCHA.  (United States Border Collie Handlers Association)   The other folks there said that B had been working sheep for twenty years...because "that's how long it takes to get to that level"...and they laughed and scuffled their feet. 

As it happens, B was a fellow student in one of my agility classes, years ago.  She was very friendly, and carefully described what some of the sheperds were trying to get done, out in the big field.  She was also a bit discouraging.  

B said that for a beginner to try to train a beginner dog that was already three years old (old for getting on sheep) and trained for agility (used to 'being told what to do every step of the way') - is "really, really, really hard."  Apparently a lot of people that are serious about the game buy an older "finished" (completely trained) dog first, in order to learn how to work with a beginner dog.   And when they buy a beginner dog, they closely study the dog's bloodlines, trying to get a dog that is a "natural" (inherently talented and easy to train).  They also buy sheep. 

It wasn't a good time to get into my dog's whole story (he has a working dog background, but was scared of least at first) but I did tell her that I won't be buying a dog any time soon.  I have two dogs and that's it for me.  She was a little more encouraging after learning I'd spent quite a few years around cattle and horses.  "Well, at least you'll be able to read the livestock..."

I liked that most of the folks were "of an age"....and that none of them were doing sit-ups, hamstring stretches, or running in place.  I liked that they all wore blue jeans, and I loved their casual footwear  - old boots and "mudders."  Plus they were funny and friendly.

The fancy lanyards and whistles are totally cool.  Although since Riff doesn't know any verbal commands yet, I imagine it would be quite a while (years?) before we'd get a whistle...

And, of course, the dogs.  MARVELOUS dogs.  The best dogs....!

Being out on a roomy ranch was lovely, too.  And...(drum roll)....someone brought DONUTS!  And offered me one!!


Anonymous said...

Handlers is correct. :-) Well you know what I am going to say, pfft! The boys and I switch back and forth between agility and herding just fine. And no, it's not like we are top class on the herding field, but we have fun and we get by. I think you could work with Riff and get the feel for it and see if you like it, especially if you have a good instructor. What B said is correct, many people get a trained dog first, but not everyone. If you enjoy the training, you can muddle through. That's what I do. :-) AND, if you do decide to start herding, start practicing with the whistle as soon as possible!

Celeste said...

Thanks, Jo! It's great to hear from you. And we welcome advice!

Billy said...

Would love to chat more about this. I apologize for sounding discouraging. Having never bought a trained dog mysel that's why it's taken so darn long to get to Open!!! LOL!! ;-)

Celeste said...

Hey, Billy...I very much look forward to seeing you again, and chatting 'til the cows come home!

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