The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sonoma's Flat Field

Flat field-L to R, Open set out, Nursery/PN set out, set out pen

Bridget, my trialing partner on this trip, suggested that Star was "the worst of the best," which isn't really accurate. He was actually the 2nd worst of the best and finished 7th out of the 14 nursery dogs, one place ahead of the last dog to get a score. 6 of the nursery dogs got letters. Little Star man let me down on his outrun, and then struggled to hold the fetch line, because of his continuing willingness to give ground on a come-bye flank. There is an unfortunate placement of the set-out pen on the flat field where the nursery dogs ran, just to the right of the cross-drive panel, right about mid-way up the right side of the field. As the sheep descend the fetch line, they want to go home, especially since they are fresh on the first day, and don't yet know where the exhaust pen is. It is their freshness that saves the day for many, however, because they aren't yet determined, and by Sunday that draw is all but insurmountable.

Maybe because of the unfamiliar sheep, or the presence of a set-out guy and dog, Star man erred on the side of caution and slowed considerably on his away-to-me outrun. Left was a good option, and right went past the set-out pen, but I went that way anyway, because it has always been his preferred side. The sheep were only 150 yards, and I knew he would easily spot them and focus his attention, so I wasn't worried about passing the set-out pen, and he didn't even glance at it on his way by. It was well beyond that when I worried that he would trot, or even stop, and gave him a redirect, which was all he needed to hit another gear and finish his outrun nicely. He overflanked slightly though, and the sheep wanting to go that way anyway, were drawn off line costing more points.

The sheep drew determinedly to my right, and Star took the flank 2 or 3 times to cover. Because he gave ground each time he flanked, they were outpacing him, and he eventually lost them to the pen. There at least he had them stopped, and I'm not quite sure what he did to bring them to the bottom side, but after a second, there they were. Assuming he would never get them off the pen, I took a "retire" step away from the post, before I saw that he had them heading my way. I stayed put and did some enthusiastic shushing, which meant all the world to that little dog, and on he came. I was approached later by more than one hand expressing that it was a good job for him to have gotten them away from that pen. I agree.

Trial sheep grazing near the top of the flat field

The fine wool range sheep were a nice blend of healthy ewes and yearlings, and they really appreciated a quiet presence such as Star has. Even so, their unfamiliarity with small groups caused them to be flighty and they tended to squirt in one direction and then the other. They moved beautifully off Star on the drive, however, so we took our time and made both panels. Star never missed a whistle around the 150 yard or so drive line, and he was a pleasure to handle. Star moved them oh-so-quietly, and the sheep did not pull towards the set out pen this time around, even though it is exactly on line with the cross-drive line and just 25 yards or so beyond the cross drive panel. The turn after the cross drive panel became the black hole for more and more runs as the weekend wore on, but Star made good there, and brought his sheep straight to the pen.

His calming presence had the sheep nice and settled, and just how I like them at the end of the run, but there were no volunteers at the pen. Remember, they had not been run yet, and a small holding cell is never an inviting destination for livestock just off pasture. More likely because of the sheep, but maybe because Star has only loaded sheep into a horse trailer, this white, board pen was unfamiliar territory. For some reason, he was a little slow to respond to my direction. The sheep moved to the left then the right of the opening, and more precious points were lost. The only reason we were able to complete the pen at all was because Star was willing to move forward, slowly, but continuously, and apply the necessary pressure. Once he had them standing well inside the opening, I came to his aid, and it was job done.

Over all, I would say that his run was very nursery-dog-ish. He looked a little unsure of himself, and rightly so, but demonstrated some very nice work under pressure, and I am really happy with him. At a tender 18 months of age, this is only his 1st of 2 nursery years, and only his second dog trial. Adding to that, he has hardly been away from home since the tough economy sucked up my trialing fund. He has every right to be green.

Dennis Birchell, the Irish judge and last year's International Brace Champion was kind to leave us 3 points on the fetch, but we completed a 27 point drive. How about that, huh? Honestly, I rarely seem to be able to retain that many drive points with my big dogs. Little Star man finished with a score of 50 in good company, and I could not have been happier with him.

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