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Sunday, January 16 2011

Remember Puss In Boots from Shrek?

I'd forgotten about Puss In Boots until I found that weepy little worried face staring at me at the herding clinic this weekend.  Lily walked into the pen with the sheep on Saturday morning and said "I don't wanna be here!  I wanna go home!"  Eegaads!

Do WHAT!!!!???  She was in major shut-down. I was in complete shock. How could this weepy-eyed creature be the same dog that regularly takes on cattle trying to kick the crap out of her? I expected major handling errors on my part. I expected her to look at me too often. I expected her to slice in on her flanks and run sheep on top of me, but never in a million years did I expect her to stand there like Puss In Boots, staring at me, frozen in her tracks.  Holy Crap!

And that's where I really came to appreciate Patrick Shannahan and the rest of the herding people at the clinic.  He patiently worked through Lily's fear.  Because Lily only had one training slot on Saturday, someone else graciously offered her afternoon slot so that we could work out Lily's problems then. Although still incredibly inhibited, Lily did loosen up and work enough in the afternoon for Patrick to see what our general problems were.  And yes, we have many.  I have worked too much on driving at the expense of her gathering skills.  That needs to be remedied. We also need to work on having her respect my bubble and the sheep's bubble. And OBVIOUSLY she needs to go to NEW places to work so she doesn't freak out and shut down again.

While neither of these runs were typical of the way Lily regularly works, both runs took our faults, compounded them, and amplified them quite loudly. But the good thing was that we were in the perfect place for that to happen. I cannot say enough good things about the people at the clinic this weekend.  They were so welcoming and supportive that I left the clinic, after not one, but TWO really poor showings, and yet I left eager to continue to learn and go to more clinics.

Unfortunately we couldn't stay for two days because we had farm work calling us. Ewes are lambing. Cows are calving, and naturally, it's cold and raining again.  Of course . . . every cow wants to be born in the cold mud. Although I regretted only be able to train for one day, I was happy to have that day.  And this morning Roanie, (remember Roanie, my favorite ewe that the police dog mauled) blessed us with twins!

Fortunately she popped both out with no trouble, but it still reconfirmed my decision to not leave our farm caretakers with the responsibilities of sheep lambing in the mud for three days. Thankfully, Roanie had enough sense to have both of these little fellows in a dry corner of the barn.   (pictures tomorrow!)

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:18 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
I too had a clinic this weekend but with Diane Deal. Besides the "homework" they send us home with, they encourage me and can bolster my moral for months. I feel renewed and ready to rejoin the team.
Posted by Pam on 01/16/2011 - 01:50 PM
Maybe Lily remembered your last outing and the trauma she felt there. I'm glad these folks were so accommodating and friendly. Can't wait for pictures of the new little ones. A friend that raises Boer goats has 20 kids so far. Seven, just yesterday. Roanie is a smart girl!
Posted by CeeCee on 01/17/2011 - 09:06 AM
As much as I would hate for it to be the case, that was the first thing that hopped into my head too. Hopefully it was just a matter of not having enough experience in strange places. It's water under the bridge now anyway. Regardless of how or why, it's a hole in her wall that needs to be plugged, and I'll be working on that. She is a very soft, squishy, handler-sensitive dog, so it doesn't take much to traumatize her. (Trace, on the other hand, can take a bucket aside the head just to get his attention.) She is the softest dog I've ever worked with, but in the end, I think the very soft, like the very tough dogs (Trace), force you to be a better trainer. Lily's issues will just require me to explore different tools.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 01/17/2011 - 11:39 AM
And it might be that she picked up on some insecurity in you as the handler and that made her feel worried also. That is what happens to me. They pick up on my nevousness and then wonder what kind of dog-eating demons they will run into.
Posted by Pat on 01/17/2011 - 12:27 PM
Wow I am so behind in reading your bolg, plowing snow etc. So glad the clinic went OK, sounds good that she worked through her fears. Be very glad you had a good group and trainer. A friend and I took her lovely soft boy to a 2 day training in Nov and the gal doing the training should have been shot, my friend left very early the second day, after being told that letting sheep mob her beautiful boy would teach him positive things. BS etc. He has worked through it in his home paddock and the girls will respect him and now wags his tail when asked if he wants to go "get the girls"
Posted by Libby on 01/17/2011 - 09:32 PM
I'm so glad you & Lily had a good experience. As Libby stated a poor trainer can cause major problems for both the handler and the dog(s).
Posted by Lynne on 01/17/2011 - 11:58 PM
I wouldn't say that Lily encountered a poor trainer before, simply that the tool she chose to use that day wasn't right for a dog as soft as Lil, and the dog over-reacted. Even I was a bit dismayed at Lily's dramatics. Regardless of why she shut down this weekend, I feel the problem can be fixed by more work in different places so she doesn't feel the need to be constantly reassured when she's uncertain.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 01/18/2011 - 11:26 AM

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