Friday, September 19, 2008

Peekay Sheep Herding Test Session Report

Thursday night Peekay arrived at the Woodsend Farm Training facility loaded for bear. The past 2 weekly tests left the team principals scratching their heads. "The Little Big Dog" just wasn't in the zone. Nothing seemed natural. She wasn't reading her stock well. She was pressing the action which resulted in ragged stock movement and splits. This lead to the inevitable chase down the field.

After pouring over the telemetry data we decided to change our training philosophy. We both increased and varied her exercise the days leading up to the test. The plan was to provide Peekay additional outlets for her natural high drive. The old saying "A happy dog is a tired dog". Peekay hasn't been too tired lately.

When we entered the field for our first of two runs I knew the change in tactics had paid off. When she entered, her tail wasn't arched over her back. She was still alert and focused on work but more relaxed. For our first session we did a simulated AKC A-Course intermediate run on full tanks. We concentrated on the movement of sheep from the handlers post to the Y-chute, and from the Y-chute through the Z-chute. Our outruns were excellent.

For our second session we concentrated on fundamentals. If we are fortunate to earn leg #3 and an AKC Herding Intermediate title, for us to move up to the "top class" (Herding Advanced) we have to improve in all areas. One key area is to be able to reliably and predictably execute "inside flanks". This is when Peekay on command will either circle clockwise or counterclockwise in between me and the sheep. This sounds easy, but is extremely difficult to pull off.

Another area to improve is our "stops". In between runs #1 & #2 we outfitted Peekay with new carbon disc brakes. We saw some improvement, especially when I would only give the "Stay" command, instead of a "Stand" followed by a "Stay".

We left Woodsend feeling really good about practice. We're getting into the beginning of the fall trial season, and it would be nice to participate in one trial before our home trial at Woodsend at the end of December.

Weather permitting, we will be back out practicing this Tuesday evening. We won't be able to make Thursday because I'll be running for the L-3 Display Systems Team in the Kieser-Permente 5K in downtown Atlanta. Friday, Jim comes for a weekend visit. We will be participating in the 3 Gap 50 mile bike ride in Dahlonega on Sunday.

Speed is good -- Staying is better.

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