Training and Trialing with Pups

Training and Trialing with Pups

One of the best, and most important, elements of having successful competition dogs is TEACHING them HOW to trial.  We’ve all seen “trial-wise” dogs: go to a new place, blow off commands and generally have a rompin’ good time.  Not so the Handler.

Taking pups to new places and keeping in mind it’s ALL training you are doing, will help prevent the above scenario.  

In May I took my three 18 month olds, one 15 month and my experienced dogs on a road trip.  This is the first real trip those youngsters have made.  HOURS sitting in a crate while driving over 700 miles the first day to Susanville, CA. I left @ 3:15 a.m. and drove straight through.   I was so fortunate to have a good friend, Pam Cherny living up there.  She is manager of Fish & Game so she had some great fields for us to work in that first day.  We arrived  Wed afternoon, got up at dawn on Thurs and headed to one of those fields.  I (according to my Fit Bit) RAN over five miles getting those pups right on the outrun and lift.  We trained for four hours solid.  They had to get sheep from brush, around ditches and not go for the loose ones we were resting at one end.  The important thing is I MADE THEM LISTEN even 300 yards away.  Thus the excessive running.  They all had nice outruns but we didn’t work much on drives.

Later that afternoon, we once again loaded up and drove the remainder three hours to Tule Lake for the trial.  I ran both dogs in Open and had a good idea where the problem would be with these sheep.  Very touchy; too much pressure they would fight; not enough they would turn and run OVER the dog to get back to pen. I knew this would be a test for the little ones. We had a chance for two nursery runs and I opted for one Fri and one Mon.  I felt it important the pups have a shot at tougher Range ewes before they became wise to set out and exhaust.  The set out was from a trailer at the end of the field where Open was set.  The crew had quite a wrestling match getting sheep in and out.  Blazin’ Meg was first.  She had a nice little gather but was stymied by the drive.  The pull back to the trailer was strong so she kept covering the top and ended up bringing them back to me after the first drive gate.  I wasn’t worried, just reset and got them to the crossdrive gate and was on the way to the pen when time called.  Prior to this trip, the pups HATED driving.  I was constantly working on them getting farther away from me but they fought it.  Their balance is exceptional but it hadn’t applied to holding a line going AWAY from me.  I was very happy w/ Meg as she kept her head about her and stayed pretty obedient.  Next was Blazin’ Fiero.  Lovely outrun and lift but he has a tendency to “wear” too much.  He should use his eye more but he’s still learning.  Therefore, I stopped him immediately after the lift and the sheep turned on him.  He popped up at them and got them moving then I made him stop again.  Oops, they thought he was showing weakness and well, now he was.  His little head peeked around the sheep at me like “Uh, Mom, it’s not working”  I ran off the post to go help, gave him encouragement to try again and it Worked!!  He brought them nicely off the field, confidence restored.  Blazin Mereda was last; gorgeous OR and lift.  They turned on her a bit and she flew into them but no grip.  Got them moving, brought them down, around and up to first gate  Faith & Begorra she was DRIVING.  Almost to cross drive they began pushing against her to get to trailer.  She overflanked to cover and woudln’t release the hold.  I ran up, showed her she could do it and we walked them quietly off the field

By the time Monday came, those sheep were TESTY.  The shepherd hadn’t brought enough to they got worked more than they liked and decided home was the best place.  For Nursery, they moved the course up to the top of the field, closer to set out, hoping to make it easier for set out crew (who, BTW, worked their tushies off for four days)
Meri was first; lovely OR but I knew we better stop short ( I hate doing that)  she lifted and was pretty far off line on the fetch.  They were 30’ off the post on one side and I had to really flank her to get them around it.  I was not happy with that performance but carried on.  She drove the first panel, made the turn and hit the cross drive.  WOW!  Made it to pen but didn’t try to hard to get them in.  I don’t want them nervous or excited by penning and these sheep were rough for Open dogs.  

The next 12 dogs LOST their sheep on the fetch.  The pull was too strong and my tough little Meri woudnt lose them.  Fiero was next; good OR, straight fetch (missed gate) around and to both panels.  Also make it to pen but I opted to keep things calm.  Meg was last.  She really felt that pull at top stopped herself pretty short…but correct.  Straight thru fetch gates around to first panel.  Sheep were really trying to break for home and she covered but wouldn’t let go.  I gave her three chances to take my “go bye” but she would not release cover.  I ran up there and circled her on the flank a couple of times so she could see they wouldn’t get away from her.