Monday, 5 August 2013

Kaelen the Kelpie - Update

We are not (both me and the dog) sheep experts. Not even close, but - that's never going to stop us having a go.
This dog is incredible. He's intelligent. Hardy. Really really smart. Silly, puppyish and clever all at once.

We started off with daily training sessions on-leash, blah blah. Really boring, basic, foundational stuff. Come. Stop. Sit. Wait. Walk in. Blah blah. Monotonous. So boring, with him often straining at the leash begging badly to be let off. But I kept on with the boring, until I was happy he could be trusted - on and off. Now, after 3 months of it, he finally is.

We started with a very small yard, in and out of the shearing shed. U and in. Down and out. Up and down... over 100 times I am sure.

Off leash. Listen! Kaelen's not stupid. He started off headstrong, and his personality still leans that way. But even headstrong dogs can be tamed.

Trying to teach him rear mob casting - was draining and like we were both bashing heads.

Finally, after ages of getting nowhere...

"God, I reaaaaaaaalllly need to know what to do with this dog!"

Let him go. Watch him. And listen. Listen to what he is saying.

So, after a bit of debating (not because I was worried he would do anything dangerous, but rather he would form bad habits, I did.)

The best thing I've done with his training yet. I let him go, in a bigger yard, free-running, with our mob. I stood and watched, for over 10 minutes. Then, over the next hour, we both listened to one another, to the sheep, and to the situation.
When we all tune in and listen, it's amazing. Like a dance, or a trance. Wobbly, a little uncoordinated, yes. But that dog has balance.

He also has brilliant eye, and a smart mind.

I stopped forcing him to back sheep - a caster I have - and discovered his incredible style - and it really is amazing.

Kaelen is a front caster. A side caster. When he needs to, he backs. But not very often.
(Practising "Stop" - as well as mouthing off, smart a..)

Now, we still do daily trains, only much longer, much harder, and he is doing brilliantly. Now everyday we practise casting, stop (lie down, freeze, he's very good), backing, barking, and are learning fetching. Kaelen is also very responsive and always looks and waits for audible commands or body language to initiate his next move. Yes!

At last we have moved out of the sheep yards and are working at driving sheep through a paddock. This is still a bit scary for Kaelen but he still responds beautifully, especially with his stop command. Excitement does occassionally set in.... but we both respect each other and he responds well.

(Practising "Stop" and "wait" - last week. This was before big yard introduction, and Kaelen has improved rapidly with his control of the sheep as well as response to me since.)

"How do I start this thing, Mum?"

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