Lilly Herding Lesson #1, Reflections
Let’s resume our discussion of Lilly’s herding lesson with some reflections on the overall experience. As promised, I’ll also clue you into to a couple of details that may shed light on how things went.
Instinct, But Low Drive?
At first, I thought Lilly’s control around the goats showed a certain maturity and development. Even her slower movements seemed like a good thing, like she thought about it more and made decisions as she went.
BUT, as the slowness turned into sniffing and into what seemed like reluctance to work the goats, I began to worry.
We’ve seen this kind of slowed behavior turn into a full-on, flat-out shutdown before. More times than I can count.
So, did something go “wrong,” or is this a common progression in the development and training of a herding dog? Those of you with more experience, please comment.
That, friends, is why we began to challenge Lilly with harder tasks … we were TRYING to make the goats more interesting to her … because from the get-go (when we first worked in the small pen) … she seemed, for lack of a better word, BORED … or maybe stressed.
Because I’m (well) me, I’ve been going over it and over it, trying to figure out why Lilly showed MUCH less interest in herding this time. Here are a few ideas:
Even though Lilly took the corrections and pressure in her herding instinct test well, I worried that the fear of Cathy, the flags, the location, the process might crop up later. Again, there is a history of this … where something that SHOULD have scared Lilly seemed fine in the moment, with repercussions later.
Dogs, Dogs, Everywhere!
When we first arrived for our lesson, several of Cathy’s dogs were running around in her big yard between the house yard and the working pens/livestock areas. Because they were all behind the fence, it really wasn’t any different from our arrival for her herding instinct test.
EXCEPT, I didn’t realize that the fence clanging sound I heard was her corgi wiggling through the squares in the fence. She is that small and that motivated.
So, I honestly didn’t even realize she raced up to greet me … and Lilly … until she was there. She is a FAST little bugger.
I bent down to say hello, partially because I wanted to meet her and partially because I wanted to keep her from getting to close to Lilly, who was still in my car in her crate (with the back hatch up), so she could SEE everything.
I ultimately had to turn my back on the corgi so that she would heed Cathy’s calls.
I didn’t think much about this, until later. Because we have a long history of Lilly flat out refusing to do agility if other dogs are around, I wonder if seeing all the dogs got Lilly off to a rough start.
Because I had trouble rounding up a VERY motivated Lilly last time, I brought her British-style slip lead (rope) leash so that I could lasso her. We typically ONLY use this leash in an agility setting so that I can set Lilly loose and gather her up quickly. Again, I’m not sure it’s an issue, but I now fear Lilly has bad associations with it.
Lilly showed tremendous mental and physical stamina the first time. And, perhaps this time, she just didn’t have it. Maybe an off day. Maybe she was just overwhelmed with working MORE goats. Maybe she just checked out … that could be what the sniffing was about … in which case, we need to pull her out of the pen before she “quits.”
Tom fed Lilly a bunch of fruit pulp from the juicer before we left the house. Maybe her tummy was too full.
Because our lesson was at 11 am, I only had time to take Lilly on a 1.5 mile walk before we headed to the farm. Maybe she was tired? (FYI, we walked 3 miles before her herding instinct test.)
Ben Too Close?
When we worked in the small round pen for Lilly’s herding instinct test, Ben went off to do his own thing. This time, when we began working in the bigger pen, he hovered at the fence like he was trying to help.
I saw Lilly notice him, and I wonder if it threw her off … even though she really did NOT seem to mind having his help, when she needed it.
I was fairly upset at how poorly it felt like the lesson went. After viewing the raw footage, Tom thought me nutty. She looked really good to him, like she was making progress. That’s one reason, I wanted all of you to see the videos without me swaying your thoughts on the matter.
In fact, after editing the video for you last week, I began to think it didn’t go as badly as it felt.
Tom believes that Lilly is just CONF– USED. He thinks she simply does not fully understand what her job is yet. He suspects that having her work with Ben would help because she could see what he does.
I don’t know about that. And, I don’t know how to get her un-confused.
Let’s Not Give Up Yet
Cathy explained that we need to get Lilly “hooked” on herding. We want her to have a bit of a “rush” from it. Lilly tries to create that by sometimes chasing the goats, but we’re giving her the opportunity for whatever needs to click in her brain/body to click.
The truth is that it may not click … ever.
And, that’s just the way it goes.
Next time, we may try adding a couple of sheep to the mix, just to see if a difference like that will change the dynamics.
Since this post is getting LONG, tune in again tomorrow to take a little poll. Please.
If you’ve come to our herding stories already in progress, you can catch up via these posts: