|15 months now|
And that's not even what I'm referring to in the title. I am referring to the fact that I didn't sell him a few months back, or more accurately, sell half of him. I wouldn't normally sell part of a dog, but he piqued my interest enough not to sell him outright. There was still a good chance he may make a good dog, and I have a client who wants a trial dog, but for me to trial. She has no desire to compete herself, so I thought we could share. She declined, and I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad.
Tam was not a natural driving dog. He didn't appear to be a natural outrunner either, but it didn't take him long, or much help from me to show that he is. At 7 months, he was tight away-to-me, and shallow at the top in both directions. I gave him a meaningful correction one day at the top. In a big field, without the constraint of fences to artificially tighten him, I sent him on a gather, then ran to meet him at the top, and used my stock stick to drive him way out. He was never the same again, and now makes speeding, enthusiastic outruns that are beautifully wide and deep. I prefer to make fewer corrections, but make them lasting, especially with a young dog. At 15 months, I'm beginning to stretch those outruns out now with confidence, and Tam is staying true to his lessons.
Driving was a different matter. He didn't like it. It made him nervous, and gave him pause. Literally, he would stop and start over and over, always trying to flank this way or that and avoid the drive. I never felt he was "flanky." I always felt like he would prefer the easy way, flanking off pressure, if I let him. I didn't. I would ask him to drive, he would start to flank, and I would give him a growl at his very first bad step. Timing is everything. Soon enough he learned he couldn't start the flank, so he would stop and start to accomplish the same driving avoidance by a different method.
I had him now. He couldn't flank off pressure, and I knew he knew it. Over time, he would either become confident driving without the stop and start, or he wouldn't. Only time would tell, and I was not yet glad. In fact, I was still prepared to let him go, but only out of financial necessity. The potential was clearly there to have a nice dog, but he would not be the first I've lost to that particular dilemma.
He's driving with momentum now rarely losing his feather like the Disney elephant, Dumbo, lapsing into free fall. It's an ever more fleeting lapse when it comes. I can flank him, and toot a quiet "walk up" causing him to turn directly onto his sheep, and walk (trot) straight on. Unlike many, I don't need to depress the clutch for Tam, and toot a steady to stop the flank and start the walk up. Such a pretty sight, and exactly how you avoid the bump and drift and get your best friend, Flow. Tammie was born with square flanks. A nice feature. So, I can drive straight away, or cross drive and still get them when I ask for a flank. Seriously, a very nice feature.
He becomes over exuberant at times, and rushes in where angels are afraid to tread. Oh yes, absolutely! Messy is OK when you're young. I like my dogs to color outside the lines now and then, and he only gets a tempered warning when he does. Unless the "scoot and grab" is consequitive, or risks injury, I don't care over much. It's so easy to remove stuffing from a confident dog, and often impossible to replace. I'd rather err on the side of over-stuffed.
Timing is crucial in training, and using it precisely with Tam, I can stop the scoot and grab, get a flank on the fly, or a recall on the head of a pin. Tammy is immediately reactive to most whistles. And since neither of us holds a grudge, corrections are just that. My pup is at the age, and skill level where the sky's the limit, he has become really fun to handle, and I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad.