Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Zenzi Herding Lessons

This past Sunday, Zenzi, Rick and I headed out to Palmdale for a herding lesson at So Cal Herding with friends, Kristina and Sarah.  Kristina and Sarah are already regulars, having gone at least a handful of times before.  It's almost 2 hours from us, but we wanted to give it a try.  Zenzi's behavior recently was telling me that she needed to do what she was born to do more often.  Here's what I've been noticing:

  • That bark she gets when she was herding sheep at Robin's for her instinct test?  She's applying it to other dogs and crows on walks.
  • Loss of respect for me coupled with an increased threshold, and an overall "bitchy" attitude.
  • More anxious in general.
  • More crabby in general.
  • More pushy and bossy toward her humans and other dogs (Dolce and JoJo).
  • More territorial of the home front.
So Rick and I got in the car and made our drive out to this new place.  We had to stop for breakfast at McDonald's, and then again later for gas.  But we made it on time for our 9:30 group arrival time.

Rancho Ventoso

It's a place in the desert, but it's quite homey and beautifully set in the mountains.  It's a modest little house with a big porch, filled with other dogs and their handlers.  The owner's dogs were wandering around off-leash, perfectly happy with all the "intruders" being on their property.  I kept thinking to myself, "Gosh, I'd love for Zenzi to have this someday..."

Rick & Zenzi in the waiting area.
We found Kristina and Sarah in no time, and hung out in the waiting area with them for our turn.  Where at Robin's place, it's just you and Robin, you do your lesson, then you leave, it's a much more communal atmosphere at Ted's.  You wait with everyone else for your first run, then your dog gets a breather and you go again after everyone else has had their first go.  I absolutely am so grateful for the social aspect.  Being a complete and total newb to herding, I enjoyed meeting all the experienced students there.  Many were big, burly men, so it was a great opportunity for Zenzi to start overcoming her fears.  I could see her come out of her shell more and more.  Especially with Ted.  She let him pet her within minutes.  I was amazed.  She even approached him!


When our first run was finished, I felt like it was exactly what Zenzi needed to vent all her pent up frustration.  She's clearly got more of the Australian Cattle Dog herding style with how vocal and nippy she is, than a border collie herding style with lots of eye and stalking.  So we went back to the waiting area.

Zenzi & me after our first run.
I swear, I have never seen the girl looking so happy in such an unfamiliar, full of strange people and dogs, place.  It was becoming clear to me that Zenzi was choosing Ted & Kelly, and we should go back more regularly.  Weekly even, depending on pricing.

Our second run was after Kristina and her sheltie, Merlin.  Shelties have all but had the herding bred out of them for the most part, but luckily for Kristina, Merlin is one of the few exceptions. :)
Kristina learning handling with Merlin.
We waited by the shed next to the round pen.  Zenzi got really amped pretty quickly when she saw the sheep being moved around, so we would get a glimpse then duck behind, depending on her behavior.

Zenzi's much more interested in the sheep than the men or off-leash dog behind us.
I definitely think our second round was significantly better.  It's clear that Zenzi leans on me for support, so we have to stay together, she won't just work for Kelly.  While I really appreciate the loyalty, I do hope Zenzi can work with Kelly eventually.  Having a totally novice dog and handler is hard enough in agility!


When we finished, we hung out and waited to hear from Ted about policies, payment, and registration.  Prices are very reasonable, and policy is very agreeable.  After looking at this face:
Happiest Zenzi ever.
Rick and I decided this needs to be a weekly commitment for Zenzi's sanity, happiness, and well-being.  The socialization, the influence from the other dogs, getting to play with sheep... It's who she is, and who she needs to be.  She can be around horses, too!  They have two beautiful horses on the property for Zenzi to get accustomed to for down the road, when Rick and I have a horse.

So we headed back home, and will be back next week.  
Zenzi can't wait to go back!

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