I've been focusing on Ty these days. I have been so afraid of making more mistakes with him that for a while I just stopped working him at all. Eventually I got up the nerve to put him on nice dogbroke wool sheep once a week. He has been making me happy there. Every session he blossoms in confidence, flexibility, and understanding a little more. In fact, his confidence has increased to the point that he needs to be watched more carefully than before, since he has more of a tendency to be naughty if given the chance, particularly breaking stays and slicing gathers.
When I first put him on sheep he was noticeably stiffer and more reluctant on his way-to side (counter-clockwise), to the point that I could easily cause him to flip away from his stock if my pressure was wrong when he turned toward that flank. I remembered a dog Sherry had in years ago for retraining who had become firmly fixed in the habit of flipping away, and her telling me that it was one of the more difficult bad habits to get rid of.
So I was happy to see that bit of behavior vanish as he has become ever more supple on that side. He rates fairly well, knows that "steady" means walk, and can do a competent repen.
Meanwhile, at home, my goats have gotten very disrepectful of Bonnie. When I tried to move them into a new pasture they would have none of it. Nor could I coax them with grain, they were too wily for that. I had been keeping Ty away from the goats because the last thing I wanted was for my newly-confident young dog to get bashed by my obstreperous ladies, one of whom has a good set of horns. Neither did I want my vulnerable milking doe or my kids, now about sixty pounders, to be hurt or upset. But in the real world, you end up using the tools you have, not the ones you dream of having. I decided to see if Ty would step up to the plate.
I wheedled the goats into my only smallish pen, found my rattle paddle, and brought Ty in. He came cautiously. He weighs fifty pounds and my horned goat weighs 170. She had found the opportunity to nail him once before, when he couldn't retaliate. He knew perfectly well these were scary animals. I shhh'd him out and he scooted well out around them. First my my Nubian reared up and charged him. I bopped her on the nose with the rattle paddle and Ty rushed in to help. Whoa there! Easy, boy! He raced out around again, nipping a kid as she rushed by.
For a minute it was pretty confusing. Goats charged, Ty charged, I tried to give Ty support and at the same time suck back to give the goats a place to go to get away from Ty. Ty got some licks in, once he was sure I wanted him to. And suddenly the goats were turning away and coming to me, they had given up. I did my best to keep Ty from getting too enthusiastic about following up his advantage— once they turned from him I wanted him to leave them be. We fetched and gathered to the extent the size of the enclosure made possible and then let them go.
I was so proud of my blue dog! He had won a victory, not only over the goats but over his own fear, and he too was proud of himself. He knew he had done well. To celebrate he chased the cat on to the roof deck. No! Bad Dog!
There's always more to do.