Ken had given me some advice that I decided to follow. I don't always. Some days I can be alarmingly obstinate. I stopped worrying so much about being perfect and started working him and letting him work. I stopped lying him down so frequently and began to move more. It was as though everything clicked. He began working really, really good. So good I was startled into realizing there's a darn good possibility he'll be ready for trials come spring. He was taking his flanks pretty consistently. I began with lying him down, moving half way between him and the sheep and then asking him. He was doing so well I thought I'd try to send him on a mini outrun from my feet. And he consistently did it! We're a hair off of being able to manage an arena trial. Given the fact that I haven't exactly been training him regularly I was pretty impressed. His drive continues to be pretty good and we have enough distance driving to do an arena distance. The next step is to start adding some short flanks into the drive and see how we do.
I was so pumped I even worked Diva. Let me tell you, that dog was thrilled to be on stock. She, as per her normal, worked tight and fast. But all the ground work I've put into her is showing on the stock. She was softer to take her prompts. Her working style is so reminiscent of Tessa as a young dog it's eerie. I have to wonder what Diva would be like if she'd had the same opportunities and upbringing as Tessa. I was happy to see even as fast and slicey as Diva wanted to be she wasn't as tight as she had been before. We're down to only slicing the Away flank but then blowing out. (It might have something to do with me chasing her with the stock stick...) Not ideal but better. Perhaps it's because her style is more like Tessa's but I'm actually more comfortable working her than Ryder.
We were doing great. She was helping me bring the sheep into the corral from the field. I stopped at the gate to let the sheep pass. She waited for me. As the sheep drifted through the gate
Diva had the sheep cornered in a shelter and was watching them from a respectable distance away. Getting between her and the sheep I called her name. And she came. No seriously. She CAME! To me. (She has been known to bypass the human to reach the sheep.) Gathering up my safety cord (on the dog - not me), I had her help me drive the sheep back into the pen with the hay. With a pat we left the corral.
How sad is it that my dog's do better when I don't work them. What a commentary on my training that is...