Today when we arrived for our lesson we had to wait a few minutes so I took this time to work with Blaze on some obedience. Lie downs, that'll do, here, and there commands. I am very happy with how he was taking these commands with whistles, dogs, sheep, and people for distractions.
This time our trainer had a group of 150 ewes out in the big field so we started with them. He's never worked such a large group, and it was tough. He wasn't sure how to control such a large group and therefore was cutting in alot and not staying off them like he needed to in order to control them. We tried doing a few outruns but in the end it just wasn't working because he did not stay far enough off them. Therefore, we put those up and got a group of about 5 out. He did much better with the smaller group. We started with just balancing and flanks. Then we started working on outruns again. This time we got more distance on our outrun (30+ feet). We also worked on sending him when the sheep were starting to walk off. He handled this well. We also worked on pushing him out more on the outrun by following him just a bit while he's on his outrun. He's still a little tight, and the reason I was told is because he's not turning his head out when I give him a flank command. He's still turning his head in/looking at the stock and therefore he doesn't get out as far as he needs to. We'll work on that next time. His lie down was better, but not great yet. So we're going to try something new next time that will hopefully nix our sluggish lie downs.
He still likes to grip once in a while, which has been normal for him. But on our second time working after a break, he gripped once and it sent one ewe (which was later taken out of the group because she kept leaving and being a pain to work) running down the fence to the other side of the pasture. Blaze did take off after her, but he was running beside her the whole time so I didn't say anything. To see what would happen. He never gripped again and was trying very, very hard to get in front of her to bring her back around, but in the end he couldn't and I called him off. He came and lied down right when I told him. But I was very, very proud of him for TRYING and THINKING.
Then he did grip a couple mores times (not a needed grip) but I kept quiet and he brought them right back on his own to the group and me.
There were a few other dogs working in-between Blaze and I and he was off leash in a lie down for a few minutes while watching the other dogs work. Then he was tied up and was perfectly calm and QUIET the WHOLE time, even when another dog started to cry. This is a HUGE improvement for him! To lie down off leash and watch other dogs work and to not cry at all while tied up and with other dogs working.
I could really see the progress in this lesson. He's really matured nicely lately! At the end, the trainer said "once you get his lie down perfected, there's no telling how far you'll go with him." Can't wait to work this dog again.