For a while, Lacy's "sport" was herding. Our trainer had determined that Lacy was the better of the two to keep herding as she was the right dog to help me learn the sport. She and I traveled to NH for lessons periodically and she did well. (At this point, Ginger's activity was Barn Hunt, which was a natural outlet for her high prey drive. She also did well, earning her Novice and Open titles easily.)
However, because of circumstances last spring, Lacy and I suspended our herding activities and I took her with us to begin Barn Hunt. She does not have the visible prey drive that Ginger does but she sure knows where the critters are. She's just very quiet about it. She's also much more methodical about searching.
As it turned out, Lacy really became the more reliable dog in terms of indicating the position of the live rat tubes. So, I could trust her judgment before calling "Rat!". However, Lacy's downfall was the tunnel.
Barn Hunt tunnels are 18" x 22" in size...basically, the height of a hay bale turned on its tall side. So, official tunnels are 22" high. Lacy is 23" at the shoulder. Enter the problem.
We had started practicing by creating tunnels out of cardboard...I don't have hay so this was a start. As Lacy is VERY food oriented, getting her to go through pretty much anything I built was easy. We even practiced the 90 degree turns found in Open runs. Ginger, of course, will go through any tunnel and climb any number of bales, and found it difficult to remain in a down stay when it was Lacy's turn to practice.
This summer, after she had earned her Novice title, I decided to start practicing in earnest...read, with actual hay bales. I bought six from a local farmer and proceeded to set up different scenarios. You'd be surprised how many dark, twisty configurations you can make with six bales, some scrap plywood, recyling bins and a blanket! With a "cookie" waiting for her at the end, she became much more comfortable traversing the tunnels, even though her back scraped the top.
We also had a chance to practice with our canine friends, Teddy and Bear and their humans, Catharine and Neal, at their farm in Standish. Neal had lots of extra hay and we set up a great course. (See blog of
November 12...Barn Hunt Work at Bonny Eagle Farm.)
By this time, she had earned one leg on her Open title but the tunnel in that run was long but straight and , although she had to be coaxed, she went through it. Yea!
Last Saturday, we traveled through nasty weather to a trial in NH. After the Novice class was over, I helped rebuild for the Open course. The judge just kept adding bale after bale to the length. Yikes! She put a right angle at the end and then added several more bales! (I didn't realize it at the time, but she was building the foundation for the tunnel she had planned for the Masters level.) Well, I knew right then that Lacy was sunk. There was no way she was going through something that long and dark...you couldn't even see any light coming from the other end.)
Never underestimate the power of an English Shepherd...or training! She found both rats..no problem. She climbed the bales....no problem. She hesitated about four feet into the tunnel and then backed out. BUT....in she went, a second time. I held my breath and watched the far end of the tunnel...and then, out came Lacy, pretty proud of herself. Of course, as is usually evident with English Shepherds in general...and with Lacy, in particular, once she had experienced that tunnel, the next trial proved to be no problem.
So, she earned the final two legs on her Open title in Barn Hunt....and placed second in each trial! Good dog, Lacy!