About a month ago, our older working dog, Mo, injured his foot - which earned him a month of rest and relaxation. If you have working border collies, you'll know how hard this is for a dog! Mo's angst, however, was Ernie's pleasure - Ernie was the only dog I took to work during Mo's forced vacation. Ernie benefited from working by himself, which I fully realized yesterday (Mo's first day back at work).
Yesterday morning, we moved dry cows out of one irrigated pasture and into another. Most of the cows went on their own, but there were two dry cows and one pair that stayed back. The first task was putting the dry cows into the new pasture. Ernie got them moving and pushed them through the gate, mostly on his own. The pair eventually followed, but decided to go up a lane outside the pasture. I went ahead and opened another gate for them (from inside the pasture).
At this point, the cow and calf stalled - the cow was too worried about me to continue up the lane. I scooted Ernie under the fence behind her, and she continued toward the gate. At this point, she stalled again. I gave Ernie a "come-by" flank (sending him to his left). He bent himself way out (which is new for him) and quietly turned the cow toward the gate. Another come-by, and he went even wider! And the cow and calf strolled into the pasture.
This is a little thing - a simple piece of work. But it marks a huge development in Ernie's ability. He took my flank command (which meant he was listening and that he trusted in what I'd asked him to do). He moved quietly and calmly into the proper position. I was so pleased with his effort!
For me, I think, a dog is never finished - largely because my relationship with each dog is developing and improving as we work together. Yesterday's demonstration of Ernie's progress felt great!