Friday, August 22, 2008

Faansie Basson clinic report

I went to a Faansie Basson clinic yesterday and today. It was really good! Faansie is pretty laid back, yet extremely present. He is intense when necessary, but he is able to adjust his techniques and the level of pressure he places on the dog for each dog he works with. He made sure everyone understood what was going on with each dog, and he worked hard to make sure each dog's owner was truly clear about what they were doing and how they were trying to achieve their goals. I think everyone learned a lot. It was truly an enjoyable and very productive clinic!

Faansie told me all of Taz's problems can be distilled into one issue: my lack of sufficient presence. As crushing as it is to hear, Taz simply does not respect me enough to move off me. Faansie could make him move out 30 feet with just a glance, but it's a lot harder for me to get Taz to give ground. (Thus, he's tight, he slices, he's too pushy, his pace is too fast, etc., etc., etc. All the same issue. All can be solved fairly easily if I can get him to move off me.) However, he doesn't want me to run at him or yell at him or do any of the other things I've tried to do to get him to listen to me in the past that have clearly not been very effective. Instead, I need to "get in his head." He had me walk very slowly toward him, facing him full on, looking him square in the eye, and basically mean business about not accepting anything less than what I ask for. It's pretty hard for me—I'm constantly afraid I'm doing something wrong or somehow screwing him up (especially since he began his hesitation business), and that lack of confidence is undermining my authority with Taz. So I worked at it a bit, and by the end of the clinic today, I was able to get Taz to give ground by taking just a step or two toward him, and he was bending off me very nicely when I sent him. He was still slicing a bit and coming in a bit fast on the fetch, but if I apply the same pressure, we should be able to get past that. I have to be careful working on this, though, because it does put a lot of pressure on him, so I have to take breaks and do fun stuff with him, like balancing in the field, driving, etc.

In addition, as a complete aside, we solved the issue of Taz jumping around in front of me as we walk out onto the field in about twenty seconds by making him stay behind him with a feed bag slapped against his thigh. He did this every time Taz jumped ahead and Taz stopped in his tracks and scrambled back. After a few steps, I used the feedbag with the same results. Then I just needed to say "get back" and he would get back. The last time we went out today, he never even tried to get ahead of me. Um, wow.

So I'm pretty happy. He told me lots of very nice things about Taz—that he was one of the most talented dogs at the clinic, I wasn't ruining him (as I feared I was), he really liked him, and he would win trials with Taz if he had him. He also told me to be very careful about doing any kind of circling exercise with him, because he has a tendency to orbit mindlessly (I knew that, but did it anyway!), and to be careful about "get back" exercises. He thinks I should encourage Taz to learn/understand how to feel for that sort of thing on his own. Also, he told me I should stop "trying on" every approach I hear about, and stick to the one that makes the most sense to me and has the most effect on Taz. And I know he's right about that.

I finally feel like I have a plan, which is what I've been missing for a long time. Happy happy!


Samantha said...

That sounds like a really positive clinic Laura.

Also sounds like he was impressed with Taz. :-))

Robin French said...

Sounds like a great clinic!

Laura said...

Thanks Sam and Robin. It was a good clinic--a great clinic for me. I was not confused about anything, I left with a clear idea of what I need to do, and I am confident I can do what needs to be done. I really enjoyed the Derek clinic, but to be honest I think it may have better suited for more advanced handlers. This one was perfect for me :-)

Robin French said...

It sounded like he really whittled it down to the essential. Glad you were able to go and get so much from it!