Monday, December 01, 2008

Adventures in Canada

Well, I did it. I decided Taz deserves the chance to work with someone who will be able to bring out a bit more of his potential, so early in the morning on Thanksgiving, Elaine and I packed up five of our dogs and headed up to Canada. She had never been out of the country before, and explaining everything to the customs folks was, er, interesting (seemed it was a Good Thing I had my iPhone with me, because it contained much of my email chain about bringing Taz up for training—the border patrol guys read every sentence to verify our story, but at least they did not search my truck). We did make it across the border unscathed, and half an hour later we arrived at Scott and Jenny Glen's place—Taz's new home for the next couple of months.

Scott and Jenny welcomed us warmly, and Scott took Taz and me out to the field to see Taz do an outrun. We'd already spoken a bit about what Taz's issues were, and I think he just wanted to get a quick idea for himself exactly where we were. He gave Elaine a lesson with her young dog, Jesse, and he gave me a lesson with Craig. I was a bit intimidated during the lesson, and that was the first thing Scott picked up on. "You can't be afraid to make mistakes," he advised. I definitely have lost a bit of confidence in myself after that last clinic, so I know it is important to get back on track. We worked on making sure Craig really bent out on his flanks—Craig will run tighter than he knows how to do if he is allowed. It is not surprising to me that my biggest weakness with training Taz turns out to be a weakness I have with running Craig as well. I don't insist on square flanks. I didn't really know how to get Craig to give me wider flanks, though. Scott showed me, not by doing endless outruns, but by driving (cross driving, actually) with Craig moving the sheep in a circle around me. Scott broke down Craig's training issues to find the most basic place where things were going wrong, which was sometimes the first few steps Craig took, and he showed me how to use my own body language to communicate what I wanted to see from him. I learned to stand off center relative to the sheep, wave a stick up and down once or twice to clearly show him which direction he was to go, and give him a flank command. Lie him down immediately if he moves forward at all; give him a there and let him walk up if he flanks correctly. It sounds really simple and basic when I write it down, but I struggled a bit when Scott had me try it. Part of that struggle is that I wasn't anticipating giving my next command quickly enough, which resulted in Craig waiting too long for instruction and then deciding to do something on his own. So once I give a command, I need to be ready right away with the following action in my mind. The other thing Scott stressed is to stop saying Craig's name in frustration; I should only be using his name when I am calling him in to me. This goes for Taz, too. It's a surprisingly difficult habit to break, but I'll work on it.

It was a great lesson for me, and I learned a lot. I sometimes struggle with how much I can or should try to change the way Craig runs because he is ten now and pretty set in his ways. But I think I have definitely erred too far on the side of caution and not tried hard enough to demand correct work. Craig is a great dog, so we've done pretty well without me demanding too much of him, but naturally he has gotten a bit sloppy with me and we have had a few power struggles on the field. I think I have a much better idea now of how to run him more effectively.

After the lessons, we went inside and had coffee. I was able to see where Taz would be staying and got a good sense of what his routine would be over the next couple of months. I chose Scott (and was lucky that he had room for Taz) because Scott has gotten the best work out of Taz in the past and seems to have a real way with him. After hearing more about how Scott would work with Taz over the winter, and hearing Jenny talk about the thoughtful care he would receive with them, I felt even better about leaving him there. He is in good hands, and he will hopefully come back a little less confused about what is expected of him and a bit more prepared to meet those expectations.

It will, of course, still be difficult for me while he's away. But I think this might be a good opportunity for me to work with Craig and really develop as a team. I'm looking forward to seeing where we all are in a few months!

10 comments:

Robin French said...

You made a terrific choice with Scott. I'm very, very jealous that you are close enough to drive to them! I've trained with Scott some and he's really top notch. And i've seen some dogs that have come back from training with him and thought he did a wonderful job. I'm sure you're going to be really happy with the results.

sheepkelpie said...

Good for you Laura. I entertained sending Lucy to Scott (with your guidance!), but can't ship her due to her crate-hate. You are very fortunate to have your dog educated by "the man".

BCxFour said...

It is so hard to leave your dog, isnt it? Scott is an excellent choice and Taz will thrive there! I have several video's posted on YouTube of our the last Scott Glen clinic we attended if you wish to see them - it might help reassure you while Taz is away to watch some of them and be reminded of how he works so nicely with the dogs. http://www.youtube.com/user/BCxFour

Laura said...

Thanks guys! I am very happy with my decision--I have a lot of confidence in Scott and I know Taz will come back a better sheepdog. I also know I'm pretty lucky to live within driving distance of Alberta! (What's 15 hours ;-) BCxFour, I'll definitely check out those videos--thanks for sharing them!

Robin French said...

What's 15 hours? About 25 less than i am from there! ;-)

Laura said...

True enough :-)

Darci said...

Good on you Laura! And good for Taz! Im sure it took a lot of strength to drive away without him, I know how hard that can be. But he is in a great place with a great trainer, and only great things can come of it! Please keep us updated on his progress.

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

I don't know the place where Taz has gone but it sounds like a fantastic training camp for him Laura. I am looking forward to hearing about what he has learnt there and how it effects you both in training when he comes home.

Laura said...

Thanks Darci and Sam. Sam, Taz isn't really going to a "camp," per se--that's kind of a euphemism I'm using to make myself feel a little better about sending him out to a trainer's place for a couple of months. He is in a great place, with a world-class handler who will work with him every day. My friend Mary brought two of her dogs to Scott over the past weekend also, so we have been commiserating daily on how we know the dogs are doing just fine and probably loving life right now, while we are missing them like crazy ;-)

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

lol, yeah i know what you mean Laura, well sort of as i have never been anywhere like that. I just didn't know what to call it. Also i didn't want to put training place twice in my comments. I was then going to call it a training clinic but that wasn't the right word either.

Anyway i am sure he will be having a great time, they sound like really nice people that he is with. It must have helped being able to spend some time there before you left him too. Checking out where he will be sleeping etc.

The missing him part must be hard though. It will fly by... and then he will be home again waiting to show you what he has learnt. :-))