Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Letting go and other life lessons about training stockdogs

I had a fantastic working session with Craig and Elaine last Sunday (aside from the fact that Craig wanted to take all her commands and none of mine at first—he used to do that when I first got him, but he hasn't done it in a long time. I guess it's been a while since I worked dogs with Elaine!). It was fantastic in that it really got me thinking and I definitely saw things I haven't paid enough attention to in the past. Elaine is able to pinpoint some of my bad habits/mistakes very easily and communicate them to me effectively. She thinks (and this is something Don Helsley pointed out to me as well at a clinic last fall) that one of my biggest problems right now is that I am not letting mistakes go quickly enough, so I'm not always staying in the moment, which allows everything to go downhill quickly. I have always blamed this vaguely on my bad timing, but it is much more helpful to realize I should not dwell on mistakes either my dog or I make and go from there than to think about the vastness of needing to improve my timing. Not sure if this makes sense, but it's much more concrete to me than just "improve my timing" is. Though it will probably be tough to let things go, this is something I had to learn to do when I was a whitewater kayaker facing churning rapids, avoiding giant boat-sucking holes and violent river boils, and generally reading the river well enough to plan where to place my boat four moves in advance—so I know I can learn to do it here as well.

Also, related to this, I've been thinking about when/how much to make a point of enforcing commands, and I reread Scott Glen's chapter in the Top Trainers Talk About Starting a Sheepdog book. Scott said he is insistent about enforcing only a stop on a young dog, and even then he will let a dog run through a stop if he sees the dog is trying to fix a mess that the dog created. He was talking about starting a dog, of course, but I am going to try to keep this in mind as I sort through the challenge of keeping flow going while not letting the dog get away with bad habits/helping him work through pressure. I needn't make a big deal out of every perceived infraction; if the dog is right or things are going well, just move on. If things are not going well, let the dog know he isn't right but don't spend all day arguing about it with him—just help him make things right.

Another thing that I realized while watching Elaine work her dog is that she gets after her dogs in a much less emotional way than I do. I want to strive to get less emotional, particularly when Taz gets home, since I am 100% sure my emotions have a huge effect on his work (particularly when I am frustrated, even though I am mainly frustrated with myself). I think my emotion-on-display has taken some confidence out of Taz, and I am sure my emotional corrections/commands are the reason he was hesitating on his outrun in the first place and I was unable to fix it afterward. I will use whistles more with Taz, which should help, but mainly I will work to keep my emotions to myself, thankyouverymuch.

I am going to get Taz in exactly two weeks now (for real, this time), and I can't wait. I keep meaning to post the latest progress report I got from Scott, and I promise I will in the next few days.


Darci said...

Oh we sound so much alike! Such emotional girlz! LOL
Too, one of my big problems, is that I also take things personally, and it can be hard to let go of. Poor dogs, probably need counsiling by the time we get done with them! LOL

Laura said...

Too funny, Darci! It's not going to be easy to learn how to handle the dogs with less emotion, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, right ;-)

Darci said...

Admit?? I didnt admit anything! It has been pointed out, ridiculed, mentioned, reminded, recalled, recommended, and reiterated so much so, that I had no choice but to realize it! LOL
Can I help it if Im a slow learner AND blond!? LOL