Say what you will about the accuracy and authenticity of Facebook quizzes, but I am choosing to believe every word. Because, you see, I am on a mission for change. No, not the change Obama promised (though I am looking forward to more of that as well), but a change of my own making. I proclaim that I will heretofore Whine Less and Work More.
What has brought about this resolve? Well, a couple of days ago, I competed in a fun trial. But I didn't have very much fun. Taz and I didn't do very well. There are lots of reasons, but I think the main one was that I have lately been working on loosening Taz up and letting him regain some of the natural ability I've taken out of him with my crappy timing and unique handling style involving nagging/letting him ignore me for a while/until I freak out and overcorrect him and then he freaks out. So I've been trying to let him make more decisions, work things out on his own, do things the way he wants unless he is making poor decisions. Commanding him only when he is making mistakes. This seems simple to do, but it has been surprisingly hard for me to carry out. I tend to either overcommand or let him get away with murder.
And this is what happened at the trial. I was in a stressed-out and pissy mood that morning anyway, and I told myself the one thing I'd do during our run was to keep my cool. No screeching. But I took that strategy too far and didn't really handle poor Taz much at all. His outrun was unexpectedly tight and flat. It hasn't been bad in practice lately (though I'll admit it hasn't been stellar either). I should have taken advantage of this being only a fun trial to "manually" widen him out and remind him that just because he is running in a trial did not mean he could get away with substandard work. But I gave him a mild "get out of that" correction, which he took, before he then sliced in hard at the top. And things went downhill from there. He didn't have a wild run, he just was off line the entire time, and I was uninspired in helping him get the sheep back on line. In an effort not to overhandle him, I might as well have run the course silently for all the direction I gave him.
Not on the same page...
After sulking about my crappy handling skills for a little while, I decided I need to either commit to doing this or accept that it will take me about 42 more years to hope to compete at the open level. I think at least part of the reason I struggle and seem to do so much moving up and down the ladder of understanding how to handle my dog is because I simply do not work my dog enough to effectively build on what we learn. It's true that I am at a disadvantage for not having my own sheep to practice with. It's true that I have a full-time job and must supplement my meager income with a lot of freelance work, so I don't have very much time. It's true that blah blah blah. Excuses I have. More time spent working my dog I need.
Fewer excuses. More time working the woolies!
So I have made a promise to myself that I will work my dog at least three times a week for the next seven weeks (basically until trial season starts here). In the grand scheme, it's not really a long time period, so this should be doable. It won't always be easy to schedule this time with the sheep—especially as I typically do a couple of hours of freelance work in the mornings before going to my day job, but I will change my work habits to complete this freelance work in the evenings before bed instead. I predict I will struggle keeping to this schedule at times. But I feel like three times a week is the minimum I can work Taz and expect to progress. And it's not forever. If I can do this, I can reassess how often I need to train once the trials begin based on how far (if anywhere) we've come.
It beats sitting around whining anyway!