Monday, March 23, 2009

Post Clinic Quickie

This weekend was the Scott Glen clinic at Fido's Farm in Olympia. Amazingly the weather wasn't too horrible. The clinic was full of information and lots of laughter. Scott is an excellent instructor.

This is going to be a shorter post than I wanted to write. Typing is difficult right now as I am fighting an infection in my hand and I have had a fever all weekend. I feel yucky.

I was able to download over a 1000 pictures and 8 gigs of video I shot. I need to sort through and edit the good stuff. I should have it done in a few days, doG willing, then I can share it here.

I learned several important things about myself and Beth this weekend. The Beth I work in class or clinics - is not the same dog I work in the field alone. She is a little Miss Jekyll & Hyde. *sigh* She is sweet, timid, demure, lopes slowly on every outrun, constantly looking back for direction. Basically she acts like she is completely whooped when I am with an instructor. It was particularly noticable with Scott. There have even been a few times I have been out there with Chris that Beth will quit working and head for the gate. It appears she is shutting down under any pressure from someone she doesn't know. I am not so sure that's what happening...

After watching her do this through three sessions with Scott and listen to Scott tell me that I need to work on building her confidence - I started to doubt myself. Scott assumed I over corrected her 'mistakes' and wasnt allowing her to build enthusiasm. He said I needed to ignite the spark to get the right attitude and let her have fun. To his credit - he is right, from what he saw of Beth. I can understand exactly why he was saying that & I am no one to second guess his assessment. Given what he observed - Scott rightfully felt that I had been over correcting her and created this shy timid scared dog.

Right before lunch on Sunday while other clinic participants were working their dogs I decided to take her out in the field she was familiar with and let her rip. I didnt correct her, I just let her "ingnite her spark". Suffice it to say I had to pull wool out of her teeth a few times & once ran like h*ll across the field when she slammed sheep up against the fence.

When I am in the field with her alone she is a B-R-A-T...She flies around the field like her arse is on fire, cuts in on almost every flank, hits the sheep like a wrecking ball & flosses her teeth. I can get control over her and eventually get some really pretty work but it does take a little bit. I am overwhelmed with controlling her and since I have not gotten any instruction on how to handle her acting like this I am lost most of the time. It is frustrating...

I went to lunch late and brought the tuft of wool to Scott to show him. I explained that Beth has no lack of 'spark' or enthusiasm.

That afternoon Scott had me take Beth out into the field alone while he sat in the tent to observe. Beth showed her true colors - shot across the field like a bullet, cut the top off her flank and scattered the sheep like a cluster bomb & grabbed ahold of one for a little ride. Scott said "That is the attitude I was talking about". Then Scott showed me some drills and exercises I can do to help her. He also told me trying to trial Beth would be a complete disaster. Good thing I didnt intend on trialing her....ever. I am very discouraged.

I am going back to basics with Beth until I get a grip on how to handle the schizophrenic firecracker. We cannot progress until I solve the flanking issue. I think Beth isn't the one who needs to build confidence. It is ME. I need to feel good about what I am doing and what I expect from her. My confidence will build her confidence and then we can get past this passive/agressive attitude of hers and progress.

We are going back to Fido's tomorrow to watch shearing and get some more practice in. I am also going to start seriously training Bonnie this week. My goal is to work the dogs every day for the next seven days - so I can build on the things I learned in the clinic.

While talking to fellow clinic participant (another novice like me) I learned of clinic in Caldwell Idaho organized by Diane Deal with Patrick Shannahan aimed at novice handlers and young dogs/puppies. I called today and signed Bonnie and myself up. It is May 3rd & 4Th.

Next month is the clinic with Karen Child that I have been anxiously waiting for.

Is it possible to attend too many clinics? Sometimes I think all the knowledge is good - but then I wonder if it isn't confusing me on some level? I would love to hear from you if you have taken many different clinics from different instructors. Was it helpful or detrimental?


sheepkelpie said...

Okay, first DA**IT about your hand. You DID go to the Dr, right?? Just take care of yourself, okay?

Now, onto the dog thing. When I work Lucy with strangers around, mostly men, she is the most respectful dog she can be. Flanks are instantly bigger when a guy comes in. So, there isn't correcting to be done.

Lucy can get slicey when tension builds. It used to be really bad when we would first start. It's like she had to explode first, and then settle in. She has stopped doing that- she matured, and I didn't let one ounce of that continue un-checked. Then, we started doing real work. That made all the difference for her brain. She no longer needed to make a mess up, so she could clean it, I challenged her, and then, she got that yeah, it's about us doing serious stuff with the sheep, not drilling. Drilling is bad on many levels- if you over do it. Some dogs don't mind it, and some do. Lucy will find a way to make things interesting if we keep doing the same thing over and over.

So, it seems like it is more a mental thing for Beth- get her doing stuff she has never done, and then pop in a flank here and there, a then more different stuff, and then an outrun. These dogs need to be challenged and win the challenge- this is what makes them get better.

And, no, you can't do to many clinics- Lordy no. If you like the clinician- go for it! You are in clinic mecca, so take advantage of it!

Ann said...

I'm an extremely novice handler, my first BC is just a year old. I have a great local trainer, who knows my pup's parents and we've been able to work on some specific issues that she got from her mother.

I've audited two clinics and with my trainer's blessing, signed up for a working spot at the Shannahan clinic. See you there!

What I know from my previous life (agility) is that *for me* when I was a novice, too many sources of possibly conflicting info was confusing. As I became an experienced handler, the more info the better.

Based on that, I've been kind of pacing myself with herding, not really seeking out outside advice until I felt like I have the basics down. My trainer and I feel that I'm at a good place to start going to clinics.

Just my novice $.02. See you in May. I'll be the one with the Border Collie. :) Her name is Jane.

Laura said...

I'm sorry to hear you had a rough clinic. I know the feeling; I've been to two clinics that left me discouraged, for different reasons and at different points in my "learning curve." It is good that you're going to work your dogs a lot this week, so you can take what you learned from the clinic and go from there. I like what Julie said about trying to do more practical work--I think most dogs really need to see the purpose of what you're trying to have them do.

For me and my dog, I think it is possible to go to too many clinicians. I think part of my problem has been that in trying to expose myself to as many different ways to train as possible, I got a little confused about what I was doing. I bounced around a few different techniques, and sometimes they contradicted each other. When I ran into training challenges, I had no concrete plan of action because I had no one overall philosophy or framework to guide me. I still don't really have a master plan, but I am a bit closer to one because I've decided, since Taz is training with Scott right now and what Scott says to me makes a lot of sense and is easily understandable to me, that I will try to follow Scott's methods most closely, at least for now. So I am not going to go to clinics given by any other people this year, and I am concentrating on seeing Scott for clinics or lessons as often as I can. The money that I save not going to other clinics will be put toward expenses when I travel further to attend clinics given by Scott.

I am not saying this is the right way to do things or what you should do. It's just what feels right for me *right now.* I just felt overwhelmed and a bit lost with all the incomplete and contradicting information floating around in my head, and I want to focus on one general way to do things, at least until I get a better handle on this and can use my own experience and judgment to better guide me.

Does that make any sense? This is really such a difficult thing to learn to do, particularly if you don't have your own sheep and didn't grow up around livestock, and it takes some people (like me) longer to learn than others, but it's also so gratifying when things start to come together. That's what keeps me going anyway . . .plus, it's pretty darn nice just spending time with dogs and sheep in fields of green :)

Mason Dixie said...

I do not know anything at all about herding but our friends the Three Happy Healers might be able to assist you.

2 of them are deaf and they heard the sheep just as well as a hearing dog. Check them out.
Hope it gets better with Beth

Jaenne said...

Sorry to hear that your hand got infected.

Both Kip and Mo always work better for a different handler so don't feel like you're in that boat alone.

I'm not sure if I'm going to be entering Kip or Mo in the clinic in May but I'm sure I'll be there. See you in May!

WalkOn Border Collies said...

Going to different instuctors is good IF they have similar training philosophies. During my first 2-3 years with Blair, I went to Martha McHardy regularly(3-5 days per mo). I went to Kathy Knox twice a year or so, plus Jack, plus Bill Herhow several times; lesson or clinic. I also had lessons from Don Helsley and Patrick. And worked with Peter Gonnet. I finally got in a lesson with Scott last Easter but am still hoping to work with Karen & Norm Close at some point. I also highly recommend Lorri Schubert and Lee Lumb. I've found that they have all said the same thing but in slightly different ways...eventually the light has gone on in my head! I think it is good to mix in some audit sessions - especially if it the first time. I find that sometimes you can pay more attention when you aren't thinking about what your dog is going to do next.
The Kathy & Jack clinics often have had the same group of people = same dogs. I think that really helps too. They have all watched me & Blair from my very first time working a Border Collie to my continued struggles with Dusty over the years.

An English Shepherd said...

Sorry to hear that your hand is not well. Hope it gets better soon :-)