Saturday, November 21, 2009

Maggie McClure, Beth, Brynn & Bonnie

Last week Cindy and I boarded the ferry to Vashon Island for an afternoon with Maggie McClure.  It was beyond wonderful.  Maggie has a way of explaining things that clicked into my brain.  Beth thinks Maggie hung the moon.   She was all happy and googly eyes at her.  Which is no small feat.  

Beth had a challenge in her lesson with a stubborn, aggressive wether.  He must have spotted something, a weakness in Beth and exploited it.   The weakness 

I hate this sheep.

Is it 'okay' to have such feelings of negativity for a sheep?  Woolly bastard. 

Dog food, I tell you.

You are witnessing the anatomy of a turfing, Sheep vs Dog

Notice the idiotic handler in the purple?  The one with the the stupid "what do I do now" look on her face  and a big  "L" on her forehead? 

Yep, where's her sign?


Finally, she moved her butt to the right place and actually helped her dog.


What the idiotic handler should have been doing was this...See Cindy grab the sheep (this wether was a problem for all of us).  She is telling Kael "GET HIM".

Later Brill (our former foster Kiddo) did just that...he took care of him - properly - on the nose.

Good boy.

This is what I am working on with Beth.  No more corrections.  Build her confidence.  Put her on challenging sheep in close up situations, pens, chutes and alleys.   I learned a valuable lesson about correcting my dogs when they are gripping.  I have been so careful of Fido's sheep & hyper vigilant about any of my dogs gripping that I have corrected every single time Beth has opened her mouth - even when she should have been gripping.  I created this and now I need to fix it...if possible. 

I am hoping someday I can be the handler Beth deserves.  She is such a wonderful little dog with so much heart.    One thing was very clear to me.  Once Maggie started working with Beth, her confidence level visibly increased - it is clearly handler error.  *sigh*

Moving on to more positive things.  Brynn, my little monkey is growing up so nicely.

She has lots of push (is that the right word?).  Very no nonsense approach.

Careful & attentive.  Her flanks are naturally nice and wide.

These were the same sheep that challenged Beth.  They didn't try that with Brynn.

The assignment I have to work on with Brynn -  While Brynn generally has nice natural balance, I have been compensating for the times she does not come into balance by moving one direction or another.  For example on the come-by side -  As she has been flanking around, she is not fully coming into balance at the top - so I start moving to my left - which is a 'no,no'.  I need to stay put, allow her to come to balance on her own - THEN - back up & give the 'walk-up" & "there". 

I need to keep it fun and build her confidence on the sheep.  She is still a puppy - no commands, nothing harsh and no stress. 

The thing that was the most valuable for me in my lessons with Maggie was she finally got through my head how to correctly use the flag/stick or arms and how they relate to balance.  So many have tried to explain this to me before.  I thought I had it.  But for some reason it just didn't click.  But the way Maggie showed me - I cannot explain it - it clicked in the deepest recesses of my brain.  

Pointing the flag at Bonnie's head doesn't work for us.  My brain moves too slow & Bonnie moves tooooo fast... I end up waving my stupid flag around well past the time I should have put it away and missed the communication opportunity - thus the flag means nothing - except in Bonnie's case "OMG HURRY UP AND GET AROUND IT" (that is what she was thinking, I promise you, I have been gifted with the ability to read my dogs mind - they also call me horrible names that I will not repeat here). 

Balance?  What is that?  Bonnie doesn't do balance.  She does, however race around like a bunny on uppers - over flanking constantly.  If I were to stand still - she would circle around and around and around and around and around and around....uhm, get my point?    I clearly remember sheep camp this summer when I was in the back field with a flock of 50 ewes.  I fell down and Bonnie kept circling the flock - packing them in tighter and tighter - right over the top of me.  *sigh*   I have Post Traumatic Sheep Disorder. 


So with Bonnie - I am no longer pointing the flag at her head.  NOPE, nyet, nein.


The minute I point the flag at Bonnie she speeds up.


That is because of my history of waving the flag around like a hurricane.  It has lost its meaning.


Now I am using the flag to block, create the negative space. 

When she comes in too close I correct her with 'garbly growly' sounds.  Not wave the flag at her and threaten her with it.  I am also using words, such as "no".  What a concept!  I can quietly say  "no" to her when she doing something I don't want.  Guess what?  She responds.  She stops and looks at me, you can see her think "well then, what?"


Once I stopped whipping the flag at her head & communicated - she settled down.  Peace was felt by all.  Most of all by Bonnie. 

Ever have one of those moments that you know will be emlazoned on your memory forever?  Like the birth of a child?  Maybe the day you said "I do".  Or the day your forehead met the windshield in a car accident? 

I am going to add today into my list of all time 'memorable moments'.

While working Bonnie this afternoon at Fido's I had an epiphany, a lightening bolt of awareness - suddenly I grasped what why and when you use "There".

Not only did I use it consistently at the right time, but Bonnie's eyes lit up and I could see she finally understood what the hell I meant  "Oh you want me to stop here, okay then" - she stayed in balance and walked up on the sheep in a STRAIGHT FREAKING LINE!  Not once, not twice but several times. She stopped the crazy arse flanking and darting around like a bullet on crack.  I was able to walk backward at a nice pace (until the sheep stepped on my boot, I fell down and Bonnie gripped another one in the butt - but that is another story).  I was so happy I almost wet my rubber pants.

Bonnie was pretty pleased with herself too. 

And finally for those of you that didn't believe that picture of the white monkey was a fair representation of my new hair color.  Here you go... the monkey has much nicer teeth. 


Lean said...

Your mom has great hair color anf i think also better teeth to.Your dogs are hard workers i saw....great!!!

The Thundering Herd said...

I don't know anything about herding, but I laughed at your reference to whose error it is. In mushing, I constantly remind myself of "musher error." Learning to relax, trust and help your dogs is incredibly hard.

Emma Rose said...

We love the new hair. You look great! Really, really, really!

Sounds like you had a truly memorable day. We know how enriching that can be. Glad things clicked for you. :)

Emma Rose

Diana said...

I know the feeling of not knowing what to do on course and my dog is doing a big out run around me. ( except we are doing agility. LoL)

The hair looks great! Diana

Debra Kay said...

My dogs work so much better as soon as I figure out what I am supposed to do.

PoochesForPeace said...

I guess I never saw a close up of you before your new hair color, but I love it!! It really brightens your face, you're a beautiful woman!