Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beth, Brynn & Bonnie - Idaho Wrap Up

I miss this face

I miss this one too.

I have been having a very hard time blogging lately because I am afraid I am going to sound whiny.  Whiny about missing my girls.  I chose to send them off for training, then whine about missing them.  There are times I feel horribly guilty about sending them away.  But they are fine, I am just putting human emotions onto my dogs assuming they are missing me.  When in reality they do just live in the moment and are loving working sheep.


I look at this picture and imagine Beth is huddled in her crate wondering why she isn't snuggled in our bed at home.   She looks so sad...

Actually she wasn't sad, she was annoyed. Annoyed at me for trying to get her attention while she watched Brynn working sheep.    I know Beth is loving every minute she is working with Dianne.

Beth has been with Dianne for two weeks.  Dianne has started Beth on whistles and working on inside flanks and driving.  Dianne has dedicated much of her time getting Beth jazzed up and excited.  Beth has this way of looking like you have beaten her...sad, forlorn and whipped.  A product of her life before coming into rescue and our home.

She just wants to please you...and will turn herself inside out to do it.

When Beth comes home we will make the transition from me as her handler to John.  Since John is no longer working the crazy overtime hours he will have the time to work her again.  It is good because they make a wonderful team.  Beth adores John.

 He thinks she is wonderful too.

They make a good team.

John really enjoyed his time with Dianne Deal.  Dianne spent an entire day working with us when we dropped off Beth & visited Brynn.  Not only is she a gifted handler, she is an excellent instructor with the patience of a saint.  That is important when dealing with sheep herding idiots like us.

Armed with a walkie talkie Dianne took John through some basic work.  Because Beth responds differently with an instructor close by, Dianne used the walkie-talkie to give John directions, giving her a clearer picture of what needed to be worked on.

John was worried because he hadn't worked a dog for almost a year.  But Dianne put him at ease immediately.  Her directions are clear, and easy to understand.  She has a way of explaining things that gives you the "WHY" as well as the "HOW".

 Dianne asked me what kind of problems I have had with Beth.  I explained I have not been able to get a pen with Beth....EVER.  It took Dianne two seconds to get a pen.

Something tells me the 'problem' there wasn't a Beth problem, rather a 'Carolynn' problem. 

"Mom, I can do many things if you just get out of my way."

Brynn leaves me speechless.

Watching Dianne work her left me in awe.

This may not seem like a big thing to many of you with trained dogs.  But to me...it was really cool.  When we walked in the field, Brynn was off leash.  She stayed by my side.  She didn't dart out in front of me, She stayed behind me or next to me - looking to me for direction.  I felt like I was walking into the field with a partner, a teammate.  That alone was worth the price of admission. 

I was worried that I was going to tell her something stupid and Brynn would stop, give me that 'look'.  You know the look.  The "You are an Dumbass" look. 

But Dianne trains for that inevitability.   She wants a dog that will make the handler look good, because it is going to happen, eventually you will say one thing and mean another. 

You will say "away" and really mean "come-bye".  Dianne wants the dog to respond with "Oh you meant the OTHER "away" and correct automatically.

Most days I feel like 99% of what comes out of my mouth is wrong.

I hope Dianne installs a 'idiot-proof' feature into Brynn before we pick her up.

I just hope I don't break her when I get her home.

We are going to pick Beth and Brynn up when Dianne is at Brigands on April 10th.  Which will be fantastic because it saves us the drive to Idaho.  We have two days of lessons scheduled with her then.  I still have to learn how to blow my whistle without sounding like a strangled cat in heat.

"It's okay Mom, Dianne is teaching me how to handle you too!"

"I expect you to sound stupid, it is my job to make you look good...."

"Just relax, I am."

"I got it covered, Mom"

Bonnie, on the other hand, makes me reconsider my position against mind altering drugs. 

Contemplate the merits of drinking heavily as a hobby. 

Right before we made our last trip to Idaho I took Bonnie to Fido's.  It was a train wreck.  Between the sheep, ME and Bonnie it was one big mess.  I was actually ashamed of myself.  I try not to yell, but I was yelling, throwing my stick and I even threw a bottle of rocks at her...then felt terrible, not because I threw it, rather because I MISSED HER!  Bonnie refused to acknowledge me in the field.  She blew me off from the minute we went through the gate.  It was a racing, gripping, terrorfest.  I was in tears.  I can understand why some people dump their dogs on the freeway.  (JUST KIDDING for your people who think I am serious)!

When we got to Idaho we talked at length with Dianne about Bonnie.  She reminded me of how far Bonnie has come already.  I keep forgetting that.  Bonnie will work very good when there is someone else in the field.  Perhaps I have created a monster?  All the time I spend getting Bonnie hooked on the sheep (hooked enough to withstand pressure) might have back fired.  Now she sees me as "fun" and games and not someone to take seriously in the field.

I am going to give Bonnie 6 weeks.  We are going to work once a week with Sue MacDonald.  If we can get her under control and behaving consistently on stock, then I will move forward with her.  I believe she has talent and drive, but the problem may lie in my relationship with her.  Bonnie thinks she is in charge of me - not the other way around.  If we cannot get past this then I am going to give Bonnie to John to work and see how it goes with him.

When we were in Idaho Dianne had John work Bonnie and it went very well for them.  It is an alternative - instead of just taking her off sheep entirely.

When she was done working with John she was quite pleased with herself.  

 John was pretty happy with her too.  

A few days ago I was reading "Top Trainers Talk About Starting a Sheepdog"   In the section where Pat Shannahan is being interviewed he was asked about what he liked to see in a pup, or might warn him of later problems in training (pg 257, last question on bottom of page).  He answered

"...What I don't like to see is a pup that is totally out there for themselves, and if they haven't gotten their way they shut down or decide that they prefer not to work.  Those are the difficult ones.  The ones that are actually really soft as far as corrections, where they possibly might shut down, are the most difficult for people to train.".

That is Bonnie.  Bonnie shuts down under pressure.  She wants to do things her way, not mine.  When we are with an instructor, she quits under pressure, then the lesson becomes an exercise in getting Bonnie engaged again.  Everything is under her terms.

I need to be honest with myself here.  While Bonnie has talent, nice natural balance and drive.  She may not have the temperament or enough desire to withstand the corrections.  When I am working with Bonnie I don't feel like part of a team.  I feel like she is out there for her...and her alone.  I am a mere afterthought.   Taking all that into consideration - at some point it may be worthwhile to just take Bonnie off of stock and move on. 

Knowing we are going to work with Sue over the next six weeks I decided to hedge my bets and diversify Bonnie's portfolio.   I enrolled Bonnie in the Canine Good Citizen prep course at Dog's World in Sumner.  Last week we had the 'pre test' and were told Bonnie could pass it now.  My goal is to do something else with Bonnie that is positive.  If she fails Herding 101, she will have her CGC and we will move on to therapy dog.

Bonnie would be a wonderful therapy dog.   She could put a smile on anyone's face, while she licks them to death.


Country Girl said...

Lovely post! I had to laugh - Tessa gives me "that look" when I give her the wrong flank. Sometimes she just looks at me, hesitates and corrects it for me (all the while I'm telling her sorry). lol

The dogs will work themselves out - just enjoy them for who they are.

The Thundering Herd said...

I do not know anything about herding, but I do understand working dogs. Your post rings so true. Having the right relationship with that working dog is so critical, but most mistakes are us humans not staying calm, quietly in control, being firm, but caring, and reading our canine partners communications to us. What a great post!

Pat A said...

Great post and I can imagine that you are looking forward to having your puppers back home. I will bet they miss their river trips with you.

Debra Kay said...

I am trying to figure out what Moon's job is. Molly is great at agility. Moon is great at the obstacles, not the crowds, etc. He doesn't like people besides me.

He will relax in a new kennel though when I travel-I've thought about sending him away for 6 weeks or so to experience life without me-but I'm afraid I would die.

Waylon Aussies said...

Oh, I've been right there with where you're at with Bonnie. After we had been working for a few years, something in the relationship with my first dog changed and I would get SO worked up when I worked him, that I finally had to put him away and find another venue for him. I never could figure out what my deal was - I always said we needed couples therapy! I'm sure the right solution will come along for you!

Tink said...

I do admire you Carolynn, I thought about sending my Gwen away for a month to get some extra training but in th end I couldn't go through with it. Not because I would miss her so much, which I would have, but because I was afraid I would get back a totally different dog. A dog with a change in character that I might not even like.

So I chickened out, I don't regret it, I depended on her for a great deal and I loved her the way she was, I didn't want her or the bond that we had to change. Non of the trainers could ever garantee me that she would not come back as a different dog. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this, have you had these doubts as well?