Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shannahan/Deal Clinic

I am so far behind I will never die.  Or die from the stress of never getting anything done.  Finally I am writing the post about the Patrick Shannahan/Dianne Deal Novice Handlers Clinic that I attended May 15 & 16th in Caldwell, Idaho.  Better late than never eh? 

The first morning of the clinic opened up with an absolutely gorgeous Idaho spring morning.  Not too cold, not too hot.  Just perfect.  All the working slots in the clinic were full along with many audits. 

We had a two very special guests.

A kitty who wandered over from Patrick's house

The dogs were fascinated with the kitty.  This dog cracked me up.  He was drooling while staring at the kitty sitting in his Mom's lap. 

We also had a very old & wise visitor.  A lovely 14 y/o border collie named Kelly. 

The first couple of hours Patrick and Dianne talked to us about training, trials and judging.  Sharing philosophy, thoughts and experiences. 

Patrick compared training & trialing your dog to gardening.  Many people live under the misconception that you can just buy a lovely plant at the store, bring it home and stuff it in the ground.  Then dump water on it & fertilize it occasionally.  The plant may be pretty but it will never grow big and lush - because the magic doesn't happen in on water alone.  It is the combination of water, fertilizer and the soil.  You have to start with good soil. 

It is much like that in trialing.  So many people rush out into the trial field and are in a hurry to trial too soon, causing damage to their dogs.  They haven't worked the dog's 'soil' long enough. 

Another worthwhile bit of advice he shared was many new handlers are taking advice from too many sources.  Every trainer that comes along can have different styles and opinions - causing conflict for a new handler.  Then when you start trialing you become part of a group of people, who mean well, but offer even more differing opinions.  Free advice is usually worth what you paid....

The key is to find a mentor and a trainer.  Stick to them.  Someone whose style of training matches your personality and needs of your dog.  Have a mentor, someone you admire and can talk to as a support.  Stick to consistent.  That will take you much further than multiple trainers. 

Trust me, I know this.  I have experienced the confusion brought about from going to too many trainers.  Somedays I was worried my head was going to explode.  I would just get my brain wrapped around one concept when I would go to another trainer and they would completely contradict what the other one said merely days before.  That is a recipe for confusion.

Pick a trainer - stick to them.  Period.  They have a chance to get to know you and your dogs.  Continuity in training is extremely beneficial for you and your dog. 

Instead of summarizing the rest of the clinic I am going to share the notes I wrote instead.  They jump around, but hopefully there is something helpful for you in this too! 

Preparing for a Trial
- don't take your dog out of the 'greenhouse' until ready. 
- too early can cause damage, the pressure to trial can screw up your training program UNLESS you are going to be willing to leave the post to help your dog and make your priority getting the dog to work correctly first and foremost.
- why do we get nervous?  #1 Ego, #2 Consistency
- usually it takes 1 - 1.5 years to properly prepare a dog to trial - take your time. 
- get together with other people who are at the same experience level and have a mock trial & judge each other - helps with the nerves
- your goal is to move at some point into 'open'.  You can train in the field for arena trials, but you cannot train in the arena for field trials.  In the arena the dog knows how to use the fence to hold pressure - not the same in a large field. 
- ideally get your own sheep, 5-10 acres is great. 
- dont let your dogs beat up on the sheep, don't let your sheep beat up on your dogs
- if you have your own sheep you can ruin your dogs by letting other people ruin your sheep.  Be careful who you allow to work your sheep. 
- what kinds of things will ruin your dog? Sheep that leave every time you send your dog - your dog will never learn how to lift sheep properly and chop the top off outruns, etc. 
- never letting your dog cover the sheep - if they run away the dog won't learn how to cover and will turn into runners. 

What is a correction?  The objective of a correction is to CHANGE the behavior.  Corrections are simply part of the conversation. 

When to LEAVE the post
- When your dog is not working at the level you KNOW they are capable of
- More important for your dog to do what is correct than to stay at the post.
The judge is getting an impression of you and your dog from the moment you walk out onto the field
- introduce yourself and your dog, nothing more - no chit chat or discussing the weather etc. 
- have dog under control, not racing around or dragging handler
- get dog focused at the beginning
- dog sent from the side, no more than a crooks length away.  
- handler can be no more than a crooks length away from the handlers post
- dont let the judge bully you into something you are not comfortable with. 
- if you need to walk away from the post to help your dog - DO IT.  Take the point hit, the most important thing is your dog, not the points. 
- your first and foremost concern should be getting your dog to work correctly.

- the perfect shaped outrun, is pear shaped or tear drop.
- from 9 to 12 it should stay at the same distance away from the sheep all around.
- the outrun should be judged when the lift is complete
- every time the dog stops 2-3 pt deduction
- every word you say to redirect or flank your dog or whistle is a point deduction, think one point for every word or whistle. 
- if sheep leave set out before the dog gets there it is judges discretion for re-run. 
- NEVER talk to the judge, if you believe you need a re-run talk to the course director - NOT judge.
- cross over - will take at least half of your points, but most will take almost ALL of your points. 
- out of bounds - when in doubt give benefit to the dog
- no retrys - cannot send twice. 
- typically if the dog is wide at the bottom they will be tight at the top, conversely if the dog is tight at the bottom usually wide at the top.  Pear Shaped ideal.

Lift - The lift is the first impression of how run will go throughout the rest of the course
- dogs first approach to the sheep
- get your dog slowed down and handling the sheep correctly
- should be in a controlled motion toward the sheep
- rushing, points off
- going too slow, points off
- generally a point off for every command on the lift (lie down, knock it off etc)

- when the sheep come off the set out the direction should be straight to the handler, even if the dog under or over flanks.
- 21 feet wide alley to bring sheep down - stay within that - each time you go out...points off
- five points off for missing fetch panels if not more
- dog should bring the sheep in a workman like manner - be nice to the sheep.
- the further you are out of the 21 ft alley and the longer the more points you lose
- practice PACE when things are not perfect, getting sheep back on line during training sessions
- keep your dog OFF the sheep.  They should move them with their eye, not their body
- train your eye to see when your dog comes in on the sheep - make sure dog is not gaining ground

Around the post - if they do not pass behind the handlers post in the correct direction you are off course. 

Drive  - It isnt always the dog that has the 'straightest' drive line it is the dog that 'appears' to have the straightest line
- FLOW - get the sheep back online gradually, make nice with the sheep. 
- anytime your dog inhibits the path of the course it is *BAD*
- more points off if you miss the inside than the outside - neat and tidy corners
- FLOW FLOW FLOW, did I mention FLOW? 
- Pace - too fast, too slow (not as much off, only if no progress is being made)
- too slow, time will take care of that usually

Pen - anytime the sheep are in the mouth of then pen, then out of the 'alley' points deducted. 
- circling 1 - 2 points off each time
- once you grab the rope, dont let go
- touching the sheep or pushing them = DQ 
- dont open your pen more than 90 degrees

I am not going to cover shedding because I haven't gotten that far yet & cannot write about it intelligently. 

After the 'lecture' portion we each went out into the field with our dogs and ran a mock course with Dianne at our side. 

It was nice to have the support and input

Lots of laughs and fun.  Dianne makes learning the most difficult things fun. 

Things happen so quickly at the pen

Sometimes things get away from you

But they come back together

Sometimes the more experienced set out dogs had to lend a hand when the sheep tried to make an escape.

Uh oh....this is not looking good.  I think that sheep is putting on the brakes. 

 The sheep stopped, the dogs didnt.  WHAMMO!  Dog crash!   Smart sheep. 

All recovered nicely and lived to race across the field to catch his sheep. 

The sheep were light and zippy

I love to photograph Jane from Suntrip Samoyeds and a Border Collie.  She is so expressive.

Jane has two speeds

Bat out of hell  &  Flat on the ground

Here she is displaying "Bat out of Hell"

 She offers many spastic variations on this speed. "One foot Bat out of Hell"  is one of her favorites.  

Here Janie is showing off her "Flat on the Ground" position.  This is the position that got her the nickname "Flat Janie". 

Janie is such a character

I love the expression on her face in this picture.  You can almost see her saying "HA HA I GOOSED THEM!"  Jane is completley non plussed that Patrick and Ann are yelling at her.  I think she is secretly giggling inside. 

Ann asked me to PLEASE get a picture of Jane 'WALKING'.  I tried...I really tried.  It was difficult. 

Praise be to doG.  It finally happened.  Behold, Jane walking. 

There were so many wonderful dogs to photograph.  I was in heaven. 

Many opportunities for close ups too

Happy Dog

Gorgeous Dog

Touching moments too

What do you suppose is happening in this picture? 

The second day of the clinic we had the opportunity to run a course and judge each other.  Patrick would then go over his scores with us and we each had to justify our deductions and scores for each element.  It was VERY helpful to understand the judging system. 

Later in the afternoon we had time with the trainer of our choice to work on whatever we wanted help with. 

We also worked on a pen exercise with Patrick.  You put the sheep in the pen - then you work on flanking your dog in either direction around the pen.  You lie them down, flank them, lie the down, flank them.  Off balance, on balance etc.  The dog cannot at any time take a set forward.  It they step forward you correct them, back them off and flank them.  It is VERY effective. 

Brynn was a good student. 

Sunday evening after the clinic I jumped into the shower at the hotel.  This is what I found when I got out. 

She was twitching and snoring  She didnt move out of that spot for the rest of the night.  An exhausted border collie is a happy border collie. 

If you would like to see a slide show of pictures I shot and edited from the clinic please visit this link SHANNAHAN/DEAL CLINIC SLIDE SHOW

To view over 1500 pictures from the weekend please visit these links
15 May 2010
16 May 2010'

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blue Skye, Grumpy Ewe & A Puppy

I am sorry.  I lied.  I did not get the post completed about the clinic this weekend....YET!  I am busy cleaning the house and working dogs - not to mention editing pictures.  It is very hard to sit inside and edit pictures when the sun manages to break through the clouds. .

While going through all the pictures shot this last weekend I stumbled onto a few gems.  These were shot on Monday following the clinic at Dianne Deal's place.

My friend Vicki's dog Skye has been with Dianne for the past month getting a 'tune-up' of sorts.

Skye is looking good!

Dianne has been working with Skye on a few issues that have popped up for Vicki lately.  One of them was her stubborn refusal to give Vicki a down and her pace.

Dianne addressed the lie down issue.  I love this shot because it shows the dirt flying as Skye skids to a rapid and snappy 'lie down'.   

Vicki is going to be a very happy camper when she gets Miss Blue Eyes back today.

As I type this Dianne is on her way to our house with Miss Skye.  Dianne is teaching at Cindy's place in Yelm this weekend.  Dianne will be sleeping at our house.  I get to feed her, house her and keep her up till the wee hours of the morning picking her brain.  Yes!

Miss Skye loves Dianne.  But she can't wait to see Vicki.

She wants to give Vicki a big hug.

Skye gives the best hugs.  She very nicely hops up and wraps her front legs around you and leans into you.  Then looks up at you with those gorgeous baby blue eyes.  No one with any ounce of heart can resist hugging her back.  Even when she is slopping mud all over your clean shirt.

Right after Dianne worked Skye on Monday she brought out Rocking Dog Ranch Lora Withnell's Bella.  What a sweet, sweet dog.

She may be sweet to people, but on sheep she can certainly hold her own.  The sheep were starting to get hot and grumpy.  One ewe in particular was being a real pain in the arse.  Bella was a tad bit surprised when she turned around and challenged her.

You can almost see Bella say "Ewe are going to regret that!"

"Get your arse moving!"

"You will rue the day you pushed me around!"

Good girl Bella!

 Monday morning was raining puppies.  Our friend Tonie from Just Me and Missy had her heart stolen by this little girl from the Helsey Ranch.

Her name is Katie Blu.  Can you guess why Tonie called her that?

I was struck with a uncontrollable case of puppy lust.  It rivals that biological clock feeling you get when hormones are screaming "YOU MUST HAVE A BABY".  You know the urge most women get in their twenties.  I fell victim to that voice entirely too many times.  Then I experienced teenagers - which cured that craving once and for all. 

But when it comes to puppies...I am weak..oh so pathetically weak.

When Tonie handed Katie Blue to me and she snuggled into my bosom then started to lick my neck...for a brief moment I calculated how long it would take me to get to my car and speed away in a cloud of dust.  But Tonie is much smaller and faster than me.  I would have had to bash her over the head with something and that just wouldn't be right.  I am pretty sure they don't allow you to have puppies in maximum security.

But for a moment, I admit....I considered insidious puppy thievery. Puppy lust is that strong. 

One day...I will succumb.