Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mindset, Energy & No

This past week I have been in Idaho staying at Dianne Deal's place taking care of the dogs while she was in South Dakota judging a trial.

I have had many hours to reflect on a multitude of things before and after working my dogs. The trial this last weekend at the Western Idaho Fair also provided me with 8 times at the post to work on issues my ego has generated in the past.   I am happy to say I retired 4 times to walk away and help my dog.  I am proud of the work my dogs did - and fully accepting that the problems they had on the field were directly resulting in my lack of communication and timing of corrections in training.

We have been focusing on driving.  In the time being the outrun/lift and fetch have gone haywire.  Someday soon I hope it all comes back together.

I am often struck with 'ah ha' moments.  Infused with a sudden push of inspiration I believe has solved all my problems and feel on top of the world.  Then something else pops up that leaves me drooling in the corner wondering why I ever thought this hobby would be enjoyable?   Most of the time I think it is just full of new and interesting ways to make an ass out of yourself. 

The "Nine Secrets of Perfect Horsemanship" by Don Blazer has become my training bible of sorts.  Through my work with the dogs I have learned more about myself than I thought possible.  Looking back I wish I could have learned how to handle a dog before I had children.

So much of what I do is driven by my ego.  I loathe to admit it.

A couple passages in the book that have struck me:

Pg 53 "If you are training from the heart, you will never go wrong.  However, if you are training from the ego, demanding control over the horse (dog) instead of a partnership, the stresses (on the dog) will almost always be unnecessary.  Such stresses are usually the result of the trainers attempt to appear dominant in the eyes of others.

Pg 54 " When you are guided by your ego, you lose your temper, are cruel and inhumane.  You are out of control and inflict pain and physical and mental injury to the animal.  When you examine our actions later under cooler conditions, they will always appear unnecessary and stupid.

Pg 54 & 55 "Can your ego take the criticism of how you treated your horse (dog).  If it can, you are maturing and gaining control of yourself.  If it cannot take the truth, you have lost self control and are ruled by your ego.  The standard by which you judge your actions is: Was the action truly in the best interest of the horse (dog) If the answer is an honest no then your action was ego directed.  

If my head is controlled by my ego - the energy I am projecting is teetering on the verge of anger - because I feel the need to CONTROL rather than PARTNER with the dog.

My worst moments of anger have come about from frustration I felt when things did not go as I planned or envisioned.  For example: my behavior at Athena SDT last month.  Because my ego was ruling the roost and I felt a loss of control over my dog I became angry....instead of trying to work with my dog, partner with her and give her the right information she needed to please me...I started to yell, smack the pen with my stick and in general make a complete ass out of myself.

Was that in the best interest of my dog?  Hell no.  

Looking back on it I felt deep shame.  I use the shame as a catalyst to improve - the improvement needs to come from a reflection on what motivates that behavior when I feel out of control.

The key, for me, is to let go of the control.  I am not controlling anything.  I cannot control my dog when she is 200 yards away from me.  The reality is she wants to please me and I need to provide the correct and accurate communication to her so she is able to do that.

A simple "NO" can work wonders.

NO, means NO.  Not a screaming yelling fit of rage.  A simple NO to block an unwanted behavior.  Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult.

Dianne was explaining this to me again today - It is all about how you project your energy.  You can say NO in a loud boisterous angry voice - really bellow it out there.  What kind of energy are you projecting? 

Do I need to smack my dog in the top of her head when she refuses to lie down?  NO.  All I have to do is block her access to the sheep, say NO and make the wrong choice hard.  The easy choice is to lie down.

Do I need to run screaming up the field, waving my stick and shouting profanities at her when she busts up the sheep?  NO.  I can walk calmly up the field, block her access to the sheep, say a few stern words to make the wrong choice hard and the right choice easy.

When you say NO in a firm even tone, you send the same message to the dog, but retain a calm atmosphere that opens the dog's mind and allows learning - rather than fear.   Mostly it allows me to stay in a positive head space - enabling me to learn as well.

My dog wants to please me.  Not defy me.  I need to provide the information to them on HOW to please me.  Be simple, clear & consistent.

Pg 52 The THIRD GUIDELINE to perfection in horsemanship is “NO CRITICISM.” Begin with no criticism of yourself.  That doesn’t mean you refuse to recognize your errors or your ego directed behavior.

Pg 53. No criticism means no criticism of your horse (dog).  No criticism means not making disparaging remarks about competitors, trainers, horses (dogs) or judges.

To criticize others is to degrade yourself and to use your energy in a wasteful and unproductive way.

The THIRD SECRET is: PRACTICE NON-JUDGMENT  It is not for you to judge whether any thought or action is wrong or right is good or bad, is joyous or sad.  Each thing simply “is” You must try to see it as that and nothing more.

I do not feel I ever need to strike my dog.  I am only saying this does not work for me.  It does not work for my dogs.  I will only train with people who do not advocate striking the dog as corrections.  It does not work with children, in my opinion it does not work with dogs.  MY DOGS. 

That said, while I strongly disagree with the method - I can accept physical corrections can be used correctly.  Many of the 'Big Hats' have been training that way for years - and it works for them.  Cessation of a particular behavior is rewarded by the swift end of punishment.  If the dog is in the process of learning a particular behavior, then the discipline should be brief followed by an attempt to teach the desired behavior.   I believe the truly successful handlers who use physical corrections do it correctly as a tool to facilitate learning - never in anger.

The only flaw I see in this beyond the obvious aspect of abuse:  doesn't the over use of a physical correction only bring about learned helplessness?  Domination rather than punishment? Why not ask for a partnership?  

Never in a million years can I hit this face

She ONLY wants to please me.

The only thing I can do is what feels right for me and continue learning all I can.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Road Trip...Again

Hey there. 

Camera Face is off on another road trip in the morning.  She is going to Idaho AGAIN!  Can you believe it?  Once again she is leaving me and Bonnie at home.  Says she is going to run Brynn and Beth in a trial at the Western Idaho Fair this weekend.  But I think she is going to take them places and spoil them. 

Camera face was gone this last weekend too.  She went to the Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trial. She was hoping to be able to run, but no one scratched. It was cool because she got to scribe for the judge Warren Mick in Open.  That was a great learning experience and she was very happy. 

You want to feed me something yummy don't you?  Scratch my belly.  Kiss my head.  Love on me forever....because  you can't resist my face.

I have you under my spell.  The spell of Rangerness.  No one is immune. 

Camera Face is going to miss me.  But I am not going to miss her. 

Dad is going to spoil Bonnie and me rotten.  He said that Olive Garden is having their bottomless pasta bowl again and he is going to try to sneak us in. 

Okay, I am lying.  Lying around in the back yard, rolling in the grass.  

I am neglected.  Can I come live with you? 

Actually truth is, I am glad Beth and Brynn are leaving.  That much more ice cream for me.  Dad is a sucker...I even get my own bowl.  Shhhhh...dont tell Camera Face. 

We don't want Dad to get in trouble. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Briggs, Brill & Sheep

Remember my friend Cindy's puppy Briggs?  This was the puppy I was going to steal.  But she threatened me with death & dismemberment so I let her keep him.

Just a few short months ago Briggs looked like this.  (Photo by Dianne Deal)

Right after he came home

A few weeks later I shot this picture of him with Cindy..

Today he looks like this.  My how he has grown.  One day he will grow into those ears. 

Such a handsome little guy.

Cindy has been doing a lovely job with him. Socializing and loving on him.  He is a happy well adjusted pup.

When Dianne was here last month she put Briggs on sheep.  Since the sheep are hair sheep and very light she used an older dog to keep the sheep together & settled, allowing the Briggs to succeed.  We all had so much fun watching this little guy turn on.  It was a blast!   Dianne left Cindy with instructions to put him on sheep once a month, nothing stressful, just exposure.

Last night we got to have fun again.  I went out into the field and sat down with my camera.  Cindy used her other dog Brill to hold them together.

Briggs watches them

He walks up nicely & they begin to move

Feeling a little more confident

Oh yeah...there he goes

And there is Brill beside him


Booooyah!  Someone is having fun!

Brill would circle wide, Briggs stayed in closer

He almost looks like a dog now!

He is very thoughtful about the sheep, what he was doing & engaged.

Until he saw me sitting on the ground.  Uhhhohhhhh INCOMING!

Then Brill decided to face off a ewe that was being a royal pain in the arse.  Sometimes they just need a little attitude adjustment.

And sometimes the dog provides you with an opportunity to deliver a stern correction.  Always a chance to learn. 

Oh boy...I predict a learning experience just ahead. 


Cindy yells "Knock it off!"   That was a cheap shot! 

Logical consequences.  Showing Briggs what NOT to do.

No sheep were harmed during the making of this blog post.

And neither were any dogs. Brill was none the worse for wear.  The bell ringing he got hopefully will stick in his head for a while. 

Briggs was a happy dog and the session ended on a positive note for him. 

I was uber happy because I got some awesome shots!

Now off for the weekend to Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trial where I am first on the wait list for Novice/Novice with Beth, second with Brynn.  Keep your fingers crossed someone scratches and we get to run!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beth's Dream

One day at the Columbia River Gorge below the Wild Horse Monument near Vantage, WA....

Beth: Look, look, come quick LOOK!  

Camera Face:  Beth, dont get too close to the edge!  


Camera Face: Aaaagh!  Beth, I know there is a pathway just below and it is an optical illusion...but you are still SCARING ME!  Come back here! 

Beth: Wait, wait....I can just see it.  

Camera Face:  What do you see?  

Beth:  Down there....she is floating away.  

Camera Face:  Oh my doG.....WHO IS FLOATING AWAY?  Did someone fall?  

Beth:  She didn't fall, I pushed her.   

Camera Face:  You did WHAT?  Pushed WHO?  

Beth:  I pushed Bonnie's fat arse off the edge.  I am finally rid of her annoying bark and spotty face.

Camera Face:  You did not!  We left Bonnie at home.  Why would you say such a thing?  

Beth:  Positive Visualization.  Dream it and it will happen. 

(the above sign was photographed at another location on the Crooked River in Oregon by Tjflex2 on Flickr)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Hello, my name is Brynn.

I am a hoser. 

 I am powerless over the hose. 

My life has become unmanageable...

All I can think about is the water shooting out of the end of the hose. 

The way it sprays on my face.

The water up my nose.

The adrenaline, the excitement...

I am unable to control my watery desires. 

The need is all consuming.

I want to become one with it. 

 I have lured my loved ones into this uncontrollable addiction. 

Now, I see her spiral out of control, succumbing to the power of the Hose. 

We are so hosed. 

I  have come to believe that only a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. 

Then he shut off the water. 

Till next time we are lured into its web of addictive pleasure.  

Thank you, we are much cooler now.