Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Scary Shrieker

Dianne was here this last weekend, teaching private lessons on Friday & Sunday.  She judged the Rocky Ewe trial in Roy on Saturday. 

She always brings with her a hefty dose of humility. 

I bring the humiliation all by myself. 

My poor dogs would like to beat me with crook.  I am sure Dianne has thought about employing that method of instruction a time or two as well.  Death by herding instructor; my guess it would be a bludgeoning.  Well deserved I am sure. 

I have not been working Beth much lately.  When I do work her, it is for chores & close up work only.  The work she has done with me I insist on her doing it correctly with very little pressure.  On Thursday I worked her with Dianne, it was like I had a new dog.   I thought it was because Dianne was on the field & Beth was scared of her.  Beth has a history of acting like the perfect little angel with a instructor (Patrick, Karen Child or Scott Glen) on the field - then later with me morphs into a ripping wool shredding freak of nature.  With Dianne, Beth did everything I asked.  We had this magical herding vibe going on. She even did inside flanks without looking like she was being drug through a  fiery pit of hell. 

Dianne told me it was beautiful.  There was nothing she had to say, my handling had improved with her, my timing was pert near perfect.  Words I never thought I would hear.  I smiled with joy.  Then remembered our session with Brynn earlier - that brought me back to earth - like a lead balloon. 

A few weeks ago I wrote that I was done trialing Beth.  She has gone as far as she will go and it just wasnt worth the frustration.  I lied.  The truth is, I signed her up for the trial last weekend so John could run her - because I had given up on her.  Alas, John told me his heart wasn't into working the dogs and he had to work - he volunteered for overtime at work - sending a strong message to me I did not miss.   That poor misguided man, choosing to work and make money over working dogs on sheep?  I just don't get it, but I am happy he is making the money for me to spend. 

Where was I?  Oh yeah...the trial. 

Anyone who has seen me run a dog at a trial knows it will go in one of two directions.  Calm, cool, quiet and nice.  Or a sniveling, screaming, shrieking freak of nature. 

Hi, my name is Carolynn...I am a Bi-Polar Handler.   

When I am calm, cool, quiet and nice - we have a nice run.  I am happy, my dog is happy.  All is right in the world even if we completely sucked. 

When I am a sniveling, shrieking freak of nature - my dog runs like crap,  I feel like crap and our scores are crap.  When our scores are not crap I am ashamed and feel like my crappy handling didn't deserve a decent score and want to crawl into my crap filled hole.   A self fulfilling crappy prophecy. 

I feel like I am finally learning how to find a spot somewhere in the middle. 

On Saturday when I ran Brynn in Ranch, it was better than in the past.  I am learning why I fall apart when I am running her.  She is a lot of dog.  She is FAST, strong and very very very good and I am scared to death of her.  My mind does not move as fast as she does.  Things go wrong on the outrun, I fall back on corrections that did not work in training.  On the drive I give her the wrong flank, she takes it and I start yelling "NO".  She tries harder, runs faster, trying to please me...I get more and more frantic.  Things deteriorate and I feel dumber and dumber.  I want to die.  I telegraph every one of these emotions to my dog through my voice, the timber of my commands, my escalating shrieks.  Brynn placed 8th in the class. 

On Saturday when I ran Beth in the Ranch class, things were calm, cool, and fun.  She listened to every command I gave her. She ran happily, effortlessly and I felt confident & relaxed.  With that run we got 3rd place in the ranch class.  I was very happy! 

On Sunday during a lesson Dianne pointed out to me that I shriek & bark commands at Brynn.  It went like this...

Me:  "Away"
DD:  "Why are you barking that at her, try it again."
Me:  "Awaaaay."
DD:   Ouch, that sounds like a correction.  Try not to make it so harsh. Use your whistle. 
Me:   Whistling Away.
DD:  What was that?
Me:  My away whistle
DD:  Try it again
ME:  Whistle Away
DD:  "She is right there, there is no need to make her ears bleed". 
Me:   Verbal"Awaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy"
DD:  That is giving me a head ache - can you imagine how she feels?
Me:  verbal, softer Aaaaawayyyyyyyy
DD:  Wow, that just told her to give you a BIG away flank...if you want a short one, shorten it up a bit.
Me:  Away!
DD:  Barking again!  The command needs to be monotone, soft.  The corrections are harsh, not the flanks. Try it again
Me:  Away
DD:  No
Me:  I can't hear myself...I am trying! 
DD:  try harder
Me:  Away
DD:  NO!
Me:  Does it really sound that bad?
DD:  YES! You sound really angry!
Me:  I am not angry!
DD:  You are scaring ME!
Me:  I dont mean to!
DD:  Try it again, this time SOFTER!
Me:  Aaaaaaaawaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy (sing song)
DD: There you go..see her take that flank....now correct her she sliced it...get after her.
Me:  Brynn!  You get out of that!  (with requisite scottish accent)
DD: Better! Give her a flank again, but don't take the tone from the correction into the command
Me:  Away...
DD:  You are Barking Again!  Lighten up!  Think of the way you say "Come Bye"  you say that so nicely...say Away the same way.
Me:  I can't
DD: Say it
Me;  I am too fat
DD:  *Sigh* Say it !
Me:  softly, nicely....Away
DD:  See!  Look at that flank!  The commands need to be monotone, soft and reassuring.  Do not shriek your flanks - you can shriek your correction, but then it is OVER.  Dont bring the correction into the command. 
Me:  I am stupid
DD: She will work for you regardless. 

The gist of it.  Brynn scares me.  I still have not gotten through my head that I do not need to control her every move on the field.  I need to make my corrections count, leave anger out of it.  When the correction is done, drop it.  Move on.  Make the command inviting - not a demand.  I need to remember that my dog wants to please me & I need to give her the correct information so she can do that...instead of turning it into a fight. 

I asked Dianne why she thought I did so much better with Beth.  "You didn't have any expectations.   You had given up on her.  You went out there relaxed & not expecting anything."

She was 100% right.  Whatever Beth gave me I was going to be happy with.  I didnt have any preconceived expectations.  With Brynn, I did.  My insecurities (ego) led the way.

Yep a humbling journey this is...but so addicting.

Hi my name is Carolynn, I am a recovering bi-polar masochistic handler.  It is nice to meet you!


MTWaggin said...

Great post - thanks for making my morning and you aren't the only one with the bi-polar dog trainer issues! :)

Louise said...

Excellent post.

I am a Control Freak in re-hab.

sagechronicles said...

What a great post!! Sage and I just started agility training so it'll be interesting to see how it goes.

julie said...

Are you sure you and I are not one and the same person?
Excellent post!

RYKER said...

Hope you all are still having fun out there!

Erin O said...

Me: I am stupid
DD: She will work for you regardless.

So true, she will. She'll keep trying as long as you keep asking. Dogs rock.