These Three

A friend of mine took a photo a number of years back. It was my dogs lined up at the edge of my pick up against the tailgate. They were waiting to get out of the pick up. I have for years taught my dogs that if the tail gate is up they are to stay in. I would like to say they are perfect but….

The dogs in the photo were my first Kelpies. They were, Austin, Ty, and Vaider. Tonight my current group gave me a chance at a similar photo.

In this photo we have: Watkinsons Chuck Cheemo,  Kuawarri’s Vaider, and Double V Bull.

I find it fascinating to see the ages together. To look back to see Vaider as the young  dog in the one photo and the old dog in this one. The differences between the individuals and especially to see the difference age makes in an individual. Life with stock dogs is full of fascinations and discovery.

These dogs are use to being on the road with me. They travel most everywhere I go.  A good stock dog is not much use waiting at home.

I feel lucky to be able to be able to spend time with them even if it is not as much as I would like. They are handy to have around and patient in their waiting on me.

Not Worth Getting Up For

Went to a trial yesterday. Good fun. I was entered again with just Chuck.  I had planned on entering Vaider but a little mix up on my entry form had me only in with Chuck. I did not not explain to Trudy that I was going to enter Vaider this time. He has been out with a sore shoulder for a while.

So Three o’clock in the am. we are up and on our way. Three and a half hour drive so we could be there at the beginning since Newt was up early in the open running. We made it in good time and were there before the trial began. We wander around a little with Trudy getting ready and visiting with people; me trying to not be too socially awkward.

Trudy ran Newt fairly early. They did a good job but the sheep did not settle so Newt could get a hold of them. He kept having to catch them as they tried to find an out. This affected his lines and thus his score.

We continued to watch the open through the morning and into the afternoon.  With just a few hours of daylight, Pro/Nov began.

Gus had a good outrun. From that point he had a fairly decent run (decent enough to beat me; but more on that next). Not too bad for a dog that has just turned three.

Chucks turn came up. We went to the post with a fair amount of confidence. We have worked these sheep at different trials  and they had always liked Chuck. Well it started with Chuck hooking up at the top so his outrun was very shallow (and when I say shallow, it was just barely enough to get behind his sheep). He was a little off line but we fixed that to make our fetch panels. As we got close to the post one old ewe stepped from the group and came running to me. Chuck came in and moved her off; we then continued the turn on the post into the first leg of the drive. Making the turn easily at the first panels and beginning the cross drive; this is where I started to doubt.

As we started the cross drive, Chuck began wanting to hold balance to me. Well when cross driving this does not really work well. He pulled the sheep low (over half way to me) and we had to set them back on line. This is a green dog mistake and I could feel something akin to frustration start to fester. We made it a short distance shy of the second panels when he began pulling to balance again. At this point we began to have a back and forth; me saying don’t balance to me, him saying balance to the handler was the right thing to do. As we had this discussion the ewe (yes the same one that ran to me at the handler post) decided it was time to leave. Chuck had to go cover her which just so happened to fit his idea of the right thing (now you can see my grumpy face because I felt I had to sacrifice the battle). In the recovery we missed two sheep through the panels. The rest of the drive and through the chute went easy (it was a chute rather then a pen since these sheep pen really easy).

As we left I had no desire to be around or hear anyone. My socially awkward self was really starting to coming out. Anyone that knows me knows when this happens I need to get alone or I begin to try way too hard to fit in. I have a good friend who tells me all the time, “Dave, you are fun to be around but you are not really funny.”. He may be right but it does not stop me from trying this tactic when nervous. Running true to form I was trying to think of something funny to say when I had to be around people. I schemed and planned and came up with a great funny comment.

The opertunity came fairly quickly as a couple friend commented as I walked by “that was not too bad.”

I quickly responded, “That was not worth waking up for!”.

There I got that out, all was good and I started to walk on. Over my shoulder I heard, “Well there were good parts.”.

I was not prepared for a response so all I could come up with was that they must have watched a different run. With that I continued to try to get away. Before I could I was met by another group. They commented on my run. Thinking they were not in earshot of my prepared comment I repeated, “Not worth getting up for!”.

I can not remember the exact words they said but what I got out of it was: Buck up little camper, don’t be such a princess, look at all the good that happened. Then one of the people I help with their dogs finished it up with, “I love using his own words against him.”….

With those words, not worth getting up for, became more than worth getting up for. I had so many good things to look at. I had a chance to watch many handlers and dogs work and to learn from them. I had the chance to travel and enjoy a trial with my wife. I had a chance to put trial miles on my dog. I got the chance to learn about and with my dog. I had the chance to try to learn to  be less socially awkward. I got to visit with and exchange dog theories with interesting people and friends. I got to watch people I help go out and work their dogs (not always to their desired standard, a feeling I understand) and feel happy for them.  Finally to add to all that, I got to watch my wife win the Pro/Nov with her dog Jill; topping off the day.

I add a lot of unnecessary  pressure on myself when trialing. I think things are worse then I should. This run for example,  was a middle of the pack run, average for the day. Win, Lose, or Draw the only thing that matters is: did this experience improve or hinder your relationship. If it improved it it can be nothing but a good day. If it hurt it, well maybe  a little work on the ego is in order.

With a little attitude adjustment, not worth getting up for became a good day. In the end, all I can say is: Life is Good.

Some Days!!??!!

Have you ever sat at the end of the day and wondered,  why do you do what you do? Are you good enough? Is it worth it?

As I work with people and their stockdogs, this is a question that frequently crosses my mind. Some days everything just goes right and I’m sure I’m helping people and dogs. Then…well then there are the days when it feels like I can not help anyone or get anything good from the dogs I work. No matter how hard I try, people just don’t seem to understand and dog don’t seem to want too.

Over the years one of the things I have discovered is; those days that feel like no one understands are often the days they learn the most. The days it seems like your dogs are not understanding are more often then not the days they gain the most understanding.

It is hard to see at the moment.  The frustration can make it difficult to see through the struggle. It is often only by looking back that you see the progress.

When people tell me about their old dogs who were perfect, who never caused trouble. They see the dog as it is now and have forgotten the days that they could not see a good dog ever developing. I have been in this position myself. I remember one time telling someone my top dog had never done some things. It was not long after I was watching a video of that dog as a youngster. There he was doing just about everything I had been telling people he had never done. Time had erased in my memory of my little hissy fits and the struggles teaching that got him there.

The hard days were actually the set up for the good days. If I had only had the good days I would not have learned. Sure that would make everything enjoyable but the enjoyment would soon fade as we would have to look for a higher high. The days that make you wonder are the days that keep you grounded. They are actually the days that allow you to see and appreciate the successes.

So if you had a day that made you think “Some Days”; go take a seat with your favorite beverage, call your dog to your side, give them a pat and thank them.

Always remember: Some days are what make Some day possible.

Are you ready for…THIS?

Saturday we went to a small trial up in Washington, called Shepherds retreat.  Vaider is about to be pulled off the recovery list but not for this one so I only ran Chuck. The photo is not this trial but it is Chuck!

We are running Pro/ Nov with Chuck and I have been feeling pretty good about him. I have been thinking “if I can get a few more miles on him I may move him into open.” A few more trial miles to be sure he is running consistent.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I like to work dogs but trialing is a struggle. Since trialing makes me nervous I tend to not check trial schedules, miss entries, or have something I have to do that weekend. This makes it a little hard to put on trial miles.

It seems dog have a sense of humor, waiting for you to be in public to do something that, I am sure, they think will embarrass you. Chuck decided this was a trial he was going to test me by not being consistent. Well, peculiar is maybe a better way of putting it (anyone that has dogs that do this may not find it peculiar).

As we were getting ready for our run; I thought it would be a good idea to get behind the truck the judge was judging from. That way I would be ready sooner and help the trial move along. Good thought… maybe.

We were following the fence-line around off the course. The run before us lost their sheep on the drive and the sheep come running right over to Chuck and myself. The handler gets control of the sheep and move along on their drive while I finish getting to where I can use the truck as a blind; all is good.

Can you see my set up for an excuse.

The run finishes and we go to the post. The problem is Chuck is focused on the exhaust. No problem I have had dogs focus on the exhaust. We have always got through it and Chuck has not had that issue. We approach the post walking straight at the sheep we are to work but Chuck keeps looking back.

I try to get him to look up the field by walking away from the post and back to it a couple times. That should draw his focus up the field, um no. Each time we stop he turns back to the exhaust. I try to wait looking up the field calling his focus forward. Finally I decide to just send into the exhaust and flank him past it. After all  we did all that set up to help speed the trial along.  Waiting at the post was not working or helping move things along. The longer we stand at the post also gives the sheep we are to work more time to get… fidgety.

We are now set to send toward the exhaust. I send. Chuck does not even hesitate he flanks backwards so if those were the sheep he was suppose to get it would have been a cross at my feet (good thing they weren’t). I did hot have a chance to flank him past (If I could draw the angles that might make more sense). Now my only chance was to flank him off those sheep to look for different sheep.

A few redirects later he is heading up the field; now it is fixed, sort of. He still has not found his sheep and is on a path the is not deep enough. I stop him and redirect again. He stops on a little rise. Looks at me with that, here hold my beer. look.  Pops up on his hind legs and scans the field finding his sheep (that is the peculiar part for those of you that do not have dogs that do the hind leg search). Then he proceeds to get them.

I was fairly happy with the rest of the run and felt pretty good about my dog and how we handled our little “pop” quiz. We get back to the handlers and that was the only thing I heard about my run. “How did you teach him to do that.”, “That was so funny when he.”, ” I wish my dog knew how to do that.”, etc. I was a little embarrassed but that wore off quickly.

Unofficially, he won the pro/nov with a 56. Followed by a 55, 54, 53, 52 and on down. I only saw score sheets that were not checked but…

In the end, I was happy with my dog and happy that we got a chance to put a few more trial miles on. It was a good day spent with my wife (who, had a good run with Jill that I thought had beat me), good dogs, good people, all in good fun.

A half version of Chucks move.


3 Ways To Fail A Stockdog?

1)  Rigidity:

While a rigid training program can be good, too much rigidity within the training is not. When we look at a stockdog we are looking at an individual; not a machine, not a program, not even a group, but an individual with a mind and purpose.

Thinking a dog sets its own purposes may bother some but hear me out. When a dog moves it does so for food, shelter, comfort, interest, etc.; there is a purpose to the movement. A dogs motivations set the purpose.

With this in mind we have to look at what each dog is doing at any given time. Motivations can change with time or in moments. We have to adapt our approach to what the dog is thinking; its purpose at the moment. As soon as we think there is only one way of getting the task accomplished,  we set ourselves up to fail (or our dogs to fail).

We have to adapt to each dog and/or each day. What works for one dog may not be as successful with another. What works one day with a dog can be different with the same dog on another day.  The dog or handler can be in a different frame of mind at different moments. This changes how they have go about accomplishing the task at hand.

Adapt to the dog. Adapt to how you feel and how your dog feels. You need to get the things you have asked for but find the way that works with that dog at that moment.

So to set up for success with rigidity: Simply be rigid in your training but flexible in your approach. Train your dogs, set your standards, but adapt to the situation.

2) Lack of rigidity:

Wait didn’t we just say rigidity was a sure way to fail? Well if you were paying attention, we did. In this case , however, we are referring to not having  standards. Good work is good work. In order to accomplish good work we have to have a standard of good work.

Now this is not saying to be a perfectionist. Demanding perfection will cause you to fail due to a problem with Rigidity (see #1). As we train our dogs we set our standard based on what they know. What is acceptable from a pup can not be acceptable from a trained adult. We build to perfection but can not demand it.

Good work does not change with breed of dog. Styles may change but work does not. A dog needs to be appropriate with is stock no matter the breed. Lowering a  standard of work because that is what a breed does, is an excuse. Some breeds, as well as individuals in a breed, may hit certain standards quicker or easier then others. Time changes but standard of work has to stay the same. Remember we turn weaknesses into strengths to achieve a standard of work. if that is not the case, why train?

As an example of standards that rise; when I have a young dog the standard is that it is fair to its stock. This might mean that it is a little pushy or does not flank clean or any number of things but it is allowing stock an option to go (or stay if the dog is holding) someplace  and everything is safe. As the dog learns the standard has to increase. In this case the standard would continue to raise till the dog was pushing and flanking appropriately. Once there the standard must be maintained.

Be flexible in how you get it but be rigid to your standards.

3) Failing to try:

This is the surest way to fail. When we fail to try we do not avoid failure, we ensure it.

One of the main reasons I think people do not try is the fear of mistakes. We learn from mistakes as well as, if not better than, from our successes. You determine success. Sometimes learning is more of a success then accomplishing. If you learn, accomplishing becomes easier the next time.

I know in this blog post I have been talking about failing, but I think it really comes down to this: Not setting standards or not being adaptable are really mistakes. We can learn from them and grow when we see we are making them. The only way to truly fail is to not try.

So get on out there. Have fun, learn, grow. Let failure go because you never really fail unless you stop trying.

Enjoy the photo of my dog Bull, my current teacher…