One of the common questions that comes up while working stockdogs is simply “Can I….”. Everyone has an idea of what they have to do to be correct working their dog. Judges will tell you what you need to do. Trainers will tell you not to do this but do that. People watching will all have an opinion of what you should be doing or what you should have done.
A question I was recently asked was about widening a dog out. Could they widen the dog out too much? The answer was, Yes but…
Why the but? The but is because, if the dog is pushing the handlers buttons neither the dog nor the handler are able to enjoy themselves. This brings up the questions: Are you comfortable working like it is now? Do you feel like you are able to fulfill your goals like things are going now? The answer is likely to came back, sort of. Then a new couple more questions come up. What is the worst that could happen? Could the dog running too wide help you enjoy working your dog more?
When dealing with what is right when working dogs the concern is often in regards to what people think. If you sit and listen to many of the discussions while watching trials you will hear people talking about all the things it is wrong for a dog to do while working stock. This can make a handler concerned about themselves being wrong and not wanting to make mistakes their peers will notice. All I can say to that is, Who cares! If a dog is running in a manner that someone thinks is wrong but it keeps the handler and dog working, were is the problem?
In the example of too wide; if it makes a person comfortable enough to push themselves and their dog to do more, how can we fault it too much?
Everything we do while working dogs can affect us in other places. Me for example, I ask my dogs to be forward. Is that wrong, sometimes. Sometimes I will have to think harder and faster to keep up with things. Sometimes I may be scrambling for the handbrake. In my dealings though, allowing my dogs to be forward or maybe even a little pushy helps me more than it hinders. If it helps me more than it hinders me it will help my relationship with my dogs. The days I am happy with my dogs will be more often. I will want to go out with those dogs more often. I may even be encouraged to trial more (well lets not get too carried away).
In the end the only rule we have to follow religiously is: handler, dog, and livestock are safe. Let people talk. Handle your dogs in the way that makes you stretch yourself and them. If it costs you points in a trial, let it, that is only someones opinion of what is happening that day. If you don’t trial but work your dog to get your livestock work done, getting it done is the value. Someones idea of how it should be is for exanding yourself and learning, not to interfere with you being able to get your tasks done.
As you progress you may find you can or want to deal with things differently and you may then do more of what others think is right. Until then do what works for you. Don’t let opinions stop your progress. Don’t let opinions hinder your relationship with your dog. Remember it is about you and your dogs and the tasks at hand. It is about having fun.