24 August, 2010

Gems from the Scott Glen Clinic

(photos by C. Harwell at a separate event, photos were not taken at the clinic)

The 4 day open handlers clinic at Fido's Farm with Scott Glen was a great experience. I really enjoyed having a chance to get feedback about me and my dog and to watch the other teams make such great progress over the 4 days.

I know that I am my dog's biggest liability. Anyone who reads this blog is familiar with that. As my dog's biggest liability, I took the time to take about 13 pages of notes during the clinic. While I don't intend to get into deep detail here (if you want that, sign up for a clinic!!), I figured I'd pass along some of the gems from the weekend. Scott has a lot of helpful one-liners and brief quips that we can all learn from, if we just remember them. Some of them are, of course, things well all know but forget!

Many thanks to Scott for permission to post these, and to Fido's Farm for hosting this great clinic.

Lucy penning sheep who have never been in the pen before

Gems from Scott

"You don't have to stop your dog, you just have to be ABLE to stop your dog." (We've all heard that one, I bet)

"If a whistle will keep points, then use it. If it wont, be quiet."

"If you're going to talk to your dog, then you'd better talk sense."

"We (handlers/trainers) have the responsibility to make a dog better, and the ability to make him worse."

"Make sure you are able to be helpful to your dog."

"The opposite of mechanical is zero commands."

"When walking the course, look for lines, draws, blind spots and geographical landmarks. Devise a strategy for each."

"A young dog should have to be controlled so they don't learn too much caution."

"You'll have 3 stops: the normal/quiet stop, a medium stop and a hard, emergency stop. Use them accordingly."

"The best runs are when the dog is off the sheep as much as possible while remaining in contact, not the runs where the dog is as close as possible without splitting the sheep."

"Flow must come before line. You can't make a line out of something that's not moving."

"At the end of the fetch, pay attention to where you put your dog to plan a good turn well in advance."

"Don't bother to keep blowing walk-ups the dog isn't taking."

"Don't bother to keep blowing stops the dog isn't taking."

"You can't fix a broken stop on the drive, fix it on the fetch."

"Constant whistling should reserved for times you need it to keep points or keep the sheep happy."

"Balance is where the dog is most comfortable. The closer they are to it, the more attractive it becomes."

"Stay calm when you can, be loud when you need to ... soft whistles leave room for louder ones if needed."

"A dog unwinding a flank has too much freedom to be wrong."

"If you have the opportunity to keep the dog out of trouble with a command, then do so, before he gets into trouble on his own."

"Stop and take time to observe the effects of every whistle."

"Don't let inside flanks sound angry."

"Sheep who are spread out and knocking into one another is always a symptom of too much pressure."

"Work less keen dogs at dusk, it can keen them up."

"Look back means let go of the sheep you have, not go to the sheep you don't."

"A lively set of sheep will not fix itself."

"The handler stopping the dog allows development of a more powerful dog. The sheep stopping the dog weakens it."

"Remember, the pulls on course can change at any time. Pay attention!"

And, again, the one that bears repeating over and over...
"If you're going to talk to your dog, then you'd better talk sense."

I always learn so much from Scott. Sometimes it is confirmation of what I already know but can't express so succinctly. Other times it's completely new information. Either way, lessons and clinics with Scott always end with me a better handler than I was at the start.

Enjoy your journey: no one else can take your journey for you.

18 August, 2010

On the road again

Leaving 6am tomorrow morning for the Lacamas Valley Stock Dog Trial. This will be the largest sheepdog trial I have attended or run in by far. 100 dogs will run in Open. The largest group I've run in til tomorrow was 64.

While I always hope to do well when I go to the post with my dog, I am really looking forward to watching some of the top teams in the region and in North America. It will be a learning experience and I plan to take lots of notes!

For those who are going, see ya tomorrow.

09 August, 2010

Lucy's Portrait

For my birthday this year, Diane of DeltaBluez Stockdogs gave me a gift certificate for Patrice Palmer to do a portrait of Lucy.

Then Carolynn Harwell of BCxFour took this awesome headshot of Lucy for me:

I sent the head shot to Patrice for the portrait, and here is the gorgeous result!

I feel like she captured Lucy's personality perfectly.

For more examples of Patrice's talents: www.austinanimalart.com

Many thanks to Di for such a great gift!!

07 August, 2010

Airs above the ground

Had a nice day working dogs today, although the weather didn't cooperate. It was clear when I left home, and pouring by the time I got to Carnation. I ended up soaked to the skin.

Had 2 nice lessons; a GSD who was having his second lesson, and a BC who had been on stock perhaps 4 times before. Both dogs were easy to school and have handlers who are dedicated to learning.

I had a chance to work dogs so put some time on Ben, Nan (visiting), Faye, Tess (because she was pouting) and of course my Lucy.

All the dogs worked nicely. Ben struggles with being relaxed and thoughtful enough to find balance. He would rather close his eyes and just flank-like-hell. While he is nice and square, that won't get the job completed ;) We worked in the lower pasture on being more natural and feeling balance. I kept him off his sheep enough so that he was starting to use a bit more method and eye rather than wanting to wear. It was a good work.

Nan is progressing. She would really rather go on the bye side than anything else. We worked in the lower pasture on going both directions. When she is focused, she has nice feel and she is naturally square. I pushed her out of her comfort zone a bit and it paid off with her going nicely both directions and switching from the bye side to the away side without a swallowtail.

Faye and Tess are easy to work and both listened well.

Lucy was working nicely, thoughtful and quite a bit of come forward. After some course work and sorting for lessons, we worked a bit on shedding. With so many farm flocks to trial on around here, sometimes the dog must come in on a gap that is tiny, or doesn't really exist. Lucy was doing terrific. She was holding one particularly tough shed and ewe #6 (white #6) decided she was NOT playing along and launched straight into the air to jump OVER the dog. This was a mistake on the part of #6. Lucy met her in the air, gripping the belly (meep). She then dove in front of #6 who was now reconsidering her escape and turned her neatly back onto me. After our work I did clean up a small slice (2") on #6's belly. I think she will be just fine.

I SO wish I'd had a video or a picture of that. It was truly spectacular. I am always amazed at how fearless these dogs can be sometimes. I'm fairly certain that if someone 5x my size was launching in mid-air over me, I wouldn't be brave enough to meet them in the air.

Diane's new horse is obsessed with Lucy. She would not leave her alone. I could not leave her tied to the fence, I had to tie her outside the pasture to a separate part of the fence as Maggie was sniffing, nibbling and nearly stepping on Lucy. Maggie also tried to step on Lucy through the fence when she was tethered on the other side as well as reaching her head waaaay over the fence to try and get in a nibble. I am not sure what this is all about. Maggie was very sweet to me and very obedient about everything except leaving the dog alone. Any ideas?