Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ups and downs, a little bit of wool flossin', and my birthday

So this week I got the opportunity to go out to Dianne's twice! I am always in need of practice, so it was much appreciated. Thanks, Dianne! Both lessons were completely different in terms of things accomplished, frustration levels, "success" rates, etc. I say "success" because it's kind of a complicated term, especially when applied to the backwards logic of stockdogging. Hardly black and white. And boy, did I learn that this week.


I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the first lesson because it

What did I learn? Most importantly, that I need to TRUST MY DOG, let her think for herself, let her make mistakes (otherwise she can't learn from them), and that everything won't go to shit if we DO do something wrong.


Like Dianne said, we can set up things every time to go perfectly, and just go out in the field and circle and walk back and forth, but we'll never really progress or learn anything.

For that reason, I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the first lesson. While it was awesome, and really fun, it wasn't as pivotal as yesterday's work. The first lesson did kind of set up what we did yesterday, but nothing really mind-blowing happened. We worked on getting the sheep off the wall and working under more pressure, which we both have trouble with :) Here's a video of the highlights, which does show how much we have improved over the last three months:

So onto lesson #2....

Yesterday (my birthday) Dianne had us start doing actual kind of practical "work"... out in the pasture, she wanted us to move the sheep down the fence, then pull them off of the fence to work in the field. The first half hour/45 minutes were, to put it mildly, AWFUL. It was so bad that Joe and my mom left and sat in the car after about twenty minutes or so, until our second work of the day (which was much better!). Cedar kept diving in, splitting, chasing and flossing, chased the sheep all around Dianne's front yard, blew me off completely, etc. And when she wasn't being grippy and stupid, she was running off to visit with Joe and my mom! I was seriously confused and about to cry. I felt like we had regressed at least a month, if not more.


After about the fifth time of things going completely to hell, I told Dianne I needed a break for a couple minutes. So we talked for awhile about training and stuff, and Dianne (bless her!) kept reminding me that 1) I really can't mess her up too badly, 2) Cedar is still young, and will never learn if I don't let her make mistakes, and 3) training is a long process.... and certainly not a linear one. She used the ladder analogy: sometimes in training we go up two rungs of the ladder, but later we sometimes have to go back a rung or two when necessary. Dianne said that because Cedar is so attached to me and stuff, she looks to me for all her confidence and direction. In order to become a good sheepdog, she needs to learn to think for herself more.

Working on moving the sheep down the fence line

Another thing I learned yesterday (well, learned better anyhow) is that I need to be able to let things go. I tend to hold onto my frustration (one of my type-A faults) which is detrimental to my ability to think clearly. I also have this overwhelming need to do everything perfectly... yup, another type-A personality quirk. ;) Maybe that's why I'm attracted to the most OCD/Type-A kind of dog there is? haha

After that talk, things started to change for the better. Cedar split the sheep again, and they ran off around by the pond and scattered. I went to chase after her and Dianne stopped me. Instead of chasing and flossing, Cedar went wide around the sheep, collected them, and brought them back to me. I was floored. I guess Dianne really knows what she's talking about...


So after another break (Cedar went and got a drink) we started fresh and worked again. It was like night and day!!! Cedar was thinking for herself, listening to me, and working relatively calmly and under control. I was also thinking much more clearly, and felt much more balanced. I am starting to figure out where I need to be and what I need to do to set Cedar up for success. However, by putting more trust in her (and not panicking when mistakes do happen), Cedar has started to have more confidence in her ability. The sheep tried to run for home several times in the latter part of the lesson, too, but we managed to hold things together pretty well, and Cedar (for the most part) would just regroup them and bring them back to me. And she was working much better with the pressure of the fence/wall as well. The last few times we did it she almost seemed to use the fence to balance off of.


Well anyways, this week's lessons were full of ups and downs for me and Cedar. However, we learned more from the "downs" than the easy moments. Every lesson I learn something new. I guess I've written enough for now, sorry if it's a bit fragmented, I'm still trying to process... I've got another lesson tomorrow so I'll write about that after the fact!


P.S. I got my utility articles and dumbell yesterday for my birthday, and also The Border Collie by Iris Combe. I'm excited to start training that stuff too :)

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