Friday, January 29, 2010

Attitude Means Everything - Clinic Wrap Up

Last May I went to Patrick Shannahan's clinic for young dogs and I had a difficult time.  Truthfully I had a terrible time.  My head was in a negative space.  When I say negative - I actually mean that my brain had been sucked into a negative vortex larger than the vacant space between Nancy Pelosi's ears.

I am not sure what I had going on emotionally and/or mentally - beyond the obvious mental problems already present.  Maybe stress from home, kids, lack of sleep?   Only my therapist really knows and thankfully she isn't telling. 

When I told my friends I signed up for the same clinic again - their jaws dropped.    They remembered my endless, obsessive complaining  following the 1st clinic and wondered why I would go again. 

But I liked Patrick and the way he worked with dogs and people.  Let's be honest here, obviously the problem here wasn't clinic  - it was me. 

What it boiled down to was my attitude.  I was talking to John last night about what approach I was going to take in writing about this clinic.  When I told him what I was thinking he said something that startled me - since I normally don't expect such insightful things to come out of his mouth.  He said "It is easy to have a good attitude when your dog does well, but when it is a whole different matter".  He was right - and for a moment I remembered why I loved him.  Then he started snoring while I was still talking... 

Last May Bonnie had a very difficult time - which I allowed to pollute my attitude.  She liked the sheep well enough but at the first sign of pressure from Patrick she bolted.  Sheep just were not important enough for her to handle the pressure. 

This year at the clinic Patrick said several times  "Is this the same dog as last year?".   I was very proud of her. 

The changes in Bonnie are not just on sheep.  Looking back over the year I can see changes in many different areas.  For example, she plays with toys, fetches balls, plays tug etc.    I wonder if that has anything to do with her improvement on sheep?  Perhaps her self confidence is growing?   What ever it is, I like it.

The clinic was wonderful.  Patrick  has a way of explaining things that make sense for people at all levels.   What I appreciate is his approach to working with many different personalities.

A training style may work for one person, but not for the next.  The challenge is to adapt a particular instructor's training style to fit your individual needs or strength.  It isn't about a precise technique, rather how to communicate what you need and want from the dog in a way that is clear and consistent.

The basics are everything.  

If you cant walk at a comfortable pace without the dog shoving the sheep right over you - then you are not ready to move on to anything else.

Anyone want to tell me why it has taken 2.5 years for this to get through my brain?  The push I have felt get my dog into a bigger field doing bigger and better outruns has been self imposed.  Big beautiful outruns are wonderful.  But if your dog never learned how to lift the sheep, move them at a reasonable pace, feel their bubble, respect your space - then what is the freaking point?

For example:   Beth's outruns are gorgeous.  But when she gets to the top she crashes into the sheep and then shoves them down the field like her ass is on fire.   If I had spent more time working with Beth on the simple techniques I learned at the clinic,  these things could be corrected.   (When her leg heals - we will start at the beginning again - before we move out to a larger field). 

I have been compensating for Bonnie. I haven't been walking...I have been running.  God only knows, this may be good for my cardiovascular health, but it sucks for my over burdened joints. 

I was just trying to stay ahead of the sheep while Bonnie pushed harder and harder.  Wearing, weaving and anxiously letting her eye pull her right up their butts.  It isn't a matter of her not respecting me or not listening.  It is very difficult for her to listen to something I am not communicating clearly or consistently.  

Bonnie is hooked on the sheep, she has eye, she has push, she wants to please me.  Because I have not been able to convey what I wanted,  Bonnie compensated for me by packing the sheep up against me as tightly as possible.   Then I would start yelling  "LIE DOWN". Waving my stick first at her nose, then at her head....even sometimes throwing it at her.  She responded by running faster and faster, circling me more and more. 

What I learned this weekend through many repetitions:  When Bonnie starts to push the sheep too hard, or is too close.  Walk through the sheep, with a strong "AH", waving my stick back and forth, say "out".

THIS IS THE KEY - The minute I see Bonnie's head turn, like she wants to leave and backs off...I give her the sheep, sending her around.  If she comes in too fast, close or hard...walk through the sheep again, wave my stick - push her out.  Again and again and again until she gets it through her head that she needs to stay back.

Monday morning following the clinic I had a session with Dianne Deal.  Building on the foundation I practiced  with Patrick  - we had a break through *insert happy dance here*.

If you saw the video with Brynn (below) - you can see that she feels her sheep.  She stays off of them.  She does not wear (weave back and forth).  You stop, she stops (most of the time).  She is respectful of your ground and the sheep (to a degree).   You so much as bob that stick and she turns out, giving the sheep more room.

I can back up, slowly.  Bonnie has stopped the wearing, weaving and darting around.  She walks in a straight line - at my pace.  She is finally starting to feel the sheep bubble.  WOW!

I say  "out" and bob my stick...she bends.  WOW!

The single most important thing I learned this weekend:  Keep all emotion and inflection out of the given command.  

I can correct Bonnie, I can go at her...wave my stick, growl, bark "AH HA", say her name in a gruff  or questioning manner, but the minute I say that command...lower my voice and say it quietly, confidently and gently  "lie down".    

Make the command sanctuary, the correction should be uncomfortable - in the command is relief. 

How many times have I been told that same thing?  

Sometimes the most obvious things in life are the hardest to learn. 

 Here is a link to an excellent article Patrick wrote about corrections 

Correction:  Such a Negative Word for Such a Positive Result

To sum it up, the clinic was wonderful.  It moved at a fast pace & full of relevant information.  Patrick tries to apply the issues each dog is having to the group as a whole, keeping you involved even when you are not working your dog.  He is a gifted instructor and handler. 

It was wonderful to see old friends and new faces.

I highly recommend making a trip to Idaho for lessons with either Patrick or Dianne Deal.  It is well worth the trip and time investment.  The Boise area is sheep herding Mecca. 

Patrick Shannahan's website:  Red Top Kennels

Dianne Deal's website:  Orchard Run Border Collies

If you would like to see the horrible pictures I shot of everyone click the link below: 

 January 2010 Patrick Shannhan Clinic

Wednesday night in photography class I learned about this thing called "equivalent exposure" and how I could have set my camera to pick up the action yet allow enough light in that these pictures would have turned out nicer.  *sigh*  Lesson learned.   

As all things in life...there is always a next time.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quick Idaho Note - Brynn

Last night we shuffled into the house after mucho car time.  My butt felt like a waffle iron.  My husband says it looked like a waffle iron too.  He should die a long and painful death, don't you think?

Moving on...

Bonnie was exhausted.  I was exhausted and wore all my mascara off my face before we reached Hermiston.  Did you know that water proof mascara isn't resistant to tears?

I wasn't really crying... nah...I was sobbing like a two year old.  I held it together until I talked to Vicki on the phone.   I had proudly stated to Vicki "I am not crying".  Then got off the phone and the dam let loose.  It was pathetic.  I would mention that I ate an entire bag of Cheetos too - but that would be gross.  Imagine that, a woman driving through the Blue Mountains, car loaded up with puppies (transporting for BC rescue), one tired Bonnie, sobbing... all the while shoving Cheetos Puffs in her face.  Just past La Grande, Oregon I realized I was out of anything to drink.  I am ashamed to admit this...I was forced to drink from the dog water jug *shuudder*.  Today I couldn't get my wedding ring on, my eyes are swollen darn near shut and I am worried I may have given my self some weird dog-water borne disease.

Why was I such a disgusting mess?

I left Brynn with Dianne Deal for training.  Patrick and Dianne decided that Brynn is ready for the pressure of training.

I have one I?  

Ugh...even typing this makes me want to throw myself down on the floor, kicking and screaming.  Not really, but almost.  *insert pathetic self pitying sigh here*

I miss her. I miss her little way of walking with me to every room, looking up at me with this goofy look on her face that says "I am with you...right here...what next?".  Every border collie owner out there knows the 'look' I am talkin' bout.

So before I tell you all about the BEST CLINIC EVER  I will share this video I shot of Patrick working with Brynn a bit.

Sorry about the crappy videography - When Brynn ran at me to check in - the camera went up to the ceiling and I am too tired to edit it out.

Doesn't she look awesome? 

Already this morning Dianne sent me a quick update - Brynn is settling in and adjusting.  Oh gawd....I am crying again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

52 Weeks & Going to Idaho

This is a quick post to let you all know you don't hear from soon I have slid off a mountain somewhere on my way to Caldwell, Idaho.  Please send help. 

On that cheerful note I wanted to share this weeks 52 weeks photos with you. 

Wait...I never told you about 52 weeks did I?  Sorry...

52 Weeks for Dogs is a photography group on Flickr of die-hard dog photo addicts who commit to photographing their dog, one photo a week.  The catch is the photo MUST be shot within that week (no catch up allowed)and the rules are strictly enforced.

There are some fantastic photos in this group  Flickr Group - 52 Weeks For Dogs

We are on week three.  Since you can only have one dog in this group at a time - I chose Ranger for this project.  Because he is the easiest dog to photograph (he poses) and my photography skills are less than stellar - so I needed the easy one. 

These are  Rangers 52 Week submissions so far - two of which you have already seen. 

1/52 - Ranger

 2/52 - Ranger

3/52  - Ranger

Not to leave my other dogs out I also committed to personally doing the rest of them - on my own.  Brynn will have a big gap in her pictures - because she will be in Idaho sadly.  Hopefully Dianne can send me weekly pictures of her that I can plug in there. 

You have already seen Brynn's first 52 week contribution

2/52 - Brynn

3/52 - Brynn

I just looked at the clock and freaked out.  I need to get on the road to Idaho - so I am going to cut this short. 

You have already Bonnie's first and second 52 week shots - so here is her third

3/52 Bonnie

Beth's shots are nothing to write home about.  But you can see hers here

Beth's 52 Week Project

Wish me luck and pray I don't drive into a snow bank somewhere!

Idaho HO.  That didn't sound right did it?  Would it be IdaHO. No...YoudaHo.  Okay okay that was old and pathetic, but I am still giggling. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beth, Brynn, Bonnie & Idaho

"Why must you giggle so much when you look at me?"

Want I should tell you where to put that camera?

No Beth, that is okay...I will stop torturing you with the camera. 

Last night I took Beth to the vet.  Her least favorite place on earth.  Beth started limping during a walk last week after Bonnie slammed into her.

We gave Beth several days of crate rest and anti-imflammatory meds with some improvement.  She will bear weight on the leg, but limps more often than not.  Since I am taking the dogs to Idaho this next weekend for the Pat Shannahan clinic and had plans to drop Beth off for training with Dianne Deal - I wanted a clean bill of health and to find out difinitively that she could or could not go.

She can't go.

It appears Beth has a partial tear of her ACL.  It does not seem to be severe - but the vet said it is likely to completely tear at some point - who knows when.    For now we are taking the conservative approach - crate rest and more Rimadryl.  Re-check in  3 weeks and see how she presents at which point we will discuss surgical repair or not.  Till then she is house bound, off the ball and off sheep. 

Say a prayer or two for Beth and for my pocket book.  Surgery is not cheap.  Good Heavens...will it never end for Beth?  It seems like it has been a litany of injuries and what not. 

Friday I will leave for Caldwell, Idaho with just Bonnie and Brynn.  Both dogs are signed up for the clinic with Patrick.  Let's hope that Bonnie will do better than she did in May.  Last year Bonnie hid under everyone's chairs and wouldn't come out - Patrick had everyone pull their chairs away from the wall and make a bunch of noise to get her to come out - it took until the last session in the clinic before Bonnie would engage and begin to work.

I will be discussing with Dianne the possibility of leaving Brynn for training.  The plans were to leave Brynn in March or April when I picked up Beth.  Brynn will be a year old on Feb 2.  Depending on how she works in the clinic and what Patrick & Dianne feel about her maturity - I may or may not leave her yet.

Gosh I dont know if my heart can take it...look at this face

My heart may melt from missing her. I haven't been away from her for a single night since she was discharged from the vet after her fight with parvo as a puppy. 

 Brynn is growing up so nicely.  She is learning self control and  how to wait.  

She is the best out of all the dogs and will wait until she is released every single time.

Her social skills leave a lot to be desired though - which worries me.  She is quite fearful about new places, new people and new sounds - regardless of my efforts to socialize her and expose her to everything I can think of.   She is still very much a puppy - in so many ways.

On sheep...that is a different story.  (The following pictures were shot by Evan Harwell)

She thinks, she is calm, confident and thoughtful

With Brynn I can back up at a nice comfortable pace and not have the sheep knock me over - like Bonnie

 Even with these knee knockers at Fido's

She still has a few moments of puppy behavior - which I expect.  She is afterall...still a pup.

More sheep wrecks will be in her future too - it is the process of learning

I am so happy Dianne Deal will be training her.  Brynn has so much potential.

I am still going to miss her more than ...well....can't think of a good analogy right now.  Just suffice it to say I will miss her oodles.

Who wouldn't miss this face?

I won't be missing Bonnie though.  

It is hard to miss someone that is stuck to your butt like cheap toilet paper.

"Mom, are you saying bad things about me?"


"I follow you everywhere because it is my job"

"You need me Mom, like a blossom needs the sun...without my gaze upon your face you would wither and die". 

"Can I haz the treat now?"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Got Balls?

I am good

Yeah, I am THAT good.....

I am good with a beach ball. 

Even after I kilt it.  What?  Beachballs and teeth dont mix well?

I am good with red ball.  Spend as much time in cold water as I would have them too.  Errr...wait, that is right - I don't.  

Red balls die slightly slower than beach balls.


Gurlgle gurlgle...


I told you I am good...

I have rid the world of another deadly red ball - men everywhere are safe.  

I am good on a log

Brynn is good in a bog

I am good, even with Bonnie the B-BLEEP-tch hot on my tail.

She is slower than a snail

She thinks she can get me

She can't catch a flea

I am so good... I walk on water. 

I am the master of balls

WAIT!   I was set up...the ball bounced off my head.  NO FAIR! 

I demand a RETAKE!

Got balls? 

Nothing will make up for the pair that were taken from me, but I will keep looking.