Friday, August 27, 2010

Up too early

Chad and I (and all six dogs) are leaving in a few hours to go to the Canadian Border Collie Associations Sheep Dog Championships for the weekend.  I am so excited I can't even sleep.  We are only volunteering. Isn't it silly to be this excited??? I have certainly spend more time herding this summer than anything else.  I had a lesson with Ribbon yesterday that went really well for Ribbon, but I felt like a complete idiot.  I am trying to get ready to do a HT at the BC Specialty in October (AKC).  I have never competed in herding, so I feel like a have three left feet.  To cut myself some slack this was the first time I have put together all the elements of this test.  But I really struggled with the parts of the test not going as I had imagined and then having to remember which direction to walk in and then to turn clockwise or counter-clockwise.  Keeping Ribbon where I wanted her and to continue to walk so that the sheep and Ribbon knew where we were going---It is frustrating just writing it down!!!! I really struggled with going from training mode to trailling mode.  If something didn't go as it usually did, like getting her to bring me the sheep, right away I wanted to get in there and fix it, but Steve kept saying, "go with it, keep everything moving." Why is it so hard to switch from being the leader of the team to being part of the team??

This certainly reminds me to spend more time with my Novice students (or any students showing for the first time at any level) on the strategies of moving around an obedience ring and setting up for exercises, so that it becomes second nature for them.  Someone has to guide the team from location to location and the dog is not the likely candidate for the job.  Something else for me to remember is that each handler needs more than one plan.  What do you do if your first step of heeling doesn't go well, your dog hesitates to move or doesn't move at all?? What do you do if your dog become fixated on one of the figure eight posts?? At what point would you use a second command?? So many scenarios to think about. 

Using visualization certainly makes a difference as far as the perfect mental picture, practicing the routine over and over again.  I believe that you should also include some bumps along the road, so that your reaction to a mistake is pre-planned and then you can return to your routine more smoothly and feel good about things. 

Okay so now I have a plan for my next herding lesson.  A few weeks ago I sent Ribbon on a gather and when I asked her to lay down she did it immediately and the sheep were calm and with me.  Steve's comment was, "You can't do it any better than that."  This is only time I have heard Steve say this, so I am going to put that into my visualization and then add turning counter clockwise and clockwise at the cones and Ribbon pushing too hard on the sheep or over flanking and how I would deal with that and then return to my perfect mental picture.  Three out of four times I am going picture the test going perfectly, but one out of four times I am going to add the bumps in.

I guess getting up early has its advantages!!! Gotta go pack the van now

Monday, August 9, 2010

Golf and Dog Training

Some of you know that I like to watch golf. I have never played a day in my life (but would love to) but I find this sport interesting. For the last five years I have attended the Canadian Open to watch the players do their thing. Last year Chad, my parent's and I ventured to Long Island, New York to watch the US Open (that is a whole story in itself...) and late last night we got back from going to the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. It was a great trip; I would go again in a heartbeat. I saw the world's best golfers and got to follow my favourite, Canadian Mike Weir. I proudly wore my Canada shirt that says "True North Strong and Free" on it. I had a number of people coming up to me to ask if I was Canadian and then conversations where started about where everyone was from and so on. By the end of the day I would see these people on different parts of the course and we would share a wave to say that we knew each other. It was pretty neat. I have to tell something else that was totally cool... actually there are two things. This has nothing to do with dog training or how I am going to segue into dog training. I just want to share this experience with you. If you don't care about my golf story please skip ahead to the next paragraph. ... The one thing I really wanted to do was to be on the first tee when they announced Mike Weir, so that we could cheer for him. We planted ourselves in the stands (the front row of course!) and cheered with many other Canadians and Mike's fans when his name was announced. It was quite a thrill, firstly because it was the biggest cheer we had heard all day and secondly, I think he was a little shocked by it and looked up and acknowledged us with a wave and a head nod. I think we made him feel good. I would like to say that he looked right at us and maybe, just maybe he recognized us from all the years of stalking him at the Canadian Open. My second story is really, really silly... it was late in the day and the final pairings were getting ready to go. We were walking to first tee to see Phil Michelson tee off. Chad and I were crossing the first hole near the tee with about 40 or so other people. I started to hear people yelling "Hey Phil", (I want to go on record to say that I am not really a big fan of Phil's) I started looking around to see what people were yelling at, and lo and behold Phil is standing about 6 feet from me. Being the very cool person I am, I pointed and said "Hey look Phil Michelson" (duh). He answered someone's question from the crowd and went on his merry way. Once Chad and I regrouped on the other side of the crossing my immediate response was "okay, I know I am not a fan, but that was pretty cool." It was very cool to see someone you watch weekend after weekend on TV that close to you. It was also very interesting to feel the energy around him. The fans were excited to see him and he was responding to their enthusiasm. Lastly I also think that when you are good at what you do and you are embedded in that environment you feed off of it and the result is a very palatable type of energy. My response was silly, but what a neat experience.


While waiting for Mike Weir to tee off, we stopped by the practice range. The golfers can warm up their driving and putting. Often the coaches and caddies are present and you can see some of the things that they are working on and hear some of the banter that goes on between the players. This brought to mind that the same feeling is true at obedience trials. Many of us are there to compete but there is the underlying social aspect to the shows. Friends group together and get caught up on each other's lives. For some of us we only see certain people at certain shows, so that is a part of the draw to that event. The other similarity to golf that I noticed was the ratio of time spend preparing vs. actually competing. Some of us train for years to complete a title that takes about a total of about 45 minute to complete (actual time in the ring + stays). These players practice every day, some play 36 holes of golf a day, plus time at practice ranges and watching video and play four rounds in a tournament for a total of 16 hours of golf. They still have family life to balance and most do charity work and have other irons in the fire with sponsors. They live very full lives just like those of us who choose to compete in dog sports. Another thing I noticed was that the players and coaches fussed about the little things. Where is your head? Keep your left elbow tucked in, routines leading up to hitting the ball and visualization are big components in golf. Sort of like front and finishes for the dog and handling skills for the human part of the team. I think the biggest comparison is that golfers practice, practice, practice and then compete under pressure to put everything they have worked on to the test. Once they hit the ball they can't take it back, just like we do when we start our heeling pattern, whatever happens happens and you have to work forward from that point. Maybe this is what draws me to golf; too bad that dog training can't have corporate sponsorship and prize money equal to this sport. Now that would make things really interesting.


Happy golfing, I mean training!