Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Herding Lesson

Yesterday I had a herding lesson with Bug. Katrin and Monty are most likely going to be seeing a new trainer who is closer (about 1 hr+) and I asked if I could schedule a lesson with her too. I had yesterday off, which made it an attractive opportunity.

It was a REALLY good lesson. Bug was completely stressed out initially. No interest in me or the sheep. We know he doesn’t generalize well and Diane’s pen is sand with lights (our lesson was at 7pm). Ohh,,,,scary.

I felt like Diane did a great job getting Bug all jazzed up about the sheep – she let him really rip after them and move them in and out of two pens.

I was the biggest issue. My desire to “help” my dog. I have more or less lost this bad habit when it comes to agility, but it is rearing its ugly head in herding. Diane said it is surprising because people who don’t know what they are doing typically don’t try to help, they don’t do anything. Yup, that’s me. Helper extraordinaire. Oi! I know why NOT to help, but in new learning experiences I revert to my original helper default.

I also found myself getting tunnel vision and focusing so much on Bug or the sheep that I literally could not hear Diane! She had me going crazy for the sheepies trying to get Bug crazy too. It worked. At one point she grabbed a hold of a sheep’s leg and yanked on it – then released. She feels this makes Bug feel like he’s chasing the sheep away. He was definitely keyed up about this. When Colleen tried that during our first lesson he tried to leave the pen. This time he was only a few feet from Diane, leaping and very interested.

She had me do the same thing later.

I have a lot to think about. I learned a boatload from Katrin and Monty’s lesson – including the doggie two step and what coming in on balance means. Coming in on Balance means once the dog has circled about and collected the sheep he comes in toward you – keeping the sheep between you and him without pushing them past you. Then the handler steps through the sheep and directs the dog in the opposite direction to collect the sheep and come in on balance. And this is the Doggie Two Step. I also got to watch Monty drive the sheep which was very cool.

I was pretty stressed and uncomfortable. Not in a bad way, but it was a lot to take in. Now I need to decide what I am going to do for future lessons. Right now I haven’t a clue. I like how Diane got Bug revved up – she feels like I should be focusing more on getting Bug crazy about the sheep and building his confidence – worry about the other stuff later. I like how she taught – lots of explanations and she was very hands off with Bug. And he wasn’t worried about her at all – he was more worried about the new location. This was a big concern of mine because it appears that a lot of the herding trainers lean more toward compulsion which makes me uncomfortable on many levels and wouldn’t be effective with Bug’s personality.

I guess I will have to make a list of pros and cons and see what I think. I do not think one lesson is really enough to tell if I should switch trainers. However, Diane doesn’t think it’s a good idea to be training with two different people when you are a novice and I agree with that. Argh!!! Confusion is my middle name. Fortunately I do not need to make a decision today.

I will have to ask Katrin about Monty - when Bug got home he was licking his paws like mad. I think the sand might have bothered them. If I do continue to take lessons with Diane I am sure his paws will toughen up (although they should be pretty tough from all the pavement walking we do!).

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