Patrick Shannahan writes some wonderful training articles. One of his more recent articles was one of my favorites. It is called "The Unexpected Teacher." http://www.patrickshannahan.com/unexpected.asp
"Most times, when we get a new pup, we have great expectations. This pup is my next champion or this is the dog that I will be successful with. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you look at it, sometimes dogs are brought to us for different reasons than what we request."
Jet: Patrick picked Jet out for me. I asked him for a "flashy" black and white Border Collie. I never saw any pictures of the litter. Patrick said he would call me if he felt he had a suitable pup for me. Patrick called and said he had a male pup that looked like a little Holstein cow. I said, "Perfect." AND, he was perfect.
I hadn't even gone to a USBCHA trial. But, I knew I wanted a dog with sound structure and drive. I contacted several ABC board members after examining trial results. That's how I came across Patrick Shannahan's name and website. Not too shabby a choice for a non-herding person to come up with. :0) I originally purchased Jet for agility. About at a year of age, I passed a flock of sheep in the desert and Jet almost went through the window. Hmmmmm....I thought. Maybe, I should find some sheep for Jet. Jet really didn't "turn on" until about 14 mos. of age.
The neat thing about Jet is that he teamed up with me right at 7 weeks. He wanted to be the best at anything as long as he was doing it with me. He NEVER takes his eyes off of me even to this day at 11 yrs. of age. They don't come more biddable or with a better temperament. Honest, I never really had to teach him anything. He came with the perfect outrun, a great feel for stock, and the right attitude. I remember writing Patrick several letters about having a hard time teaching Jet to drive. Patrick was very patient and answered ALL of my emails. Since I do my own training I imagine I had Jet fairly confused. :0) He was teaching me more than I could have ever taught him. Still is to this day.
Kilt: Thinking that I wanted a dog with more DRIVE, I purchased Kilt from Diana Gauthier in British Columbia. I studied blood lines, found Diana on my own, and informed her as to what I was looking for in a bitch. I had first pick and saw the puppy pictures choosing Kilt instantly. Diana said that would not be her choice for me. "Too independent." LOL I do have a bit of a stubborn streak and said, "I'll take her." Let me tell you, this lady knows her dogs!
Right from the get-go Kilt was strong willed and independent. She immediately eyed up Jet. I'd give her a recall and she would wander a bit before thinking about coming to me. It is extremely hard to get her to take her eyes off the stock and look at me. I am NOT part of the picture. Needless to say, she is coming 7 yrs. of age and still doesn't team up well with me on the trial field We have had our little successes including some open placements and one open win with a marked shed, pen, single. But, our success as a "trial" team is far and few between. It is quite frustrating and exasperating for me. She is my right hand dog for ranch work. She can pretty much move anything. She has gorgeous square flanks at home, but on the trial field she becomes more hyped, stronger eyed, is hard for me to stop, and difficult for me to get correct flanks.
Many times I have wanted to give up on us as a team. But, I think there is a reason we have been put together. I am learning a wealth of information that I didn't need or have to learn from Jet.
Yoko: Baby Yo, is a product of Jet and Kilt, my only litter. Everyone said I would get strong willed OR very biddable soft pups; no in between. All of the pups are a blend of sire and dam. I didn't plan on keeping Yoko, but I wasn't completely happy with the 3 possible homes for her. There must be a reason. As a pup, basically, she was all about "chasing." I didn't see a whole lot of work attitude. I tried to convince my husband that this would be a fabulous agility dog for him. I was right, but he was too busy to take the time to train her. Still not sure how she was going to turn out as a "trial dog," I have continued with her stock training. I spayed her because she really isn't my cup of tea. She lacks the forward movement I want in my working dogs. She's a bit loose eyed, sensitive, and somewhat lackadaisical with her stock work. To my surprise (insert smile here), she went on to qualify for the National Nursery Finals. Knowing all too well, she wasn't ready, we didn't go. Yoko is 3 1/2 yrs. of age now and is still in pro-novice. She has done well in pro-novice. She has an 'open' outrun and lift. We are still working on flanks, driving, and confidence.
I hope maybe towards the end of her 4th year, we may even be able to move up to open. I never thought she would make an open dog, but sometimes, stranger things have happened. Yoko tries very hard to please me and I think that's half the battle.
"Sometimes we don't get the dog we want, but we get the dog we need."