I would guess that's what all competitions are about. It most assuredly is with Border Collies and stock. Non stop learning. Handler - stock - dog. Plus, new environments, courses, weather changes. It's almost mind boggling. We are fanatics. No doubt. Who else would be out there in wind, rain or snow with freezing temperatures trialing their dogs? Us nuts. A bunch of happy nuts :0)
Earlier on FB I mentioned a favorite phrase from a previous clinic this year. "When the dog is too close to the sheep it is like he is inside a room alone. You, the handler are in another room and he is not hearing you. You are not in the picture. You both need to be in the same room so he can respond."
Even though I went to Kirchgessners last trial of the winter today with this quote in my brain, I still had trouble with both dogs. Champ was up the sheep's butts and Yoko was out in orbit. This made it difficult for them to respond appropriately to me :0( All the way home on the ferry, I was thinking about my training sessions with them.
Champ has been working at home like a top. He has been taking every little whistle. Patrick told me, "Come 3 years of age, he would start to become more independent and pushier with a "I know it all attitude." Well, sure enough. He just turned 3 yrs. of age and he was pushier than ever today at the trial. I tried my usual whistles. Fell on deaf ears. I tried embarrassing him with intonations in my voice. Fell on deaf ears. Then came my pissed off, "CHAMP!" He heard that, but really wasn't teaming up with me like I know he can.
What he did do that made me SMILE from ear to ear is handle his outrun, lift, and fetch like a true Champion. He had a lamb that didn't want to join the others. I'm thinking...okay then, there is our single (and, it was) but the set out dog had a melt down and ran up through his sheep just as he was coming behind them and bowled them in every direction imaginable like a bowling ball knocking down pins right into Champ's face.
I am thinking out loud, "What the heck?" (Looking towards the judge) Then thinking NOT out loud, Well, this cluster you know what, should get us a rerun. Then almost miraculously, Champ cleaned up the whole mess putting them back on the fetch line and bringing them through the fetch panels. Hot damn!
Champ ended up with an 84 (maybe 3rd place) and that was with missing his cross drive panel because he was riding the sheep's you know what's and not listening. He got a nice shed (on the heads)...little difficulty holding the single and had to do a redo. It was a lamb and shouldn't have presented that much difficulty. I already know "singles" are one of his weak links at the moment.
Now, there is Yoko. She hadn't run this course before because the last time at this trial she lost a lamb to set-out and she locked up on the set-out fence with it. Today, she did a beautiful outrun, nice and deep, stopped momentarily perfectly. Her sheep had been settled and looked comfortable. Why, I have no idea why...they took one look at Yoko, like she was CASPER the ghost, and ran up the field at warp speed. Yo was able to bring them through the fetch panels, but she was so far off contact by the time they reached the post they ran all the way to the exhaust. She went to pick them up and they all faced her down because they wanted in the pen, so she abruptly (quicker than I can think) bit them. I yelled at her and then she got stressed. She is a wide working dog and when stressed she works even wider. Ugh. She brought them back to the post. I was watching my sheep, not my dog. Why should I watch an almost 7 year old dog? I'll tell you why. She made this huge sweeping flank that sent the sheep right back to the exhaust AGAIN. Lordy. I decided to persevere. She made all her panels and God knows how she had time for her shed, pen, single, but she did. She had a missed attempt at the shed because she knew I was pissed at her. She came through, did a nice pen and then back to the shed ring for the single. This is when I talked to her.
I said, "Yoko, I need your help here. You need to take some responsibility." I actually think she understood. I pointed to the black sheep as my single and she came in nicely and held it. :0)
That's another clinic phrase from this year, "Put the responsibility on the dog. Try harder for me." And, bingo, she did just that. She's an odd dog for me to run. I do much better with a pushier dog, but I am trying to learn from her :0)