I'm excited. I so enjoy my instructor (Dave Imas) I'm trying to drive for a lesson every other week. Loads of fun, lots of work. It's a balancing act: training a sheepdog. You try not to remove their natural talent while developing a partnership with them. I think you work the whole dog's life becoming a TEAM. And, with each dog, it's a whole 'nother set of learning skills. Like people, dogs aren't all the same.
I bred and picked Champ from Kilt's 2nd litter at about 5 weeks. I just had a feeling. He wasn't the pup that wanted to team up with me. Laura Jone's male wanted to partner with me. But, it was just something in the back of my mind that told me to choose Champ.
In Kilt's first litter with Jet, I had a fairly good idea who the pick was and that was Jeanne's Moses. Being her first Border Collie, I was hoping he would fit the bill. And, he did! Plus, he had what looked like a white eagle marking on his butt. A 'sign' he should go to the PNW :0)
Moses sister, Yoko, stayed with us (just because) I never found her just the right home.
Now that Champ is 3 yrs of age and has competed in his first 3 open trials, I couldn't be more excited. Don't misunderstand me. We have a ton of work to do. It's just that he is a very willing partner, with loads of talent, and we are working on our partnership constantly.
We have lots more to accomplish! He is just starting to get a little big for his britches if you know what I mean. The hard part for me is when I see he is not responding to my correction; it is about how make a correction that he WILL respond to. Ugh. This may come easy for others, but not for me. I have so much more to learn.
Dave has helped me keep a really good perspective on allowing Champ freedom and also, working on him consistently not to push as hard as he does on his drive. Plus, I need him a little softer at the pen and at the shed. I see improvement with each lesson! And, when you see improvement and get results, it's EXCITING.
Now, I am working on getting rid of the verbal "CHAMP!" I'm going to try to give the softest whistles ever. Not listening on his part will get a correction from me. I want him to handle like he did at the Milton-Freewater trial. His first 2 times out in PN, he didn't place, but he handled like butter. I haven't had that again. The 3rd time out there he placed 2nd, but did NOT handle like the first two times. Why? I keep trying to think what I did or what was the difference? I don't know. But, I will keep striving for him to handle like butter again.
Dave reiterated to me again today about operant conditioning. I shouldn't need reminding as much clicker training as I have done. Ask first...just don't hit him with a correction when he is wrong. Like learning whistles. Whistle first, then follow with the verbal. Not the other way around.
I need to be more in tune with my verbals and whistles as to what I want from Champ...nice and soft, or quick and loud. This is difficult for me to do. When he doesn't stop quickly when I ask for a stop I want to hit him with a hard whistle. I am going to try the opposite for awhile and only use a very soft, faint whistle. If he doesn't take it, I will have to come up with a correction that he responds to....
Dave is pretty darn sharp. Fort Lewis sounded like they were blowing up bombs from where I was having my lesson. Champ was not a happy camper (at first). Loud noises didn't bother him until Wayne put him outside exactly 1 minute after midnight on New Years Eve at our house. Lordy. With all the gunfire, Champ liked to have a heart attack. So he was panting nervously for the first part of our lesson. Dave just let him fetch and bring sheep without us ever telling him a thing maybe 5 or 6 times. It relaxed him, so he could think again. Great job, Dave. I really like how he handles his dogs and how he understands Champ. And me, for that matter.
I'm motivated to continue on with my training and to get as much experience as we can. I have a feeling it's going to be a GREAT year!