Champ is 3 yrs. old now. I pretty much didn't put a whole lot of pressure on him at 2 yrs. worrying about stressing him. But, now, after our last trial, I think he is taking advantage of my good nature.
Champ has always gone to the post with his focus on his sheep. But, we are changing up things now. I want him focusing on me, too. I want to know he is "thinking." I am really putting some pressure on him to stay with me or behind me at the post. None of this going forward without me. I'm also starting to "open" him out a bit now. I haven't done anything with his outrun in over a year. It's time for him to widen up if he is going to be running long distances.
He needs to open up and square his flanks better. I have been letting him slide on this because I think, well, that looks okay. I can't accept "marginal" anymore. I need to accept only excellence from him.
Photos by Bonnie Block
So why is this a difficult concept, too much or too little? Well, because I see some young dogs sniffing, eating, etc. on course. They appear to be succumbing to too much pressure. Trialing is difficult. It requires precision. Precision equals pressure.
I am trying to keep Champ on his feet, because he is NOT happy about his take time command and is now dropping and wants to stay down when he hears my walk-up whistle. I think this is his two steps backwards to get 3 steps ahead. I have been giving him lots of shhhh's interspersed with the pressure on him to steady up. I can see he hates to be grinded on, so I'm trying to let him feel the release when he is right. And, I'm trying to keep our sessions short when I have to grind a bit on him.
When he doesn't listen to me as well as I would like, I just put him up and work Yoko. I give Yoko lots of praise and then, Champ comes back with a better thinking attitude. I know this concept does work. I have rings that the dogs put on a pole. Yoko can do them at warp speed with 99% accuracy. Champ knows how to do the rings, too. But, he takes after his mother and throws the ring in the air, catching it while being silly. I take the ring away from him and lie him down. I give the ring to Yoko who immediately places the ring accurately on the pole. I come back to Champ, give him a ring and he runs over putting it on the pole. He knew how to do it the whole time. He just is putting his Mother's twist on it. I think he playing me working sheep, too. I just need to be able to tell him that I'm on to his game. You don't work right, no sheep.
The good news is I got into McCormack's trial and I have a couple of lessons with Faansie. Champ hasn't run over 400 yds and has been working in small fields. That is the bad news. But, I'm just looking at this year as experience for both of us.
Sometimes you have to venture out (take some chances) to get ahead.