I pretty much know what I am doing with working my dogs, but since I was almost on my own in California for years, what I thought looked good to me, really wasn't correct. What the hell! LOL
I have lots of options for training here in the PNW, for lessons and clinics (as long as the funds hold out). I am now working with Maggi McClure. Oh my gosh, I came away with NEW knowledge after our first lesson. Today I had my 2nd lesson on Vashon Island. I learned that I need to RAISE the BAR on what I expect from my dogs. But, first you have to SEE it: whether they are correct or not. That's half my problem. I'm always so happy that they try to do what I TELL them to do, I don't require above and beyond mediocre. I haven't been allowing them to THINK on their own. Now, we are training Suzanne to SEE more clearly, EXPECT more, and ASK (not order) my dogs to figure it out, correcting them only when they are wrong.
I am going to try to train my dogs at least 3 times a week. They have been getting into the top third of the placings at most the trials with some well known handlers and dogs. I would guess most of these handlers work their dogs daily and sometimes twice daily. I am pleased with my dog's work, but I know they can do even better! You just don't stop LEARNING in this sport; that's what makes it so addictive.
Muscle memory (CORRECT muscle memory) plays a big part of them being able to be consistent at the trials. So, they need more training time than I have been giving them. Time and money....hahaha.
The partnership with my dogs when we go to the post is the highlight of my retired years now. They can't wait to work. Plus, the fun and social aspect is the BEST. So many different walks of life accompany their dogs to the post. It is really intriguing to say the least to get to know the stories, the lives, of those that are involved in sheep trials.
So, that's where I am today. Traveling up and down the coast trialling. In 2 weeks I will be in Scio, Oregon and a week later, in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It's possible that Champ may have enough points to attend the National Finals in Alturas, California, but I really don't think he and I are ready. I'm still mulling it over. Hate to miss a finals almost in your backyard :0)