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Newbie Angst and the Aggressive, Impatient, Intense Dog


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Though our training is not consistent (since July, we have only been five times) I pleased to say that I have learned a lot. Surprisingly (to me) what I've really had my eyes opened to is my character, as well as Mollie's.

 

Mollie is stubborn, impatient, aggressive and intense. When it comes to sheep, she completely blows me off. Though she is in no way a stellar superstar destined to greatness - probably a good deal closer to mediocre, though she could be better or worse, what do I know - she is in fact good enough for me. I'm proud to say that our 'down' has improved immensely; however, I learned quickly not to let my attention drift off of her after I've put her in a down. A few sessions ago I had a bulb moment and realized she's pretty heavily one-sided; she does not like to 'go-bye' and will often crash into the flock when redirected. If one or more sheep escapes, she pursues aggressively and inevitably goes for a quick grip.

 

I, on the other hand, am too slow and struggle with anticipating and correcting the crashing and gripping. Both of which I need to get a handle on before we can progress any further. And boy, is that ever HARD. I feel like my brain just cannot keep up to her, and my body is not fast enough either. Often you'll hear Ken yell "Don't let her do that!" (seconded in frequency only by "Stay close to your sheep!" LOL); at one point she went right by my hip and I was still too slow to react. While I typically have pretty good reflexes, the constant overload of information processing (watch my sheep, don't get ahead of my dog, watch my sheep, make it uncomfortable for her to do that, watch my sheep, don't let her DO THAT, don't stop MOVING and on and on and on…) as well as my surprising inability to read my dog in these situations makes me feel quite a bit incompetent.

 

It is exceedingly frustrating to know that I am holding my dog back, a circumstance quite obvious after our last session when Ken worked with Mollie for a short bit. Oh, she did her best to blow him off and it was quite a little tug of war, but in the end he got his way and a hesitant 'go-bye' without any crashing or gripping. Ken tells me not to even think that way - Mollie just wants to work and could care less how quickly we are progressing. But still…blame being what it is…you know?

 

Now, don't get me wrong - I am still hooked. If anything, the challenge of being such an incredible putz is enough to keep me striving for perfection. But man, I'll tell you, there is nothing more maddening than realizing that I somehow missed another crash, another grip that I should've so obviously prevented! Grrrrrrrrr-arggggggggggggg-grumblegrumblegrumble. Sometimes I literally want to throw my stick at her hard, stubborn head, or throw myself belly-down and have a good old temper tantrum. Better yet, throw the stick at my own darn lagging head!

 

Next time I'll get it. I'm determined.

Maybe I need some Nikes....

 

/whine-session!

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Pretty good description of the typical new handler and new dog. We've all been there. Just hang in there, and bit by bit, it will become more confortable.

 

A

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It is exceedingly frustrating to know that I am holding my dog back

 

Welcome to the club. You are absolutely no different than any other novice with a novice dog. And three and a half years later, I still know it is true of myself and Taz. But the only way to learn is to do it. Many miles and good instruction are the key. But boy is it fun learning this most challenging work, and is it ever rewarding when things come together!

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Welcome to the newbie club, Tiffany. You have joined the world of self-deprecation, thanks to these dogs who are so damned good at what they do. Hmph... I'm working on my doctorate; how hard can this herding thing be? HA! It's been a long while since I've felt so slow, clumsy, and stupid all at the same time. Take heart from everyone else's comments. I have a feeling we're in it for the long haul -- and I'm looking forward to the ride!

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I like to think that learning to work sheep with a dog takes about the same amount of time as getting a PhD in Anthropology or English Literature (but longer than one in Linguistics)--10 years give or take a couple. But it's about ten-times as mentally and emotionally taxing and infinite-times more fun. Similar opportunities to look like an idiot but more to actually fall down. And the variety of career options at the end of it seems about equivalent :rolleyes:

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We are newbies too and are equally frustrated with lack of progress with our Aussies. Evidenced by ASCA trial this weekend with only one leg in started sheep for one girl. Coming home I was devastated and hubby wants me to quit partly because of the money and also because he isn't interested at all. He loves the dogs but not the herding part. We won't quit though and will press on. But, how does everyone handle the extreme disappointment that goes along with the learning? I have never done anything so hard in my entire 62 years of life. N

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Well, just as another noob you're in GREAT company. I have never felt so dumb, slow, unathletic, and useless than when things are going wrong with my dog. (which is most of the time! lol) It took me awhile to realize that it wasn't just me and bless my trainer for having the patience of a saint. When I realized that I wasn't the only one who was watching the wrong thing at wrong time or waiting to long, or whatever I felt soooo much better!

 

But it gets better and when your dog does something right that YOU taught it... well, that's freaking awesome. :rolleyes:

 

Have fun. :D

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For all the sad and bad things that can, do and will happen on the training or trial feild, theres that one moment, that one shining moment, that things with you, the sheep, and the dog, all come together, even if its just for a moment, that is fuel, the incentive, and the spark that makes you want to feel that one shining moment again and again. Its like an oasis for some, always within sight, but just out of reach, but we keep reaching because we have to quench our thirst.

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We are newbies too and are equally frustrated with lack of progress with our Aussies. Evidenced by ASCA trial this weekend with only one leg in started sheep for one girl. Coming home I was devastated and hubby wants me to quit partly because of the money and also because he isn't interested at all. He loves the dogs but not the herding part. We won't quit though and will press on. But, how does everyone handle the extreme disappointment that goes along with the learning? I have never done anything so hard in my entire 62 years of life. N

 

The best way to handle it, IMHO, is by not fixating on trialing itself. Most of us dream of being competitive, but the reality is that to be competitive takes a very good dog, training and knowledge and so much time. When I started, I had none of those things- just a very keen dog that was a horrible dog for a beginner. I had very little professional help and next to no knowledge on how to proceed. I did not make progress until I got another dog that was biddable, honest and a little bit started. I got by for awhile, but soon became evident that I missed several steps in training that second dog, so I became more assertive about getting to clinics and lessons. I'm not saying that is the answer for you- but I will say that if you are continually frustrated and feel like you are making no progress- you need to step back and evaluate what needs to be changed- whether its you, your trainer, or the working situation you are in. When I think of the highlights of my dog's working lives- it's rarely about trialing. It's about the times they showed their worth, their usefulness to me when it counted. Believe me- I've had, and possibly will soon be repeating :rolleyes:, intensely humilating times at the post- I've also seen some pretty Big Hat's have a rare hard time too. I just keep plugging away, get help when I need it and hope one day that the rest of the working world will get to see my dogs on a good day.

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I would say that everytime I get totally down about our progress and I'm not new but still learning, the next day I'll go out and have one of those days where I come in feeling so high from the days work or something that my dog got or something that I newly understood and I'm hooked all over again.

 

You have to find the journey rewarding, not the end result. HSNRS learn to enjoy what happens outside of compitition, then if you become successful in comp. it'll be icing on your cake.

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Yup, Tiffany, welcome to the club. :D I am in the same boat as you, as are most (all?) newbies. Just remember the journey is the important part, not the destination. Enjoy it every step of the way, even when it's frustrating.

 

I was recently bemoaning the fact that my dog works so much better for my trainer, that I'm the one holding him back. Everyone said that is very typical, that the dog just works better for the more experienced handler, but that in time, it would change. Getting the timing down right, learning to read the dog, PLUS the sheep, that's HARD stuff, especially to those of us who don't already have some experience working with stock. I've done agility, flyball, obedience, and all that stuff does not even come close being as difficult as working stock with a dog. But as someone else said, none of that is even close to as rewarding, either. I am slowly but surely making progress, and I've been at it a year (albeit, only getting out there about twice a month). Take it from us, it WILL get better, I promise!

 

PS. Oh yeah, and I would take a keen, impatient, intense dog over one that you had to beg to work, any day! That's what I tell myself when I'm having sheep run all over me, at least. :rolleyes:

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I was reading somewhere that if you buy a trained open dog and are a novice handler, then the dog will go back to being a novice dog. same with moving up. If you buy a dog that is novice and you are an open handler your dog will quickly become an open dog. that's one of the reasons I stick with training my own dogs. No sence in wasting a really nicely trained dog on me. Not that my dogs aren't doing well but it's been a long journey.

 

and I totally agree with Paula, if your dog is keen you'll have something to work with. If you dog is leaving or quitting on you now, you'll run out of dog before you get very far, So when that dog is running sheep over you, just keep telling yourself, it's a good thing!! :rolleyes:

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I was reading somewhere that if you buy a trained open dog and are a novice handler, then the dog will go back to being a novice dog. same with moving up. If you buy a dog that is novice and you are an open handler your dog will quickly become an open dog. that's one of the reasons I stick with training my own dogs. No sence in wasting a really nicely trained dog on me. Not that my dogs aren't doing well but it's been a long journey.

 

and I totally agree with Paula, if your dog is keen you'll have something to work with. If you dog is leaving or quitting on you now, you'll run out of dog before you get very far, So when that dog is running sheep over you, just keep telling yourself, it's a good thing!! :rolleyes:

 

 

I don't think I would agree with that- I think a steady Open dog will at least make a novice handler a Pro-Novice handler :D. I've always trained my own dogs but I would have saved at least 4-5 years of struggle if I had had the opportunity to buy a trained dog. I prefer training my own still but I think that most novices would greatly benefit from at least a well-started dog and no well trained dog is wasted on a home that will work that dog and give it a good life. Many top Open handler let go of older dogs once they start to slow down, by going to a novice home, that dog gets to continue it's working life instead of being left at home while the other dogs get to trial.

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Aside from what everyone else has offered as encouragement. It will get better if you stick with it! I started a novice dog as a novice handler and with an awesome trainer we have made huge strides in the last year because of the consistency of being able to train. The more you are able to train the better your timing gets. I find it amazingly helpful to video tape my training sessions so I can go back and watch where my timing is off and also keeping a journal and looking back to see how far we've come or to find out that yep, the problems we had a month ago are not new, but only resurfaced (time to work on them). The more experience you gain the less your pup will blow you off. When you have that actualization of your dog actually minding you and not blowing you off, it's a feeling that makes it all worth it!

 

Keep at it! :rolleyes:

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Danielle brings up two really good points: video taping and keeping a journal. Both very helpful ways to "record" your progress and see how things change. You might be surprised at how quickly things really do progress when you have that kind of perspective. Also--if you can watch a handler who is just about at your level where you train, that can be good thing, too. You can watch his/her timing and see, better than you can when you're in there with your own dog, when to move and where to move, etc.

 

A

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Danielle brings up two really good points: video taping and keeping a journal. Both very helpful ways to "record" your progress and see how things change. You might be surprised at how quickly things really do progress when you have that kind of perspective. Also--if you can watch a handler who is just about at your level where you train, that can be good thing, too. You can watch his/her timing and see, better than you can when you're in there with your own dog, when to move and where to move, etc.

 

A

 

 

And it is amazing to discover that what you remember happened was not even close to what shows up on the video tape. It can be quite the reality check.

 

Deb

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Also--if you can watch a handler who is just about at your level where you train, that can be good thing, too. You can watch his/her timing and see, better than you can when you're in there with your own dog, when to move and where to move, etc.

 

A

 

This is a good point, too. Laura suggested it to me. I don't always get the chance, but I'm trying to watch others and I find I learn plenty just by observing. The lady I watch has one dog who is just slightly ahead of Jack training-wise, and I think it's very helpful to see what she's doing and when.

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It'll get better!!! Really, it will. I've found that usually these moments that sort of... crawl all over you and make the frustration well up... they're usually followed by some sort of AHA moment by either you or your dog (and sometimes BOTH!). So take a deep breath.

 

Remember, it's not about blame and fault, or about holding your dog back. Really. It's about you and your dog in the right now - you're BOTH learning and adapting. Trust me... my dog spends a lot of time waiting for me to catch up to him, and that is OK. Some of these things that are happening SO fast for you right now will slow down.

 

It's a lot at once - the dog, the sheep, you, the field, the trainer in your ear. You'll adapt, though. You'll expand and improve, and a year from now you'll look back on this thread and think of how far you have come as a handler. If you are dedicated and carve out the time and put the effort into it you'll do well for yourself and your dog - regardless of where you wind up.

 

As for anticipating and correcting and so on... try to break it down into manageable chunks. In other words, rather than trying to correct for crashing... and gripping... and not stopping... and and and... pick one. Pick one, work on your timing there, and then move on. If you try to stay ahead of all of it all the time you'll make yourself crazy.

 

Lunchtime.

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I don't think I would agree with that- I think a steady Open dog will at least make a novice handler a Pro-Novice handler . I've always trained my own dogs but I would have saved at least 4-5 years of struggle if I had had the opportunity to buy a trained dog. I prefer training my own still but I think that most novices would greatly benefit from at least a well-started dog and no well trained dog is wasted on a home that will work that dog and give it a good life. Many top Open handler let go of older dogs once they start to slow down, by going to a novice home, that dog gets to continue it's working life instead of being left at home while the other dogs get to trial.

 

Yep, I almost came back and edited that post. Cause the more I was thinking about it the more i decided that it just wasn't true. I do think an older or established open dog, not one that is fresh off the training field would/could have helped me a great deal. Still could, I'm sure. But there are somethings that a handler can only learn with time and experience. The nusiances get lost in the beginning. Plus now that i know a bit more than I did, i see how my training mistakes or learning has caused allot of undue baggage on my dog(s), Guess it's just one more way we be become better handlers or trainers.

 

The hardest part for me has been to understand how to correct a thought before it becomes an action. That's where my timing can still be lacking. It takes my brain a few seconds to antisipate it's coming, then a few sec. for it to get to the part of my brain to make anything happen and by then it's over. That's not even counting the seconds I stand there praying it won't happen that way :rolleyes:

 

What has helped me the most besides time is taking my mind off the dog and trying to see what's going to happen instead of what already has. It really started me thinking when there was a discussion on dangerous ground. That was a lightbulb moment for me. When I went to my mentor and discussed this she laughed and said, it's what she's been saying all along with different words. Yes it was, but the dangerous ground took my mind totally off the dog so I had a chance to get it. what also helped was taking all blame off the dog. No one (dog or yourself) is to blame for not getting something you are trying to impart. that way there is no anger or thoughts of the dog disreguarding what you want. Time for only trying to find a different way to impart what information that you do want.

 

Oh well...What a ride you are all in for! Stick with it like everyone says, it does get easier or is that we get more addicted?

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What great suggestions and comments (both here and privately). Thanks everyone who addressed my comments. We aren't training with anyone right now. We have signed up for some clinics. We have videotaped all the training with the previous trainer for the past year. I plan to keep a journal too. We usually practice every a.m. for about ten minutes. Will try to extend it longer and work on one thing at a time. You are right; I try to do all the things in one session which is physically impossible. It is never the dog's fault in my mind. Whatever happens, the dogs are truly by best friends (besides hubby of course). N

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I SO feel your pain! After about six months or so of training (with some time off for an injury), I have finally been humbled by falling over sheep (my first time with light sheep and yes, Wrigley was too close and I was having trouble getting her back) and after a short trip, where the dogs were boarded, our last lesson was, in my opinion, horrible. Wrigley was in no way listening to me, actually took a chunk of wool off a poor sheep, and somehow, had hurt another one. Mind you, she would never intentionally hurt sheep, but was diving in and I couldn't stop her in time and of course, she was rewarded because I let it happen! Ugh!

 

Anyway, my husband has accompanied us to a couple of lessons and he took videos. What an eye opener! Besides needing to lose 10 pounds, I use that darn flag way too much and if I don't stop, Wrigley will not be listening to me for much longer! I really thought we were doing well, and after this last little "vacation" think that we have taken a couple of steps back. I am a city girl who is absolutely having a great time at lessons and bonding with Wrigley, so I will keep working at it.

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We have been invited by a local trainer to attend the Celtic Games in Tucson and give a sheep herding demo along with others next Saturday. Another chance to practice in a different place; different stock; and see others' ways of training. We are taking 2 of our dogs so it should be fun. Also our 39th wedding anniversary. N

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