Tuesday, May 10, 2011

April clinic

It was a one month ago that I did my first clinic at Shirley’s. It was a long day filled with lots of results. Janet and I went up north and took a side trip (we got lost because I thought I knew where to go but did not!) Once we got there, we  had a talk about the clinic and expectations. I went over the various type of pressure, dog and sheep relationship, handling styles and answered questions. We put the group into sets of beginner, intermediate and advanced.

The dogs in the clinic were Kelpies, Aussies and Border Collies. Most were in the beginning stages. The owners were quite enthusiastic and we formed a game plan per each dog. Of course, this would change if we saw another issues arose that was more pertinent.

Shirley has a large covered arena, which was a great attraction since it was raining. At my place, I don’t have an arena and my pasture can get quite muddy. Not getting wet while working dogs all days was quite attractive. Having the delicious meals (breakfast and lunch) provided by Shirley and the students was a big bonus.

The first set of dogs were the just started dog. We started to work in the puppy arena but I decided I needed more space so we went to the horse arena. Shirley has great puppy sheep and a real joy to work.

The second set was more of the started dog and they also did well. Most of the dogs got to learn about the feel of the bubble and working with the handler. A couple we had to spark up to get them keen but by the end they were straining at their leashes for their turns.

The last two sets were the medium dogs and we worked on clean outruns, proper lifts and a good fetch. We also working on a nice steady walkabouts. A few of the dogs were going to be running in an arena trial at the end of April, so we worked on trusting your dog, taking your time, square flanks and doing some course work. By the end the advanced dogs could do nice controlled work.

There was a lot of education for the handlers also. A lot of the work is teamwork and if your dog doesn’t trust you or feels like they have to control the situation, then the work is not going to be productive. We also worked on not saying “down” in a high voice or repeating it many times. Also a lot of work on pressure and release.

You could see the difference in the working style of the Kelpies, Border Collies and Aussies. The Aussie seemed to be soft but in reality, she was a tough little dog that fooled you. By the end, Sally had a nice walk about with her owner and her owner, Michella had the happiest smile on her face. I really like the heart in this little dog.

As part of their homework, I told them to go and play pool. Pool is about the bubble, angle and thinking. Hit the ball too hard and it bounces, hit it too soft and it barely moves. Hit it at the wrong angle and it goes in the wrong direction. Thinking about your move, then calculating how hard and the angles will make more for a success. The crew went later that month and did play pool and set up play sized toy fences and pens on the table to get a feel for it.

We did one session for the twelve dogs then took a lunch break. Shirley made chili and had the MOSTY DELICIOUS CORNBREAD that I have ever eaten. I kept going back for more! It was Kathleen’s birthday so a cake was in order.

The afternoon session reinforced what we learned in the morning session and trying to add another step if the dog could take it. Most of the dogs were open to more steps and we changed out to lighter sheep. The dogs really had to work to bring the sheep and they stepped up to the plate.

Tully, a Kelpie owned by Shirley became more confident and got better at his inside flanks. Shirley also learned to trust Tully and by the end they were able to do a mock arena run.

Kathleen ran her seasoned Emma and that is one hot team. Kathleen did all of the training on Emma and Emma has no issues in moving anything. Emma has the hugest heart that I have seen and will do anything that Kathleen asks of her. As Emma was growing up, Kathleen took the time to do large flock work with her, stall work, arena and large field work. She worked her on hard to move sheep, antelope type of sheep, ewes and lambs, cattle ducks, lots of tight stall work, to make Emma a well-balanced dog. Not only Emma is well balanced but also in her mind, she can work anything. Kathleen has to be on the of best puppy starters also. She has a cool, confident manner about her when the puppy and sheep in the round pen and puts a good foundation on her dogs.

By the end of the day, I was quite pleased with everyone's progress. We decided to make this a monthly event and I was very glad that Kathleen and Shirley had set this up. In my next blog on the second clinic, I will mention the dogs and handlers that I did not mention in this one.

It was a great success and nice to see that everyone had a new aspect of their relationship for their dog. I enjoyed this group of people and how far they all progressed in this clinic. I hope that I made a good difference in their relationship with their dogs.

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