Once again, the answer seems to be "Shut Up and Pay Attention."
"You need to listen to your dog," Jodi told me last night. She used
Scout to put away the sheep after practice. I guess I looked surprised
when she said that Scout did a good job. It was dark and the task seemed a
little beyond her. I’ve been hearing more and more about me being the biggest problem in our herding equation.
About a week ago, when Scout and I were at Dianne’s for a lesson, Dianne pointed out that the quieter I am, the better Scout seems to respond. She reacts pretty well to body pressure and calm commands.
All this time, meanwhile, I have been juggling a plastic milk jug full of rocks and a stock wand that I tend to thrash around in a manner that can only be described as ‘spastic’…screeching often the wrong commands. Dianne has pointed out on more than a few occasions that if I want Scout to get off her sheep and not rush in, etc., that maybe a calmer voice would work better. Certainly my posture is often ridiculous…
"Why are you pointing?"
"Why are you bending down?"
I don’t know. So I can hear Scout whisper, "You’re an idiot, please let the other lady train me."??
The jug of rocks did seem to make her stop and think, initially, but it had grown to be a distraction or even deterrent. She was more worried about the mere presence of the jug than the position of the sheep.
I think it had to be tempting for Dianne to take the jug from me and smack me around a little with it, maybe yell, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
I mean, how many times can you tell someone to not run at their dog yelling excitedly to SLOW DOWN!! OHMYGOD FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!! IEEEEEEEE! rattle rattle rattle…
(No, it wasn’t quite that bad. Still, it feels that way sometimes. Like I’m forever making the same obvious mistakes.)
I think my biggest problem, or one of them, is that I don’t give my dog
enough credit for picking up on subtleties. Because I am not by nature
a subtle person. It seems like in herding you need to learn to be,
though, or you’ll frustrate your dog, at best. So, I’m working on it.
(Plus Dianne still has that milk jug….)
Anyway, last night at Jodi’s Scout and I worked well together. She worked great for me in the big field, and in the round pen. I tried to keep
calm and quiet and put myself in the right position physically for what
I was asking Scout, and the sheep, to do. I tried to be aware of when the sheep were moving past me as a cue that Scout needed to get back further. She responded pretty quickly, often laying down, which I don’t want to be her first response, but I’ll take what I can get for now. She was paying attention. We both were.
I’m working on keeping one thing in mind each time I’m out there, too. My goal lately, and for awhile, is to keep Scout off the sheep, increasing the distance until it is more comfortable for her to do naturally. AND SHUTTING UP. Paying attention to what I’m saying with my body instead of my big ole yammering pie hole.