It seems like one of the frustrating, yet captiving things about sheepdog work is that it isn't paint by numbers. It's not linear or systematic. There is no fast cheap way of getting good enough results or someone would have a remote cable channeled program teaching some of us to paint that picture by now. There are methods and processes that work sometimes. There are generalities that are largely true. There is a lot that is open to interpretation. You work at this, and your dog works at this and sometimes it's like finally seeing the 3d picture in a single flat noisy image ….
Being able to see the picture amidst all that chaos, unfortunately, is still a long way away from being able to create it. And seeing one picture in one flat noisy image isn't the key to seeing all pictures in all flat noisy images.
Or maybe I'm just really sick of getting those calendars for Xmas. Dots and swirls. That's what I see.
I worked Jack and Jai this weekend in a field with the Helsleys and Lavon.
Jack was pretty good, but he crossed prior to lift off and he continues to struggle to not overflank and bring me back sheep on the drive. He is either having confidence issues, or he hates sheep and wants me to get him something nicer, like goats or prostitues, to herd…still, he is changing and getting more responsive to the work and less survile every time I work him.
Lavon mentioned that my whistles are potentially part of the problem. Jack has worked on Lavon's whistles and they are similar in opposite ways to some of mine. My stop whistle is like Lavon's flank and my away sounds like a walk-up. My walk up sounds like the theme song to I Dream of Jeannie. IT IS!!
He suggested that I use my voice more. No one hardly ever suggests this. Sober.
Jai was struggling with some Jai issues. She seemed ill at ease most of this weekend. I was gone all last week and Saturday we put her through a relatively intense drill designed to make her more comfortable with close work (Read: Less Thank You, More Thank Ewe on and off the course, in that order). She was great during the drill. We worked in a small pen with 5 sheep, flanking and coming in between sheep and fence. She seemed to take it all in stride, did an excellent job.
And then we moved out into a big field and she said, "FUCK EWE AND YOU, I'm going to take up agility. I want ribbons!"
Helsley suggested that in general I should use my whistles not just as my commands, but also my corrections. My corrections tend to take the essay format, (REALLY JAI?! AGILITY?! You want me to get you a JACK RUSSELL OR A SHELTY TO HUMP? ARE THOSE THE KIND OF SHORT-LEGGED NASTY PUPPIES YOU WANT HANGING OFF YOUR ONCE TALENTED TEATS!??? REALLY!?) Helsey said that I might just keep it short and to the point. Whistle a flank or a stop, if she doesn't take it, whistle it louder. Maybe followed by a short 'HEY!' if necessary,
"Because," Helsley said, "If you are going to give her one of your corrections, you are going to miss the panel wayyyy before you get to your second sentence."
Jeanie mentioned that we, women especially, tend to take our dog's mistakes or bad days personally. I know this is true of me, though it's getting better. I can't count the number of times I've struggled not to cry, sometimes unsuccessfully, at DDs house after some incident on the field that I incorrectly identified as the 4th Horse of the Apocolypse. Now I mostly just feel disappointed and like I'm a failure.
But they were all so kind. And so I then sent Jai one last time, at Lavon's urging, and she scattered sheep like dandelion seeds into 3 different fields and a porch. This took about a half an hour to recover from.
The H's (and the L) mentioned that they'd be working later in the evening. I wanted to stay away from what I felt strongly would be an Interventon…but Lavon talked me into coming back.
First, however, I went home and built a barrier between my dog yard and my pasture so that Jai couldn't spend her days bending the sheep with her mind.
Things went much better in the evening. Jai was still a bit off her game, and I'm not sure what is up with that, entirely, but she worked much better.
Jack was a little better also. I used Lavon's whistles and some quiet brief screeching, what I call my Indoor Voice.
Next weekend – the Dirt Blowing Trial.
We'll see what we see.