Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Training Linc

(Photo by Robin French)

I suppose this is my dog blog most of the time, but here lately I haven't had much dog-blogging to do. We're in a bit of a holding pattern here, the dogs and I, since I'm limited as to how much work I can get my dogs at the moment. I've got limited mobility, limited fundage, and I can't do any trials right now. But, I figure I can't ONLY talk about farting in colors and whatever other stupid stuff that strikes my fancy, so maybe I'll actually talk about training a dog for a change.

So. Nick's rocking right along. Not much to talk about there - I absolutely adore and depend on him. I think everyone should have a first dog like him. He's been so good for me - and he keeps my shoulder blades warm at night too. Nick believes in yes ma'am moments. He has opinions but he's open to my input, unless I'm REALLY wrong. Sometimes even then. But he believes in yes ma'am moments.

Linc is interesting. Linc doesn't believe in yes ma'am moments. He believes in "tell me why I should listen to you" moments, "make me" moments, and sometimes in "please make it clearer because I just don't get it" moments. I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, and not always fast to know where his head is some days. Linc is complicated. He's complex. He's stunning to watch. He has a shiny coat.

At the Water Cress SDT he was weird about walking straight in on the sheep - and I've seen that since. So two weekends ago we tried just letting him figure it out. Linc has a tendency to ratchet up when I correct him, so Robin and I worked on letting him know when he was where I wanted him, and otherwise leaving him alone (more or less ignoring some of the silliness). So last weekend he demonstrated that he had remembered how to bring the sheep - how to run out enthusiastically, how to walk in, and how to bring them.

So then I had to remind him he needed to stop. We'd moved on to some driving, and while tooling along I'd try to stop him. Of course I would - he was starting to slip around (ok, not slipping, more like careening) and I was trying to manage him with a stop. He wasn't listening, I was riding him, and next thing I knew he'd be blowing into the sheep on the side. Robin explained that I needed to make it clear what I wanted (not nagging for sure, which I was doing) and clear up the grey areas.

This time we used corrections when he tried to slip around the sides of the sheep (instead of my nagging him to lie down and correcting him BADLY and ineffectively as he was already committed to finding a sheep to hang off of), and talked nicely to him as he began to fall in behind the sheep. 'Lo and behold as I made this clear to him he began to soften. He was *getting it*. He was not only getting it, but he was taking corrections nicely (as opposed to butting heads with me), understanding what I wanted, and we both got to go home happy and pleased with ourselves. He finally got to the point where he wasn't testing the edges, he just was happy to sit back there and drive the sheep. A soft word from me had him adjusting. When we left Robin's last weekend I had another dog that believed in yes ma'am moments - even if only for that day.

I wonder, sometimes, if dogs sit around and discuss me like we do them. I can hear Linc right now:

That human. She just has the suckiest timing, and it makes me want to choke her. Since I can't choke her I just hang off of some sheep every now and then. It makes her SO mad! I just don't understand her. If she'd LISTEN to me. If she'd just be more clear maybe we'd mesh better. She does feed me. She picks up the poop a lot. I thought for a while she was eating it, but I've figured out that she's putting it in some bag as she goes along. As far as humans go she doesn't suck the most, but sometimes she REALLY makes me crazy. I have to work hard to figure her out sometimes. She's complicated. She does have shiny hair.

Yeah, thanks buddy.


Robin French said...

Oh geez, LOL!!!!

Laura said...

I love this, Laura! It's pretty much exactly what I learned when I went up to see Scott. If the dog is consistently not doing what I ask, he doesn't know what the heck I want and nagging won't help him figure it out. Simple, consistent corrections and talking nicely where appropriate really helps clarify things!

But I think maybe Linc is being a little too hard on you ;-)

BCxFour said...

I have tried to read this post in its entirety a couple of times now, but I cant seem to get past "farting in colors" then I am giggling to hard to read any further!!!

BCxFour said...

Okay I finally made it through and stopped giggling long enough to comprehend what you were writing about.

you wrote "and talked nicely to him as he began to fall in behind the sheep. 'Lo and behold as I made this clear to him he began to soften.

We had this same 'ah ha' moment last week when it finally sunk into my herding challenged brain that reinforcement at the right time is more effective than any amount of correction in the world. When Bonnie finally got into balance a nice quiet "there" followed by "walk up" meant more than flag waving or "knock it off" than anything else in the world. Talk about a light bulb moment in moronic land. The flash should have knocked me unconscious - but my head is too thick for that. Bonnie was so relieved I 'got it' that she has quit her zipping and zooming around and is now giving me some room on the sheep - and not taking the skin off their legs. Always a plus.

Bolognese Puppy said...

Great article! I like the end of the post when you desribe how your dogs would discuss you. It is very funny. Thanks for the posting!