This dog working thing is so fluid. It's intuitive, in the moment, and it changes from one second to the next. I'm not a big fan of changes. I like rules, schedules, and I like for things to be as they are and stay as they are forever Amen. So sometimes when I think I have a particular issue with a dog worked out and it pops back up I just don't know what to do. When the picture changes I struggle just a little sometimes.
I farm-sat for Mary and Tony over Christmas. I had a ball, the dogs had a ball, and while farm-sitting is always hard work (anyone need a good farm-sitter?) I always have fun. I worked the dogs a little while I was there, but unfortunately being over the holidays I didn't have as much free time as I would have liked.
Anyway, one day out there Robin commented that it didn't seem like Linc and I were having much fun. Turns out she was right. He was being a little hard-head, and in response I was cranking on him. The tougher I'd get the tougher he'd get, and it was like watching a modern day sword-fight except with sheep, dogs, and one seriously pissed off human.
So with Robin's help I relaxed. I helped my dog relax. Suddenly we were working together as a team again. That begs the question - does he get tough because I get tough, or do I get tough because he does? Do we feed on each other - is it like a spontaneous combustion? Did he *already* know I was stressed and it just became one big head butting match? I realize that I am under considerable stress otherwise, and I'm sure that it must be eeking out and leaching into my dog working. I noticed Nick reacting strongly to me the other day at Mary's, and I'm sure some of it is simply a response to the turmoil that has nothing to do with them at all. These dogs, they read me well. I can only hope to become a fraction as skilled in reading them!
Every time I think I have my relationship with Linc figured out it seems like I've set myself up for another growing pain. I think I have it all figured out, and then I realize I'm having a lapse. I'll realize I have my shoulders up around my ears, and I'm running around the field shrieking like a banshee and looking like I have no neck. I'm like the neckless bandit of dog working. Not pretty. So thankfully Robin and Julie gently remind me to relax, and next thing I know the whole picture changes.
These growing pains are hard. But they're worth it I think. Linc is going to make me a better trainer and handler even if it kills us both.