puppy | Dancing Hearts Cognitive Dog Training

Why you should Stop Training your Dog … Until You Read This…

February 20, 2017

Top dog training experts blog title

 The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

You’ve heard the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan?

Helen was struck by a fever as a toddler that left her in a dark, silent place … “blind, deaf and dumb”, according to Helen in her story.

Her loving parents did all they could to love her, teach her and provide what they hoped would be a happy life.

Helen was indeed happy for a few years…playing, growing, loving…seeming to be well adjusted for her age.

Until the day her inability to communicate began to consume her … she desperately wanted to be understood and to understand her family.

Her frustration led to more and more frequent fits of frenzy, hyperactive, unruly behavior … or downright violent tantrums where nothing around her was safe from her damaging outbursts.

Should we put her in a care home for the unable? Her family considered. No, they decided, let’s find a way to help her.

Then one day, Anne arrived. It was a day that would prove to be transformational for Helen.

Slowly and persistently, Anne began to teach Helen how to communicate, starting with spelling out word symbols in Helen’s hand.

Helen could easily play this finger-hand game and mimic the finger signs, making the word signs back to Anne’s hand…but she did not understand their meaning…she did not make the connection between the finger-hand game and the objects they were naming.

She had no understanding and no ability to think or process thought. She didn’t know she could. Until one memorable day when everything changed.

Helen Keller: The Story of My Life

Helen Keller tells the story of her epiphany in the autobiography The Story of My Life

Helen Keller“MEANWHILE the desire to express myself grew. The few signs I used became less and less adequate, and my failures to make myself understood were invariably followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if invisible hands were holding me, and I made frantic efforts to free myself. I struggled–not that struggling helped matters, but the spirit of resistance was strong within me; I generally broke down in tears and physical exhaustion.

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.

Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”

A few weeks later she writes …

“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, “Think”.

In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.

For a long time I was still–I was not thinking of the beads in my lap, but trying to find a meaning for “love” in the light of this new idea. The sun had been under a cloud all day, and there had been brief showers; but suddenly the sun broke forth in all its southern splendour.

Again, I asked my teacher, “Is this not love?”

“Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out,” she replied. Then in simpler words than these, which at that time I could not have understood, she explained: “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.”

The beautiful truth burst upon my mind–I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.”

Later, she writes:

“Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every teacher can make him learn. He will not work joyously unless he feels that liberty is his, whether he is busy or at rest; he must feel the flush of victory and the heart-sinking of disappointment before he takes with a will the tasks distasteful to him and resolves to dance his way bravely through a dull routine of textbooks.

My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her. How much of my delight in all beautiful things is innate, and how much is due to her influence, I can never tell. I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her–there is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch.

The love, the trust, and the relentless dedication of Helen’s teacher to partner with her student changed everything for this young girl who would, herself, grow up to be one of the world’s greatest teachers of all. You can read her full story here.

I trust that you can see the connection between Helen’s story and how our dogs are begging to be heard and truly understood … and our role in being the leaders and teachers … the PARTNERS … they so desperately need us to be.

Now, let me switch stories.

There was a woman with a young, smart-as-a-whip border collie … as energetic as she was clever.

This pup easily learned all the usual stuff like sit/down/stay/shake … she knew at least a couple dozen cued  tricks … and she could open doors and gate latches and she was so athletic she could leap 5 feet up from a stand still.

This youngster was well trained, yet she had so little impulse control that walking her caused the woman’s friends to exclaim: “it looks like you’re walking a helicopter on a string!!”  She was happy and eager to meet and greet, so she basically leapt in the air the entire time. There was no holding her down.

Phoenix frisbeeThe pup would get so frustrated at being contained, restrained, or restricted that she would just quiver and scream because her needs were not being understood.

When it came time for her herding training, a whole new level of frustration developed for this woman and her pup.

This experienced herding trainer could not teach this talented and smart pup how to stop at balance…the most basic of skills.

The woman tried harder, firmer, louder to get the stop.

The dog tried harder, firmer, louder to get what she wanted.

Expert advice offered little help. “Your pup is not listening, out of control, impossible to train”.

Punish her, correct her, hit her … give up on her … was the advice.

The woman refused, determined to find a way to help her dog.

They were both desperate to communicate. Neither was understood.

Now…

You may not know that I’m a trained healer, intuitive and animal communicator, able to tap into the most discreet, subtle expressions and unspoken communication.

Ultimately, I was able to use my intuitive skills and discover exactly what this pup was trying to communicate… and why she just refused to do such a simple thing.

In a weird twist of reality … it turns out the dog wanted the exact same thing as the woman, unbeknownst to either of them.

This clever and highly sensitive border collie had so precise a sense of balance, that she could not tolerate one sheep’s nose being off of dead center balance by one fraction of an inch.

She would just explode in frustrated frenzy, racing around instead of stopping when asked…so desperately reacting to not being understood.

Phoenix, the dog in this story, reminds me of Helen Keller in that old movie I saw as a kid …racing around the dinner table, throwing plates, food and glasses to the floor…so frustrated were her attempts to be heard.

Yes, as you may have guessed, this is my Phoenix, and the story of our rough start to herding.

It’s a similar story to the one I see repeated over and over with my students and clients … and with those who I wish were my students and clients.

I hear their dogs. I see the frustration on both sides. I know how they feel, and I know how to help.

I learned the hard way, to be sure.

If I knew then what I know now…I would NOT have kept rehearsing unwanted behavior over and over until it became our way of working together.

No…I would have stepped into my role as Leading Partner in our D.A.N.C.E.

What is this D.A.N.C.E., you ask?

I thought you’d never ask!

It’s a special way of connecting with dogs … a way of communicating and forming a partnership that decreases the overall need for training … while accelerating the training process.

The secrets of our connection with dogs, horses and other animals are not new…this wisdom has been passed down by the ancients who understood the profound connection between all living things.

What is new, is my SYSTEM that teaches dog enthusiasts exactly HOW to have that connection, to communicate in a way that allows dogs to feel understood and that allows people to easily communicate in a language both dog and human truly and naturally understand.

Today, science proves that we, our dogs, animals, plants and the earth are simply different combinations of the same elements…that we all share a DNA-deep connection.

Through Cognition … (the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding) … we can learn just HOW to tap into the power of that DNA-deep connection that we share with our dogs.

A cognitive dog trainer is willing to focus on this connection and then apply what they have learned to create the pure joy that is partnership between a dog and handler.

Dogs are ready, willing and able to be our devoted and collaborative partners. The joy they get when true partnership is experienced, I believe, is equal to ours.

When you learn and use the 5 principles contained in the DANCE of partnership…anything to which you dedicate yourself becomes possible…any dream you have will begin to unfold, and any training or handling problem can be easily solved.

Just like Helen Keller. And just like my Phoenix.

The D.A.N.C.E. Method:

Dance of connection and consensual partnership…mindful, joyful and delightful!
Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership you and your dog will love.
Notice: Attentive Responsiveness between you and your dog.
Competence at partnership and all the skills you are training for.
Equanimity. Calm, centered grace leads to a Joyful Dance between you and your dog.

 

A great first step to creating a better partnership with your dog is to signup for my Free Partnership Mini-Class that includes 2 online partnership assessment quizzes … plus 3 video workshops for a partnership breakthrough!

Dance of connection and consensual leadership.

 

“To be clear and confident of your own dreams while remaining responsive to the needs and gifts of others, you must check your ego at the gate.”   ~Linda Kohanov

Partnership and Leadership itself is always a work in progress…it’s a true improvisation…an acknowledgement that there is no one, right, true way.

There’s this natural process in a well functioning community (of two or many) where leadership happens as a result of circumstance and everyone agrees it’s in the best interest of all.

This process allows for leadership roles to be traded, according to who is the calmest, clearest and most creative in a given situation.

This trading leadership roles is observed in mammals that live in social groups such as horses, wolves, and sheep.

My 40+ years working with and learning from horses (and horse partnership experts), has strongly influenced and helped to shape my body of work.

Horses ARE naturally hyper sensitive, like so many of our dogs. And we have spent thousands of years working with and partnering with horses. There is a lot to learn about human-animal relationships from the horse world.

Linda Kohanov: The Way of the Horse

In her book “Way of the Horse”, Linda Kohanov (a renowned expert in leadership) writes:

“In these equine communities, what an individual knows about, what he cares about, or what he’s calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent, drive, or experience the others value or, at times, defer to.

Humans seeking an absolute definition of leadership and a concrete job description to go with it, don’t like this concept much, but it’s really not that hard to fathom. And the benefits of putting it into action far outweigh surface ambiguities.

If you propose to create an authentic community where true feelings, talents, dreams and motivations are acknowledged, you have to head in this general direction. No leader knows everything. To convince your followers otherwise is dishonest, requiring increasing levels of posturing, deception, and finally, intimidation.

Basically, you have to maintain good boundaries without feeling the need to order everyone else around. Consensual leadership draws on the wisdom and sentience of the entire herd.”

We’re all familiar with terms like ‘pecking order’ or ‘pack dynamics/alpha/dominant leader’ … and social organization based on dominance hierarchies is a common discussion when we talk about Leadership.

The need to show our ‘dominance’ over our dogs has been accepted as ‘truth’ and can be seen in our everyday language surrounding dog training.

People still speak of dog training in terms that imply a power struggle: we “housebreak” them … we make a dog “obedient”… dogs try to “dominate” us … they need to “obey” our “commands”… we “correct” them if they are wrong.

That’s old, proven to be wrong, ineffective information.

The reality is that what really happens in a family group is …

Consensual Leadership.

What an individual knows about, cares about or is calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent or experience that other members value or defer to.

Translated as “sensing together” consensual leadership draws on the wisdom of everyone involved. When we are uncertain, or triggered by what is happening – we look to the individual who is most calm and centered in that situation.

In plain terms, leadership is awarded to the most helpful leader in each circumstance.

Sometimes our dog leads, like when following a track, retrieving a ball or gathering a field of sheep …

… and other times we are leading, like when we are providing dinner, or teaching  key skills, or negotiating a walk thru a crowd.

Dogs will naturally follow our lead (defer to us) when we are calm, congruent, clear and confident. Why wouldn’t they, right?

That’s just the kind of leadership we practice in our Brilliant Partners Academy, and when we do our breakout practice sessions for the Partnership Walking Dance at the LIve BPA  “Shine On” Weekend Intensive …

… partners will all come away with a profound understanding of what it really means to connect with our dogs in this consensual Dance.

Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership.

Suzanne Clothier: Bones Would Rain from the Sky

In her best selling book Bones Would Rain From The Sky, author Suzanne Clothier, writes:

“Each relationship between an animal and a human is a bridge uniquely shaped to carry only those two, and so must be crafted by them. Though the work of a lifetime, the building and repairs are done slowly, in the heart’s time, one beat after another. And it is thirsty work, as the work of the heart always is, for the heart thirsts after the things that are invisible to the eye, things you cannot grasp with your hand.”

Responsibility…

The promise of a dog who eagerly responds to our lightest cue … who is attentive and responsive, and willing to follow our lead … is what awaits when we take full responsibility for these three key elements:

  1. Thoughts
  2. Actions
  3. Training Process

Our ability to design, implement and assess/adjust a plan for training grows as we gain knowledge and experience.

It starts with thinking about our dog and our dreams…and creating a plan of training that will lead us and our dogs toward that dream.

Then it’s time to take responsible action… taking small, successful steps that keep us moving in the direction of our dreams. A plan of training based on slow but steady progress achieves rapid results while building confidence and trust.

If you are training from the heart, with the best interest of your dog at the center, you will never go wrong…even if your plan is not well-designed or well-implemented.

You’ll simply learn, and course correct.

It starts with taking responsibility for our role…for our part of the partnership.

Patricia McConnell, Ph.D

In her best selling book The Other End of the Leash, author, speaker and Certified Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, writes:

“Leader is another loaded term in dog training. The concept of dominance has been so misused and misunderstood that even the word leadership has fallen out of favor in some circles. That’s a shame, because most social animals profit from the wisdom of a wise leader.

Teaching dogs to be patient and polite while acting like a loving, benevolent leader has helped hundreds of my clients who were having trouble with their dogs.

Perhaps the dogs learn that they can get what they want by being patient and polite rather than rude and pushy and learn to deal with frustration without becoming aggressive or out of control.

These suggestions are not substitutes for a complete dog training manual or good video course, or better yet, a good class where you have a coach to help you out.

The first thing that every dog trainer learns is that most of the problems people have with their dogs, and dogs have with their people, are due to misunderstanding that could have been prevented.

Indeed, the goal of this book has been to promote an increased level of understanding of human and dog behavior, in the hope that it improves the relationships between people and their dogs.

Perhaps there’s value in a relationship that strives to share what it can and that accepts deeply and peacefully, it’s limitations.”

In the Brilliant Partners Academy, our focus is on learning the art of heart-centered, loving leadership.

Dogs, as socially intelligent animals, truly thrive when we provide just the right kind of balanced leadership. When we have that as our intention, and we learn to become congruent, even the most unruly dogs can learn to calm and to behave mindfully and responsibly.

 Creating a better partnership with your dog starts with a ‘partnership assessment quiz’ so that you can easily see where your foundation needs some work. Take the free PQ quiz when you signup for my Free Partnership Mini-Class that includes 2 online partnership assessment quizzes … plus 3 video workshops for a partnership breakthrough!

Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership.

“The best-laid plans can distract you from opportunities. Sometimes you must wait, patiently, for an opening – then act without hesitation.”

Presence…

We hear a lot about the importance of timing when we are training our dogs – and it’s true – when we are sensitive to timing, we make great progress.

Good timing is an art, and it’s one that we can cultivate in ourselves with sincere intention.

It starts with being present, and being so focused that we can see opportunities as they occur. We only have the briefest of moments to act before it’s gone and if we are distracted in any way … gone it will be!

When we step into this state of ‘natural time’, we are able to let go of our agendas and cultivate attentive responsiveness between us and our dog…and attentive responsiveness is the ‘mother’ of all things good when it comes to training our dogs!

Artful timing requires self control, discernment, grace and abandon. Not coincidentally, those are the same qualities that our dogs need to navigate life with humans … and we can learn so much from them.

Luckily, our dogs don’t hold grudges when we mis-time our cues and loose points in a trial as a result.

Dogs live in natural time, always open to the next meaningful opportunity for harmony and communication … never holding on to ‘what could have been’.

“The Dance” enables you and your dog to become Competent at being attentive and responsive to one another.

There’s an interesting effect that happens …

when we begin to deeply connect with our dog with an intention of true listening and understanding, we are able to become engaged and fully present. And the more present we become, the better we can connect with and understand our dogs.

Brian Hare: The Genius of Dogs

In The Genius of Dogs, written by Brian Hare, associate professor of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University and Vanessa Woods, research scientist at the Center and award-winning author of Bonobo Handshake, is written:

“A cognitive approach works so well with dogs, not because they have no mind, but precisely because they do. The genius of dogs is their ability to understand human communication and their motivation to cooperate with us.

Dogs also have biases and limitations to their understanding of how the world works. A cognitive approach allows us to train around those biases and limitations instead of fighting a losing battle with them.

A dog will always learn from a human faster than a wolf, because dogs have evolved skills to read our communicative signals. While working dogs might be more skilled at using human gestures … all dogs are skilled at using human gestures.

…dogs are more skilled at using our gestures if we pay attention to them while giving the gesture.

When an experimenter shows where food has been hidden but then points at another location, dogs do not search for the food they saw, but instead go to where the human pointed.”

The bottom line is that dogs mirror us…

… and it’s in their DNA to look to us for guidance and leadership.

When we are fully present, training is accelerated, and the amount of time needed is greatly diminished.

Competent, attentive, responsive communication.

“Training is, after all, nothing more than the establishment of a system of communication between a dog and handler…and becoming competent at it.”

Being a beginner is hard. Fortunately, it’s temporary!

Novice or beginner handlers and trainers are faced with the problem of having to first think of each cue, then apply it.

Using the voice, body, expression, and intention together and in harmony can be a monumental task for the beginner.

But with intentional practice, communication becomes efficient, our confidence grows our self-image expands and our partnership with our dog builds into a foundation of trust and understanding.

Ultimately, with confidence born of competence, the result is graceful and worthy of awe.

Pat Miller: The Power of Positive Dog Training

Pat Miller, author of The Power of Positive Dog Training, writes:

“Great dogs don’t happen by accident. When you see an owner playing in the park with a dog who is playful, exuberant, and at the same time attentive, responsive, and obedient, you can be sure the owner has spent lots of quality time with her dog.

When you train your dog, you establish a powerful bond that helps to cement the relationship. This bond is the critical difference between the unfortunate dog who ends up at the shelter because the owner is moving and can’t keep him and the dog whose owner would live in his car or on the street before considering giving up his faithful, four-legged friend.

Every dog has the power to be great. Will yours? It’s up to you. Both you and your dog bring the power to success in the training adventure. You bring the power to teach; your dog brings the power and eagerness to learn what you teach.

Learning how to communicate with your dog can be a joyful and awe-inspiring experience of mutual empowerment. As you train your dog, you create a relationship based on trust and understanding.

You will also be thrilled and amazed by your dog’s unlimited learning potential and positive attitude. Open your eyes, your mind, and your heart … and get ready to discover your dog.”

Positive vs Permissive…

So many people get very confused by the difference between positive and permissive. There are few role models for how to be a positive leader, getting what you want without being punitive.

It means, in my world, having a working partnership where the human is the leader of the dance. My programs are all about dogs loving guidance, leadership, clarity and clear communication.

Being a clear and loving leader often means swiftly interrupting undesired behavior, and replacing that with Teaching what to do instead.

It often means being firm and confident in your ask, deliberate and congruent … insistent without being adversarial …  delivering a ‘no option’ directive.

It sometimes means using a tone of voice and body language that clearly communicates to the dogs that their current action or the choice they are considering is NOT acceptable.

Because I am calm and clear, my dogs will defer to my leadership in those situations.

It means staying fully present so we can be responsible leaders for our dogs.

I call that being ATTENTIVE AND RESPONSIVE. Which is exactly how we want our dogs to be too.

Practicing the skills of communication between you and your dog prepare you for practicing the skills of any specialty sport or activity like agility, herding, rally.

Just like a child learning the ABC’s, then words, then little sentences, and then books…

Learning how to communicate with your 3P’s: Posture, Position, Presence and by practicing the Dance … establishes the language you need to support your dog’s education in all things.

Sometimes, communication transcends the physical and becomes effortless. This happens when the handler is no longer centered on herself, but is a true partner of her dog. They are one. The handler thinks of the desired work and no more. Thoughts become the cues without conscious direction.

Every once in a while, everything comes together and we get into The Zone…a place where time disappears and we are in a heightened state of awareness and in sync.

Together dog and handler enter  “the zone” in which the two blend so naturally that the experience seems effortless, without conscious interference. It’s a beautiful thing!

Equanimity and Training as Dance.

Equanimity

Evenness of mind, especially under stress, is one of those Leadership qualities that will take us far with our dogs.

Patience with ourselves and our dog is an essential element that will keep us centered when others (like our dog) become over-aroused or reactive.

A patient leader sets reasonable boundaries without ordering others around…and whose clarity, composure and poise are downright contagious!

When we lead by example, not by force or dominance, we become the one that our dogs want to follow.

As a Certified Tellington TTouch practitioner and member of The Guild, you can bet that my work includes the power of the TTouch Method.

Linda Tellington-Jones

In her book, Getting in TTouch with Your Dog, highly acclaimed animal expert and horse woman, Linda Tellington-Jones shares:

“Dogs enrich their owners’ lives in so many ways. We can reciprocate by being mindful of the Canine Golden Rule: Treat your dog as you would like to be treated … with kindness and understanding.”

Proven to have the SAME positive effect on the human doing the work, as well as the dog receiving the work, TTouch is a simple, effective way to influence equanimity and help bring mental, emotional and physical balance.

”The TTouches build confidence, instill obedience and develop an animal’s ability and willingness to learn. It takes animals beyond instinct, teaching them to think and learn instead of react.”

The work we will do at the Brilliant Partners LIVE! “Shine On” Weekend Intensive includes working TTouch segments taken from my Foundation Formula.

Learning how to connect and communicate with our dogs in this profound way … helps us to achieve and to maintain a balance, even state of mind that is so important for our dogs. And it helps our dogs to reach a place of alert, yet calm state of mind, ideal for learning.

Learning the Art of Partnership

“A moment of choice is a moment of truth. It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”-Stephen Covey

I call these “choice points” … they come up in daily life, and they come up every time we work or train our dogs.

Will I choose the high road when my dog doesn’t listen…and pause to teach?

Or, will I choose the other, perhaps easier, and more heavily traveled road…and correct my dog for blowing me off?

Sometimes it gets really hard

Yes, Learning the art of partnership with our dogs requires a change of mind and a change of heart.

And it requires taking ACTION.

Here’s where all comes together…partnership in action draws upon responsiveness, assertiveness, discernment, mental and emotional agility, subtle-body awareness, intuition, consensual leadership…

The Dance of Partnership is stunning to watch … and puts us into a place of ecstasy … intense joy.

And it’s addictive…which leads to serious challenges.

Can we stay present and focused …even when we are not ‘in the zone’. ..to be able to Dance with frustration, conflict, performance anxiety, miscommunication, poor timing.

Yes…that is indeed a challenge!  It’s THE challenge, really.

Dancing becomes a metaphor for:

  • Leading without dominating
  • Following without loosing boundaries
  • Trading leads in true partnership

Speaking of Rupert Sheldrake …

In her book, Linda Tellington-Jones writes:

“World-renowned scientist Rupert Sheldrake, in his fascinating book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, has finally proved that dogs can read our minds and pick up our mental pictures even when far away.

It confirms to me that it was the clarity of my  expectations that made my dogs so cooperative over the years, and is the difference between success and failure in so many cases of inappropriate behavior.”

Ahhh…Clarity. It’s such a crucial element of a solid foundation  and a brilliant partnership with our dogs … that I have a full module in the Foundation Formula, just about Clarity.

Yes, it is empowering to know that if we change our own emotional responses, our own behavior, our own actions …. that our dogs will change too.

And we can’t do it alone. Sometimes, no matter how clear our vision is … we can go off course.

We need the eyes of someone who understands us, our dogs, our journey, our dreams and our goals to keep us on course. We all need someone we trust that can help us to see when and how to course correct, before we stray too far away from our vision.

How can you learn to D.A.N.C.E. with your dog?

As a child, I could see the light shining in the eyes of animals. I was attracted to their openness and acceptance and I followed their light willingly. The animals offered a safe container for that shy, introverted, thoughtful child that offered kindness to animals and people alike.

You might say that my natural gifts of intuition, empathy and compassion have always been strong.

I’ve always known when someone’s inner light has dulled with pain. It was that knowing that drove me to learn all I could and study the work of those masterful at helping another’s light to shine.

It was that knowing that fueled my strong passion to bring people and animals together into a place of harmonic collaboration … to find joy in one another, and in the learning process.

I never wanted to be the one who caused the dulling of the light in my horses, dogs, people. Alas, I am not always successful, though I always try.

Even though I was well studied and practiced in them, learning theories and training principles became flat, dry, unsatisfying substitutes for the deep, rich, multi-sensory experience of connecting heart-to-heart, in a truly holistic way.

There is nothing like it!!

My perception tells me that the dogs, horses, all others really, experience something quite similar.

Can I say that I LOVE my work?

To be able to share the wisdom the animals have brought to my life and to be able to offer the opportunity to others to be ‘keepers of the light’ as we train, play, work with our dogs is truly a blessing!

Hundreds of passionate dog people love my online courses and coaching programs, where I share it all…teaching all the pieces of the Foundation Formula and the Brilliant Partners D.A.N.C.E. Method.

The results and transformations are astounding, truly.

Let me know if you put these partnership principles to work for you and your dog … it’s well worth a try!

I’ve designed a ‘partnership assessment quiz’ so that you can easily see where your partnership foundation needs some work. Take the free PQ quiz when you signup for my Free Partnership Mini-Class that includes 2 online partnership assessment quizzes … plus 3 video workshops for a partnership breakthrough!

 


Click here to download your free pdf: Top Dog Training Experts On the Power of Partnership.

 

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Let’s Be Perfectly Clear: Dog Training Basics

February 18, 2014

Let's Be Perfectly Clear blog graphic

 

Clarity leads to each partner taking responsibility for their part of the partnership…intuiting what the other wants and needs. It’s a beautiful thing!

 

If you’ve been around me for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard me speak about “Clarity” and how important that is to training our dogs. But, what does that mean, how do we do that, and how is it applied to our training?

clar·i·ty
[klar-i-tee] noun
.
clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.

 

In order to deliver clear information, there are a few things that we need to take into account.

1. Bridging the Language Gap.

Establishing a common language between dog and human is crucial to communicating clearly. That seems so simple, yet it’s an often overlooked aspect of training. Because we humans are taking the lead with the training process, it is our responsibility to learn to ‘speak’ to our dogs in a way that they can understand.

We know that dogs naturally communicate by reading body language, expression, movement and direction. We know that we want to teach our dogs to respond to hand signals and verbal (audible) cues, since that is our natural communication style. But how do we bridge that gap effectively, in a manner that encourages partnership and an eagerness to seek understanding?

I suggest we establish a ‘common language’ that is based on the native communication skills of our dog…which is, fortunately, also part of the communication toolbox of humans!

Start by using appropriate body language, expression, movement and direction to communicate our desire to our dogs…and then we begin to name (assign a verbal/audible cue) to the active response by the dog…and ultimately fade out much of the body language and movement as the dog becomes fluent at responding to our verbal cues or whistles.

This common language gives us the foundation upon which we can build the skills that are necessary for the required task.

For example: we crouch down and move invitingly away from our puppy to encourage her to move towards us, right into our open, palm up and soft hands. Eventually, that becomes our recall. And, it becomes a cue to move toward us with the sheep in between as we are developing a gather. That ultimately leads us to be able to call our dog in smartly to hold off a single sheep.

Puppy Sit:StayThe flip side is when we are teaching our puppy to wait at a doorway, or to keep his feet on the ground: we stand tall, raise a flat and solid palm-out hand, and extend our personal space out in such a way the puppy reads our body language and “feels” the edge of our personal space bubble and understands not to move into that bubble. That communication becomes a wait or stay, it can lead into a ‘back up’ away from the handler; it eventually becomes a pause then a stop behind the sheep, and importantly, it helps us to help our young herding dog to ‘feel’ the sheep as we merge our own personal space with that of the sheep.

Mindfully and artfully used, we have now established a solid language that communicates two fundamental skills: move in and move out. We will be using this language for the most basic foundation skills on up to mastery of advanced skills. And, so it goes with ALL of the language we will be establishing with our dogs. This system can be used to build skills for any sport or activity and for every-day life.

2. Communicate with Intention.

In order to provide clarity to our dogs, we need to establish our intention. It’s like your declaration of a course of action that you intend to follow…and an objective that will guide your actions. Dogs clearly read our intention and the way they do this is by reading the minutia of our communications. It’s in the tiniest of details in our body language and expression. It’s the same way they read the sheep.

Our lack of attention to those same details is what makes our timing off, our communication sloppy and ultimately what causes our dogs to not “listen” to what we are saying. If we take a moment to be clear in our own heads and bodies about what our objective is in the present moment, then our intention will be clear to us and to our dog.

For example:

• Do you want your dog to flank correctly right now, or do you really just want the dog to get over to the side so you can let the sheep in the gate? Your intention will communicate to your dog what you really expect, no matter what you are saying audibly.

• Do you really want your dog to lie down right there? Or, do you mean that he should turn in at balance and move the sheep towards you? When you have clear intention, your dog will better understand what you are asking for and you will be more likely to help your dog to rehearse good moves.

• Do you want your dog to think and take initiative for what to do? Or, do you want your dog to just listen to your instructions? Your mindful intention makes all the difference in how your dog will respond in each situation.

3. Congruency brings Clarity.

The most direct path to clearly communicate with your dog is to be congruent: All aspects of you are in harmony, without conflict or disorder. That means: what you are thinking, how you are feeling, what your body is doing, and what your voice and expression are telegraphing must all be the same. Or at least really similar.

In order to be congruent, we must be mindful and aware of all of the aspects of ourselves. That is a learned behavior and requires intention and much practice. Lots and lots of practice. Speaking from my own path of experience, I can say that it takes determination, persistence and patience to learn to BE congruent. At least the majority of the time. OK, maybe a little more than half of the time. It’s one of life’s HARDS.

Dogs know when we are congruent and when we are not. When we’re not, they are confused. That confusion translates into different things for different dogs in different circumstances. Some dogs distract themselves by eating grass or poo. Other dogs get fast and frantic. Or stop and look back at their handler.

For example, if we want our dog to lie down, we can’t be thinking about stopping that breaking ewe. When we want to create ‘flow’ for a shed, we can’t be focused on stopping the leader.

Communicating with ALL of ourselves is what will help our dogs to understand what we want, and will help them to willingly comply. This is critically important in the beginning and intermediate stages of training and if done well, leads to a breath-taking dance where you and your dog seem to be like one.

Kat_puppies_wClarity leads to:

Each partner taking responsibility for their part of the partnership…intuiting what the other wants and needs.
It’s a beautiful thing!

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Dog Training Partnership that Rocks!

April 8, 2013

I just have a quick announcement for you today.

 A new video of me and my dogs.

As I put this quick video together today, I am reminded of how much I LOVE the partnerships I have with each of my dogs. My heart fills with gratitude and love just thinking about it.

You can have that too. Check out my video and come back here to let me know what you think.

 The Foundation Formula - Kathy Kawalec's Dogs

 

Happy Spring!

Kathy xoxo

 

One of my most painful mistakes and what I learned

April 5, 2013

If you’re anything like me and most of my students and clients, your dog is a core part of your life…and you do, or would like to do, lots of fun things with your dog.

You dream of enjoying the benefits of having a happy, friendly dog in your life…a dog that you can take anywhere!

Maybe you dream of competing in a dog sport like agility, herding, or obedience…and of being successful … bringing home ribbons and titles … or even national championships.

And for you, the process of getting that good as a team is the enjoyable part…the ribbons are a bonus to all the fun and adventure you would love to have with your dog as you train and compete.

But, like most of us, you’ve also been in that place where your dreams seem out of reach because a challenge or struggle with your dog stops you dead in your tracks.

So, You reached out for help and what you found were methods that you didn’t like and wouldn’t use…or techniques that seemed too hard or just took too long to get results.

You’ve probably tried so many things, but nothing sticks and you end up in the same or worse place than before.

It can be so frustrating. I know, I’ve been there.

For the past 15 years or so, you might know that my passion has been sheep herding. When I first set out to learn about sheep herding with my first border collie, Dallas, I already knew about positive and natural training methods and I KNEW that I needed to find someone who could help me learn this new and really challenging ‘hobby’ in a fun way.

I knew this because of a really hard lesson. Really hard. This is a story that is still hard to share, 20 years later.

Here’s my story

I brought home my beautiful sheltie, Haley, when she was about 16 weeks old. You may have already read some of Haley’s story on my blog, but there was one part I left out. It was just too painful to write about. Still is, but I’m gonna cowgirl up. <gulp>

Haley enjoying a visit at a friends farm.

Right before I officially dropped out of competitive obedience, there was an incident that blew a hole into my world as I knew it.

Sometimes ‘having great potential’ is a curse, not a blessing. It can cause us to make decisions that we later regret. We can put pressure on ourselves and our dogs that blows things up in our face.

Haley and I had a stellar obedience beginning, in spite of our many challenges. She being really shy and timid with people. Me, inexperienced, with my first ‘obedience’ dog.

Our CD came easy. Three tries, scores in the mid to high nineties. Stressful in many ways for both of us, but still fun.

“Potential: The Curse” Could be the name of my next book. Or a movie.

My obedience trainer said I “had” to put a pinch collar on Haley, my beautiful and sensitive sheltie, in order to get snappy heeling and I “had’ to pinch her ear until she cried out so that I could shove the dumbbell into her open mouth. That was the ONLY way to go on, working towards our CDX. That if I didn’t do these things, I would be a loser. Yes, they said that I might get a Q if I was lucky, but there would be no chance of winning or being really successful.

I was firm about the ear pinch. But, my friends were so convincing as they told me that the collar would not hurt Haley, but that it would provide more clear communication. One of my friends had a collar with tiny little prongs that she assured me would not even penetrate my dog’s thick fur.

So, I tried the collar once.

Up to then, Haley had only worn a plain flat buckle collar because I had refused to use a metal slip collar. (aka choke chain) Everyone I knew thought I was a freak because of my beliefs. At the time, there was NO other way, or so everyone thought.

We fitted the prong collar on her and I heeled with her up the side of the ring.

That went ok, until Haley moved a tiny bit ahead of me and the trainer said now, just give her a tiny little quick pop. I did.

Haley cried out, shocked and scared.

“She’ll be ok, it didn’t hurt her, it just scared her”, they told me. “She needs to learn how to take a correction”, they assured me.

I decided to call it a night and take Haley home, rather than continue with the class.

I went home that night, confused, frustrated, angry at myself. Not sure what to do next. We practiced with our normal buckle collar and had fun during the week.

The next week at training class, when I reached into my training bag, and Haley saw that borrowed collar, she shrank away from me with a look on her face I will never forget.

So, right then and there, I quit obedience. That was 20 years ago. I cried as I wrote this today. And I cried again when I read it for edits.

That decision changed my life. For me, for the dogs I will have the rest of my life, and for so many that I have shared my hard-earned philosophies and methods with…

 

The lesson that really stands out for me is this:

Positive Reinforcement isn’t an end to the evolution of dog training, it’s a beginning.

Partnership-driven training for dogs and their people is on the horizon. I’m on a mission from DOG … to make the world a better place for dogs and for people too!

Love your dogs today,

Kathy xoxo

 

Dirty Secrets Revealed: Confessions of a Professional Dog Trainer

December 14, 2012

Or: How I (almost) Wrecked My Dogs…

Kathy's dogs looking up at her attentivelyThere’s one thing that I’ve learned from all of my years of living with and training dogs that stands head and shoulders above the rest:

If you don’t have a good sense of humor, you might as well just throw in the towel and live a boring and sterile dogless life that features light carpeting, upholstered furniture, and a nice car that you are not embarrassed to have your mother or your boss ride in.

No, that’s not for me. Laughing at myself and my ineptness as a dog trainer – then sharing that with the world – way more fun. Who doesn’t need a little humility to keep things in balance?

 

 

Sue at 5 weeks old.

Confession #1:

How I Taught My Dog to Pee in the House. (and in other inconvenient places)

It’s really easy to house train a puppy. It is. I have a simple system that I use and teach to my clients, have for years. A no brainer. A 3 year old could do this. All of my dogs have easily learned to pee outside.

Then came Sue. She was about 90% house trained by 8 weeks old. The puppies in the litter were eager to move away from their sleeping area to potty by 3 weeks old and I made sure that was easy for them.

I thought to myself: “this will be the easiest house training job ever.” Right.

Sue was the sweetest puppy. Everything was going just fine. Clearly, she understood that potty happened outside, she always peed when I took her out and said my usual “go potty”. I was on top of taking her out at the usual times, staying attentive to any signs she needed to pee, and doing my best to stay focused any time she had house freedom.

The first time ‘it’ happened I was so surprised.

There was sweet Sue, looking up at me with those beautiful dark brown puppy eyes…I was looking adoringly back at her, smiling and letting her know how much I loved her. All this love flowing between us…as the pee flowed right out of Sue onto the floor. What??? I could not believe it.

As I cleaned up the mess on the floor, I had time to contemplate what had happened.

Did she have a bladder infection? Did she think that pee happened in a position relative to me? Did she just suddenly realize she had to pee and couldn’t hold it any longer? She was just a little puppy, after all.

I decided that I needed to pay more attention, stay more focused, do a better job at getting her outside. All good…no pee in the house for a couple of weeks. Whew. Then, “it” happened again. Sue and I lovingly gazing into one another’s eyes. I’m thinking about how much I love her and what a good, smart puppy she is. And Sue pees. Right there in front of me, looking up at me while I sweet talked to her. What the heck??? I’m even more shocked than the first time.

Sue at 7 weeks old, sitting ... and oh, so cute!Then, the same thing happened a month later.

This time we were on the couch. Yes, peed right there, looking into my eyes, standing on the couch next to me. OMG! Flurry of activity ensued. Thank god I have blankets on the couch, I’m thinking, as I rip them off before the pee can soak into the upholstery. By this time, Sue is 5 or 6 months old and she pees A LOT. Is it possible to be even more shocked than the last time? Yes. I’m sure I stood there with my mouth wide open for some time. I know I was shaking my head in disbelief as I sprayed nature’s miracle on the couch, hoping to quickly render the pee odorless.

Now, I’m completely dumbfounded. What the heck is going on? Why is she doing this? It’s so random, so sporadic, so incredibly puzzling. So freakin weird. Did she pee on the couch because it’s a soft place that will soak up pee, like a rug or grass? Again, I re-commit to being even more vigilant about watching for signs.

“It” didn’t happen again. For a couple of months, I mean. I absolutely could not believe “it” was possible. Exact repeat of the couch pee incident. Sue, eyes, sweet talk, pee. There I am, madly ripping blankets, pillows, dogs and dog toys off the couch. This is crazy. I’m a little pissed.

And, suddenly, it hits me. I mean SLAM. Whacked on top of the head.

That sweet, penetrating, imploring, relentless gaze from Sue? THAT is her signal to me that she needs to go potty. What a dumbass I am. All this time, I’m thinking that she is simply connecting to me…wants to engage, wants to be loved. No. That is not a gaze of love. That is a look of “I have to pee right now, you crazy distracted person. Would you PLEASE open the door for me? If you don’t open the door for me right now, I’m gonna have to pee right here, because I can’t hold it any more”.

Yeah. Sometimes it takes a flood of information before learning takes place for humans. Pun intended.

I’d love to report that my big “aha” after the 2nd couch pee means that was the last time Sue and I had a communication failure. But, sadly, that is not the case.

Well, to be accurate, that was the last time it happened during waking hours. The next big hurdle was overnight. Now that Sue was a ‘big girl’ and all grown up, she had bed privileges overnight. In the house, in the RV, and in the occasional motel room.

Now, you need to understand that Sue is a sweet and loving dog who likes to snuggle, and gives great doggy kisses. Really, how was I to know that she was laying on top of me in bed, licking my face and staring into my closed eyes because she had to pee? Seriously, how was I to know? Yep. Peed on the bed. Wake up Joe. Frantically rip off comforter, blanket and sheets from our organic cotton and wool mattress. Thank goodness…it didn’t soak thru. Close call.

That fun scenario happened twice more, in the camper. If you happened to walk past my camper at a herding trial a couple of years ago and saw bedding hanging out to dry and wondered why, now you know. I did not pee in the bed. It was Sue. Really. The bed pee phase coincided with Sue coming into season for the first time. So I guess her bladder was extra sensitive or something. She felt bloated and desperate to pee, poor thing. I know just how that feels.

POP QUIZ:

Sue at 3 months old.OK, so how many times does it take a border collie to pee on your bed before you realize that she does NOT want to snuggle, but really needs to go pee and is trying to make you get up? Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!! I know the answer to that question!!!

Four! That is the magic number, friends. Four times. The last time (please, God) was the best. It got my attention. Finally. I apparently am way more dense than I seem. We were traveling with Nancy and her dogs for a quick trip to a herding trial and decided to stay in a motel, rather than bring the camper. Sue was still in season so the boys went into the crates in the room and the girls had bed privileges.

I was really tired. A long day outdoors at a trial.

Middle of the night, sleeping. Sue on me…licking my face. I open my eyes to see her staring at me, just inches away..looking deeply into my eyes. Go to sleep, Sue, I tell her. She does. 1/2 hr later, I open my eyes to find Sue staring at me again. Go to sleep, Sue, I say again. She moves to the foot of the bed. A few minutes later, she lays on top of me again. I don’t even open my eyes this time. Go to sleep Sue, I insist. She goes to the foot of the bed and I feel warm wetness soaking onto my feet.

No way!! Panic ensues. Wildly throwing covers off the bed, desperate to keep the mattress dry. And the smell. OMG. If you’ve never had the pleasure of being in a closed room filled with the scent of girl in season pee, you have not lived! No wonder the boy dogs are crazed by that musky scent. Not many places to put soiled stinky bedding in a motel room, finally landed on the shower. Perfect!

Now, I’m REALLY tired.

2 am. Tired. Took the comforter off of Nancy’s bed to cover myself up. Back to sleep. I know this will be nearly impossible for you to believe, but it happened again that night. Apparently Sue only peed enough the first time to make herself comfortable, because at 5 am the whole thing was repeated. Yes, including me telling her to “go to sleep”…I guess I thought she was eager to get a fun day started really early. Never considered she had to pee again. I know, I know.

Now we have 2 really stinky comforters in the shower along with a blanket and a sheet. Time to check out. I left an apologetic note for the housekeepers, along with $20, hoping they would forgive me the extra work. All the way home, I was thinking I should have left them way more.

Four time’s a charm. Finally I get it: Sue does not wake me up to snuggle in the middle of the night.

She wakes me up to pee. No matter how tired I am, or how great that dream I’m having is…if Sue stares at me through my closed eyelids, I know it. And I get up.

You gotta love the clever ways a border collie uses their ‘eye’. Even sheep are smarter than some humans, if you know what I mean.

 Sue working sheep at 18 months old.

Moral of this story:

Meaningful dialog between species is always possible. Sometimes it just takes a while to learn the others language.

And, it is always a worthwhile endeavor to dialog with our dogs. They have so much great stuff to tell us. Sue and I now have a wonderful language worked out.

For ‘Yes/No’ questions we have a 3 part system.

Step 1. We gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Step 2. I ask her a question:  (like: “Sue, do you have to go potty?”)

Step 3. Sue answers. If it’s a NO, she takes one step backwards. If it’s a YES, she steps towards me.

All the while, she maintains direct eye contact. Using her ‘eye’ to keep me under control and focused. That’s a good thing. There are lots of BSO’s. Everywhere, if you know what I’m sayin’.  😉

Epilogue

Raven at 9 weeks old. Sue hasn’t peed in the house since that last time in the motel, several years ago. Her daughter Raven, at 10 months old, had a similar style of communicating “I have to potty”. Raven runs halfway up the stairway near the door, and stares at me through the spaces in the railing.

Of course, I’m not usually in a place where I can see her staring out.

That could have been a problem, but thanks to the training I got from Sue, it only took me one time of having her pee upstairs to learn about her signal. I am now tuned in to the sound of paws on the stairs. Day or Night.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

 

Your Action Steps:

  1.  Read my confession above and read, re-read (or remember) my 5 Step Formula for Dog Training Success book. This time, as you read the 5 Step book, focus on communication, dialog, understanding and misunderstanding. What additional layers can you learn about communication?
  2. Every day, try to pick out 3-5 ways your dog is communicating with you that you did not notice before. Look for subtle body language, posture, expression. Write them down in a journal or notebook.
  3. Every day, try to communicate ONE thing to your dog in the most subtle way you can think of. Tiny movements. Subtle expressions. No (or very little) talking or verbalizing from you…use mostly body language, facial expression, tiny hand movements.  Really subtle. Write down how it went for you, and for your dog.
  4. After a week, notice how much more you and your dog are paying attention to one another, and how much more you understand each other. And notice how this has influenced your dogs behavior, training, engagement, work.

In no time at all, you will be a master communicator and a person your dog can really understand!

 

Coming up: Confession #2 … Let’s just say that I am sure you will relate to the next story.  🙂

In the  meantime…

Share YOUR confessions. Don’t be afraid. We’ll be laughing with you (not at you.)  Ha!  😉

 

Lessons, Clinics, Sheepdog Trials, and more!

September 21, 2012

Kathy and puppy Clark sharing a kiss.

Kathy and puppy Clark sharing a kiss.

What an amazing summer this has been!

“Busy and exciting” is a complete understatement, for sure. I had the honor and privilege to teach, coach and support so many wonderful clients and students (and their dogs, of course) at home and at clinics and lessons around the midwest. Such fun, and so rewarding to see people and their dogs blossom. It’s a beautiful thing!

I so enjoyed judging a couple of herding trials — getting a front row seat to teamwork, partnership, passion and dedication is priceless. One of my favorite parts of trialing is the opportunity to rehearse being calm, present and connected to my dogs in an unfamiliar environment. It’s also one of the most challenging parts, if you know what I’m saying. 🙂

Sheepdog Trials – Fun!

The new trial season started with a ‘rush’. As president of the Land of Lincoln Border Collie Association, a club that puts on two big sheepdog trials each year, I had to step up to the plate as fearless leader for our August trial. Thank goodness I had the incredible help of awesome board members and club members that are as passionate and dedicated as I am putting in long and loving hours to make this trial a grand success. And it was! So many compliments and such great feedback. I didn’t hear one complaint…simply awesome!

Kathy and Luc at the LOLBCA August Sheepdog Trial

Kathy and Luc at the LOLBCA August Sheepdog Trial

As a bonus, my dogs had great runs at the trial…I was so pleased at how well we worked together. That turned out to be a needed confidence builder going into the next couple of trials, which were uber hard. Oh my. The WWSDA Labor Day trial was held in a beautiful new location and the rented flock of sheep turned out to be more challenging than anyone imagined. As it turned out, the majority of the Open (top level) teams could not successfully put the sheep through the course.

Both Sue and Maya had some difficulty, even though I was so happy with their work. Luc was the star of the family, having little difficulty handling the very challenging sheep with two good runs, earning him a coveted spot in the Top 10 Finals. It was his first try at a double lift in a trial setting and the second gather turned out to be too difficult for him to find the sheep, and we retired after a nearly perfect first gather and failed second gather. But, we came off the field happy and satisfied at giving it our best shot.

View of the WWSDA Labor Day Trial

View of the WWSDA Labor Day Trial

As soon as our Finals run was complete, we jumped into the rig and headed out to Meeker, Colorado for the famous Meeker Classic Championship, one of the oldest, toughest and most prestigious trials in North America. We made it out there on Wednesday, giving the dogs only a day to acclimate to the elevation of 6200 ft.

Sue ran first, and she cast off to the left on a spectacular outrun, it was breathtaking to watch her navigate hills, rocks and difficult terrain that hid the sheep from view. I caught a brief glimpse of her as she went deep, hunting for the sheep. Then, I waited for her to lift, saw the sheep shifting, waited some more. Then finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I whistled her recall, but no response. Oh no. Did she get onto the road behind the field? The dog right before her had done just that. Then, the course director quietly tapped on my back and said go ahead and call her back again, she got in the set out and the crew sent her back out. So, I called her back and we retired, disappointed at not being able to give the course a try. She did great at her first Meeker last year, and I was hopeful she’d be even better this year. It was not to be. Deep sigh.

Looking out over the Meeker Championship field

Looking out over the Meeker Championship field

Had to mentally recover from that, because Luc was up early the next morning and I needed to be fully present. This was his first try at Meeker, and I was confident that he could handle the notoriously impossible sheep quite well. I sent him to the right where I could see him the whole way and help him if needed. The trade off is that the dogs can’t see the sheep most of the way and need to trust.

About halfway out, I saw him look in a bit, so I gave him a redirect whistle, which he took beautifully and cast out smartly. About 3/4 of the way out, I gave him another whistle, because it was difficult to assess his depth behind the sheep. He took that beautifully as well. A great start! Very good lift, and a great fetch where he confidently worked the resistant sheep into the fetch gates and finished the fetch with a nice turn.

The drive was awesome…except for my mistake at over-trying to get the sheep into the drive away gate. The sheep hate going thru that gate and we got ‘em in!! However, we lost too many points and too much time messing with that gate, and in retrospect, should have let it go and went on much sooner. One of the old time competitors and a judge who watched my run, said I lost an extra 8 points messing with that panel. Darn it! We missed getting into the semi-final round by only 4 points. And all that time spent kept us from earning shed points too. A deep sigh about that. But: I couldn’t have been happier about how Luc handled those sheep, and I was thrilled beyond words at our level or partnership. It was an amazing run. I am eager to go back again next year!!

Back on the home front

Young Laying Hens being raised

Young Laying Hens being raised

The summer we were busy raising up 8 new layer hens who are happy and safe in the garage, until we transition them to the ‘big girl’ hen house this weekend. They are feisty and beautiful, and will gift us with plentiful brown eggs for years to come.

Fiona, Jasmine and Aslan

Fiona, Jasmine and Aslan

And, our three new barn kitties are also ready to move out to the barn, where they will have plenty of work and good eating with the prolific mouse population this year. I guess mice like it hot and dry, because they are everywhere! Fiona, Jasmine and their brother Aslan are happy and healthy, and have come around from being feral to seeking out petting and rubbing themselves all over anyone who visits them. They are so beautiful and we are looking forward to many years of purring cat companionship.

Raven and Clark watch the trial

Raven and Clark watch the trial

In between my active work schedule, I tried to find time when it was cool enough to start training my two yearling border collies. Clark and Raven are growing up, and maturing steadily. I haven’t worked them as much as I planned, but in spite of that, they are doing fantastic. They are natural, smart and oh so willing to please. Which is perfect, because they are very keen and have lots of drive. They learn so fast at this age. I’ll put up some video for you to have a look. I believe you’ll be impressed! I am!

That’s it for now my friends. You are awesome for reading this long, long post!

 

Tell me: what have YOU been doing this summer?

Have you had success with your dog? Unexpected results? What was your reaction? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear.

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