Friday, January 29, 2010

Different dogs---different challenges

Dogs are sooo cool. I am glad they are not into the competition thing, or who is better or sitting and wondering why things are harder for one then the other. They just go out to do an activity and as long as their trainer will break things down to their level and work with them where they are at they are happy as little clams. It does not matter to them if they get it the first time or if they have to work ten times longer to get it then the next dog. It is all good and they just are happy in the moment. I love that.

We had a herding lesson yesterday and Liz AND Breeze each got a lesson. If these were two human teenagers I could totally see Breeze as the really pretty girl, the one that is a cheerleader and is the student council president. The teachers would all love her and she would pull straight A's while she put in minimal effort. At home her parents would say how cooperative and easy to live with she is, a little moody every once in awhile, a little hard on the not so popular kids once in a while, but generally a joy to her parent and teachers. Breeze just seems self sufficient-she is a work whore, she would do anything or work with anyone to get agility or sheep or what ever she would like to do. I know she loves me-and I love her and she is SUPER FUN but I never feel I am the center of her world-that is just who she is. And a lot of times knowing she is not dependant on me is a really cool thing.

Liz-the older sister- on the other hand would probably have her spiked hair and one day would come home with a pierced belly button and bright orange hair. She would work really hard but people would not notice as much and even though she tries really hard to be good she is always the one that comes up with some shenanigan that gets her in trouble. Sports and things that people are likely to watch just do not come as easy to her because she is always battling the voices in her head that tell her to run off or investigate the thing in the corner or because she just can not seem to try things the normal way so they just do not come off as easily as a dog that just does things the way most dogs do. Hard to explain. I ADORE my little rebel. I admire her spirit but it does not make training easier. Now when we do tricks or clicker training, wow, Lizzie is just awesome and is sooooo freaky smart-no one sees that and very few people really know that part of Liz, that is a little secret self that only I know. I am the center of Liz's world, she loves everyone but she is very centered on me and will work for others but she needs me for her stability or she has a hard time pulling herself together enough to do what she wants to do.

So what I am trying to say is that once again as with anything we have done,....I take Lizzie and it is always a long uphill road, a lot of challenges, a lot of weird bumps in the road that do not seem to happen with other dogs, and we make steady progress but it is always the type of progress you need to totally be watching and looking for the small steps. Breeze tries anything and she is the SUPER STAR. Boom right off the bat, instructors eyes light up and Breeze just totally follows the nice little path you would expect a dog to follow. She picks it all up and progresses really quickly. Not that she does not have her bumps along the road but she just gets the big picture. She is a super fun dog to be taking up any sport with.

Working with these two same breed, same sex dogs, very close to the same age has really taught me that all dogs are INDIVIDUALS. A lot of things are not training, or up bringing it is the individual dog. I think for the rest of my life I will be a lot less hard on myself about training realizing that and seeing it so clearly in action. Some of my dogs issues are similar and when you have the third or fourth dog with the same issue, LOL, yep that does point a glaring finger at what I might need work on, and all my dogs do some things really well....all of them so that makes me really see there are some things I think I train really well, so nice to get a balanced perspective of the good and the bad.

So in agility briefly Breeze is super good at tight work, collections, really reading my body language. I have had to work on her finding her own lines, feeling comfy working further away, control issues, the start line, contacts, etc... Liz on the other hand likes wide sweeping lines and lots of connection, amazingly she loves self control type behaviors-she loves tables, contacts, start lines-but she is prone to running away and totally not being able to seem to hear me and she is very prone to getting frustrated, stressed and over the top. Hard to train two totally opposite dogs.

Now we look at herding. YEP TWO TOTALLY OPPOSITE WORKING DOGS!!! Liz we are slowly working a step at a time. Liz is afraid to look at the sheep and does what ever she can to avoid it. Liz can be right up at the sheeps butts and they just mosey along, they do not worry a lot about her. Liz wants to circle and circle so she does not have to really deal with the sheep. Liz is terrific at her stays with the sheep moving and her downs and it is cool because the sheep do not move as much so I have a lot more time to think.

Then there is Breeze, YIKES. On her first lesson she is about four or five months AHEAD of Liz who has been working for a long time now, LOL. Liz I am trying to get her to move up on the sheep and I am happy when she chases them. Breeze I already have to keep her WAYYYYYYYY far behind the sheep because when she stares at them they take her seriously and when she is WAY far behind them walking they still feel a lot of pressure and are getting a move on. If Liz was that far back the sheep would be settling in to eat, LOL. So on our first lesson we worked on some things that are a few steps down the line for Liz, and Breeze moved to the bigger field. Did I say Breeze does terrific? LOL.

I had done a few lessons with Breeze a few years back and when I was puppy sitting I practiced with her a few times and when I herd with Breeze like I herd with Liz I end up with me and the sheep going in little tiny circles. No one has ever explained why that happens and I have been told just to shove the sheep and keep going in a straight line. Have you seen sheep, they are not small, and they do not shove so well when they really feel they need to go one way. So apparently all this time I just needed to get Breeze way far back, when I feel the sheep shoving me it means that they feel too much pressure from Breeze so I need to back her off and slow her down. Pretty easy to figure out where she needs to be once someone explained it to me like that!!!

It was really a rush to see my dog learn so much in one lesson and to see her learn how to stay out further and have the control to very slowly walk up on the sheep. I was dripping in sweat working her because I had to run out after her and be moving fast and reacting fast, but it was soooo much fun.

Makes me feel a little bad because Breeze just did so terrific and I found what we worked on with her easier then what I was working on with Liz so of course that is what comes to mind first about our lessons. Liz on the other hand did better then she ever has and she was working really nice, she has made some great progress....but like all things Lizzie it is baby step progress, LOL.

After my lessons there was a dog that I have really admired, a really young dog coming for his lessons-he was working ducks just for the second time and then there was a dog with a lesson that is a relative of Breeze's and seemed to have a lot of the same, exact things they were working on-so I got to hang out and watch their lessons which just helps me learn so much.

No video today, since I worked my own dogs ;-(, I really wish I had video of agility since they were setting up for a trial so I could not use the yard to practice....and no beach since I spent all afternoon watching the other lessons....but what a great afternoon. I am really starting to like herding.


Ricky the Sheltie said...

I really enjoyed reading your comparison of working with Liz and Breeze. Very interesting! Glad you had such a good herding lesson - I would've liked to have seen video of Breeze also - maybe next time!

Diana said...

What a nice and interesting post. Im so glad you dont take the things Lizzie does personally. That's hard to do sometimes. Im glad you had a great lesson. Diana

Sam said...

You're doing an awesome job training two totally different dogs at once. I really think I'd get confused if I had more than one to worry about.

You've got me stereotyping Marge in my head, too -- she's got so many sides to her that it's hard to think of what kind of person she'd be.

Sara said...

You really know your dogs well. I loved your comparisons to teenagers. Hysterical.

I sometimes do the opposite in my head with my what breed would this kid be?