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Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Boil the Frog!"

The theme of this week has been "Boil the Frog!" At the Shannahan clinic, we were busy learning the difference between nagging at your dog, or doing a proper correction. Pat told us that someone gave him an analogy. Said that a frog is a cold-blooded animal. Throw a frog into a cold pot of water, put it on the stove and slowly turn the heat up. The frog's blood temperature will adjust to the temperature of the water, and it won't be that big of a deal. However, boil a big pot of water, and drop the frog into it, and the frog is going to jump out! Nagging your dog is slowly turning up the heat on the water. A proper correction is boiling the frog! We also talked about the difference between men and women (no, not like that!) and the different ways we use our voices. When a correction is needed is generally at a place where there's a bit of stress and something going wrong. When a man gives a correction, it's easy for him to reach down and grab a nice deep voice, despite the anxiety he's feeling about whatever is going on. When a woman gets excited, however, her voice goes up ... which, of course, causes the dog to generally go faster. So, it's more of a conscious effort on a woman's part to bring her voice down, demand the respect needed, and make her bubble bigger -- all without nagging. I learned a lot about the concept behind the proper use of other tools, i.e. a jug of rocks, etc. as they are often over-used and become routine to the dog. A lot of this information is going back to the basics, but that's exactly what I needed now that I have two young dogs to work. And I would hate for those two dogs to have to go through the growing pains I sent Zip through. So I've taken all this information and have been sorting through it in my head and trying to apply it where needed out in the field.

Monday night, Katy came over with Scout. Scout is six months old and a littermate to Mo and Rio. No much to correct there. She worked very nicely and is circling and starting to get the idea that she needs to stay off her stock. I needed help getting the sheep off the fence at one point, and instead of grabbing my go-to dog, Zip, I grabbed his daughter, Skar ... Scout's sister. So here I was working Scout with the help of her big sister. Skar did an awesome job and is following very nicely in dad's footsteps.

Tuesday night, we had a thunder storm. Very cool stuff.

Wednesday night, Valerie came over with Bolt, Colleen came over with Reena, and Jaenne came over with Kip and Mo (and some awesome, homemade Korean food!). First up was Valerie. Bolt decided Valerie wasn't really part of anything that was going on and was running circles around her. So I stepped in and helped them to straighten it out and get fetching. It was much better. Bolt was starting to stay behind his stock, and didn't want much to do with me. Valerie, however, needed to "boil the frog" and get Bolt to believe her ... and she did a great job! The second time Valerie worked him, she worked him on the entire flock. At this point, he was finding Valerie pretty scary, so she just turned her back and walked and walked and walked. Bolt did an awesome job of thinking and gathering and keeping the stock with Valerie. He would start to split them, feel the pressure, and back off all on his own. He did a great job, as did Valerie!

Next up was Colleen and Reena. Despite the fact that Reena was carrying her tail pretty high during almost the whole work session, she seemed to be working very nicely for Colleen, listening well and staying off her sheep.

We all came in the house and ate Jaenne's food. It was awesome, as usual. Thank you, Jaenne!

Next up, I worked Echo on the entire flock. She was a whole new dog than the one I worked last week. She was looking, feeling, and really working nicely. I had to boil the frog a time or two because she was coming in very tight, but after that it was easy to give her a "get out!" and out she'd go. She is so much easier to work now that she's not so tight, and being that she's not so tight, she's slowed down a bit, and the gripping has subsided. I am so excited!

So tonight ... I am here by myself. While it was quite windy, I was too excited about Echo and just had to go work her again. For the first session, we worked on squaring out the flanks and keeping her off her stock. Well, we must have done that really well, because by the second session, I was setting up 100' outruns, getting between her and the sheep and she was kicking out beautifully all on her own! Yahooie!!! I love it!

AND! I have a three-day weekend coming up! I can't wait!!

Happy tails!

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