The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Walk This Way

I met Richard Millichap while he was judging the Deer Creek trial in Porterville, CA. When I first saw them, he and his wife Lisa were sitting on a flat bed trailer judging and scribing . I only had Price to run and on the second day, we won. It was a couple years later before I saw Richard again and had a chance to speak to him. When I did, we spoke about that run and he said something to me that made a lot of sense. He assesses handlers while they walk to the post and can tell, more or less, what the run will be like from the way they do it. He said he noticed when I walked to the post that I walked with intention. Like I had somewhere to go. He said he liked handlers who did that and felt they tended to be more focused and successful, where others were beat before they got there. So, I started to notice the way handlers go to and stand at the post. It's true what Richard said. Some walk worrying about and just plain worrying their dog. They fidget around setting the dog up just so and worry about the set out. In other words, they're worried about what's about to happen. Those dogs go out tentatively, get lost on the outrun, go out slowly or are unable to lift. If the handler is worried, you can bet the dog will be more. Some hands beg their dogs to take a command. They repeatedly blow over-long and shrill whistles that have little or no effect on the dog whatsoever. You can just hear the whistle conveying , "please, please, please". Those dogs barely slow down when asked to stop and will no more flank off pressure than fly to the moon. Some hands walk to the post with heavy steps and in a hurry with head down and a scowl on their face. They're the ones who blow whistles at hand and at the same decibel level as when their dog is 450 yards away. Whatever natural ability that dog had was ground off and blown away years before. Let's all say the word, "mechanical". I know one of those dogs that started with incredible natural balance and ended up standing flat-footed, no matter what the sheep were doing, until a blast released him. How many times can a hand blow the same flank and get no response? The more you whistle without a response, the quicker you teach a dog to ignore you. And then there's my all time favorite; the hand that literally lay down on the ground to watch the lift. If I don't trust my dog any more than that and if I have to work that hard to make sure, I've done an uncommonly bad job at home or own a dog that has no business on a trial field or both. How about the guy who screams at the dog all the way 'round? Those dogs are nervously doing everything they can think of to try and be right. The bad news is that, even if they did something right, that hand wouldn't know it. So, the poor beast runs around frantically and after years of being confused, scared and shouted at unfairly, just up and grips off when the going gets tough. Sometimes people get frustrated over their dog's performance. Usually it's their handling, but they either don't know, or refuse to admit it. At some point they effect an impatient, "come on, come on" tone, usually with their hand on one slouched hip. Maybe it's a Welsh thing. I was standing next to Alun Jones at a trial recently when the sheep missed a panel. The handler was standing at the post with his hands in his pockets. Alun said, "if his hands were out, he would have made that panel." My ex isn't Welsh though and, when he taught me to rope, he would tell me to stick my chest out when I delivered my loop. Don't slouch, don't lean, just sit up straight and throw it like you mean it. Same kinda thing, I think. Richard taught it to me, but it's just a little game I play at dog trials. I try to guess the outcome of the run by the way the handler goes to the post. As a result, I do my best to focus intently, but work quietly and walk on the field like I'm going to win.

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