The third “Move Forward” clinic is in the books.
The 2nd weekend in April provided us with a bright and sunny weekend but some bitter cold winds. The afternoons were pleasant with the dogs and sheep appreciating being out in the sun.
Gordon’s plan for the weekend was a variation on the theme: be prepared for anything to show up on the course. This time, two drives! Not only did this require the handler to be present and focused (which way around the post THIS time?) but it also gave the dog the chance to really get in the groove. A couple of dog-legged fetches, funky pens and there you have it.
The first time through, Gordon said he was timing us with a generous 12 minutes on the clock. This amount of time helped people relax and not feel rushed while working the components of the course. He also said he would be judging our runs, but not in the normal way. Gordon would be “judging” us on how well we were helping/working with our dog. Were we “asking the right questions” and did the dog give the right answer. Were we getting what we asked for? How well did we treat the sheep? If something wasn’t right, did we fix it or just move on for the sake of finishing the course? These are all skills he’s teaching us so we can stay calm, focused and “in the game” when it comes to running our dogs at trials.
Gordon taught us some very handy tricks on how to turn the post and start the drive away. In the second round, he came out to help us get the hang of it. His methods helped keep the dog flexible, not bump the sheep and ease into the driving aspect of the course.
The first day, he gave us some very useful instruction on how to calmly prepare your sheep (and dog) to go to the pen. His method kept things calm and quiet. By the time everyone reached the pen, the sheep were more than willing to calmly walk in. With the odd group that didn’t want to go in, Gordon gave his expert tips on how to position the dog and handler to work it out. All the handlers that went through this learned a lot about what NOT to do at first, then saw the magic of correct handling.
The second day gave us more sunshine and a less bitter wind. We continued more of the same with dog and handler teams showing much improvement each time. The second day courses showed more small tweaks requiring changes in handling to keep us on our toes. Strange how just one small change can fluster the handler and the dog. But Gordon’s plan of keeping everything changing help the handler/dog team remain flexible and thinking.
The second day also produced a chute for the “penning” component of the course. The first day practice of calmly lining things up, made the cute a rather easy task with handlers knowing which side to stand on, dogs understanding to calmly wait while the sheep when through the chute (versus race to stop them). It was great to see dog and handler thoroughly understand their job with this task.
All the handlers and dogs were much improved at the end of the second day. Comments among handlers throughout the weekend were how lucky the group is to have such an expert as Gordon. His methods are to keep things calm, constantly evaluate the situation, respond with a plan (versus panic) and get your dog to “answer the questions you are asking.” We all had fun while learning, so the stress was low. Even the most nervous/anxious handlers commented how their nerves improved after these Move Forward clinics.
Merry’s lunches provided some much-needed WARM nourishment each day. The desserts were lovely and the conversation among handlers created a nice atmosphere of learning, camaraderie and a collective desire to “MOVE FORWARD!”