Tuesday, November 21, 2006

First things first: I gotta show off what good friends they are! ;-)

Last night at freestyle I was one of two students who showed up so we got a bit of a private lesson! (We have two instructors - Sue and Jan, so one each! ) The freestyle stuff is of course always fun but we also got to pick our instructors brain and got some absolutely wonderful advice about several training issues I'd been finding frustrating. (Namely that I know basically what I want and need to progress but am uncertain on where that type of education exists here, as ideally I'd like to go to top/masters level.) I got a couple of new exercises to help refine some behaviours that weren't as nice as I'd like.

I found after being corrected in my other class (not freestyle) my body language was back to being more noisy than it's been as I've concentrated on calming down and not working my poor dog into a frenzy trying to extrapolate all my extraneous body language from the actual cues. In Sign language, I was told it was the equivalent of a echo/stutter. Consequently Sierra was really "up" last night as well... doubly so after being buzzed by a standard (BIG) poodle who got loose! Drat. Most of that reaction on my part, after thinking about it, stems from my childhood. My father was not a nice person and got off on proving that we kids were little, weak, stupid, inferior and he was big, strong, smart and superior. (Well, not really because strong people don't need to pick on kids to feel big but I diverge...) One of his favorite things to do was play head-games in which he'd pin me in a corner, ask a question and there would be a punishment for answering incorrectly. It was a blatant trap: there was NO correct answer, including not answering at all and so no way to avoid punishment, though the illusion of an 'out' was given... just answer the question correctly. Even knowing there was no way to avoid it, your mind would desperately be trying to think of a correct answer and I'd be in a total panicked frenzy which translates to me getting very panicky when I'm "corrected" or confronted with that type of authorative person now. This in general translates to jittery movement in front of persons in a position of authority. (Including teachers. ) Being in a clicker class, proper learning theory is practiced on students as well as dogs, so punishment, shouting etc. just isn't used... even on the owners. And I've found I'm much better able to keep my body language calm and quiet in that setting since I'm calmer myself, as I relax into not worrying about the instructors hollering or 'correcting' me, but rather teaching and going over patiently, reinforcing with praise etc. While I can (and certainly HAVE plenty of times) handle myself and asserted myself with people in the position of authority and have no issue speaking my mind with them, that sharp tone still elicits a momentary reflexive cringe reaction and moment of 'ack!heartattack!panic!' initially. It's SO quick now I doubt anyone notices it, but it's there. Interesting to see just how far the fall-out from punishment runs isn't it! I'm 25, live half a world away from him, have no contact with him for years, understand he was sick and what motivated his actions ... by all means I'm a responsible, independant adult and a mother myself... yet that legacy of aversives is still something I struggle with! Goes to show why I won't use it in my training!!!

Another question she asked me was why I wanted to do this. (This being not just freestyle but pursuing high precision, top level obedience stuff.) That one took me back a bit... geeze, I've ALWAYS had dogs and worked with them since I was teeny tiny. Sports are fun. You and yoru dog get to go play around a bunch of other people and their dogs, and everyone is as dog-nuts as you! Working dogs is fun, I get to acknowledge all the good stuff they do and my dogs do HEAPS of really neat stuff as my dogs are super cool! I enjoy the relationship it builds, the dogs sense of humor, I learn from them and about them. They are more pleasant to live with since they can get what they want and I can get what I want and we can communicate. It's neat to watch their minds work and peek into their thoughts. I enjoy seeing them enjoy it. I also enjoy the challenge of seeing if I can do it. So yeah, it's just plain fun. I know some people get way too serious but in my (albeit) limited conformation and agility, I've found that's really not me because we're competing against ourselves yk? I already know my dog is a great dog! If something happened, it points out a new challenge for me to understand how do to things better. Can I get the same stuff out of training if I only do freestyle? Yes but the other stuff is also really fun too. Agility is fast paced, instant decisions and it really highlights teamwork and strategy between you both. Tracking is so cool because you REALLY have to trust the dog and your relationship, since you can't see the scent to know if it's right. Herding is super challenging because you've got the wildcard of the sheep and it's a big need for communication and instinct and the dogs love it! I just want EVERYTHING! I'm greedy. LOL

Anyhow, just generally feeling really pepped up and like I've got a few more places to check to get the resources I need/want! Three cheers for lovely teachers!!!!!

As a cool little brag: Ms Hope, at 10 weeks, and is adding the target wand to her bag of tricks. She is coming along with it quickly! (See? Told you my dogs are cool!) She got to see the vets today (for weighing
, she put on 1kg at 5.6kg) and a worker who was doing renovations!

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