I pulled my young dog from her box in the back seat of the truck and snapped her leash to middle ring on her collar. She's used to traveling every day in a box with me, all the way to Kentucky and back, the long way around. This day, the second her fourth foot hit the ground the fight was on. She was excited to be somewhere new; other people's dogs, sheep, fields and lots of new people meant something was going to happen. The dance began right there, five feet from the truck: she'd pull, I'd correct, she would lay down or come back or just ignore, and depending on her response or lack, I'd correct again.
There was another young dog in the round pen, working sheep as young dogs do. In the dog's defense, it really was not chasing; the sheep thought a bit different, as they do with young dogs. The motion and excitement of the dog created even more fight between me and my youngster. My mind went back to the first sessions between me and this young Dot. I used to think Dot likes to fight to get her way, over time I've begun to think she just wants her way. My challenge would be partnering up with her, my methods of doing this not found in text books or training seminars. A little of this, a bit of that and a whole lot of consistent. Give Dot an inch and she'd throw out the best wide-receiver juke to beat me....SCORE!
That is what my clinician saw as my turn opened up. Dot, leaning away from me at the very end of her leash; not even leaning towards the sheep but definitely away from me. And there I was, arms crossed and most certainly leaning away from Dot! I'm thinking, "here we go" and strategizing how I could hand the dog over to the clinician and just watch. This good and fair clinician pointed this all out to me.
"It seems to go in pieces. That's how it seems to go even for a horse. There's a "time" in there; it's just as well not to crowd the horse if he isn't ready for it. You keep offering, trying to help as much as you can without troubling him too much about it. Then, there will be a day when it will just clear right up. I think it's a lot the same with the person." ~ Tom Dorrance
It's funny how, a person can be right where they are at for good reason with a dog that is exactly what a person needs to learn the lessons of life for that time. I'm also ever thankful for clinicians that understand me and give me those extra pushes heading me into those lessons. I worked Dot, after a good talking to about letting go and living in the moment. Letting go of my nerves and past Dot behavior and what she did or did not do on the way to work. I worked Dot, there in that round pen on lighter sheep than she has ever seen before and while I worked her, I worked me. I went home that night and read:
"I have helped riders who thought they had a horse problem, but I tell them the horse is having a " people problem". These riders don't seem to realize that the horse thinks he is supposed to do just what he is doing; even though the horse doesn't know why or what it is for. He is sure he is supposed to do it and does all he possibly can to do it.
When this is happening, often the rider feels just as sure that the horse is doing what he is doing because he doesn't want to do what the rider is asking. The rider may completely miss that the horse is doing just what he has been trained to do" ~ Tom Dorrance
I went to sleep thinking on Dot and her pulling on my leash as I walked to the round pen that day. She was doing just what she was sure she was supposed to do. I woke up with a new resolve with a smidge of belief in myself. It was time for me to partner up with Miss Dot; it needed to be a give and take relationship; instead of me thinking Dot needed to partner with me. When I went to call Dot off that second go, and Dot wondered if she really should keep working, I was able to work from the mindset of partnership. Amazing how Dot was able to meet me the other half of the way.