I had a recent couple of trial days with young border collie Tai that sent me into my garden for therapeutic weeding and a glass of wine… and an attitude adjustment. Tai is my first border collie and I’m still learning to live with this unique breed. The Border Collie Rescue web site states: “Training a Border Collie can be like trying to teach a nerdy child that likes to overanalyze everything – it can be frustrating and an exhaustive exercise in patience.” Combine that with his strong herding instinct and I’m sometimes left scratching my head or worse, feeling anxiety and frustration creep up on me.
Here is a simple example. At a recent trial, I was challenged to get him lined up at the start line and pointing in the direction we needed to go…Believe me, at home and away from the ring, we have brilliant line up skills. But on this day (and for the first time at a trial) something kicked in and he picked a point in the middle of the ring to point toward…maybe the judge, not sure but what was for sure is that it wasn’t the direction we were heading. I retried several times and each time he ended up in the same direction. Not sure what to do (the judge would only wait so long), I led out, released him and sure enough, he missed the second jump. This issue was repeated in most of our runs that weekend, although not always with a resulting error. Here’s where the attitude adjustment is important. Yes, it was annoying that after all the training around this particular skill it would fall apart in this situation. Yes, this is a skill that was straightforward for my shelties. But really, he’s a dog, and oh yeah he’s also a border collie. He can’t help how his brain is wired. He didn’t choose my home or this job. I’m asking HIM to play this crazy sport with me and do it my way. So it’s up to me to figure out ways to help him get it right. Because isn’t that my job and my responsibility?
Attitude: “Learn to smile at every situation. See it as an opportunity to prove your strength and ability”. ~Joe Brown
My attitude adjustment is this: Yes, I can have goals that determine our training and trialing, but on each given day, let go of expectations, let go of ego, embrace the dog I have – with all his brilliance and a few quirks – and enjoy the ride. Smile as we begin each run. Laugh when it doesn’t go as planned. Celebrate each effort. Observe and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses for both of us. Problem solve. Train.
After reviewing the video of that weekend, Tai’s brilliance shown through and I could believe the words of so many of my friends that “Tai looks great!”. Thanks for your support, by the way :-). The next day was much more successful…I think we actually had a “q”, but what I remember most is that I enjoyed the day and sincerely celebrated each run with Tai.
Because I enjoy watching videos, I’ll include one here from an indoor trial the previous weekend…with an error that I did laugh at…something I didn’t expect but as it happened added proofing around tunnels to my training list. You won’t miss it.