From the Judge’s Perspective by Joel Levinson

While at the Ceileidh, I saw some things that I wanted to comment on during an upcoming column. I commented on those things, which we might call “Handler Errors” at the time, but I felt that it could use a broader audience, to include those not at the Ceileidh.

There were two major errors that handlers, especially those in both the test levels and the started class, were making. These were overuse of commands, and overuse of the crook.

Let me break them down one at a time. First, lets talk about over use of commands. I saw handlers that went into the arena, and kept up a constant stream of commands to their dog while working. “Come bye….stop……away…” This left no time for the dog to stop and think about what the handler and dog were trying to accomplish. While the dog may have been taking the commands, there was no time for the dog to figure out what the job was, and what their part in accomplishing it was. This is so important. You need to allow time for your dog to figure out what the job is, and what needs to be accomplished. With a constant barage of commands, there is no time for the dog to think. You’re trying to work it by rote.

Now, the bigger of the two problems: Overuse of the crook. In my handler’s meeting at the Ceileidh, I made a comment that I would be deducting for that in the started class. I probably took fifteen or twenty points off various runs for that deduction. And other judges were also taking similar deductions. The crook is a big stick. If you are waving it in front of your dog, think about what the dog thinks you are doing. Could it be “Oh, Oh, she’s waving that big stick again…..have I done something wrong?” Pounding it on the ground one direction or another isn’t a good habit either. Some Handlers tend to do that alot in the started class, and generally end by getting a warning from the judge. Again, think about your dog’s reaction to your pounding on the ground in front of your dog. Maybe your dog is thinking you are upset with them?

Now, I walk with a cane. Its a walking stick. That is a good use for a crook. If you need to use to do deal with sheep, great. It should not be a training aid. When I was working with Murphy, my first Beardie, I would hang my crook on the pen gate, in case I needed it at the pen, then we’d go to the post without crook. The only time I needed it was to deal with penning sheep. And that’s about the only time anyone really needs a crook.

I can’t tell you how often I see people NQing their runs by overuse of both of these “Handler Errors”. Think about these, and happy trialing!

© 1998, by Joel Levinson

This article originally appeared in “Bagpipes”, the Bearded Collie Club of America’s monthly newsletter. Reprinted with permission of the author.