On Beardieherd-l, the email list for those of us who herd with their beardies, we have been having a recent discussion about differently Beardies work during work sessions versus during a trial. I thought it would be worth sharing some of these thoughts.
All of us have gone through this: Working very hard during training sessions, getting to the point of being really ready (In our minds!) to enter that elusive trial. Only to find once get there, that our wonderfully trained dog has turned into a Bombastic Bouncing Ballistic Beardie!
There have been many thoughts on the subject. Some people think that if they take their dog for a five hour run the dog will be sufficiently calm once they get to the trial. Not True! Having been through this myself, I believe there are two major factors at play here. First, your dog knows its a trial. About the only thing you can do about that is set up some matches, so that you and your dog get used to trial situations. Second, and the more important issue, is your own nervousness and stress. Our dogs will pick up on stress levels. If you are uptight and nervous, then your dog will be too. There was a wonderful article several years ago in “Ranch Dog Trainer”, the premier magazine about herding called “Handler’s Post Anxiety”. It was done tongue in cheek, but the point was made. All handlers need to learn how to be calm, cool and collected at the post. When I first started, I was one of the most stressed out handler’s you ever saw. And it showed in my results. Poor Murphy – he had to put up with my silliness. I learned to do something to calm myself down at the post. I chose deep breathing before I went into the arena. That helped me. Each person has to find what works for them. The key is to make yourself as calm as possible before you enter the arena. Many a run goes awry because of the handler’s anxiety during the run!
So, my tip for this month is: Whatever works for you to calm yourself down before entering the arena, use it. Things happen so fast in a trial, that if you are not calm, your dog may turn into that Bombastic Bouncing Ballistic Beardie before you can ever get control of your stress level.
© 1999, by Joel Levinson
This article originally appeared in “Bagpipes”. Reprinted with permission of the author.