Dillon’s Day ~ Getting Outside the Box
It’s been a while since I shared an update on Dillon. Don’t worry, I haven’t been neglecting the poor boy. As a matter of fact, he’s had to step into a new role as the chore/sorting dog while Jig and I focus on other things. It’s a big job which entails not only bringing in and helping me sort the sheep, but bringing in the steers as well. He’s a little ignorant about cattle at the moment, but he’s learning, and he’s getting more confident each day.
I’m going to admit, however, Dillon has been a challenge. For a time, I chalked it up to youth, immaturity, and silly-boy-dogness, so I continued working him the same way. Only, we weren’t being successful. I wasn’t seeing the results I felt I should have been. Dillon’s a smart dog that truly wants to work. One of the things I like best about him is his willingness to keep trying. Even when I’ve gotten frustrated because something isn’t going quite right, and I’ve taken that frustration out on him (unfairly so) the boy doesn’t quit on me. If I lose it (yes, that happens, ain’t proud of it, but I’m human), Dillon comes back, stub wagging, ears up, eyes bright, willing to try again. Unfortunately, this was happening far too often because he just wasn’t understanding it, which led to me getting more and more frustrated because ‘it’ was one of the very basics, something I figured should have been so natural: a seemingly simple gather and fetch.
With age, they say, comes wisdom. I’m not certain I’m any wiser, but I am getting a bit better at stopping something before I come completely unglued. I can be a bit persistent, though. Or stubborn. Depends on your outlook, I suppose. When I run into a wall I try to find a way over, under, through, or past it. I fall into research and info-gathering mode. Try to find the missing piece to the puzzle. I think outside the box.
Dillon, however, forced me to not only think outside the box, but to put myself entirely outside of it as well. I left all my tools, all my preconceived notions, all my expectations of how I thought he should work, outside the gate and went into the small arena with nothing more than a group of my heavier sheep and Dillon. I didn’t give him any commands or directions, didn’t correct him when he wasn’t perfect. I walked around with my sheep and tried to pay attention to what Dillon did, how he did it, and maybe understand why. I also paid attention to where I needed to be to get the result I wanted.
It sounds stupid to admit that I can’t pinpoint exactly what happened, but something clicked with both of us. Maybe it was nothing more me than me finally shedding the preconceived notion of what I thought Dillon should be doing, and paying attention to what he actually was doing. He’s far different than any dog I’ve ever worked, and he’s pushing me to be more flexible and trust him instead of trying to force him into doing something my way just because that’s the way I normally do it.
This clip is really short and may not seem all that impressive to some of you, but for me and Dillon it is truly momentous. For Dillon to move freely into this pen and bring out the sheep, then kick around to cover, is one of the things we’ve been struggling with. I’ll take our little victories where I can find them, and build to bigger ones along the way. (I apologize in advance for the quality, I suck at filming and working at the same time and I was in the total wrong place. And, yes, it’s black & white.)