Get Out of Your Head


There’s been way too much of this /\ going on lately. The top part, not the bottom. Point in case: I walked out to open the gate between the arena and the pasture the other morning so the sheep could get out to graze. Nearly to the next gate it occurred to me that I’d been so busy in my head I closed the pasture gate behind me out of habit. I do tend to subscribe to the rule “Leave the gates how you found them” and since that gate was closed when I came through… yeah. Well. It kind of needed to be open, which was the whole point of going out there.

I’d like to blame my absentmindedness on lack of caffeine. It was early and I hadn’t had my morning dose. Truth is, wouldn’t have mattered, the grey matter is over cluttered lately. It’s like the little guy who lives up there has suddenly turned into a hoarder and can’t seem to let even the smallest thought slip through his hands. And, yes, you read that right. The overseer of Grey Matter Central is a little, wizened fellow with white hair and a pair of wire framed spectacles perched on the tip of his nose. He occupies a very tall stool before a writing desk overrun with pieces of paper bearing various scribblings. He uses a feather quill and ink for recording information because he’s strictly old school. Really old school.

No, he doesn’t have a name. That I know of. And, no, we don’t have conversations.

Fine. We do. But they are mainly one-sided.

And before I lose you completely… just what does any of this have to do with anything?

Being present and enjoying the moment.


I came across a blog post I wrote in 2010 courtesy of Facebook’s Memories feature. You know how sometimes you don’t come across something until you need it? Anyhow, the post was about my trip to an animal communicator. It’s not important whether you believe in such things or feel they’re a pile of smoking dung. That’s not what this is about. I wrote in that post that over the course of the session, the communicator relayed a message to me similar to one I’d come across in a book I was reading at the time.

“When we’re trialing, or even just training, what comes out of our mouth must match the image in our minds. When it doesn’t, that’s when things don’t work out. We can’t be thinking about things outside of ourselves, outside of what we’re doing, outside of the moment. We have to be immersed in that moment with our dog.”


Obviously this is an on-going battle for me since I’m still struggling with it 11 years later. Ee-lehv-en years.

Granted, some dogs are more sensitive to their handler’s mental state than others. I don’t think Jig is ever bothered by me being preoccupied during training. In fact, she probably prefers it that way because it allows her to pull more crap, which in turn gets me rattled, which in turn gives Jig the green light to pull more crap… I really do love that dog. Seriously. She’s my number one gal.

Photo credit: Perren Photography


Dillon, on the other hand, is overly sensitive to me being ‘stuck in my head’. In that regard he’s very Quinn-like. In fact, in that same post mentioned above I wrote,

…as a parting shot Stacy told me I was being tattled on. Someone was telling her I hadn’t listened. That I was supposed to slow down, perhaps, and hadn’t? I told her when she had seen Quinn I had asked why he’s always barking at me and the answer had been he was trying to “get me out of my head”.


Old habits die hard, am I right?


Proud moment, however. I managed to work everyone over the weekend without allowing any of those outside influences in. How? No, I did not down several drinks prior to training. Shame on you for even thinking such a thing. Nope. I merely decided that I needed to leave it at the gate. Kind of like when I tell people to leave their egos at the gate. Yes, I have done that. Ego has no place in training or trialing. Not in my world.

So it started with Jig sorting for me, then working on dog-breaking the lambs.

Next, Finn and I worked on pens, corners (and allowing stock out of them), gathers, and flanks. After which he worked on trying to swim in a pool that’s too small and has a stupid slide in it. Finn’s thoughts, not mine.

Then, Dillon and I worked on not training. Yep, that’s what I said. First, I left (or made a good effort at leaving) all my daily irritations, problems, issues, thoughts, concerns, contemplations and what not at the gate by telling myself, “No worries. They’ll be there when you’re done.”

Gives me an idea… I really should put a box at the gate to dump that shit into.

Moving on.

Secondly, I decided to try a no pressure approach. I changed my mindset from training mode to working mode. Dillon and I had a job to do: continue dog-breaking the lambs. Teaching them to not be brainless twits around a dog, but to move calmly and quietly. I needed them to learn trust. And so Dillon and I set out to do that. Nothing more. Nothing less. No drilling, no exercises, just teamwork to complete a task.

Full confession. Me, being me, that didn’t exactly go as intended but it also didn’t go horrendously. And, following in the video, is the reason I won’t give up on this dog. Hopefully it’s clear. If not, let me know, I’ll explain. Full disclosure… I did not edit this video at all and the sound is on. You get it in all it’s imperfect glory, including my really bad filming prowess, as well as the point where Dillon doesn’t take my flank (and I don’t lose my shit), when we lose some lambs into the pen, and that moment when I should have quit before things went to hell (and if you recognize that point, excellent) — given this was Dillon’s second session and the third time in that session we’d done this. I was losing him to brain fry and he was working his heart out. I even remember thinking, “down him and call him off”. But, nooooooooooo, let’s just keep pushing, shall we?

People, don’t do that. Please, stop. Don’t be a Kathi. Quit while you’re ahead and before you lose your dog. Also note, I know this dog and he would have kept working. He would have gone down and tried to bring those lambs back again and again and again no matter how many times they squeaked past him.

Okay, I’m done. Here’s the video…

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