Jig’s Journey ~ Seeing Things Differently

{Editor’s Note: I had meant to post this a week ago but…life. Which just means you may be getting another post this weekend as well. Lucky you!}

One of my favorite working quotes comes via Deb Conroy,

We’re not bringing the dog into our world when we work stock, we’re entering the dog’s world.

Often, when things aren’t going right in our training, we blame the dog. Or the stock. Or the weather. Or [insert any of a number of things to blame besides ourselves]. When I ran agility I remember frequently getting down to my dog’s eye level to see the course and the obstacles the way she did. It helped me help her because, trust me, the view is different from down there.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest problems I’ve been having with Jig is her take pen. Eventually patience and consistency paid off and I started getting a relatively good take from the pen that opens into the small arena. She’s a bit fast here but it’s not a horrendous job. Look quick, it’s not very long. (Excuse the quality of the following videos, they’re from my phone and I was trying to manage that, the gate, and the dog all at the same time. Plus, not the best lighting conditions with the sun setting.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OljgLnXL454]

I want to point out a few things about this pen because it will be important on the quiz later. There is nothing covering the gate. It is very easy to see into the pen, very easy to see where the sheep are going when they exit the pen. Even though there is a trap, it is also visually open. If you look at the video again, you can see the gates on the left that open into the arena are covered, and the trap is blocked. This is also important to my point. Pay attention.

So, reveling in the success we’d been having in the small arena, I decided it was time to see if those results would carry over into the  arena pens. Or out of, as the case might be. The result went something like this:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKDiPNnNqr0]

Can you sense my frustration?

Now, go back up and read the beginning of this post. That’s okay, I’ll wait.

Back so soon? Guess what I did? I started analyzing the differences between the pens. I started thinking about how Jig sees things when she’s in them, or approaching them. Tija and I came up with the same thought (scary but true)–probably obvious when you’re on the outside looking in, but not so obvious when you’re in the middle of it.

Like me, Jig is a bit of a control freak. Our theory went along the lines of the fact that there’s a great portion of time when she can’t see where the sheep are going when they exit the arena pens. It’s blocked from her view. Bob had an additional thought which also made sense. Jig can’t see what’s waiting for her in the pen until I open the gate. Not unless she looks underneath. So I spent some time removing the covering from one of the arena pens. The result after a little initial futzing:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYr8VwfB-ZU]

Vast improvement. She left one behind the first time which is why I let them go back in and had her try again.

Realizing that she will meet covered pens in her career, we do still work in those, and she is getting better. Which just goes to prove that sometimes you need to look at things from another perspective. In this case, the dog’s.