When Not to Close the Gate

A couple weeks ago I was working Dillon under Deb’s watchful eye. We were taking a group of sheep out of the pen and it didn’t go smoothly. Why would it? Dillon’s just a youngster and we haven’t worked a whole lot. We got the job done after a fashion. It weren’t purty. Once the sheep were out, I laid Dillon down, and closed the gate.

“Why are you closing the gate?” Deb asked.

“Huh?” I tend to lose all ability to form coherent sentences when questioned as to my motives when I just know there’s an ulterior reason behind the query. I looked at the empty pen. Looked at the sheep. Looked at Dillon. Shrugged. “Well… I… um… I thought… um… It was a lot of pressure.” Whether I meant on me or Dillon, I’m not certain.


Right. I took another moment to look around.

“Work through it.”



I took a deep breath, opened the gate wide, put the sheep back in the pen, and began to do precisely as Deb instructed. I think it was harder on me than Dillon, but in the end, we had a great deal of success and I was quite pleased.

“If you had let that go,” Deb said afterwards, “what would you have a month from now? A year from now? You’d have the same problem, only now he’s older and it’s harder to fix.”

Words of wisdom.

I worked Jig next. Raising the bar has brought the holes in my training into glaringly clear focus. Needless to say, we’re having some issues. I was getting frustrated and on the verge of a meltdown when Deb calmly said, “Don’t close the gate.”

Even though there was no actual gate this time, her message was clear. All too often it seems, when things get tough, I tend to ‘close the gate’ and move on to something else. Maybe I don’t have the patience right then to work through it. Or I think it might be putting too much pressure on my dog (or me). Sometimes I just don’t know how to address the problem. Whatever the case, I move on, and somewhere down the road it comes back to bite me in the arse. Repeatedly.

I think I need to make some placards to hang around my training arena.

  • It’s not a big thang, it’s just a thang.
  • You’ve got your eye on the prize instead of the problem.
  • Did you love that?
  • Make it black & white, be fair and consistent.
  • Don’t close the gate.through


1 Comment
  • Jenni

    01/08/2017at12:45 pm Reply

    Love this – well said!

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