Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happy to Go Back to Hopland

Ryme and Spot getting a little walk at lunchtime at the clinic on the beautiful University farm
Last weekend I went to the JK clinic at the beautiful Hopland Research and Extension Center facility. The Hopland farm is one of my favorite places, ever. We were treated to beautiful, sunny weather for the clinic which was not unwelcome for sitting outside, although we desperately need rain in these parts. I have audited JK now four times, I think, each time at Hopland in the same setting. And I have even watched some of the same dogs, which is interesting! Not all four years with the same dogs, but some of the 2015 dogs were the same as the 2014 dogs. There are folks who come back year after year to work with Jack. And there are folks like me who come back year after year to audit this clinic. I was so pleased to find out that the clinic would be held again. It is like going to a retreat, being in that setting.

So, what was my takeaway? Last year's takeaway was something that helped me incredibly with Spot. Spot was not entered in the clinic either year but last year I studied very closely what was done with certain dogs and I realized something I had been doing wrong. I went home and tried it, the second morning of the clinic before going back up to Hopland, and it worked like a charm. In fact it gave me a tool that made it possible for me to work 100% better with Spot and helped get us through the hard place we were in about a year ago.

This year, Spot is working great and I am just trying to bring him along correctly. This year, my takeaways are harder to define as they are larger and more universal. I am lucky that I was able to attend three great sheepdog training clinics in a row, with three people who I consider masters, since the beginning of the year. The Year of the Sheep is off to a great start! :) The overall takeaway from all of them was learning more and appreciating more how sheep should be moved, and why, and most importantly how to get that ideal movement in my/our dogs.

One of the things that Jack noted for us and showed us, was how the sheep responded and reacted to the different dogs, and how the sheep were handled. After some dogs were worked, the sheep would run away as fast as they could, to the far corner of the pasture. And then after some other dogs were worked, they would just stand still and drop their heads to graze as soon as the dog was called off, to end the session. The whys of that are something I will be pondering and experimenting with, on my own dogs!

He shared with us some of the little tricks of being a good livestock handler, which I thought was very interesting. If your stock are very scared of your dog or they have never seen a dog, let them get used to your dog very slowly. These ideas only make sense but sometimes the way things go, it is the complete opposite because people by nature get into a hurry. :) Also, something else that anyone knows who trials, but may not always remember, is that the sheep will change over the course of the event, whatever it is: clinic, trial, demonstration.

I'm so glad that the Hopland center decided to hold the clinic again this year. One of the reasons that I went, was to sort of cast my vote in that direction, so I am hoping they were happy with the clinic.

There is much to think about and contemplate! :)


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