Sei went to his very first workshop! On Sunday Sei and I got up at 4:30am and drove 4 hours to attend a +R Intro to Herding workshop with Kynic Stockdogs. It was amazing!
Quite honestly, it is the first really awesome dog related experience I have had in a long time. Sei wasn’t a wiz kid at it (he is a little too young yet. Talking with Sei’s breeder, she said that dogs in his line tend to turn on to sheep around a year and a half to two years old), but we both had an awesome time! And it didn’t fill me with anxiety about a performance future.
I really loved getting to work sheep with the trained dogs. I’m not completely inept at it. The farm setting and the expectation of overarousal in the dogs dropped my anxiety about being judged for my dogs ‘improper’ behaviour (of which Sei had next to none)
Me and the instructor were really are on the same page training philosophy wise, and personally (she totally understood my random reference to how particle fields are similar to sheep herding rather than looking at me like I had 8 heads!). Watching her work with an older farmer who is refusing to give up on his border collie who has a problem biting sheep was really great. The owner had tried the traditional approaches and the problem kept getting worse, so he went to her. Listening to her explain anxiety based issues, stressing up, how punishment makes it worse and the solution was fixing the dog confidence, clear communication on what he should be doing, and the skills to solve the issue without biting the sheep to the farmer in a non-dog-behaviour-geek way was enlightening.
I have never been exposed to instinct sports, and it was fascinating to watch the Border Collies do what they were bred for. The difference between channeling behaviours that are instinctual versus behaviours that are strictly taught is going to be another rabbit hole for me to fall down.
Sei was AMAZING behaviour wise. All sorts of crazy dogs, running livestock, new people etc and he never went over threshold. Kept his head about him and settled really well waiting his turn in challenging conditions.
Its 4 hours away, but I am definitely planning on going back when Sei is old enough, and I am planning on taking her online foundations course at the working level over the winter. I may even see if I can take some lessons even though I don’t have a dog old enough yet so that I can be a better handler for Sei when he is ready. I’m really excited by the possibilities and to work on foundations. And quite frankly I have been putting off disc/agility flatwork due to performance anxiety. It’s really nice to be genuinely excited again about doing training other than nonsense shaping.