An Interview with Collies Online
2. Were there any strategies or preparations that went into making this particular day a stand out?
Mary Davis: Strategies that resulted in Beyla's success as a performance dog were initiated just to socialize her again. I was already going to obedience classes with my other collie, "Lucy," so I started bringing Beyla too. She was afraid of everything – the floor, the mats, the people, the noises, everything. Margaret Leither, Excel Training, knew what needed to be done. We started very slowly. We sat with Beyla in the middle of the class, just watching everyone else for quite a while. When she was comfortable doing that, we moved over and sat with other observers. Beyla was loose and could move around as much or as little as she wanted. People gave her treats and loved her up and the healing began. It took some time, but eventually Beyla and I were working for Obedience and Rally titles. None of them came easily. Beyla has a very stubborn and tenacious spirit. It is probably what kept her sane during her two-month ordeal with her mishandlers. Getting the CDX was especially difficult. The off-lead exercises were such a challenge because if Beyla decided we were done, we were. She left me standing alone in the ring more than once. Talk about embarrassing!!
The third CDX leg and the high in trial were major achievements for both of us. I am so glad neither of us gave up. When Beyla took that last broad jump and then made it through the long sits and downs the room burst into applause. We both knew we had really accomplished something!
Marilyn Clayton: Only years of patience, openness to new training techniques, and getting out there and teaching my dog, not only the exercises, but also teaching her to trust and believe that she was always safe with me, no matter what I asked her to do.
Jeannette Poling: I always make sure my dogs have had a wide variety of experiences so when it comes time to perform they can focus on me and do their job. I also love to take training classes with my dogs. I do it for the enjoyment for all of us – spending time together, learning new things and having fun. What Collie would not love performance sports where they can be active, engage their brains, and sometimes are even allowed to bark? My strategies or recommendations for any dog that is going to complete in performance events are: 1) teach them to focus on you (they need to learn they are on a team), basically teaching them to focus is teaching them how to learn; 2) teach the skills in tiny parts, and build on the skill by putting the parts together; and 3) take your Collie to lots of places to make them familiar and comfortable with everything. I take my dogs as family member/pets with me, out and about. I don’t take them to the park or beach to specifically train, instead I take them for fun and companionship, and while we are out, we might do a short skill lesson.
Linda Ward: The preparation for this journey involved many trips to the fields in all kinds of weather – wind, snow, hail, rain, cold, warm and just working, and working tracks and partial tracks, under as many scenarios as possible. My tracking partner, who often went with me, talked me into going to Missoula, and the fear was that it would be too hot (which can often happen at this trial). That day it wasn't. It was the opposite and my tracking partner said you will be fine, "Just go and do it" (she had just earned her TD on her dog on a previous track). I am pretty sure that at some times she was holding her breath and "pushing" us along. We have a short field tracking season in our part of the Pacific Northwest and if the snow gets too deep we lose part or most of that short season. But I was determined to have CJ earn that TD!!
Jeanine Blaner: My most spectacular success so far was not a single day, but rather a very successful execution of a long-term plan. I aspired to earn a herding championship with Ivan (Ability's Rock Star), and in speaking with other competitors who have achieved championships – HCs, MACHs, and OTCHs – the common theme they all spoke of was getting on a winning streak once the dog was in peak form and ready to win. Once Ivan achieved his Advanced titles in herding, I began to prepare for an HC campaign. Because training opportunities in Montana are constrained by climate, I knew that a fall campaign would be our best opportunity. At the 2013 national, Ivan did well in Advanced, but that trial also allowed me to see where our weaknesses were and to work on them throughout the spring and summer. Beginning in late August, I entered a series of herding trials, intending to trial every single weekend in which a trial was available in our region. Ivan ultimately finished his HC in eight days of trialing. From that first trial on August 17, until he finished his HC at the Collie Club of America Western Regional on September 21, he was in the points on every day we trialed.
I tend to train on a long timeframe. I live in a part of the country where trialing opportunities in all events are not year-round, and attending events requires a fair bit of travel. So my anticipated entries are planned months, or even years, in advance. I set ambitious but realistic goals years in advance and then adjust accordingly as I see how we actually progress in our training. At this point, I not only have a training plan set for the 2015 National Specialty, but I've set training goals for the 2016 National Specialty, as well. Personally, I've found that training the specific skills for an event are less important than maintaining an excellent relationship with my collies and keeping them in excellent physical condition. A bit of weakness in one skill area can be overcome in a competition when my collie trusts me as a teammate and when he's mentally and physically prepared to compete.
Hilary Culp: I don't think I do anything special when training my dogs. I believe each dog requires a different technique. Blaster, my first Collie, came to me when he was already over a year old. He was also very soft, he didn't like raised voices no matter how happy they were, and he wasn't confident in himself. So he was trained very slowly, building his confidence before starting to work on anything "structured." He wasn't a fan of treats or toys, a scratch under the chin with a "good boy," was all he wanted. Cole (my second Collie) and Angel (my third) were both very much into reward (toys and treats). Calder (my fourth Collie) is actually my first clicker-trained dog.
One constant with all of my dogs is when they are ready, we walk to the local sports park. It's a great place for distractions. We practice heeling, and rally stations on our way to and from the park. There, we work on attention, stays and examinations (we all know Collies are people magnets, so plenty of people are more then happy to help with that last one). I try to introduce them to many different things, even if it's something I don't think we'll compete in. I believe this contributed to that awesome five-event, four-title-day with Blaster.
Carol Lariviere: Oddly enough, Splash and I had been working on herding sheep during the winter. I don't think he'd even been on ducks since the previous summer. Just goes to show you that training does transfer from one type of stock to the other.