When talking to people new to dogs, I would give advice no tot go to a different trainer while learning all the ins and outs of how to work with your dog. However, for me, even though I am new getting into the ring for competition obedience, but have worked with several dog handlers and trainers the past 25 years, switching around now is ideal for me to get all the ideas. I also have an awesome dog that if I decide to change something, he will go with the flow and hang with me. I already have my basic foundation of my philosophy set, so anything I learn now is just adding to my toolbox, rather than creating a new one.
I met a woman, Beth Andrews, who has been doing obedience for almost 40 years. She does both Shutzhund and AKC obedience. She has German Shepherds. I really enjoyed her teaching style. She mentioned she is a coach to help me. She's not there to tell me how to do it or give me a recipe. She is very open to work with what I feel comfortable within my personality and beliefs. Now that is the type of mentor I would love to be for others! She saw that I know how to handle my dog, and noticed that I needed a little instruction of how to understand the ring. Her experience obviously was able to focus right in where I needed help the most because I did feel on many levels I was just winging it. You can crash learn at a trial, but it is nice to get some of the hints and tips from someone to help relieve the ring nerves and stress at a show.
I haven't taken a competition obedience class for 20 years. A lot of what I was doing was relying on old 20 year memory. Which sometimes can be good, and sometimes, can cause problems. Especially when I went through a traditional choke chain obedience class. That was one of the reasons I quit the idea of ever competing, I just couldn't continue to yank on my dog to get a ribbon or title. I didn't feel it was wroth it to nag or drag my dog down like that.
I have been to workshops on obedience handling here and there. The rest was me just trying to figure it all out. . Beth was incredibly gracious with her time and advice. She has established the El Cajon Shutzhund Club. She's not a clicker trainer and I didn't see how she works her dogs. I went strictly how she works with me. Because I'm strong and solid enough in how I want to train, I have the strength to use what I want and disregard what I do not want to use. I think this is healthy for both sides and I can tell Beth is very open to this concept. She understands people are different. Just as some other trainers I have worked with, they know I have a certain philosophy, but I'm not going to preach to them. My beliefs are for myself. My proof in how well I do with my dogs is what makes my philosophy shine, not how well I can argue my point. That usually only means you end up preaching to the choir. As my grandmother taught my mother, and as my mother taught me, "Actions speak louder than words." I'm solid and secure enough to know in how I want to train. If someone shows me something I do not like, I learn, as that might either give me an idea to help someone else, or enable me to brainstorm to figure out a solution that works for me. I don't believe in shutting out a trainer because they do one thing I dislike. That shuts down learning for both sides. This is how secure I am in my own training. As time continues, it will be perfected even more and I will be able to demonstrate it. Training is a journey.
In my short session with Beth, I told her I do have a hard time keeping a straight line since I'm completely blind in my right eye. When I look down at my dog with my head turned towards him, I have no field of vision to see where I'm walking. My head is turned left, looking at my dog to my left, you use the corner of your right eye to see where you are going. I have nothing there. Beth recommended that I go to a parking lot where they have lines Start walking on the lines to use as a guide to keep me straight. Practice without my dogs. She said continue to do this over and over again until I get muscle memory. She is very big on muscle memory. Ahhh, I hear a little Bob Bailey there, although she has never trained with him, but "Training is a mechanical Skill." Yes, working with your dog, walking with your dog, is a mechanical skill. Get that muscle memory in there by repetition. Repetition is learning as Bob Bailey would say.
Beth walked me through the exercise, minus the Sit stay and down stay. Some pointers she gave:
-Put toy behind you, just before you go in that ring, pass it onto someone, but let the dog think you still have it.
-Have your dog center between the posts for the figure eight, not you. Stand across from the judge.
-Watch your footing on your about turns. Not too short, not too long. Left foot turn 45 degree angle, pivot 180 degrees, right foot facing forward in the opposite direction you came, left food continues walking.
-Use treats outside the ring just before going in. Keeps dog focused (I found this out at the show as well, when I didn't use any treats before he didn't do as well, when I did use treats, that's when Mickey got his 196 scare and he was more focused on me).
To have this run through with someone else is good practice for me. I was nervous. I'm still caught up with how I look and how well I can impress. Not only was I learning some ring advice, I was also teaching myself that you are here to learn Christy. The mistakes or not-perfect run is a good thing because I can practice working on the not so perfect run now before I enter Novice A. My nerves were shifting from being nervous to I'm in learning mode. That kind of stress I would rather have, then nervous, "I'm going to freak out" nerves.
Beth made me feel that she was more assessing me, as a mentor should and her style and laid back attitude enabled me to do a lot of thinking and learning on my own. Which is what a good mentor is all about.
In my fixing a front blog entry, it was spending that warm Sunday morning with Beth that enabled me to see that the passing me by during a recall problem was different than I thought. What a learning experience. It is humbling and when I'm humble, I learn better, I'm more aware, I have gotten over myself and I see how quickly I am moving forward. What an awesome journey.