Mickey has a wonderful way of alerting. It is clear, precise with confidence. I read him well during these times. Then there are other times he isn't clear. During these times, I have struggled because it isn't quite clear when to call the alert. While Mickey is dabbling his nose here, and there I have a really hard time sorting out how to read him, I would freeze up and fear would set in. I needed to get over this "deer in headlights" syndrome. At Mickey's last trial, an NW2 in Bellingham, WA, he didn't do a strong alert for his external hides and it confused me. I didn't know how to help him to find the odor. I was unsure, and that resonance vibrated to Mickey.
I set out to get rid of my fear and learned about focus. Focus on task and not worrying about other people, making comments, looking like a failure and most of all take control of the situation so I won't have the fear of someone taking over. In the past, when I took herding lessons, I had an instructor, who had one top trials, take over. She didn't want the sheep and the dog to get messed up. She didn't want the dog to learn bad habits. This stepping in caused me to shut down where I was not actively thinking. I didn't learn, I just learned to zone out. It was like someone always telling me that I couldn't handle it,
I needed to get into the zone so I could take charge. I learned about focus. I needed to get out of my head and into the game with Mickey. I was over thinking and over analyzing out of fear of making a mistake rather than collecting data.
Before practice today, I took my knowledge of focus and wrote out a plan. I wrote out what I would do at the start line. I wrote out what I would do when Mickey's searching for odor, dabbling around where you know he's got the odor, but doesn't pin point. Fringing. I wrote out a plan what would I do when he does this. I also reminded myself of points such as, belly breath, look at the whole search area, not where Mickey is located. Be aware of your surroundings, not hide in your pod, but notice the end of the boundaries. When Mickey fringes, walk side to side, reset if you have to and belly breath.
Today in practice, Mickey was false alerting often. I called a few hides wrong, but kept going. Towards the end of our practice, I started get it, the difference between a false alert and an actual alert. EUREKA!!!! And we got the hits! Doing my new focus plan got me into reading Mickey better. I was in the zone, I was collecting data where I was able to respond appropriately to the situation.
This is why I do not believe in a trained alert, but a dog's natural ability to tell where the odor is located. A natural response is more innate in his response, it is different from an operant or learned response. It is with more reflex. Finally seeing this distinction I now can read my dog! YAY!!!! I can now tell when he's fringing or false alerting and when he gets an odor. I struggled with this before because I didn't have a plan what I would do when he did this. I was stuck. I had the knowledge, I just had to work it out on paper and a plan before putting it to practice. When I put that plan to practice, I was able to experiment what worked and didn't worked through trial and error. By the end of practice, I got it!
Other points I worked on were placement of my hand with the leash. I was holding my hand too high. I wasn't aware of this until a judge made this comment on my score sheet. I also have learned to stand to the side instead of behind Mickey. When I am behind Mickey, I can't read him as well as if I'm on the side. This makes a huge difference.
It was interesting today seeing Mickey getting frustrated and alerting on pooling odor. I'm not sure why this was an issue, but we had to work through it. I can work through it when I can read the difference between fringing and a clear AH HA! This is IT! Right here! Even though we have practiced a lot of sourcing, Mickey needs to learn that we don't alert to pooling odor, you must go to source.
I see myself dancing with Mickey better now. I'm following his lead, but not taking his bluff.