You are the key
Ever watch a group of Border Collies “at play”. They usually “key” off one dog and react to whatever that particular dog is doing. If the “key” dog goes from a high energy play mode to a more relaxing one … the rest of the pack will follow suit. If that dog decides to go lay down … the energy in the group will drop dramatically. If you take that dog totally out of the group … the dynamics change completely. They are all “feeding off” the reactions of that individual dog. So, he is the “key” to that packs “structure”.
Dogs “absorb” energy and YOU are the KEY to the type of energy they use to work their livestock. Step back and take a look at your interactions with your dog. When you’re working do you give off hyper energy … yelling, flailing around, and generally making your dog crazy? Or, are you so quiet that you don’t project ANY energy so the dog is left with nothing to “bounce” off of? You need to try to reach the balance between positive and negative. No energy isn’t what the dog needs but all positive isn’t going to get the job done either. You can’t run/train a dog without corrections … dogs aren’t mind readers nor perfect.
Watch handlers you admire work. Do they stay calm, quiet and methodical in their handling only correcting when they need to? Or are they hyper, tense, and over-reacting to both the dog and the stock? When they walk off (even after a bad run) are they still appreciative of their dog? When they are working do they keep a positive attitude toward themselves and their dog?
Remember your attitude and energy will be passed to your dog every time you work – so you need to learn how to use both to help him work better. The “goal is to project an energy that will allow him to work calmly and a positive attitude that he will “absorb”, helping him work better in the future.
Have you ever had days where every single dog you worked seemed “off” … the common denominator is you. “More than likely” you are throwing off unconstructive energy and it’s “rubbing off” on the dogs. When you are stressed you bring out the worse in your dog.
This carries over to trialing. If you go with the attitude that it’s a waste of time and you’re not ready. Guess what … you’re liable to “live down” to your expectations. If you go with a I HAVE to win approach – you will funnel all that tension into every command you give and it will come out in how your dog works.
Working a dog is as much mental as physical (for both you and the dog). You have to get into not only your dogs mind but also yours … and try to keep them both … cool, calm and collected.