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TRIALING AND TRAINING
DOG FIRST AID
MADE IN THE USA
SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
We spent the last weekend way up at the top of the California border. I had entered both of my Open dogs in a trial in the small town of Tulelake. I thought it would be good experience for me and the girls. We went alone this time, just me and the three collies.
As I was driving up, we started to get some weather, then rain. With the rain came the windshield wipers. One of the wipers started skipping across the windshield, like they do when they get stiff and are in need of replacing.
Chris had been riding in the cab of the pick up with me, and started to focus on the noise of the wiper skipping. And then the wipers themselves. I was paying close attention, watching her reaction, and could see her start getting obsessed with the wipers. She was becoming afraid of them.
This last year has been very dry here, with hardly a winter at all, so I guess she hadn't really noticed the wipers before. But this time, her attention was drawn to them. Her eyes started to get real big, and then darted here and there, as she was looking for a place to hide from them. She tried, when she stuck her nose behind my arm. I just pushed her out and told her to knock it off.
Border collies, being sensitive dogs, are very prone to obsessions. Some handlers don't bother when these problems show up, they just let the dog be afraid. But I think that is a terrible way for any dog to live his life out, being afraid of the world. I try to desensitize my dogs to as much of the world as I possibly can.
She kept being afraid of the wiper for about 20-30 minutes. I kept a calm firm voice, telling her to quit it. Then she finally relaxed.
A little later, I turned off the wipers. And later still, I turned them on again. Kind of like an advance then a retreat method. I repeated the on for a bit, then off for a bit, until she relaxed so much that when they were turned on, she would remain asleep. Now that was relaxed.
If I would have just let her escape from her made-up fear, or turned off the wipers all together, she would have fixated on them forever. Or worse yet, if I would have petted her using human psychology, that pet would have buried that fear into concrete. A pet at the wrong time, especially when they are afraid, just reassures them that being afraid is the right mental state to be in, and in this scenario that meant when the wipers were on.
I travel with her inside the pick up and that would not have been too good. I want her to keep trusting me, that I will protect her and won't let the boogey monster get her.
The rest of our trip was uneventful. We had good runs at the trial, and a good time with friends.
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