Friday, January 27, 2012

TMT on Friday, because, Well, I Forgot (Can I Say I Was Busy?)

How could I forget? I look forward to Laura's TMTs!

1. How do you search for and then choose a trainer?

I start with word of mouth. My first trainer came to me that way. I also go by what I see of a trainer out on the trial field, which includes accomplishments and handling style. I won't go to a BIG NAME just because they're a big name and everyone else is doing it. I learned this from my horse showing days, when the woman I showed for had a dressage clinician come out reguarly and I was expected to attend (paid for by the woman I rode for). That particular clinician was an excellent dressage rider and I didn't dislike her, but we didn't click. She just set me on edge for some reason I can't explain. It wasn't a lack of skill or any specific behavior, but just the fact that we didn't click, and so I know I didn't learn as much from her as I could have had we had a connection, so to speak.

I've carried that over into working dogs. I've gone to trainers who wouldn't be considered big hats but who were good teachers and who clearly knew what the big picture was supposed to be, even if they weren't out winning everything in sight. Granted, one will likely outgrow such teachers, but that's okay, because it's when you're getting started that you really need the good teachers. Later, when you have something of a clue, you are more likely to get it when dealing with a really good handler who maybe isn't the best teacher, if you know what I mean.

And of course if the trainer is one whose values (toward dogs and livestock especially) don't meash with mine, then I won't even bother. If the training methods are ones I'd never use, I wouldn't bother. The one thing I won't do, no matter how successful the trainer, is compromise my own ethics when it comes to the animals I'm working with.

2. The dog world is small and... uh... talkative. After choosing a trainer how do you handle those people in your life who don't believe in that trainer/trainer's methods and criticize them to you?

Depending on who the person is and what their specific complaint is, I might engage them (i.e., tell my viewpoint) or I'll just ignore them. It is a small world and there's planty of backbiting. I particulary dislike when folks start throwing the blame and snide comments around, and really it just makes me wonder what underlying problem exists, which may have nothing to do with the actual training practices themselves (that is, one individual's personal issues with another).

That said, if the person doing the dissing is someone whom I respect and trust, then I'll probably listen, but I still will do my own research and decide for myself.

3. Do you believe that a person's personal life should influence your choice of a trainer? (i.e do you believe a person's choice to be a party animal outside of work would affect your choice?)

That depends. If what they do in their personal life doesn't go against my own moral and ethical standards then I don't really care. What's most important to me is how the behave in the context of working with me and my dog(s). But, for example, if I know that someone is routinely abusive to dogs or livestock, then I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. If the person is the greatest trainer on the planet, but has, say, defrauded people or behaved in a way I wouldn't want to be associated with, then no, I wouldn't consider them as a trainer.

If the person has different political beliefs, parties on the weekends (as long as they're not doing illegal stuff), or similar behaviors, it wouldn't really bother me unless it specifically affected our training relationship.

4. When you have a break through moment with your dog, do you feel that moment makes your connection stronger with that dog and makes the next step in training easier?

Hmmmm...I don't know that breakthrough moments necessarily improve my connection with a dog, but they probably improve my training relationship with that dog. Breakthrough moments to me imply that a struggle has ensued (for whatever reason) up to that point, and so in that sense, yes, breakthrough moments definitely improve the relationship (and maybe I'm just splitting hairs over the meaning of connection vs. relationship here), but my overall connection with a dog involves many different levels of interaction, and only one of those is training.

I do think when the dog (or human) has an aha! moment, it does refresh the relationship and probably makes the next steps easier simply because both of you gain a sense of accomplishment from the breakthrough and then can build on that.

5. Do you stick with just one trainer, or do you go to multiple sources for help?

I haven't had a regular trainer in years, but generally I would stick with one trainer and then go to clinics to expand my horizons, so to speak. I think trainers who insist that their students go nowhere else are deliberately limiting those students. In the beginning, especially, I think it's important to have consistency in training; at that point in a newbie's training life trying on a bunch of different trainers could just result in entirely too much confusion. But at some point it makes sense to expand one's horizons, and trying out different methods is one of the best ways of developing a method that works best for you. When you start making those excursions is pretty much an individual thing, but I think it makes sense for everyone to see what's (who's) out there and avail themselves of the trove of knowledge that exists. You just have to be sure enough about what you want to be able to discard the parts that don't work and keep those that do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If it's Thursday, it must be time to reveal a little more about ourselves.

1. What is one lesson you've learned this week?

Hmmmm...that's a tough one. I know it all already, lol! Maybe that some times you just have to pay the late fine if you want to finish the book....

2. Who or what might you have been in another life? What might you be in a next life?

Where do you come up with these? I hope I was a good person in a past life and that I'll be an even better person in a future life. I could think of animals I might have been, but given how many animals are treated, I'd rather not go there.

3. What unusual things do you like the smell of but don't usually admit?

I don't know that I wouldn't admit it, but I love the smell of a pipe. And I actually like the smell of coffee, although I can't stand the taste, or the smell it leaves on someone else's breath. I kind of like the smell of bleach, and a sweaty horse's body, or really any smells around a stable. As I was staking cut wood last night I realized that I should have included the smell of freshly turned earth and the smell of freshly cut wood.

4. What are your thoughts on continuing on vs. retiring when a trial run is going badly? How do you decide? Where do you draw the line?

I probably tend to retire sooner rather than later with a young dog. It's too easy for them to learn bad habits if you let them just keep floundering. I set sheep a lot and I have to say that I see a lot of cringeworthy runs that people just let happen. You know, if the dog is blowing you off at a distance, it doesn't make sense to think "Oh well, he'll listen when he gets closer." You're just reinforcing the bad behavior. With an open dog, if the run isn't a complete disaster, and assuming the trial host isn't pressed for time, I might continue longer. There usually the real problem is time, and if it looks like I'm not going to, say, complete the drive, I might retire, but if it looks like I could make it to the shedding ring, I'll keep going. Then again, the open dog isn't learning bad habits (necessarily) if I let it keep going a bit longer.

5. This is a call for questions or subjects you'd like to talk about - I'd appreciate suggestions (and please come link up so that I'll be sure to see your post), so here's your chance!

I'd like to see people's tips on living frugally and sustainably. I know there are websites for this, but I'm still interested in the ideas my friends have found useful about ways to save money or the environment.

I'm sure there are other things I'd like to know, but I'm a bit brain dead at the moment....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

TMT, New Year's Edition

1. What is your favorite new toy? I know you have one, so you might as well go on and fess up.

Actually I don't have one. That is the life of a living-constantly-on-the-edge freelancer. I did buy a cast iron Dutch over a month or so ago so I could try the no-knead bread recipes in the book my sister sent me, but admit that I haven't made any yet. My cell phone has stopped charging properly, so maybe I will finally step into the realm of cell phones that allow you to check e-mail and post to Facebook, but only if Verizon gives me one for free.

2. If you're going to be caught under the mistletoe, who would you LEAST like it to be with?

Well, I don't really have an answer for this. I don't do a lot for Christmas, so mistletoe really isn't something that crosses my mind--it's certainly not something I'd have much opportunity to stand under and then worry about who I wouldn't want to kiss....

3. New Year's Resolutions - for your dogs - share!

Very basic resolutions here.
* Get them sound and keep them sound.
* Start Kestrel in training in another month or so (once *she* stops limping).
* Keep working toward soundness for Pip. I'll need him big time come May. So not only do I need to get him sound, I also need to get him fit. The Bluegrass is four 12+ hour days, and he's the best dog for the job.
* Work Phoebe and Lark more so they can be backup set out dogs.
* If the dogs stay sound, and if I can inch my financial situation from precarious to a bit more secure, then perhaps in the fall I could even go to a trial or two.

4. New Year's Resolutions - for yourself - share!

* Exercise more.
* Find additional freelance clients, preferably ones who pay well.
* Alternatively to the above, finally find someone who wants to hire me full time or even part time to write or edit (just knowing I have X $$ coming in each month would be nice).
* Develop some sort of social life up here. It's nearly my year anniversary in the new place and I spend most of my time right here on the farm. I don't even leave the house to go to work.
* Learn to meditate. I think it would help me manage stress and maybe even stress eating. I could use a little centering.
* Have a garden that actually grows veggies that I can then put by for the winter.
* Related to the above, continue to work to improve the soil (using the term loosely) in the garden area.
* Write more, and keep up with my blog better. The two sort of go hand-in-hand, though I might try doing some personal writing on the side as well, and I need to push my cousin to get her family research down on figurative paper (told her I'd help with that).
* Try to enjoy life more and banish the melancholy.

5. How did you handle the holiday food situation?

That was relatively easy. I didn't have any big parties to go to, nor did I have a bunch of family gatherings. Instead I worked over the holidays. One neighbor sent me a Christmas meal, and I went to my elderly aunt's on Christmas day, so although I had good food, I just didn't have any real opportunities do gorge. If you don't count the apple bread one neighbor sent me, and the cranberry orange bread and lemon poppyseed bread another sent my way. Oh and the eggnog spiked with bourbon (I know it's been decades since I had any of that!). Okay, so maybe there were some excesses, but certainly not as excessive as they could have been! And seriously, as someone who basically lives on homemade soups in the crock pot, eating someone else's cooking was the best treat of the holiday season!