Paint Your Picture
Something my dad told me was “paint your picture.” Meaning, above all else have the dog work in the way you want. Not what other people want. Not what’s popular. What you want. Which is actually quite empowering. Now I still believe in a few standbys. Like I believe you should have square flanks, a good stop and a steady and straight walk up. That’s something that virtually everybody is looking for. What I’m talking about are those little things. Like all dogs should cover stock but you can influence how they cover. All dogs react to pressure from the stock but you can influence how as well. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It does leave the obvious question however. How? How do you influence those nuances? Well for starters normally handlers styles get imprinted on their dogs to one degree or another. That's just an unconscious by product. But you can be more actionable. What I like to do is leave the dog alone when it is doing what I like. That’s when I sit back and admire the picture I’m painting. I believe that not handling your dog is a reward to your dog. It’s a nonverbal communication of, you're doing well and I trust you. But to contradict myself slightly, the moments can come during your handling as well. It could be the flank style that you had been desiring. Or it can be that perfect pen you had dreamed of. But in those moments I will still try and do the same thing as much as I can. I certainly don’t over handle them and I certainly monitor my tones and body language to remain calm and collected. With some dogs those moments can be few and far in between but they can be almost spiritually gratifying. I’d be lying if I said that I haven't been borderline emotional in those moments. I mean winning trials is great but having your picture be painted the way you want is far more personal and far more gratifying. It’s what makes me excited to go trial. I want to show off the picture I've painted.