Just got finished cramming for agility class tomorrow morning. Here is a picture of Finn doing what does NOT come naturally to him. Walking on weird ground. Collies have a reputation for being cautious and I can surely attest to that!
Here I took my son's skateboards with the wheels removed, and placed them all over the floor, along with some wood and plastic things I had handy. If he steps on the end, the board raises and bangs back down. The goal is to make him comfortable on varied surfaces that may shake rattle and roll, and ultimately make him at home on the contact obstacles - the dog walk, see-saw and A-frame.
We have been playing for weeks on a Buja (tippy) board and Finney took longer than any other dog I ever met to get used to it, and even now, he is not that great at it. Finney is still unsure of what exactly it is that I want him to do.
To get any where in agility, Finney will need to gain a lot of trust in me and get tons and tons of rewards for putting his feet on anything and everything.
If he washes out in agility, that is ok, he is still a great boy. Plus, time spent training now will make him a braver collie of the future. Our summer plans include teaching him to pull a cart.
All in all, tonight's session went really well and finally Finney is offering behaviors instead of me eliciting them from him all the time.
It can be hard for me to switch training gears from Charlee who does things in super fast hyper drive, to MR. Careful Finn. Picture the Tortoise and the Hare.
Slow and steady won that race right?
Ok So I feel the need to put some stats out there on Collies, their ability to learn and this "reputation for caution" you keep labeling them with. In studies done on different breeds and their levels of caution Collies, German Shepherds and Corgi's were found to be the most cautious, while Boxers, Scotties And Boston Terriers were found to be the boldest. Well this stands to reason given what they were genetically bred to do. But that doesn't make Collies Overly cautious, but because in their world caution of the unfamilar means survival for them and their "flock" it is inherent in most herding dogs.
On the other hand since 1954 when the Hero dog award was first given by KenL Ration, to a Collie named Tang, more Collies than any other purebred dog have recieved it. Guess who is the second breed? that other "Cautious" breed the German Shepherd. Collies have truly pulled people out of burning buildings on many occasions, as well as from in front of on rushing autos.
As far as learning ability, Finns dam is the fastest dog I have ever met to learn new things, but presentation is everything to her, she took agility classes and was refered to as a phenomenon by her instructor. My Roma took agility classes at about a year of age and wouldn't do the buja board or teeter, she truly didn't see the point, last week she slammed the buja board, and was running the teeter over and over, she is now mature, has had more life experiences and is ready to tackle them, she didn't become smarter, she has always been incredibly bright, she just became "ready".
Now for some more stats, on how Collies are doing in the performance sports, In 2006 20 Collies recieved Championships in Performance events, 1 Champion Tracker, 1 Obedience Trial Champion, 1 new Utility Dog Excellent, 7 Herding Trial Champions, 9 Master Agility Champions, 1 MACH 6, 1 MACH 3.
Now those dogs are certainly at the top of their game. But overall if you look at the numbers of Collies registered each year and compare that to the number recieving awards in performance events you will see that the percentage is quite high when compared to the other breeds .
No Collies are not dull, dumb or boring!
And Finn has a litter mate who his owner describes as "Bolder than the Rottie" she previously owned. At 6 weeks of age Finn and his littermates were running up and down a plank to go in and out a dog door, walking on tarps, ex-pen panels and overturned kiddie wading pools. That he doesn't want to step on a small obstacle that wobbles when he could easily walk around it, doesn't make him any less bright than all the other dogs you've trained who learned it quicker, he just doesn't see a good reason, which probably makes him Smarter! Collies do think, and that can be a drawback to their training, but living with them and training them has made me a happier person and a better trainer. I have found them to be very sensitive, which can sometimes cause them to "shut down" when they reach sensory overload, but that sensitivity has also made incredible Therapy dogs, Service dogs and even Guide dogs, they become very tuned in to their people and the energy around them. It is that sensitivity that had one of my Collies alert me to a horse colicing, she couldn't have heard him he was shut up in the barn and she in the house, he was in the early stages and trembling and sweating, but she wouldn't let up until I went to the barn. I talked to a friend who is an animal communicator, she said that the Collie picked up on the energy from the horse. In 20 years of living with cattle dogs I lost a horse to Colic, but I never had one of the dogs alert me. So I really appreciate the sensitivity of my Collies.
I am one of those people who thinks that dogs come into our lives to teach us things, and I am sure Finney is no exception to that. He has taught me tons already. Finn did great in class today. Jumping really well, and getting more and more used to getting on things. He loved the tunnel and chute and his new jackpot Frisbee toy. With the addition of the toy, he is much more motivated and is now looking for and starting to really want, the next thing. That is a huge step for us, and I was thrilled when he went into the chute while I was talking to Allison. (very very big grin!)
Of course I know that no dogs are alike and I am trying really hard to learn what he is all about. Slow and steady....seriously. Once he gets something, he gets it and he is getting bolder at new things. All in all I am very happy! Sorry if you thought otherwise.