Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mike Ellis Seminar

On Friday I stopped up at Donna Matey's where she was holding a seminar with Mike Ellis. Seeing Mike is always like greeting an old friend. No matter how long it's been since I've seen him, he always acknowledges my arrival and makes sure to give me a big hug. Hey, I'm a hug person!! I believe the seminar was five days this time, preparing some of the folks for the upcoming Mondioring Championships. There were a number of decoys there, as well, honing their skills, so it was fun to watch.
My first love is schutzhund. I love the volunteer atmosphere of the sport, and the idea of not having to hire your helper work. However, more and more, in all protection sports, finding skilled decoys is becoming something you need to seek out and pay for. I also like the fact that I can find a schutzhund trial in my region practically every weekend of the competition season, if I like. I don't have to travel halfway around the world to compete or to train. That argument aside, it is still great fun to watch the mondioring training or to dabble now and then (my girl, Jinx du Loups du Soleil has her MR1 (one leg).
Our schutzhund club was actually the first group in this area to bring Michael in. At that time, we had been holding many seminars with Ivan Balabanov, and really loved his work, but we were struggling to get something on the calendar. I asked Ivan who he would suggest, whose work (and use of verbal markers, etc) would be compatible with the training methods our club prefers. He recommended Michael. I had never heard of this guy, but took Ivan's word for it and we invited him. We found him to be extremely skilled and generous with his knowledge and invited him back.
The sneaky little bugger had ulterior motives, however! and as he filled our clubs with dogs bred by Loups du Soleil, he also convinced some of our members to go to the dark side, and try ringsports. Some of those left and formed their own training group, which now meets at Donna Matey's.
I strongly believe that the environmental pressures of mondioring are very helpful to a confident and stable dog, no matter the sport. The training methods are consistent. Michael also does sleeve work, of course, but his heart is in those suit bites. I like to give my own dogs a foundation in leg/suit work at a young age, because if they are exposed to it earlier and learn how to enter and bite properly, they can come back to it as adults and feel comfortable and satisfied.
So, all this brought me to drive to Donna's on Friday and say "hi" to Michael and the gang. Notice that the only dog picture posted is a dutch shepherd. And to make things more confusing, both photos here are of Chris Becher, not Michael.