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Gloria Atwater

Whistle Panic

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Howdy all ~

I've got a story to tell on myself. I was at the Porterville Citrus Classic this weekend, had a wonderful time, but I discovered a whole new level of trial nerves. See, I had to lay off caffeine a few years back. It just doesn't agree with me any more, tends to give me heart flutters and jitters and all that, so I stick to decaff. But once in a great while, I can get away with having just one cup of coffee.

So, Saturday morning of the trial, I stopped by Starbucks, got a cup of coffee to clear my head, and I thought I was fine. A bit nervous, but not terrible, nothing unusual.

Until I got my dog and headed to the gate. Oh. my. lord! I was slammed with the worst case of jitters I've had in years, literally trembling, and though I tried very hard to stay focused and calm ... I suddenly realized I could not whistle!

Oh, I'd get the odd command out, but the harder I tried, the worse it got, and instead of stops or flanks, two out of three commands came out as "[i]THWEEP![/i]" Poor Nick wasn't getting much of anything from Mission Control. And no matter how I repositioned the whistle in my mouth, (further distracting myself) I could not salvage consistent whistles to save my life.

And then the run was over, and we managed a nice pen, but our drives looked like Nick was swinging on the end of a string in a high wind. :blink:

The next day, I avoided caffeine and we got a better run, but I still had a couple instances of "whistle panic." I was still scared I'd mess up my whistles again (so of course, I did) and we didn't do our best work. But it was better.

Later a friend of mine suggested I'd been blowing [i]too hard[/i]. I reckon this is very likely. I've been using this same whistle, a nice horn one, for over a year, and I've never had this problem before, so I'm sure it's entirely due to nerves. And caffeine. But mainly nerves.

Therefore, I'm curious, has anyone else here ever experienced "whistle panic," whether or not it involved caffeine? :P I'm hoping I'll have banished it from mind in time for Sonoma, two weeks on, so I guess I'd love to hear a few success stories of recovering from similar malaise.

Anybody? Bueller?

~ Gloria

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I have had whistle panic and even more its nasty cousin PANEL FEVER :blink: :D I agree blowing too hard is often. the culprit

One reason i like a metal whistle is them seem more forgiving to panic. I found my horn whistle changed with heat or cold. I have also had hay on the whistle at major trials. Running orders work well for getting that fixed...knowing how to whistle with your fingers is handy too.

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Oh Gloria!

I have had that happen! On a very windy day...and I walked to the post so proud of how loud my finger whistles were.

But my lips and mouth had dried out so that when I confidantly put my fingers up to whistle this dry cracker sound came out.

It took a tremendous reserve and gathering of moisture to manage to whistle poor Broom around the course!

I love your analogy of kites!

You are doing so great! Hang in there!

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In the past my whistle panic has involved my mouth going completely dry, which makes it pretty much impossible to whistle. It's happened to me at the big trials, like the Bluegrass or when I've been in a run off for first, so it's clearly nerves related. It's just one of those things that happens sometimes....

J.

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[quote name='The Good Shepherd' timestamp='1299532213' post='384134']
Okay I give - whats PANEL FEVER :blink:


lol Panel panic or fever: During many runs at a trial you can tell when dog/sheep are getting close to the panel by the sound of numerous hard fast whistles as the handler tries to direct their dog. You can close your eyes and just listen to know where they are on the course.
I used to blow 'thweeps' a LOT! My first whistle to try to get a stop at the top was blown too hard. I blew hard because I didn't trust that my fast hard-running Blair WOULD stop when he was young. Now that he is 9, I trust him and can relax; thus blow nice soft whistles(most of the time). At home I practice by seeing how softly I can blow and still get my dog(s) to respond. I find they like soft whistles and are happy to take those commands. It is still an on-going work in progress(on my part). ;-)
Lani

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[quote name='Lana' timestamp='1299530750' post='384129']
I have had whistle panic and even more its nasty cousin PANEL FEVER :blink: :D I agree blowing too hard is often. the culprit

One reason i like a metal whistle is them seem more forgiving to panic. I found my horn whistle changed with heat or cold. I have also had hay on the whistle at major trials. Running orders work well for getting that fixed...knowing how to whistle with your fingers is handy too.
[/quote]

I have the SARS form of Panel Fever. Resistant to all forms of treatment attempted so far. No panel too wide that we can't zig zag around and miss it.

Still looking for the cure though.

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Thanks, everyone, for your replies! :) I think along with blowing too hard, I may have actually been trying to hit too high a note, for my stops!

In other words, I was trying to scream by whistle. :blink: Yeah, I'm real clever.

Dry-mouth definitely played a factor. It's nice to know that even our seasoned folks have been there. :)

I haven't had hay in a whistle - yet - but a friend of mine once had complete whistle failure, and later found a quarter jammed in the thing! She'd dropped the whistle in her purse for the drive over and the coin must have worked its way in. :P

Sadly, I can't whistle with my fingers to save my life.

I have three metal whistles: my first, a tin Montana Lite, a fancy engraved silver one hubby bought me, and a brass blaster. I like the horn one because it's light but has a good tone, however I plan on the brass one for distance, later.

Though I just bought a Corian whistle, so whenever I get the hang of that one, I'll see how I do. I really like the sound of it, it's just different in my mouth. And slippery!

Anyhow, I'm paying more attention to my whistles for the next week or so, and hopefully by Sonoma I'll feel equipped to deal with any nerves or whistle glitches.

Just hope I get to by-pass panel fever! :P Thanks, everyone.

~ Gloria

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I had a dog just a tad offline on the fetch so I gave a short away whistle and Ladd took a short comebye. So I gave a little bit longer away to correct his bad flank and get the original flank I wanted and he went farther comebye. After Ladd circled the sheep completely I realized the dog was fine I was blowing comebye not away. I didn't get many points on that fetch. The day before I didn't blow a whistle on the fetch at all and he got all his points on the fetch inspite of a very strong draw to the exhaust.

Kevin Brannon

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^^ Similar to this, my very first trial, I think I blew every whistle I knew then resorted to brute-force hollering of flanks during the fetch. OMG, THE PANELS ARE COMING!! THE PANELS ARE COMING!!! That night, at the handler's dinner, Norman Close (the judge) said "Hey, why don't you try this: send your dog and then just watch. Just to see. Come on, try it." So the next day, I shhh'ed Lou, and he cast out, brought me the sheep straight down the line - score sheet was 0-0-0. Things went sideways on the drive, of course, but man, was that a pretty gather!

At Lacamas a few years ago, Lou had his usual gorgeous outrun, a nice lift (which is not easy on those twitchy lambs) and the fetch was looking great. I hadn't blown a whistle yet (this is a big field, so it's been about 2 minutes since I ssh'ed him). Well, here comes the panel, and I think that we could use just a bit of a tweak. I hit him with a half-flank come bye and I swear, it scared the crap out of him - I think he was in a zen-like state and I ruined it with my whistle! Sliced flank, followed by an overflank on the other side ... oh the humanity!!!

So moral of the story ... I should just let my dog work. [img]http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.gif[/img]

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Oh, Kevin, I hear ya! On Sunday they reversed the course so the last panel was a pull-through back to the post. Nick was set up to put them through pretty as you please ... but I blew exactly the wrong flank and the poor guy took it! *face-palm* There went those points. Someone later observed that Nick had been prepared to do the right thing, there, and that made me feel even stoopid-er. B)

Airbear, lol, yes, I need to do more shutting up to let my dog work, too. He really does know his job, if I just quit pecking at him. Dianne Deal was down our way to do lessons a couple weeks ago, and she cautioned me about that.

I'm making myself all kinds of mental notes for Sonoma - just hope I remember to review them! ;)

~ Gloria

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Dear Sheepdoggers.

Old horn players trick: eat a potato chip before you step onto the course. It greases your lips.

More years ago than I care to count, at Paul and Mimi Marcani's trial (Yes, that long ago) I couldn't get a sound out of my new plastic whistle. When I came off I complained to Walt Jagger "Something's wrong with it. maybe something stuck . . ."

Walt took it from my hand: "Tweet". Handed it back. Never said a word.

Donald McCaig.

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[quote name='Donald McCaig' timestamp='1299955116' post='384524']
Dear Sheepdoggers.

Old horn players trick: eat a potato chip before you step onto the course. It greases your lips.

Donald McCaig.
[/quote]

I can see the whistle slipping from my well greased lips now :blink:

Many years ago I worked hard and learned to whistle with my fingers on one hand, leaving the other free for gates etc. One day while out gathering sheep I noticed a lagging ewe and went to pull her out of the flock. She was quite weak and had a messy rear end. I 'helped' her move into a selected pen picked up my fingers to blow a command to my dog and stopped! There was NO WAY I was gonna use THOSE fingers to whistle! Last time I used my fingers to whistle too!

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I've never been able to make those plastic whistles do more than squeak, on a good day. Seriously, though, it's weirdly comforting to know even you, Mr McCaig, have had a non-whistle day. :)

Not sure about the tater chip thing, though. I don't think my lips were dry, but the innards of my mouth sure were! Anyhow, this Friday I'll have plenty of time to try potato chips, flasks of water, throat lozenges, zen meditation, Tai Chi, Tibetian chants ... B)

Pam, today I helped a friend's new ewe learn to nurse her lamb, and got my fingers sticky with leftover afterbirth. Directly after which I went to work my dog, and I probably would have been reluctant to finger whistle, too! :P

~ Gloria

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Just a quick thought - maybe go at this problem from another direction. Instead of focusing completely on quiet calm whistles at trials, try practicing fast, excited, nervous whistles at home. Put yourself in "trial mode" in your mind when you're practicing sometimes. For example, while it's nice to take 5 minutes setting up a perfect shed when you practice, lots of times on the trial field you'll have 15 seconds to get a shed. So practice the "10 second shed". Just a thought.

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Robin wrote,
Put yourself in "trial mode" in your mind when you're practicing sometimes. For example, while it's nice to take 5 minutes setting up a perfect shed when you practice, lots of times on the trial field you'll have 15 seconds to get a shed. So practice the "10 second shed".

Brilliant insight. As you have experienced, things that go well at home: calm dog, half awake handler, docile sheep on their home ground, will not go well at a trial. It's almost a rule: everybody and every dog does WORSE at a trial. So, when practicing at home: make it harder; set your gates fifteen instead of twenty one feet apart, crossdrive past the holding pen, put flapping plastic or light gathering foil on the back of the pen, shrink your shedding ring. Make the practice more challenging and you'll do better at the trials.

Donald McCaig

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You guys are sadistic, but I think I like it. Train for a wreck, and whatever happens at a trial might actually be easier. :)

I'm going to ponder on that. I can also do stuff like try to work with only two sheep, and have two or three of its pals in a pen on the edge of the field. Or put a couple sheep and a couple goats together (or one sheep and one goat) and let the dog work on critters that don't want to stick together. Or put grain or something out there that they want to stick on, or ...

Yeah. This is good. I train with a couple of good friends, one in particular who is notably devious, so I'll ask them to help me think up challenging situations.

Thanks, Shoofly and Mr McCaig. You've given me excellent food for thought! :)

~ Gloria

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Making things harder will certainly help but i was really thinking about your whistle panic. Instead of trying to avoid the panic, embrace it and practice with your mind racing so your whistles do too, to an extent. Get your dog used to the idea that sometimes you get a little excited.

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Robin,

I had a similar idea with verbal commands - instead of trying to be calm when practicing away from home (since I don't trial yet) I try to yell more when I am perfectly calm at home to get the dog used to the fact that yelling does not [u]always [/u]mean I am freaking out :lol: . Then I make sure I show the dog I am really happy with her performance, so again - she may get the idea that yelling is sometimes good. I don't think I can always fool her, but I think it helps.

Maja

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[quote name='Pam Wolf' timestamp='1300031122' post='384602']
I know a few handlers who choose 'coffee like drinks '(Kuluia and cream, white Russians look like coffee) to calm their nerves before a run
[/quote]
IsnĀ“t that "doping" :lol:

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[quote name='Shoofly' timestamp='1300103463' post='384660']
Making things harder will certainly help but i was really thinking about your whistle panic. Instead of trying to avoid the panic, embrace it and practice with your mind racing so your whistles do too, to an extent. Get your dog used to the idea that sometimes you get a little excited.
[/quote]


I like that idea, Robin! I'm trying to turn it every-which-way in my mind, examining it until (hopefully) it loses its scariness. Kind of like repeating a word aloud until it ceases to have meaning. :P

I'll look for opportunities do all that, embrace anxiety and turn it calm under less than calm circumstances.

I had a good chance the other day, when I helped a friend haul her 5 Scotties to be shorn at a neighbor's farm. Her ram escaped after shearing (someone left a gate open) and it took off through a small-town neighborhood. Nick and I had to run out there and take command of the situation, before the folks "helping" scared the poor ram beyond recovery. It was pretty darned nerve-wracking to have a ram galloping through urban streets just a couple blocks from US 95, but we hazed the poor rascal back in. I was focusing verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry hard on staying calm so Nick wouldn't lose his mind. Not sure how well we did, but McGregor the ram is safe home, anyhow. ;)

~ Gloria

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When I am under stress,or nervous, I tend to ramble on like talking will help. If I am at a trial or working in front of someone who is a top caliber handler, I ramble on and on only I am whistling. I don't know why my dogs are confused!

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