Mental Pressure

I raise sheep as a business. I have help when I handle the sheep, my best hands, my border collie dogs. The border collie was bred to herd sheep. Generations of selective breeding has created a dog which works very hard to please their person.

Border collies choose their person, as much as the person chooses the dog. We have five border collies. Two of them I use daily in handling and feeding the sheep. Three of the dogs are in training learning to do the job of sheep herder.

A dog whose training is “complete” or finished is a beauty to watch work. The dogs are not finished in a matter of months, but in a term of years, at least one but more like two years. Two years of working side by side with the handler and the sheep, to learn how to perform their job with grace and beauty.

I have one dog that is finished, my top hand Hank. When we work together, my dog reads the sheep and situation, there are very few commands. My other working dog, Annie, is not finished, although she tries very hard to please and a strong drive to herd, she will not be finished as she can not handle the mental pressure of commands and herding.

When training a dog, even for obedience, the handler must watch the mental pressure being put on the dog. The really good handlers/trainers can gauge the amount of mental pressure on the dog, and keep the mental pressure low and not break the dog with training.

I was not the first person to start Annie in training to do herding. The other trainers “broke” her mentally. When we received Annie, it was to take care of her and her pups for my husband’s son, who owned her at the time. He had decided she would never herd anything, but her bloodlines would produce good puppies to use and sell. It took a couple of months for Annie to develop a bond with us. After a second litter of puppies, my husband’s son decided to sell her to us, since she would come when we called her, and he had no use for her, even to raise puppies. We gladly took Annie.

We started her by letting her work with Hank. When two dogs work together, the dogs will often fall into a dominant herder and balance herder. Meaning one dog will do the actual herding, the other dog is support and responds to what the dominant dog is doing. Letting Annie work with the sheep, with the mental pressure coming from the other dog and not us, helped Annie to learn to handle the mental pressure of herding. With patience and a lot of time, Annie can work the sheep alone. When the mental pressure gets too much, Annie will find a water trough to jump into and sit for a spell, relieving the mental pressure she feels. Annie does her job well, but she is not going to ever be a finished dog, or top hand. Annie is limited in using her full ability and talent as a herding dog, due to not being able to handle mental pressure.

There have been times in my life, I was hinder in how far I could go in a job because of mental pressure. The mental pressure I put on myself. Like Annie, I would let mental pressure I put on myself, freeze my actions and decisions. Learning to gauge the mental pressure we put on ourselves take experience and years to learn. Mental pressure left without a release will break us.

When the mental pressure starts to get to me, I find a release, I look for my “water trough” to release the pressure, then I am able to return to the task. My “water trough” is sometimes breathing, or prayer, or a short break from the task.

Taking care of ourselves is our job. We can not depend on others to take care of us, as we are the only ones who feel what we feel. Others can see symptoms of when things are not right with us, but they do not know all the thoughts or feelings we are dealing with at the time. Since we are the only ones who know all the is going on with us, we have to take care of us. Part of taking care of ourselves is to gauge and release mental pressure in our lives.

I know I have a much higher expectations for myself than I do for others. These higher expectations, put mental pressure on myself when I am not meeting those expectations. When the job I am not doing is not perfect, then I put the mental pressure on myself to make it perfect, although it was not capable of being a perfect job.

An illustration of high expectations, and the job not capable of being perfect is the work I am doing refinishing an old dresser for my daughter. The old dresser is made from red oak wood, but it is old. There are dings, that I am not going to be able to get out by sanding to remove the ding. To remove the ding would require the board to be sanded to depth that is too thin to use. I can only sand so much of the wood, before I start damaging the wood, and the dresser. I have to talk to myself and accept the imperfections that will be in the dresser. I am not using new wood and materials, I am repairing and refinishing an old treasured dresser. It will look great, but it will not be perfect. It will be unique.



3 thoughts on “Mental Pressure”

  1. Proof dogs and other animals are living, thinking creatures with mental pressures just like us humans. Sometimes we forget that. You’re right, that dresser does not need to be perfect, it’s coming with your history and next it’s going to get your daughter’s history and all those dings and nicks will tell the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Your dresser will be unique, well loved and perfectly imperfect. I’m sure your daughter will love it.
    Thank you for the reminder to be mindful of others and their needs. Even our non-humans. It must be beautiful to watch Hank and Annie at work.


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