Welcome to The Real Time Canine, Part Two

Welcome to part two of The Real Time Canine. In this edition, I will describe the daily life of a Border Collie sheepdog prospect. In weekly posts using words and pictures, I will describe what they learn and how they learn it. Each pup imparts knowledge in their own special way, and through them I will give you insight into how I train a Border Collie Sheepdog from beginning to success.

As with Kensmuir Star in the original
Real Time Canine, you will be with us every step of the way as these talented youngsters acquire the confidence, willingness and skills necessary to attain my goal for them to become a useful working sheepdog and successful trial competitor. I hope you will join us and find useful tips and technique on how to train a sheepdog.

After a lifetime with animals, dogs, horses and livestock, I am happy to share my expertise with you. I have found success at sheepdog trials at home and abroad, and have trained dogs that went on to find success with others. To learn more about me and my dogs, please visit my BorderSmith website, and my BorderSmith Blog!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Back At It

Tam chillin' with his homies
I'm late in reporting that Tam is back to work. You may remember that I gave him a month off, because he was showing training pressure that I wasn't thrilled about, but I put him back to work the beginning of March. I was gone to 2 dog trials during the first month, so he wasn't kept very busy. I stayed with friends for a few days on a dairy farm where he got to work 15, or so head of Suffolk ewes and lambs, which was a great experience for him.

My sheep are light, the Suffolks were not, especially that many, so he had to think his way through applying pressure to sheep that were quite happy to leave their heads down. It widened his outwork naturally, which was good to see, and a reminder not to widen my puppies until I've seen enough to decide what I have to work with. I've said it before, and heard it many times; much easier to widen one out, than to bring them back in. Better to err on the tight side.

Once home, we've gone back to a 3 day per week schedule that dove-tails with my work schedule. I'm teaching Saturday and Sunday any way, so it's easy to throw Tam into the mix on those days, and Monday, it's just he and I, which is great.

The exuberance of youth remains strong in this one, but he prefers to flank over walking up, or driving. To counter this, I make sure and work him along the fence every session. With my back to the fence, I flank him around, between the sheep and the fence, then back up to it, forcing him more or less to walk straight on. He's improving, but the pressure makes him dive in at some point. He's clearly not comfortable applying pressure straight on, or being in close proximity to the sheep. The latter may serve him well around the course, but he's got to learn to relax.

Another counter measure is to walk and let him wear sheep to me. As he tires, he covers less ground, and becomes more direct, walking up straight from behind, as opposed to wearing from side to side. 1 year old this month, I'm not applying much training pressure to him.

Remnants of the reason I quit him before remain, but I'm going to soldier through in spite of it. He is still turning his head away from sheep when I walk towards him after I've stopped him. To repair this damage, I surprise him half the time by flanking him after he's turned his head instead of calling him off, which is how the behavior began. I corrected him when he took off on a flank instead of calling off when I wanted him to. It's yet another example of how easily a mess can be made from a talented youngster when we're too liberal with correction.  Be careful out there.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spottie's Play Date

I don't usually let my puppies in with sheep until I'm ready to start them in training. Sometimes they get a go, and I see they're not ready. I put them away, give them a month or so, then try them again. A friend suggested I let Spot have his sheep a bit early. He was 4 months old March 23rd. I'm always willing to try something new, and that's what I did.

This video is the results. It's hard to operate the camera, help the pup and protect the sheep at the same time, but as you'll see in the vid, there's no protecting necessary. Spot very deliberately, and very carefully assessed the situation, and determined how to be handle the sheep.

It's always fun to see a young pup demonstrate the type of style and confidence that you hope to see in a mature dog. Spot gave me all of that and then some. Watch and enjoy while Spot seizes his previously latent talent and realizes his potential. Here's hoping it's a sign of things to come...