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!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teaching Terrain

I'm not one to overlook opportunity when I train my dogs. Especially if a dog is struggling with an idea, I look for ways to use our environment to help. Maybe it's a boulder to cause a dog to widen, a gate to teach power and presence, or in this case roads lined with fencing.

Tam is coming along nicely. He hasn't lost any enthusiasm to training, is keen and fast to gather. Tam is very, very willing to listen. Probably 85% reliable on his flanks, including whistles, he has the beginnings of a nice little inside flank. What he didn't care for was driving. I had to apply an awful lot of pressure to keep him on the same side of the sheep with me.

What did that look like? If he leaned away from the drive line, or began a flank, I gave a voice correction. It's a process. First I teach a dog that "there" means to stop the flank, and turn onto the sheep. Next, I walk and let the dog hold sheep to me repeating "walk up" to teach him that command. If the dog starts to flank from there, I lie him down, and repeat "walk up." The dog doesn't have to return to the original line, only maintain a drive as opposed to flanking. Gradually, I slow down, and move away from the sheep and dog, letting him carry on.

With Tam, to prevent him from flanking off the drive, it took more correction than I like to use on one so tender. I decided to take another tack.  I started using my driveway lane. It's narrow, 20' wide, with 5' fences on either side. The fences make it hard for Tam to flank and head the sheep, and easier to remain on the same side of the sheep with me.

Beyond that, the sheep go down that lane every day on the way to their pasture. They know the way, so all Tam has to do is follow. He even had trouble keeping up with them at first. One day the light came on over driving. I watched it happen. I gave him a "there" then a "walk up" and he drove the sheep with confidence right past me and kept going, straight as an arrow.

All it takes now is the slightest "ahhh" to stop the flank and make Tam hold the line. Driving did not come naturally to him, but he had it in him all the time. It just took a little a little connivance to bring it out. Driveways, boulders, gates, horse trailers, I've used lots of things to help me train my dogs, and I'm always looking for more.