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, July 25, 2012

Two at a Time

Stop on a dime

I have the great pleasure of knowing some incredibly talented, senior handlers, who no longer start their youngsters every time. Today I began to internalize why. There's lots of movement involved, and I'm not as young as I once was.

In addition to Tam, I have young Spot in my kennel. He's 8 months old, and hasn't been doing much around here beyond grow, play and become very keen. I put him in training a couple days ago, and now there are two youngsters to train, plus open dog, Mirk.

Thankfully Tam has gotten to the fun part, past the start part, to the next part where I'm beginning to fine tune a few points and stretch him out. Confident tike that Tammie, and it's good to see. Love him! Spot, on the other hand, is a raw recruit with lots of enthusiasm, a quickness that belies his age, and a lot of style. I find myself having trouble getting out of his way, and I love him too.

Tam over eager

I set a goal on the day I started Spot, and today is day 8. I will work my pups, and ride my road bike every day for 14 consecutive days. When I start a pup, I like to stay with it daily to get him over the hump. The road bike thing has to do with my hips, which feel and look better when I exercise. I also have an eye on the calendar and Soldier Hollow, Meeker and the National Finals, which I entered today. I'm doing lots of training, and 2 pups at a time is taking its' toll.

Up at 5:30, on the field by 6-6:30am, Mirk gets the first turn. Even though he'll likely incur some heat in competition, he and I are tuning up in the cool of a morning. As Soldier Hollow gets closer, I'll reverse the order and acclimate him to heat. It's always hot at SoHo, and together with the 6,400' elevation, your dog better be in shape.

Tammy is next. He comes flying out of the truck looking, looking for sheep. He knows the drill, but he doesn't always know where they are. I like to keep him guessing, but that's getting harder all the time. He's very good at sweeping the field and locking on. And he's getting very good at running out.


By the time I get to Spottie, I've been at it for an hour, and he takes the most effort. Because of his age and beginner status, though, he's not working very long. I prefer to stop while he's craving more as opposed to putting his cha-cha at risk. We're wearing sheep, considering self-control, having a bit of fun, and learning to call off. I do love to start the pups, but the initial push is a lot of work. Luckily, he's pretty bright, and his curve will be steep.

Now I'm off to ride my bike. Day 8!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad

15 months now
Yup, he's makin' a dog. Tam-Tammy is at the point where I like him more every time I work him, and what a great feeling that is. It's always so disheartening to realize that a pup just isn't going to do it for you, but you must begin again with another to experience your next big thrill like I am now with Tam.

And that's not even what I'm referring to in the title. I am referring to the fact that I didn't sell him a few months back, or more accurately, sell half of him. I wouldn't normally sell part of a dog, but he piqued my interest enough not to sell him outright. There was still a good chance he may make a good dog, and I have a client who wants a trial dog, but for me to trial. She has no desire to compete herself, so I thought we could share. She declined, and I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad.

Tam was not a natural driving dog. He didn't appear to be a natural outrunner either, but it didn't take him long, or much help from me to show that he is. At 7 months, he was tight away-to-me, and shallow at the top in both directions. I gave him a meaningful correction one day at the top. In a big field, without the constraint of fences to artificially tighten him, I sent him on a gather, then ran to meet him at the top, and used my stock stick to drive him way out. He was never the same again, and now makes speeding, enthusiastic outruns that are beautifully wide and deep. I prefer to make fewer corrections, but make them lasting, especially with a young dog. At 15 months, I'm beginning to stretch those outruns out now with confidence, and Tam is staying true to his lessons.

Driving was a different matter. He didn't like it. It made him nervous, and gave him pause. Literally, he would stop and start over and over, always trying to flank this way or that and avoid the drive. I never felt he was "flanky." I always felt like he would prefer the easy way, flanking off pressure, if I let him. I didn't.  I would ask him to drive, he would start to flank, and I would give him a growl at his very first bad step. Timing is everything. Soon enough he learned he couldn't start the flank, so he would stop and start to accomplish the same driving avoidance by a different method.

I had him now. He couldn't flank off pressure, and I knew he knew it. Over time, he would either become confident driving without the stop and start, or he wouldn't. Only time would tell, and I was not yet glad. In fact, I was still prepared to let him go, but only out of financial necessity. The potential was clearly there to have a nice dog, but he would not be the first I've lost to that particular dilemma.

He's driving with momentum now rarely losing his feather like the Disney elephant, Dumbo, lapsing into free fall. It's an ever more fleeting lapse when it comes. I can flank him, and toot a quiet "walk up" causing him to turn directly onto his sheep, and walk (trot) straight on. Unlike many, I don't need to depress the clutch for Tam, and toot a steady to stop the flank and start the walk up. Such a pretty sight, and exactly how you avoid the bump and drift and get your best friend, Flow. Tammie was born with square flanks. A nice feature. So, I can drive straight away, or cross drive and still get them when I ask for a flank. Seriously, a very nice feature.

He becomes over exuberant at times, and rushes in where angels are afraid to tread. Oh yes, absolutely! Messy is OK when you're young. I like my dogs to color outside the lines now and then, and he only gets a tempered warning when he does. Unless the "scoot and grab" is consequitive, or risks injury, I don't care over much. It's so easy to remove stuffing from a confident dog, and often impossible to replace. I'd rather err on the side of over-stuffed.

Timing is crucial in training, and using it precisely with Tam, I can stop the scoot and grab, get a flank on the fly, or a recall on the head of a pin. Tammy is immediately reactive to most whistles. And since neither of us holds a grudge, corrections are just that. My pup is at the age, and skill level where the sky's the limit, he has become really fun to handle, and I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad.