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Lesson schedule and costs?


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So it's about time for Z's next try on sheep (I'm aiming for something between now at 8mo and a year) - she was introduced to them at 5.5 mo and saw them at a trial - with much more interest - at about 7mo. If she does well, I'm seriously considering taking both her and Maggie for more sheep work other than our occasional interaction. Given this (and my tight time and money budget) I thought I'd try to get more info from the experienced people on this board.


For the average dog whose owner is considering trialling in AHBA or USBCHA trials what type of training schedule do you recommend? We won't have access to sheep outside of lessons. I think I may have found someone about an hour's drive away, so getting to lessons shouldn't be a huge deal.


What do you generally charge (or pay, for those who are students like me) for lessons and how much time does the dog generally get on the sheep? The only trainer I've used formally charged $20 per lesson and the "good" dogs generally got a good 30 to 45 mins on the sheep each go round, often broken into 2 or 3 sessions.


How many people have been able to barter farm help for lessons? If so, what all did that involve time and task-wise? I majored in Animal Science in college, so I don't mind getting "down and dirty" with livestock as long as someone shows me what I need to do first. :rolleyes:


Thanks for any help you can offer!

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I don't know how much help I will be living in a different part of the country than you, but I have a 9 month old who just took his 5th lesson today. We go once a week, every Saturday, and drive about an hour and a half to the trainers. I have since found other trainers closer to me, but I really like the one we have so I keep driving. She charges 25.00 a lesson and how long really depends on my dog. He is still young so she is taking things fairly slow right now. He is usually with the sheep about 30 minutes on average and we usually take a few minutes break about 3/4 of the way through. This seems to be working very well for us and Hammie is learning quite a bit already and seems to have little breakthroughs each week.


My trainer is also training me since I am just learning too. She has me come in the pen and shadow her, tells me what it is she is trying to get him to do, explains what he is doing right and what he is doing wrong, and always discusses what we did that day afterwords.


She schedules her lessons so that we are the only ones there at the time and all of her focus is just on us. So, I am not really sure how much time other dogs get with the sheep.



Good luck and I will be anxious to know how your pup does when you do start training.



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Well, based on what others have said, sounds like once again, SoCal is pricier than the rest of the world (I was thrilled to pay $3.65 for diesel the other day). I charge $35 per lesson, and each dog gets three "works." In the beginning, the works are fairly short, maybe 10 minutes or so, with rest time and explanation time in between. As the dog and handler both become more advanced, the works get longer, and may be a half hour or longer each. I try to transition the owner to working his/her own dog as soon as possible, sometimes as early as the first or second lesson. Sometimes there may be one or two other students here at a time, which I find helpful for most--watching others is also a good way to learn. Most students generally come once a week. I only tried the barter system once--for lawyering, but I didn't really get any lawyering after a very short time, so that was kind of the end of that. :rolleyes:


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It seems that both of you are getting very reasonable lessons.


Lessons range in cost dramatically. The low end is approxiately $35 per 1/2 hour to about $80 per half hour for the best trainers.


The average clinic cost per day would be in the $75 to $100 range, again dependent on the clinician.


I think the first place that you would check for farm work, gardening , washing dogs, cleaning house, cleaning kennels, etc. would be at you current trainers. He/she knows you and would be more prone to trade lessons with you for your work, You should negotiate the value of your work prior to taking on the task; it may protect your relationship/friendship if there are no surprises for either party.


Without sheep, of course, it will take you longer to train your dog.


Trialing can be very costly and time consuming. The entry fees, motel bills/ RV bills and the soaring cost of gas make the price of of a 3 minute novice run ( generally without payback) a very expensive way to train your dog on sheep


I should also have mentioned that trialing can be very addictive and do I know many many addicts!



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I'm paying $35/hr for training with a good, Open trainer. And it's about 45-60 mins away. As Anna described, the dog gets about 3 sessions within the hour, depending on the dog's physical and mental (that's the big one for us) exhaustion levels.

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For private lessons, I am working with a top Open handler with much experience, and I am paying $50/dog per session. The session lasts as short or as long as the dog needs or can handle. Clinics in our area are normally ~$100 per day/dog, with two "works" (so the equivalent of two "Lessons").


You might search around for someplace you can practice in between your lessons. There are a few in our area that will let you practice with minimal supervision or instruction, or they will provide a little bit of input on specific questions if you ask. The least expensive is $15/dog and I know of at least others that range from $25-35 per dog. All of those practice sites are open to the other breeds besides border collies but sometimes those sites are a bit more accessible; I'm sure it depends upon the region.


It is not a pursuit for the faint of heart in the money department, unfortunately, as someone else pointed out. If you can find someone to barter with you (been there, done that) be sure that you keep good records of your labors and make sure that you do not get the short end of the deal.



good luck,



Northern California

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My lessons are exactly like the ones that Anna teaches. $35 for a lesson (with an Open handler). Jack gets 30-40 minutes of actual sheep time, broken down into 3 "works" with water breaks in between. We're usually out of dog by the end of that time. He might get a little more in, now that the weather is cooling off.


She's an hour away, and I try to go as often as possible. If I could get in once a week regularly, that would be great, but her schedule doesn't always allow for that. So, I go as often as possible, which probably averages out to twice a month.


He's had 7 lessons so far, I think. I finally got to work him at our last lesson, and I can't wait to get back out there. You *will* be hooked, I promise.


Good luck with Z and Maggie!

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I was really lucky when I started out to find a trainer who charged $25 for a lesson, which included several working sessions during each lesson period. She also allowed students who paid for a lesson one week to come work their dogs any other day that week except for Monday (so she and the critters had a day off). Often she'd come out and observe/advise on the days you were working your dog but not taking a lesson. I lived about an hour and 15 minutes away, but I took full advantage of those free work days and probably spent 4-6 days *a week* at the farm working my dogs. In exchange I also helped out with chores that needed doing--otherwise I might have felt like I was abusing the privelege. In truth, I was probably the only student who spent that much time there, but it sure made a difference in my learning curve.... I expect her prices have gone up since then (I started there seven years ago), and I don't know if she still allows students to come work their dogs on other days, but I will always be grateful for the opportunity I had when I was taking lessons there.



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I've been around quite a bit. I took a lesson a few years ago with a top handler in the Northeast. He was within a couple hours of many major urban centers and only charged $40 for a nice long leisurely session - we had about an hour which was interspersed with one other dog's sessions, to let my dog cool off mentally and physically.


I had a lesson with a National Finals multiple winner which cost $85 for an hour. Again, the "hour" was actually spread over four timed sessions with a friend and another dog of ours, so we actually had three hours of working with him and watching him, for the money. Almost a mini-clinic.


I've worked with people who used a more "insular" approach, so that I was the only one there and had one thirty minute slot of undivided attention with the instructor. Sometimes it was an hour, with the understanding that really the dog would only be working maybe half that time.


I've now worked with two instructors who block out lessons so you can almost have a casual mini-clinic atmosphere. Both worked the dogs short periods pretty much as long as needed, without strict regard for the time or number of sessions or whatever. It's polite not to ask questions about your dog during another person's "time", but there's plenty of outside time to discuss general topics or even specific training issues. Since I'm a talker (ie, I don't understand something unless I can verbalize it), this helps a lot.


The first I went to, who was like this, was ninety minutes away and I went as frequently as twice a week (those were the days, when I could afford that!). Even though I have sheep, I made the greatest progress the more frequently I went for lessons. I was able to trade fresh stock for lessons, so that was kind of nice. He was $40/hour and although I wouldn't call him a Big Hat because I associate name recognition with that, he was certainly what I'd call a contender.


The person I'm going to now is only thirty minutes away *waves - "Hi Robin!* That's an amazing luxury especially as chaotic as my life is right now. Robin is very generous with her time and knowledge and the lessons are generally both fun and constructive. I like having the opportunity to see other dogs worked as I almost always learn something there, too. Robin also being a contender and located near an urban center with lots of dog sporty people, her rates are quite competitive.


Some people I know feel like if they pay for an instructor's time, they should get 100% of their attention in the time that the student is there. That's a different model, nothing wrong with that. But I prefer the other way. It's good, though to be aware of where your own preferences lie and whether they mesh with the instructor's practices.

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