Jump to content
BC Boards

How often should a young dog work in the beginning?


Recommended Posts

I'm curious about the opinions here on how often you think is enough and often is too much to work a young dog (8 months).

 

Of course, I will go with whatever my trainer thinks is appropriate, but I have heard all kinds of opinions already since I'm so new at this. Some say he should only go to sheep every other week or so, and others say that if he's keen and is working then he should be worked regularly - at least 2 or 3 times a week if possible.

 

What have you found with your youngsters? Do they burn out from the pressure if you work them too much when they're young? Do they do better after a bit of time off in between sessions? He is always eager for once or twice a week, but we have not pushed past that point yet.

 

Also, I cannot work him on my own yet, as he still needs to learn a little more control before I will be able to go in with him because I am such a novice. I do however, have friends that can work him for me between lessons until I'm at that point.

 

But then I thought, well, maybe it's better for him to have only one trainer until I am able to work with him myself since different handlers will likely have different timing, etc. and could confuse him??

 

Just kinda curious what others have experienced

Link to post
Share on other sites

My opinion: the individual dog should dictate how often training should occur. Training sessions should be kept short at that young of an age, even if they are often. And it never hurts to give a youngster longer breaks if you seem to hit a wall in your progress or life just interferes with training time. Most don't backslide during off times, and 8 months old is still pretty darn young. When in doubt, I'd err on the side of conservatism--that is, I would give more time off before risking burn out.

 

I personally wouldn't want a bunch of different folks working my dog. Unless they all train the exact same way, I think it could be overwhelming or confusing for a youngster.

 

J.

Link to post
Share on other sites
My opinion: the individual dog should dictate how often training should occur. Training sessions should be kept short at that young of an age, even if they are often. And it never hurts to give a youngster longer breaks if you seem to hit a wall in your progress or life just interferes with training time. Most don't backslide during off times, and 8 months old is still pretty darn young. When in doubt, I'd err on the side of conservatism--that is, I would give more time off before risking burn out.

 

I personally wouldn't want a bunch of different folks working my dog. Unless they all train the exact same way, I think it could be overwhelming or confusing for a youngster.

 

J.

 

Thanks for the insight...we are taking a break while Nancy is at the Nationals and I was a little uncertain if I should have someone else work him during these 2 weeks, but it sounds like there is no harm in just taking the time off since he is so young. We are both very anxious to resume though!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Our trainer is off for quite a while too. It is hard to lay off but she is definitely worth waiting for. Don't want to confuse dogs with too many people. It is bad enough I'm trying to do some round pen work at home myself. Be patient and stick with the original person. JMO

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

I don't even have a border collie yet, but I too am curious about this. However, I am looking at it not from a trialing perspective but a day-to-day working dog perspective. Of course, I am also leaning more and more toward an older/mature rescue to start with.

 

We currently have three LGD and they are "started" from birth - raised with the stock and need minimal to no training, just corrections for bad behaviours (mouthing the stock, the bark at their own shadow stage around 9-15 months, chasing, etc.) On the other hand, house dogs start basing training from the day we bring them home. Everyone learns to sit before feed bowl is placed, manners, etc. "Formal" obedience starts in a social situation (classes) at 4 months. Our GSD was Schutzhund trained and we started obedience, protection and tracking at various stages as the dog was ready - 12 weeks, 12 weeks and 8 weeks respectively. All done in baby steps and motivational positive reinforcement to start. Corrections began when the dog knew what was expected and chose to do something else - or ignore the command, usually around 6-9 months and up. The work (the ball, the bite, the treat) is always the reward for playing by the rules. Any BC that joins our farm would be a working dog or pup from the get-go. Exposed to stock from the day it arrives and expected to play by the rules...no chasing, biting, mouthing, etc. Early on, I plan to do what I always do, the dog comes along when chores are done, but at what point do I start the "formal" work of allowing or directing the dog to manage/move the stock? At what age is a trainer required?

 

I guess I should also add, I have NO experience using a herding dog and hope to find a local trainer before any dog arrives. The sheep have all been worked by BCs before, the goats have only been with LGDs and the ducks & chickens are used to being scattered by the house dogs.

 

~ Tru

Laingcroft

www.freewebs.com/laingcroft

Link to post
Share on other sites

The main thing to consider with a young stock dog is that it has to be mature enough physically to be able to actually control the stock. Putting a puppy in with stock that could, for example, outrun it, isn't going to do much toward making a useful stockdog. So you have two choices: start the pup at a younger age in a controlled setting (smaller space like a round pen and well dog-broke sheep) or wait until the puppy is physically able to do the work required.

 

If you've never trained a stockdog before, then you want your mentor/trainer there with you from the start. An inexperienced person isn't going to have the timing or knowledge to start even the basics of stockwork, and at a young and impressionable age, you want to be very careful not to make mistakes (or at least not any more than are "necessary") because it's extremely hard to undo faults that you create through lack of knowledge and experience.

 

J.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The main thing to consider with a young stock dog is that it has to be mature enough physically to be able to actually control the stock. Putting a puppy in with stock that could, for example, outrun it, isn't going to do much toward making a useful stockdog. So you have two choices: start the pup at a younger age in a controlled setting (smaller space like a round pen and well dog-broke sheep) or wait until the puppy is physically able to do the work required.

 

If you've never trained a stockdog before, then you want your mentor/trainer there with you from the start. An inexperienced person isn't going to have the timing or knowledge to start even the basics of stockwork, and at a young and impressionable age, you want to be very careful not to make mistakes (or at least not any more than are "necessary") because it's extremely hard to undo faults that you create through lack of knowledge and experience.

 

J.

 

What age is the BC typically physically mature? I'm guessing around 6-9 months but obviously I could be wrong. LGD aren't physically OR mentally mature until around 2. As a general rule (always exceptions) the smaller the breed/dog, the earlier the maturity. Is that true of BCs?

 

Again, I will most likely look for a mature rescue that has some herding aptitude. I don't expect a trainer to come help me do my chores every day --- though that would be nice :D At any age, a dog on our farm would be expected to keep manners in mind. So I guess I would like to know what age constitutes "from the beginning" for herding specific stockdog work. With a rescue this would be useful to know so I can apply only for the dog old enough to start training and not get suckered in by the "puppy face" :rolleyes: I would love to find a fully trained dog, but the reality is I have to put in the sweat equity --- and I'd like to learn as I go so I have a better idea of what we're supposed to be doing and how to get from A to B. Does that make sense or is it now as clear as mud :D:D ?

 

~ Tru

Laingcroft

www.freewebs.com/laingcroft

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it depends on the dog and the situation.

 

My dogs start training between 9 months and 1 year. But I might let them try some gentle sheep with an older dog keeping them off the fences at 7 months, just because I am so curious what they will do. But I wouldn't do that more than maybe once or twice. Never if I don't have an older dog or quiet sheep.

 

After they are older and can lie down, go either way and walk up a bit they go with the older dog when we browse sheep loose. I find this steadies them and trains them the best for what we do anyway.

That work is every day but Monday. Weekend work is light.

 

If the young dog shows signs of losing interest, he might need a day off, or he might not be the dog for my type of work. I guess that would depend on circumstances.

Link to post
Share on other sites
What age is the BC typically physically mature? I'm guessing around 6-9 months but obviously I could be wrong. LGD aren't physically OR mentally mature until around 2. As a general rule (always exceptions) the smaller the breed/dog, the earlier the maturity. Is that true of BCs?

 

I'm not a vet so can't answer definitively as to age of physical maturity, but given that the growth plates don't close till around 18 months or so(?), you couldn't say a dog was actually physically mature before then. The age at which a person starts a youngster is all over the place and depends on many things, including the physical capabilties of the youngster (not quite the same as physical maturity), the suitability of the sheep and training situation, the experience of the trainer, and just as important as phyical capability, mental readiness. Putting too much training pressure on a youngster that's not mentally ready is apt to ruin it or at least cause problems you'll regret later, the same as putting a youngster in situations it can't handle physically.

 

Again, I will most likely look for a mature rescue that has some herding aptitude. I don't expect a trainer to come help me do my chores every day --- though that would be nice :D

 

I think you're mistaking my point. If you take the pup out with you to do chores and keep it on leash, under control, but are just letting it go with you, then certainly you don't need a trainer helping you (but you also don't want to be putting a pup in a situation where you have to constantly nag it because you're taking it out among the sheep but not letting it work and having to correct it for lunging, whining, whatever). When you do need a trainer is when you plan to start the pup in stockwork in earnest. Unless you get a pup that's a total natural you could create all sorts of problems unknowingly by allowing it to go with you while you do chores if the pup ends up making work for itself. I have a friend whose SO has a dog that he took with him to do the farm chores and then corrected the dog for wanting to work the livestock. Then when he decided to start training the dog, surprise, surprise, the dog was reluctant to work. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about. If you must take the pup with you to do chores, fine, just remember what it might be learning (inadvertantly) while doing so. It's for this reason that people often recommend not kenneling dogs where they can see livestock, since they will work the stock in their minds even if they are not physically in contact with the stock. That said, my dogs can see sheep from just about everywhere in the yard, but they don't stare, stalk, or try to work them through the fence (and pups aren't left unattended in the yard anyway). But they know when we go into the pasture they are there to work.

 

I manage to teach all my youngsters to leave the chickens, sheep, etc. alone without dragging them with me to do the chores (at least the sheep chores). The chickens are free range, and all dogs at my house learn that they are not to be chased or otherwise harrassed. EVER. Same with the cats.

 

At any age, a dog on our farm would be expected to keep manners in mind. So I guess I would like to know what age constitutes "from the beginning" for herding specific stockdog work.

 

You can teach manners and behaving oneself around livestock from day 1, whether it's a pup or an older dog. I don't expect any of them from the start to be able to walk through the pasture among the sheep and not want to work them. If I take the pack through the pasture, I expect them to come when I call them if they have decided to take off after the sheep. I don't expect that I can take the dogs (any of them except the oldest of retirees) through the pasture with sheep in sight and the dogs not want to work them. But I do expect them to listen when I call them off and ask them to continue on with me. I'm not sure if that's what you're asking anyway, but there it is.

 

I have started dogs on livestock (formal livestock training) as early as four months, but that was a major exception. Like TEA noted, many folks will let a pup "go to stock" occasionally just to see what the pup is showing at ages from 12 weeks on up, but I don't know of many (except perhaps the real experts) who would formally start a dog on livestock before around a year old. Most just aren't mentally or physically ready for it (training pressure) before then. Keep in mind that unless your sheep are already dog broke, they will present another training problem, for any dog. Sheep that are constantly trying to run away, or that bury their heads in a fence corner, or that repeatedly challenge a dog can create problems in any dog just starting out (no matter the age of the dog), and those problems can be difficult to overcome once they've developed. That's why I suggested starting out with a good mentor rather than just thinking that you ought to be able to train a stockdog on your own (not talking manners here, but actual stockwork).

 

 

With a rescue this would be useful to know so I can apply only for the dog old enough to start training and not get suckered in by the "puppy face" :rolleyes: I would love to find a fully trained dog, but the reality is I have to put in the sweat equity --- and I'd like to learn as I go so I have a better idea of what we're supposed to be doing and how to get from A to B. Does that make sense or is it now as clear as mud :D:D ?

 

It makes perfect sense, but it will be easier to figure out how to get from A to B if you have someone who already knows how to get there to guide you. Fully trained dogs do come along, and if you go to trials and start getting to know folks, you'd be pleasantly surprised to find that there are open handlers who look for good homes to retire their open (fully trained) trial dogs to. These dogs generally have a few good years left but just aren't capable of doing the big courses anymore. They have the smarts, stock sense, and training, but just aren't as "on their game" as they once were--something that makes a big difference on the trial field, but doesn't matter so much when working on the home farm. These dogs are gems and a person just starting out can learn a great deal from them, which can then be applied to the youngster you bring along as a replacement. (Also, you will sometimes find strictly farm dogs who are working big operations and have gotten to the point where they can no longer do that work and are "retired" to someone with a smaller farm where they can still be useful. Such dogs can usually be had for a pretty reasonable price. At least one list member has such a dog--he worked on a big operation out west, started to lose his hearing and so couldn't work on his ranch anymore, but was still suitable for someone with a smaller place, and he has become a good chore dog in his new home.)

 

If I were looking for a rescue with aptitude for stockwork, I'd probably look for a dog around 18 months to 2 years old that has been tried on stock on more than one occasion and showed good aptitude in the estimation of someone who is an experience stockperson and trainer. I wouldn't look for anything younger than 9 months for sure. FWIW, I started with two rescues, and the one I would have thought, based on breeding, to be a natural never would do much if a human was also in the picture. The other, whose history was unknown, was one of my first trial dogs and made it into open ranch. So it is possible to find a rescue that will work, but be sure the dog has been evaluated by someone who really knows what they're doing so you won't be disappointed.

 

I hope that helps some.

 

J.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Julie,

 

really well said!

 

I would add just for clarity, although I am sure folks know this already. Is that without an older dog, if you try a pup at 7 months, even with quiet sheep a pup can't keep them off the fence. So it will learn not to hold sheep to you, not trust you to be a good partner, it will learn that first little time, to put sheep to the fence to control them. This is what I have learned over the years anyway.

 

I find with an older dog keeping stock away from the fence the young dog gets a great experience of who or what to hold sheep to. I use Little Cap to do this and he runs wide and stays back so its effective. I do it a couple of times when really starting then I don't have to use him again till I train the young dog to work as a team player.

 

The other thing is a really keen pup might try to go between sheep and fenceline and get squashed. They don't know how to do that yet and I think it should be avoided till the dog is more experienced.

 

I also don't let my pups watch stock. I don't take them to do chores till I start training and never real pen work when they are green. Though they do go out with the horses and sled team for excersise.

 

I tried two older dogs a while ago. One had been allowed to nip horses, one allowed to stare at horses alot. Although these were well bred and great dogs in the hands of some really good trainer. For me with work to do I diddn't have time or energy to work with them. I always try to start with pups. And leave the reschools to pro trainers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...