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Hi all,

I?m starting my first border collie, and I?m puzzled by what seems to me to be a schism in training philosophies. I borrowed a couple of books from the NEBCA library; both had been frequently recommended: Pope Robertson?s Anybody Can Do It, and E.B. Carpenter?s Basic Training For Sheepwork. What confuses me is that the training methods outlined in these books seem so fundamentally different from what I?ve seen at the two clinics I?ve attended (one with Scott Glen and one with the Knoxes), and from the work I?ve done in lessons.

The training described in each of the books is very carefully plotted. The dog?s training begins away from the sheep, with a down, a stay, and a recall. When the dog is brought to the sheep, it is in strictly controlled situations, and each lesson has a clear agenda.

What I?ve seen in clinics and lessons, on the other hand, seems much more improvisational; typically, the young dog is given her sheep and the handler begins to shape her responses. The lesson unfolds as it goes. Scott Glen warned me against doing much obedience work, and Jack Knox said that he prefers to start a young dog on sheep before he has a down on it.

So, what?s going on? Has there been a major change in the way sheepdogs are being trained in the past decade or so? Or is the type of training that happens at clinics shaped by the nature of the clinic itself? (It would be hard, after all, to do any other kind of training with a dog and a handler you had never seen before and might never see again.)

I?ve learned a lot from reading these boards; I?d love your input on this. Thanks!

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Guest PrairieFire

Naw, training hasn't changed much...except I don't recommend Pope's method of training the outrun...



I bet at the Knox clinic you saw a small round pen, too, huh?


Clinics DO shape the methods...therefore the round pen...therefore the examination of the dog, improvisationally, and the application of methods...


But it all depends on the dog, as well...



Bill Gary

Kensmuir, Working Stockdog Center

River Falls, WI



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Guest Charles Torre



Whew. At first I thought, this question is easy, I'll take a stab at it. Then I started typing and...what a mess. So, here is a less ambitious attempt; just a few possible ways to think about your experiences.


A training tape or book outlines a complete program of dog training from a more or less ideal perspective. To completely train a dog takes years, with training more or less every day. Obviously, in a clinic the situation is not so "textbook". Each dog is different, many have had some partial training (for better or worse), some get worked once a month, etc. And there's an infinite number of possible problems that can show up and that the clinician better deal with if there are going to be any tangible results in, say, the 15 minutes you get per session.


What you are seeing from the pros at clinics, etc. is their attempt to show you some of what they know in the context of where you and your dog are in your education. What they do in their own training program at home is probably quite different, and considerably more systematic (granted the wide variety of dogs).


Having said all that, I think that some clinicians try to give a more systematic, step by step process than others. I have had clinics and lessons from very systematic teachers and from more "improvisational" types. Both types of training have their place, in my opinion.


I think your observations are very interesting; they highlight the differences between the textbook/classroom experience vs. the "real world". It's one thing for the textbook to say: "Develop a bond with your dog, get a good stop, a good recall etc. before going to stock... When you first go to stock, lie your dog down while you get into position for the first exercise..." It's another thing for it to happen that way. (What I mean is, if your dog stays down when you first bring it to stock then you might consider trying a different breeder for your next dog.)


I'd be a fool to try to tell you what Jack Knox or Scott Glenn are thinking. But...well... I am a fool, so here goes. Scott Glenn, I bet, is NOT talking about not worrying too much about having control over your dog (e.g., stop, down, recall, whatever) but rather about Obedience (with a captial O). Or perhaps, he means don't spend all your time getting your dog to respond like a soldier to your commands on stock. To be sure, you have to be able to control your dog on stock if you are going to train it to work properly. But beginners tend to use a more Draconian form of control ("Lie Down!"), which becomes a trap. The pros use a much more subtle and efffective tool for control: pressure (and its release). The dog needs to develop its instincts and talents, it's natural style if you will, and this is not something that can be commanded. Indeed, if the dog gets the idea that The Main Thing is you and your commands and not The Sheep, then it will be very hard to turn that dog into a first rate worker. As for Jack Knox's comment, I have heard his wife (Kathy Knox) say the same thing. Maybe they shouldn't say it since it is so easy to misconstrue the point they are trying to make. Anyway, it's quite OK for Jack Knox to start his dogs without a stop. It's not ok for those of us who must attend clinics, watch videos, etc. You know what I mean? Early in training, for us relative beginners, a stop is just a crutch to keep things under control. Jack Knox (or Scott Glenn for that matter) has graduated from that phase long ago. Of course, eventually these guys put a stop on their dog, simply because there are situations where they want the dog to stop on command. But I bet this is just a minor little thing compared to The Main Thing, which is how the dog interacts with the stock. Since that is The Main Thing, they start with that and stick with it for quite a while without the clutter of stops and downs, etc. Of course, most of us can't do it that way with our first dog or second or third or....


Finally, remember that the books, videos etc. are all about a complete program of dog training. Clinics and lessons are (or should be!) all about training the handler to train their dog as well as trouble-shooting.


Sorry if some of this stuff is obvious to you. It was just kind of fun to write it down. I am also trying to make sense of it all!







[This message has been edited by Charles Torre (edited 10-21-2002).]

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Look at all training ideas openly and give the ones that make sense to you a try. If you try them all you will find the ones that give you the best results.

Remember we are not reinventing the wheel we are just trying to make a better wheel with a smoother ride.

You will find that once you start training, certain methods will give you the best results so stick with them and have fun.



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I will give you my experence on this subject. I am not new to dog traning as I trained attack dogs proyer to the cattle dog work. I am a firm beleaver in a dog minding on the first comand. But to do this you have to put a lot of pressure on the dog.It takes him a while to get over the pressure. I trained my first 2 Border Collies last year and I used the Pressure. They would come, and down in mid air. But they lost some of the working drive when I started them on stock. What had happened I got their attention and they were wating for a comand from me. where I was going to give one or not. Ok now I started 3 pups about 3 weeks ago that I didn't put pressure on they were 8 mo old. I did put a come comand on them but with little pressure. Now these pups don't stop everytime I want them to but they sure do work stock nicely. I am going to try getting the work first this time and comands later. I told someone the other day that training a Border Collie was kinda like Plowing a field with a tractor. If you had the tractor and the plow all you need was fuel (dogs disire to work)and some one to drive the tractor.(You controling the dog)

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