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Dear Donald,

 

This has 'trick question' written all over it and I have no idea what you have in mind. Yet I cannot resist trying, so my answer is:

 

The moment the sheep perceive the dog. Degree of power, presence cannot be trained for.

 

Barbara

 

Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

The most important split second of a sheepdog trial cannot be trained for. Describe.

 

Donald McCaig

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Any moment that is out of the dog's knowledge ofhow to handle the sheep in that situation. Yes, you cannot train for this per se, but give the dog a wide variety of experience and he should have the skills to cope with almost anything that he encounters.

 

30 years ago I would have said the lift (but a proper lift can be trained) today with the sheep generally held the lift is not as critical as when the sheep are 'set' or just out in a field grazing.

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Dear Donald,

 

This has 'trick question' written all over it and I have no idea what you have in mind. Yet I cannot resist trying, so my answer is:

 

The moment the sheep perceive the dog. Degree of power, presence cannot be trained for.

 

Barbara

 

what she said :D

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

No trick. It's the lift. : Consider a few lifts:

 

At home, theewes have just been let out of the barn with their four day old lambs and have them on a point higher than dog's possible approach and it's late afternoon, time to bring the sheep in for feed.

 

A New England Trial with hair sheep who were trialed last week and the week before, held on corn.

 

The Bluegrass, with Texas Suffolk lambs who've never seen a dog before and are spotted from horseback.

 

A Dakota Trial, where the dog has run four minutes just to climb and get behind sheep who were lambed here, lived here all their lives and never been worked by a dog.

 

And that first contact is everything . . .

 

Donald McCaig

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Maybe not "trained" for per se, but experience would certainly play a part in a successful lift no matter what the circumstances. It amazes me how these dogs can read livestock even having never worked that particular type or species. And adjust accordingly.

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

Pam asks me to describe "the" (not "a") perfect lift. Nope. Pam and I are at the wrong end of the field to see one.

 

When I'm judging I want the sheep to come off straight towards the handler, calmly and under the dog's control. That said: Judging, I may not be - and often am not - able to see the dog. I can judge the results of his actions but not what the dog is doing to produce those results.

 

The only one who can really judge the lift is the spotter (which is why their voluntary report of my dog's "terrific lift" is so welcome).

 

Dogs develop different strategies to lift their sheep and if Wouldbes wish to advance their education, stroll to the top at an open trial and watch lifts. Barbara Ray's Britt comes in very deep and with no further command eases forward onto the sheep in a non-threatening way and the sheep lift happily.

Bev Lambert's Bill used to dominate his sheep at the top and they were docile all the way around.

 

Circumstances at the top are very very different. If trial broke sheep are spotted on corn, they don't see the dog until one ewe looks up and THERE'S A DOG!!! and she'll jitter and the others will too - often in the opposite direction. The dog who's never seen sheep spotted on grain may get right on top of them and even grip to get them moving; the cleverer dog expects that lifted head and jitter. Nervous range sheep may bolt as soon as the dog steps into their flight zone. And, if as is the case at some trials they are accustomed to the terrain they have strong preferences where they want to go. For a successful lift, the dog must predict sheep he has never met before on ground he's never walked.

 

Oh - did I mention lifting off horses? Goats?

 

So, Pam: back at you.Absent practical impediments (money, time, health,unhappy spouse etc), how would you teach the lift?

 

Donald McCaig

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No, he means lifting stock being held out by riders on horseback.

Ah that explains it (I had that ominous feeling of asking a stupid question).

You see I didn´t know that sheep were sometimes held out by people on horseback.

I should mention this method in our local sheepdog organization, there is a rich tradition here working sheep of horseback.

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I think what Donald is getting at, at least to me, is that innate feel for stock. You can certainly expose a dog to all kinds of stock, in all kinds of weather, on all sorts of terrain, and so on; similarly, you can get after a dog who blasts in at the top, and try to teach that dog a calmer, slower approach. And you can encourage the dog who is too hesitant at the top to come in with more authority. And you can have some success, at least some of the time.

 

The dog can have a perfectly shaped outrun, can know its flanks (and inside flanks) and respond immediately when asked to flank (and have perfectly shaped flanks, as well), and stop on a dime when asked; in other words, it can have all the "moves" down pat. But underneath it all--the foundation of all the work--is the dog/stock relationship: the dog reading the stock and the stock reading the dog in that "split second," as Donald says.

 

There is no amount of training or exposure to various situations that can compete with that innate feel for stock--the dog who can read the stock as it is approaching, and responds appropriately, using exactly the amount of pressure that that particular packet of stock requires on that particular day--no more, no less. And that, to me, is genetic; there is simply no substitute for breeding.

A

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I would second Donald's recommendation of going to the top and seeing what happens up there. As someone who sets sheep regularly, I can tell you it's very eye-opening (and not necessarily in a good way with respect to many dogs).

 

J.

Seconded. Not only is it an eye opener in terms of what the dogs are doing it's also an eye opener in terms of what you are perceiving from the post (or "under the handlers' tent").

 

 

 

 

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Lifts are taught all the time. Sometimes good sometimes bad. You let the dog know which manner is acceptable right fromt he start. Then allow the dog experience to understand all the nuances.

 

Far too often I see the dogs accomplish bad lifts. Having clifs on my property you really learn the value of a gentle lift!

 

When the dog can get a group of spooked sheep off a flatbed trailer, in the middle of a Threshing Bee, with antinque oil cans (many glass) stacked on the edge of the trailer and NOT disturb a single oil can then the dog has a perfect lift.

 

And Donald, while at a trial one might be too far to see the lift well, you see it all the time whenever the dog starts the sheep into motion. The HOW is what is critical.

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I regularly encourage people to go and help with 'letting out' because you learn so much up there that you won't see from behind the post.

 

On the outrun, some dogs can lose a whole lot of confidence as they get further and further from the 'rest of the pack' (the handler) and equally, the sheep can visibly 'weigh-up' a dog by its body language as it approaches.

 

If the dog lacks confidence on its approach, the sheep may stand fast and challenge the dog, whereas if the dog's approach is brimming with calm confidence, the sheep will usually submit instantly and may even trot around the course like pets. This is why so many beginners feel that the better handler / dog teams seem to get the best sheep.

 

I believe the tone of the run can be decided during the outrun.

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The most important split second of a sheepdog trial cannot be trained for. Describe.

SIMPLE!

It's the moment you remember to put the dog in the back of the truck, of course :-)

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I would hope that you are trainable for this task. :-)

If not your dogs should advertise for a new handler who can be trained.

Fear not, my dogs won't let me forget to take them :-)

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.

 

If the dog lacks confidence on its approach, the sheep may stand fast and challenge the dog, whereas if the dog's approach is brimming with calm confidence, the sheep will usually submit instantly and may even trot around the course like pets. This is why so many beginners feel that the better handler / dog teams seem to get the best sheep.

 

I believe the tone of the run can be decided during the outrun.

 

I would counter that if the dog lacks confidence on it's approach then something is either lacking in the dog's breeding or training or both.

 

As for the tone of the run being decided during the OR WHEN does the lift begin oand the OR end?

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