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My lambs are now bigger than the dogs, tame enough to stick by me, dog broke but with respect for the dogs - they'll move for them. The dogs are "sheep broke" They have a good stop and a good lie down. They have learned come bye and way to me in a round pen, though neither of us are well practiced -- this is the first thing I want to work on.

 

We've done some wearing of the sheep, especially Brodie. He's learned to keep his distance - to push them gently to encourage them to get out of the barn to the end of the pasture, just to let them know it was there so Brodie has it in his head that's all he can do, I think.

 

Today I marked out an area within which two sheep and I meandered about. Brodie had to stay outside of this area, which was about fifty feet by fifty feet. I wanted him to circle them so every time he dove in, I pushed him back - he also understands "get back". After about five minutes of trying to dive in behind the sheep, something clicked and he began to circle. He did well, not cutting in too badly on his corners (he knows the "get back" command as well). He stayed even further out than I asked -- probably double the distance -- a good thing, I'm thinking, and yet he was cued into to our position, moving as we moved.

 

After a few really good circles, I called him to "lie down" walked up to him and took him off, praised him to the skies and that was the end of the lesson for the day. Short, sweet, and successful.

 

My question -- how do I get him off auto pilot -- to change direction on command from a far distance?

 

Thanks,

Liz

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Don't circle. Dogs that orbit around the sheep aren't thinking. Do you have someone close by that can give you lessons?

Yeah, but she's busy at the moment --- I don't want him going around like a cat chasing it's tail...I've had that fight with Robin in the round pen and as you say, he gets going and loses his mind and I can't catch it. I just want to find a way to reinforce directional signals from a distance...I liked the way Brodie was balancing off me today. He's a good little dog.

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You are better off waiting for a lesson than creating bad habits that will need to be fixed.

Agreed - and it's hard to give an accurate picture of the entire situation without writing reams and reams as well - but to sum it up, Brodie now remembers that he can go around sheep as well as follow behind them.

 

I've got my nose in Vergil Holland's book tonight...

 

Liz

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

Without other knowledge it's hard to understand what's going on here but clarity probably isn't that important. Yes, it is very easy to stall out circling in the small ring because - finally - there's CONTROL. And one should combine short outruns with the fetch. The wear is ancillary to retreating so the dog gets fetching and "walk up" practice after the short outrun; others may disagree but I don't think the wear is worth practicing on its own.

 

BUT; so long as the novice sheepdogger owns a flock he/she works with his/her dogs and the novice seeks advice from this list and has a good instructor/mentor, in time that novice will be working with useful stockdogs - maybe not top open trial dogs but dogs that save wear and tear on the sheep and their shepherd (and give their owner local bragging rights).

 

Over centuries, our dogs evolved to figure out what we really wanted and train themselves. Give them a fair chance and they'll do so for you. If it took expert, top trainer/trialers to train sheepdogs they would have gone extinct many generations ago.

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

Without other knowledge it's hard to understand what's going on here but clarity probably isn't that important. Yes, it is very easy to stall out circling in the small ring because - finally - there's CONTROL. And one should combine short outruns with the fetch. The wear is ancillary to retreating so the dog gets fetching and "walk up" practice after the short outrun; others may disagree but I don't think the wear is worth practicing on its own.

 

BUT; so long as the novice sheepdogger owns a flock he/she works with his/her dogs and the novice seeks advice from this list and has a good instructor/mentor, in time that novice will be working with useful stockdogs - maybe not top open trial dogs but dogs that save wear and tear on the sheep and their shepherd (and give their owner local bragging rights).

 

Over centuries, our dogs evolved to figure out what we really wanted and train themselves. Give them a fair chance and they'll do so for you. If it took expert, top trainer/trialers to train sheepdogs they would have gone extinct many generations ago.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Chapter 4 of Holland's book, starting on page 68, describes what I want to accomplish. But to do so, I need more sheep..... :)

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There is training dogs, and training dogs well. I've made mistakes in the past that resulted in a generally useful but sometimes inadequate dog. I wish someone had told me to wait and learn it right the first time rather than training something incorrectly.

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I don't know what you do about training or mentoring (although I'm seeing you are using Vergil's book) but one person you might consider is Mark Billadeau. He's located off exit 42 on I-70 in MD (just east of Hagerstown a bit). That's where I go when I can.

 

I've worked with both Renee and Mark (and I think a lot of both of them), although Mark is the one working with any outside people/dogs right now (or when the status of the flock allow it).

 

Good luck!

 

PS - I tried to send this as a PM but either your box is full or you are not accepting PMs.

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

Ms. Liz writes:

"There is training dogs, and training dogs well. I've made mistakes in the past that resulted in a generally useful but sometimes inadequate dog. I wish someone had told me to wait and learn it right the first time rather than training something incorrectly."

 

I can't know what training mistakes Ms. Liz made but I am certain they cannot be worse than mine. She's right, of course, that good mentoring is very valuable but - fact is - even with the best mentoring more experienced handlers can/could get more out of your dog faster than you could with less risk of a habit you must later undo.

 

All sheepdogs, just like you and me, are in some circumstances on some days inadequate.

 

I have seen talented sheepdogs ruined - by inconsistent, confused, willfully ignorant and/or brutal novices, unwilling to seek good advice or take it when offered. I have also seen talented sheepdogs ruined by experienced handlers who needed a winner if not today by next week latest.The skilled handler can do more damage to a dog because he/she is farther inside the dog's mind.

 

But if these dogs aren't going to be perfect, neither are they glass. Most forgive the novice's ineptitude and keep on trying to get it right. Mine have.

 

Get out there. Do your best. How else can you learn?

 

 

Donald McCaig

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Get out there. Do your best. How else can you learn?

I certainly saw the value of this when I was out at Anna's for a couple of weeks. I have always been the kind of person who, at a lesson or clinic, was quite content to let the instructor handle and work my dog. I don't like "doing things" in front of people. Besides, I liked seeing what my dog could do under better handling. But that sort of approach held me back from learning as well as I could have.

 

Anna didn't let me wuss out - she worked Dan the first day and a bit the second, to get a feel of him - from then on out it was, "Sue, get out there and do!" I was terrified and my anxiety levels were through the roof. But I learned more than I ever would have sitting back and observing.

 

I've had to make myself take Dan out and work with him since I've been home - it would be a bazillion times easier to just take Celt for jobs because I'm comfy with him and he's pretty easy. But that wouldn't be teaching Dan anything and I wouldn't be learning anything about handling Dan (or any other dog besides Celt). And, today, Dan did some very good things for me - and I think I am doing better with him. Slowly but surely, we are both learning together.

 

But, if we were not learning together, how much would we be learning at all, or how much of a partnership could we forge? Not much, I don't think.

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I don't know what you do about training or mentoring (although I'm seeing you are using Vergil's book) but one person you might consider is Mark Billadeau. He's located off exit 42 on I-70 in MD (just east of Hagerstown a bit). That's where I go when I can.

 

I've worked with both Renee and Mark (and I think a lot of both of them), although Mark is the one working with any outside people/dogs right now (or when the status of the flock allow it).

 

Good luck!

 

PS - I tried to send this as a PM but either your box is full or you are not accepting PMs.

 

Box is full....I'll clear it out...I'm way too far north for those good folks..,

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

Ms. Liz writes:

"There is training dogs, and training dogs well. I've made mistakes in the past that resulted in a generally useful but sometimes inadequate dog. I wish someone had told me to wait and learn it right the first time rather than training something incorrectly."

 

I can't know what training mistakes Ms. Liz made but I am certain they cannot be worse than mine. She's right, of course, that good mentoring is very valuable but - fact is - even with the best mentoring more experienced handlers can/could get more out of your dog faster than you could with less risk of a habit you must later undo.

 

All sheepdogs, just like you and me, are in some circumstances on some days inadequate.

 

I have seen talented sheepdogs ruined - by inconsistent, confused, willfully ignorant and/or brutal novices, unwilling to seek good advice or take it when offered. I have also seen talented sheepdogs ruined by experienced handlers who needed a winner if not today by next week latest.The skilled handler can do more damage to a dog because he/she is farther inside the dog's mind.

 

But if these dogs aren't going to be perfect, neither are they glass. Most forgive the novice's ineptitude and keep on trying to get it right. Mine have.

 

Get out there. Do your best. How else can you learn?

 

 

Donald McCaig

Mr McCaig, do you remember the Giorgio Santelli fencing salle in New York City? My son is an epee fencer and had the opportunity to take lessons from Neil Lazar, who is a wonderful old style gentleman, tough competitor, international level fencer, who had been both pupil and teacher at Santelli's salle. Neil retired to our area and spotted our son at a local tournament, then presented my husband with his with his very impressive credentials and offered to coach our son. Somewhat nonplussed, DH quickly recovered and said, "Of course!" and that was the beginning of a long and quite wonderful friendship.

 

Once, we were at a match and our boy was really putting on a show, moving well, scoring points, happy, it was a glorious day. Neil was quite pleased, tightening his fist, and saying "Yes!" with every hit. "Is he doing what you told him?" I asked. "Not a bit of it," Neil replied with a delighted smile. "But it's working for him."

 

Liz J.

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I certainly saw the value of this when I was out at Anna's for a couple of weeks. I have always been the kind of person who, at a lesson or clinic, was quite content to let the instructor handle and work my dog. I don't like "doing things" in front of people. Besides, I liked seeing what my dog could do under better handling. But that sort of approach held me back from learning as well as I could have.

 

Anna didn't let me wuss out - she worked Dan the first day and a bit the second, to get a feel of him - from then on out it was, "Sue, get out there and do!" I was terrified and my anxiety levels were through the roof. But I learned more than I ever would have sitting back and observing.

 

I've had to make myself take Dan out and work with him since I've been home - it would be a bazillion times easier to just take Celt for jobs because I'm comfy with him and he's pretty easy. But that wouldn't be teaching Dan anything and I wouldn't be learning anything about handling Dan (or any other dog besides Celt). And, today, Dan did some very good things for me - and I think I am doing better with him. Slowly but surely, we are both learning together.

 

But, if we were not learning together, how much would we be learning at all, or how much of a partnership could we forge? Not much, I don't think.

 

Sue, I like what you said about learning together. I've been wrestling with the thought of sending Robin away to be "started" over the winter. He'd be gone for two long months, which I think - for me - would be longer than the first term my son was away at college (don't tell my son). He'd come back quite well educated, but I still wouldn't know anything...and there would be many more days when I'd be telling him "Good dog," and he'd be saying, "Yeah, but you're an idiot." So, we'll muddle along as best we can, reading Vergil's book together, watching some videos, and catching a lesson from our trainer when we can...

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I would second finding a good mentor...I respect people who follow the motto "It's all about the journey" and I Agree with that to an extent..but an expereinced individual who clicks well with you and your dog and is a good TEACHER...can shave yearsoff the learning curve and help you and your dog be more successful and less stressed...

 

I would like to add however, that just because someone is an experienced trainer/handler...that might not make them a good TEACHER or MENTOR and someone's ability to explain things and help you and your dog learn is the key....

 

In terms of sending a dog out to be trained, I have first hand novice experience with this as well as peers of mine..I have heard people say...as a Novice handler sending your dog out to be trained or buying a trained dog is the best and fastest way to learn and progress..I would sy this is true IF you have a good relationship with the person who trained the dog previously...I'm talking a CLOSE relationship, able to give you lessons and asnwer your questions and give insight into how they handled the dog...someone who cares about the success of you and your dog as a team...there are a few wonderful trainers out there who are this way...

 

 

My experience was the opposite and that of a few people I know...I wasted over $1,000 and 3 months sending out my dog to a well known trainer...he worked fabulously for him...when I got him back however,with little direction on how he was trained/handled he reverted RIGHT back to the dog I had beforehand...he new within two seconds of me working him that I was me...and not the trainer and all the bad habits we had before came back...the trainer took little interest in helping us afterwards now that his job was done...and we fumbled around for another year or so...I eventually(with the help of my trainer) developed a completely opposite way of doing things anyway and we eventually became successful on the trial field..

 

Another firend of mine had a similar experience.....dog worked awesome for the trainer...but went right back to there same self when they got her back....little by little

 

Basicly...an experienced handler/trainer has the timing, sheep sense, and knowledge to get the best outta the dog...use pressure and release properly, and set up situations well....novices don't..that's why unless you have that on-going instruction and help from the trainer your dog would just go right back to where it was...jus sayin... :)

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I would second finding a good mentor...I respect people who follow the motto "It's all about the journey" and I Agree with that to an extent..but an expereinced individual who clicks well with you and your dog and is a good TEACHER...can shave yearsoff the learning curve and help you and your dog be more successful and less stressed...

 

I would like to add however, that just because someone is an experienced trainer/handler...that might not make them a good TEACHER or MENTOR and someone's ability to explain things and help you and your dog learn is the key....

 

In terms of sending a dog out to be trained, I have first hand novice experience with this as well as peers of mine..I have heard people say...as a Novice handler sending your dog out to be trained or buying a trained dog is the best and fastest way to learn and progress..I would sy this is true IF you have a good relationship with the person who trained the dog previously...I'm talking a CLOSE relationship, able to give you lessons and asnwer your questions and give insight into how they handled the dog...someone who cares about the success of you and your dog as a team...there are a few wonderful trainers out there who are this way...

 

 

My experience was the opposite and that of a few people I know...I wasted over $1,000 and 3 months sending out my dog to a well known trainer...he worked fabulously for him...when I got him back however,with little direction on how he was trained/handled he reverted RIGHT back to the dog I had beforehand...he new within two seconds of me working him that I was me...and not the trainer and all the bad habits we had before came back...the trainer took little interest in helping us afterwards now that his job was done...and we fumbled around for another year or so...I eventually(with the help of my trainer) developed a completely opposite way of doing things anyway and we eventually became successful on the trial field..

 

Another friend of mine had a similar experience.....dog worked awesome for the trainer...but went right back to there same self when they got her back....little by little

 

Basically...an experienced handler/trainer has the timing, sheep sense, and knowledge to get the best outta the dog...use pressure and release properly, and set up situations well....novices don't..that's why unless you have that on-going instruction and help from the trainer your dog would just go right back to where it was...jus sayin... :)

 

There's arguments both ways, I suppose -- a well trained dog makes it easy for a beginner to learn the basics, under the tutelage of a trainer. As you say, sometimes one's own dog that has been "started" can easily take advantage of it's owner once returned - the dog would definitely know more than me at that point. So, the boys and I will learn together, taking lessons when we can, and practicing what we've learned between lessons.

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For me, having someone else train my dog was beneficial to a point. Once she let us go on our own at home it fell apart. If we could turn back the clock I'd work my own dog myself and train me; the dog already pretty much had the talent locked up inside. She is a Aussie and the trainer is a all breed trainer in our area but seems to prefer Border Collies.

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This is a timely discussion for me. (Just as a note, I do not have access to sheep on a regular basis.)

 

Devon is just shy of 2 years old. I started to work him with my trainer once he was 1 year old. We both have made some big improvements this spring. (The winter here was awful and we didn't train for 2 whole months in December and January.) I am leaving Devon with my trainer for a week later this month. Now I know that one week is not a long time and I am not expecting a huge change. However, I know that my trainer is going to be able to make improvements on little things that I am struggling with. For instance, as I am still learning to read sheep, my timing for corrections and instructions are off still and this could be confusing to Devon. Also, he is still coming in a little too tight on the smallish outruns we have been working on. These are things that my trainer is going to help Devon do better. These are things that I am still learning and only time will help me but if Devon is more keen that will help me, too. (I hope that makes sense.)

 

So, I agree with HSNRS and Mr. McCaig, that the journey is important. Devon and I need to learn to work together. It is after all a partnership. But having the guidance of an experienced handler/trainer is invaluable for both me and my dog. They have most likely walked the same road that us novices are on at some point too.

 

Assuming that Devon's week of training helps us, I would leave him there again for a week later this year.

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