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Maybe less is not more....


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Getting ready to start my young dog Cub. For those of you, namely Robin and Julie, that have first hand knowledge of how the sire and dam work, chris in particular, I had thought to start Cub on a handful of dog broke sheep in a round pen. However, thinking now that perhaps starting him (he is 16 months old) on open field with say more like 50-60 head of sheep, not dog broke puppy sheep, but that have been worked by trained dogs in the past, might slow a pup like Cub down a bit while learning his trade (he exhibits some behaviors much like his dam) hence looking for input from julie p and robin, but please, all POV's and ideas are graciously appreciated. So what im looking for are pro's and cons concerning both tecniques for starting an older pup. Im begining to feel that starting him in a larger area, with a larger group of sheep may be more benificial to him than starting him in a round pen on 3 to 6 sheep. He has a stop, recall, get back, and walk up, commands on him. For corrections, he is softer like his sire, not as tough as his dam, and like his sire wants to do the right thing and be a team player. Im excited to start this pup, but am thinking of changing the way i would normally do this, because Im thinking had his dam been started on a bigger area with more sheep, perhaps we would not have run into, or exaserated? the tendancies she had when I started her. Look forward to your responses.

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Hi Darci ~


I'm no expert, but for my part, I dislike starting a young dog in a round corral, unless there's some specific reason I need to have a confined space. I started my 1 yr old Aussie in one, because in the beginning, she'd yank wool so hard she'd pull a sheep down! But with border collies, I prefer to get into an open space, even if it's just a 1 acre field, as soon as possible. (I got my Aussie outside as soon as she settled, too.) I'd rather have the room to move and use the positioning of the sheep and my own body to influence the dog, which a round corral doesn't permit.


As for working a bigger band of 50+, I guess that depends on the dog. It will be harder for you to maneuver around that many sheep, if you need to get to the dog, and maybe harder to get the sheep to move in ways that influence his flanks and movements. They're also apt to be heavier for a young dog to move. But a larger group can also teach a dog steadiness, push and focus, which is a good thing.


You could also try him in a larger area with 10 or 12 sheep, too, and change things up a bit to get different results.


Lol, not sure I was any help, but them's my thoughts. ;)




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There's no requirement to start in a small area if you think you can control things in a positive way in a larger area. Personally I work youngsters on groups of varying sizes, depending on what the youngster "tells" me as we go along. For example, I was using Ranger to move the flock and they were *very* heavy and I could see it was sapping his confidence a bit, so I made a point of putting him on fewer, lighter sheep. There's no formula for any particular dog. And of course in Ranger's case, he's different from his siblings and different from his parents, so I couldn't (and wouldn't) train completely on the basis of his relatives, but instead base training on what the individual dog is showing me at a particular time.


The downside to a very large group has been pointed out by Gloria: they may be heavier, may be more difficult to maneuver in a way that can help you teach Cub, and they can encourage too much wearing behind, and of course sap a dog's confidence if they are heavy (of course the opposite problem--a large group that's very light--could also cause problems as there would be no way you could easily control things and you could end up inadvertently setting up repeated chase scenes). As Jack Knox says, you want your training situations to encourage the right behavior and discourage the wrong behavior (and remember it takes only a few repetitions of the wrong behavior for it to become ingrained). Only you, in the moment, can know these things.


Whatever you choose to do, you need to be consistent and encouraging to Cub. Chris taught you that coming down on a dog for misbehavior can backfire, so if you see Cub doing some of the same things Chris did, try to figure out the actual cause and then work on addressing the cause by changing the way *you* do things. Let, "it's not the dog's fault" be your mantra. You have the big brain, so if things go south, you need to figure out what YOU can do to fix it.


Robin is on her way to Canada today so may or may not see this. I know she spent a lot of time with Moon on large groups, but Robin also has the experience to control the situation, even with a large group, and those large groups were still pretty well broke sheep.


So anyway, my answer is "it depends." You need to just try him in situations and see what seems to work best for him. And then you still need to change things up along the way so that he learns to handle a variety of situations, without overfacing him. You also need to NOT avoid small spaces. A dog isn't very useful if it can't work in all size spaces, and fear of repeating the problems you had with Chris shouldn't stop you from training versatility into Cub. You just need to be aware of the mistakes you made with her and be very careful not to repeat them with Cub. We showed that Chris could work in small areas, although as I told you then, when under pressure a dog will revert to default behaviors. So you to spend your training time making sure that Cub's defaults are good actions and not bad reactions.


Hope that helps!



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