Donald McCaig Posted August 12, 2011 Report Share Posted August 12, 2011 Dear Doggers, Example A: A couple years ago I gave a sheepdog training demo at the IACP (Pet dog trainers) conference at Triple Crown Dog Academy in East Texas. EB Raley brought four sheep and a ten month old dog who’d been on sheep before and I brought 2 year old June. The demo field was 8? Acres only fenced on the spectator side. I went out with the pup and turned him loose. He was as promising as EB had said and he and I did all the exercises one does in a small ring. I used June to demonstrate driving and shedding training (sheep were velcro and we couldn’t get our shed). Finally, June drove them away , oh I’d guess, 150 years and I recalled her with a soft whistle. She came off quickly and easily and her recall – the simplest part of our demo - got the biggest hand. Example B: Patrick Shannahan was giving a sheepdog clinic in Mississippi which Dick Russell attended. Patrick has won the National Finals twice and Dick was a brilliant pet dog trainer. Dick was incensed. (My paraphrase) “Why, when the dog was a couple hundred yards away, they’d correct him by taking a step or two towards the dog and waving a stick. I could have corrected that dog with an ecollar in a heartbeat!” Yesterday I was working with two students on their farm. They’ve got 60-70 sheep and two year old dogs just starting to drive but they hadn’t taken them out of their small (50 foot dia) training ring. I’m old and slow so I need to start dogs (off leash –though they may drag one) in a contained area where I can control the sheep and dog but after establishing a working partnership, a down, a “that’ll do” and beginning the fetch and flanks I want to move into a bigger area – a half acre is about right. You need space to allow the outrun and fetch, the small ring stresses the dog (he can’t run away), very powerful dogs may not be able to get far enough off their sheep and I dislike drilling. It bores the dog and, more important, it bores me. I’d suggested my students take their dogs out three weeks ago when I visited last, but they hadn’t. Why? Eureka! They thought that the efficacy of their command would be inversely proportional to the distance the dog was from them! Here’s what’s true about that belief: young dogs take assurance from their handler’s presence (that’s why good judges tell novices to “Leave the Post and help your dog.”) and when more advanced dogs get in serious trouble; panicking, gripping, etc. the dog CANNOT HEAR its handler unless said handler is within twenty feet of it. And any young dog will be unsure when he’s further from his handler than he’s ever been. BUT: you’ve lost the small ring stress, the sheep behave far more naturally and you’ve come a fifty or a hundred feet nearer that 800 yard outrun lift and fetch. And how in the hell are you going to train a dog who is 800 yards away from you, who is responding to sheep you can barely see, let alone read? What you can do is take a few steps toward that dog – just as you’d do in a fifty foot ring – raise your crook and MEAN WHAT YOU SAY. As Patrick Shannahan’s students were doing. At 800 yards, the properly trained misbehaving dog will drop like he was shot: “Me? Ahhhh, Sheech!” Because the power of the correction is NOT inversely proportional to distance from your feet; it is proportional to the dog’s understanding of its work and its acceptance that you know more about its work than it does. The reluctantly taken command at fifty feet will be the reluctantly taken command at two hundred feet and, if the dog hasn’t accepted you as senior team member that command will be whistling in the wind. The fact is: almost all sheepdog training takes place in small fields or doing practical work. The former supplies the tools, the latter precious experience. But what about the dogs that “have never been out that far?” If a dog always finds its sheep at 200 yards, it will turn in looking for them at 200 yards. When it doesn’t, the young dog is likely to panic and Yep, he’ll stop listening and you’d better get out there and restore order. But that’s because he expects to find sheep at 200 yards, not because he can’t take commands much further out. Sheepdoggers typically send the dog on longer and longer outruns. Derek Scrimageour offers this tip. Instead of sending the dog further and further out, back up yourself. That way, as the dog is outrunning further he’s not venturing deeper into the unknown – he’s covering unfamiliar ground nearest his handler. As he gets near the sheep, it’s ground he knows and has worked on before. Makes sense to me. Donald McCaig Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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