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I don't know exactly how to ask the question, but what all is there to setting out? I mean, I know there is a lot, and the set out people work very hard, but do they need to know something more than the average trialler? How does it influence the dog? Does it help the dog, does it cause trouble if done too much? What makes a good set out team?

 

Maja

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The sheep should be sorted, let out of the set-out pen, moved from the set-out pen to the set-out point, and held at the set-out point until the competing dog is in contact with the sheep. All this should be done keeping the sheep as calm as possible during the entire process. Each step in this process has a lot of subtleties that are based upon the individual situation. This process should not be used for training a dog since what you do to the sheep influences the run and how those sheep react the rest of the trial.

 

For me the hardest part is knowing the exact moment you should stop holding each group and then not reacting and preventing your dog from reacting when that moment passes. It is not hard for most groups; but timing this can be difficult on some fields with some sheep (especially for shorter outruns on fields with lots of pressure).

 

I have found setting for Novice to be much harder than setting for Open.

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Oh, dear, I was going to direct you to Laura E's blog about the Finals - she had a wonderful article about the set-out crew that would have answered your question perfectly (with lots of detail and photos), but I got a "File Not Found" when I clicked on the link.

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Ask Julie (when she is back on the internet, as she is in TN, doing the set-out for three days at Jan Thompson's Water Cress SDT) as she (and Debbie Crowder, Queen of the Set-Out Pen). They are pros.

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Oh, dear, I was going to direct you to Laura E's blog about the Finals - she had a wonderful article about the set-out crew that would have answered your question perfectly (with lots of detail and photos), but I got a "File Not Found" when I clicked on the link.

 

Hmm, I'm not sure why you saw that, Lynn. The site is still up. Here's the link:

http://www.sheepdogfinalsblog.com/set-out-crew

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Hmm, I'm not sure why you saw that, Lynn. The site is still up. Here's the link:

http://www.sheepdogf...om/set-out-crew

 

I looked to see if I'd bookmarked the blog (I had; but I didn't spot it at first - who taught ME how to read?) so I went to the 2011 National Sheepdog Finals website and clicked on the link to Blog on this page: http://www.sheepdogfinals.com/information.html

 

Just now I also got another "File Not Found" in clicking on that same link. Broken link, I'm guessing, if the site is still up.

 

It's such a great series, Laura, that I'd hate for people to be unable to find it, however they come to it!

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Lynn, you seem to have bookmarked a subpage titled "Information," which doesn't actually exist. Very strange, because that page has never existed. Maybe I called the "About The 2011 National Sheepdog Finals" subpage "Information" for about five minutes, and you bookmarked it during those exact five minutes? With that kind of timing, you'll be competing in next year's trial! ;)

 

ETA: Oh wait, I see--that page is from the 2011 National Sheepdog Finals website, not the blog. They're easy to confuse--the only difference in the main URL is the "blog" appended to the end of the name.

(The 2011 Finals website is www.sheepdogfinals.com, while

the 2011 Finals blog is www.sheepdogfinalsblog.com.)

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Laura, you're correct, it's the link off the 2011 National Finals website that's broken, not my direct bookmark to your blog. (The latter works just fine, once I looked for it the second time). Do you know if there's any way to fix the link off the Finals website just in case there are folk out there silly enough NOT to have bookmarked your blog?

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Laura, you're correct, it's the link off the 2011 National Finals website that's broken, not my direct bookmark to your blog. (The latter works just fine, once I looked for it the second time). Do you know if there's any way to fix the link off the Finals website just in case there are folk out there silly enough NOT to have bookmarked your blog?

 

I've asked Linda, but I guess she never got to it. She's on the road for a while now, but I will see if there is any way to fix it!

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I've done a bit of setout. As Mark says, the trickiest thing is knowing when to "let go." If you watch the sheep closely, you can see them notice the incoming (competing) dog. At least one of your packet of sheep will notice the incoming dog and watch it. With any luck, all or most of the sheep will do so, so now their focus is not on your dog, but on the incoming one. By then, the incoming dog should be within a range that, if the sheep left the spot (I'm assuming here that they are not set on grain or anything, but are just free-standing), the incoming dog is in a position to take control of them. That's the magic moment to let go. It usually doesn't matter how close your dog is to the sheep, if/when they are watching the incoming dog, you call pull your dog out of the way. Of course, I know nothing of farm flocks and this method--this is what I use for range ewes. And actually, once the dog has done this for any length of time, the *dog* knows the right time to get out of the way; my girls will wait for just the right moment, and before I can slap my leg to call them back to me, they call themselves off,

A

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I've only done set-out for one big-ish open trial, and that was Geri Byrne's Dry Lake trial last winter. It was my first time on a trial set-out crew, and I had Amy Copeman and Derek Fisher to tutor me, but it wasn't easy!

 

Sorting the sheep (range ewes) in the pens was not hard, they moved off just a wave of my hand. Getting them out the gate onto the field wasn't bad, but it got progressively tougher, as they started wanting to peel around back towards the pens. But then the set-out dog and sheep would settle into the long drive out to the set-out point.

 

Holding the sheep once out there was sometimes a little interesting. The weather was very changeable, going from sun to snow and back again at the drop of a hat, and the sheep probably didn't like the wind that came with it. So, I had to help my young dog find the right place(s) to be, to keep them from drifting off. Especially since the sheep were often willing to leave in whatever direction looked good, rather than towards any particular draw. My dog had to stay out *wide* and move with quiet authority, and hold his down-stays rock solid as the running dog came in.

 

I also found the point at which to let go a bit tricky. Sometimes these sheep would spot a dog coming clear over on the fence-line and want to start moving away. My dog is/was a bit "catchy," so a few times it was hard for me to get him to let go, when I had to position him in an awkward point of pressure, just to hold the sheep. He was usually good at letting a dog take sheep off him, not problem, but under these kind of pressures, I realized a couple holes in our training!

 

But I got a feel for it as the trial went on, as did Nick, and Amy and Derek offered good advice. I know how important it is to keep the sheep quiet as possible, even under trying conditions, and then to get the H out of the way and let the incoming dog make a clean lift.

 

However, I also found there's a point when it's just the dog coming in too tight on his outrun, in which case the set-out person can let the sheep go, even if it's not pretty. We can't compensate for that dog's mistake.

 

It was one of the most anxious-making experiences I've ever had, but I'm also VERY glad I did it, and I'd do it again. As Mark says, a trial field isn't the place to train a set-out dog. The dog should already know his job. Thankfully Nick and I managed to avoid causing any major catastrophes, but it gave me impetus for further training in the months that have followed, and an even greater appreciation for the set-out people and dogs who do the job so well.

 

~ Gloria

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A small technical correction....the Dry Lake Sheep are not range ewes. They are from the commercial flock of Don Gnos....usually some sort of non-fine wool cross (coarser more open wool)....ie. coopworth, romney, lincoln, NCC. These commercial flocks comprised of large flocks (in thousands) and grazed intensively on rich grass pasture...and well protected. They are usually located in wetter or irrigated pastures and well shepherded and protected. Because of their rich existence, the commercial breeds flock less tightly because protection is provided to them (by the shepherd, fenced grassland and guarding). This is the same flock that has been offered for the many Klamath Falls USBCHA Finals.

 

Range ewes are normally some sort of fine wool breed...rambo, columbia, targhee, or some cross thereof. They are normally grazed extensively in mobs of thousands in open range...usually more arid country where they cover thousands of acres. They are sent out to graze mountain and range land with minimal human or herding dog contact...usually in the company of a team of guard dogs to protect against intense predator pressure. The range ewe breeds are known to flock tightly and react in fight or flight....a necessity for survival on the open range (strength in numbers). They are wily and smart about survival. Their contact with civilization is minimal and only seasonal.

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Very interesting to read your thoughts on the topic!

 

I didn't intend to make the OP sound like I wanted to train a dog by using it as a set out dog or to work on a set out team with a non-trained dog.

 

But I am curious. Are there any side effects if a dog works as a set out dog for a long time? I mean you've got a good trialling dog and it works a lot as a set out dog. Does it have any negative effects? Any positive effects? I know that dogs that work a lot assisting in clinics for newbies can develop problems later if they do it too much, but it is a quite different situation.

 

Also I had my friend with a beginner dog work on a set for me as a "dummy set out" - that is the most important thing for them was to be there. And she told me that after her dog realized what was going on and that he somehow was working with another dog that he really got into it and was very happy and excited about this new task.

 

Maja

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Mark: This moment of 'control' as you say, isn't that supposed to be the lift??

 

This question really shows my ignorance I guess..... I've always wondered and have tried to watch closely when this moment of control happens too.

 

Nancy in Ontario

The moment of control is at the lift; however, the moment of influence or contact can be as soon as when the competing dog steps onto the field. This will depend upon the dog, the sheep, and the field. Dogs with lots of presence or out of control dogs can be sensed by the sheep the moment they step onto the field especially for shorter outruns or with flocks that have been used for many trials. I have seen sheep go from relaxed and grazing to alert and nervous the moment they see some dogs as far away as 300 yards. Trial wise or self-fetching sheep will try to leave the moment the dog is sent. Some places where sheep are to be set (selected based upon the desired length of outrun, for the lower classes) make sheep uneasy; they don't want to settle at these locations due to pressures, terrain, etc.

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But I am curious. Are there any side effects if a dog works as a set out dog for a long time? I mean you've got a good trialling dog and it works a lot as a set out dog. Does it have any negative effects? Any positive effects? I know that dogs that work a lot assisting in clinics for newbies can develop problems later if they do it too much, but it is a quite different situation.

 

I think it depends on the dog. Nick's favorite job ever is working up at the top - and he tends to get a bit big for his britches after a few days at the set out (regardless of which job we're doing). He pretty much knows his job (he's an excellent partner), and then when I try to run him in a micro-managing sort of way after that he tends to resist. But I don't know if this holds true for all dogs. You'd think he'd get tired and be softer, but noooooo...

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Maja,

I think others have given you good information on what it takes to set out. I would add that range sheep are different from farm flocks, and farm flocks present a different set of challenges unique to their status. For example, they know where the gate to their regular pasture is. They know where their loafing areas are, and what parts of a field they do and don't like. Those are challenges that affect the competing teams as well as the set out crew.

 

Much of the ease of set out, aside from how the sheep behave, is the set up of the holding pens. Well-designed pens encourage sheep to move as needed (and here I suspect farm flocks behave differently from range flocks because farm flocks are used to being handled by humans on a more regular basis and so are less likely to easily move off a human if the human wants them to go in a direction they don't want to go--into a small pen or chute or whatever the set up is that contains the sheep until they are let out onto the field). And that brings up another point: often a farm flock will consist of ewes and lambs or some variation of sheep and you can't just let out the next 3-4 sheep in line but instead have to make sure you have X number of ewes and Y number of lambs, or one blue tag, one purple tag, and one black tag, so the sheep have to be handled, even if that's not the ideal.

 

This past weekend, the larger part of the pen was big enough that once part of the flock was moved forward, the guys working the pen couldn't get the rest of the sheep to move forward--the sheep would just break around them and run to the back of the pen. I had them take Lark on leash and just stand her at the back of the pen and that's all it took to stop the sheep breaking back instead of moving forward. Other pen sets ups I've seen could be a disaster if you used a dog. So as I said, much depends on how the system is set up in the first place and how the flock must be handled to get even sets onto the field.

 

As for setting out itself, you'll rarely see people on horseback in the east. It's generally just not necessary with farm flocks (though I'd love to set from horseback!). The set out dog needs to be capable of pulling sheep off the set out pens when they don't want to leave their buddies still in the pen. The dog needs to be able to hold the sheep (and this applies to farm flocks as I've never set range sheep) when they want to bolt back to the set out, or toward their friends in the exhaust (whom they probably can't see, but they know they're there), and also keep the sheep for taking off, for example, to the gate to their night pasture (a problem with some of the sheep this past weekend).

 

As others have noted, the toughest part of the job is trying to hold the sheep consistently (when the sheep within the flock are inconsistent among themselves) so that every competitor has a fair chance, and to know when to let go. This is an important lesson for the set out dog as well. A couple of times this weekend, Pip got up when he shouldn't have, but in his defense the sets that happened with were ones that had been difficult to hold in the first place. The last thing you want to do as a set team is interefere with a run and cause the judge to have to give a re-run.

 

So you have to pay attention to the individual sheep within the packet and make sure you are prepared to deal with their idiosyncracies, which you've only had time to learn while moving the sheep from the pens to the set out point. This is more of an issue with flocks that have some individuals who clearly "march to their own tune." For example, this past weekend, dogs sent to the right who ran deep would drop out of sight behind the ridge just below which I was holding the sheep. The dogs most of the time came up over the ridge right at the correct spot. The sheep would watch the dog, and then bolt straight back in a direct line toward where the dog was going to come over the ridge. It was just 3-4 ewes who did this, but they did it pretty much every time. It made no sense. I could hold them at the set out spot, but at some point I'd have to move my dog out of the line the competing dog would be taking to complete a proper lift and fetch, and each time that group of sheep would take off (and usually come face to face with the competing dog as it came up over the hill--which then caused the sheep to bolt in another direction, usually left back toward the set out). This is just one example of the type of thing you might deal with, and I expect that in your location, you're more likely to be setting with smaller farm flocks rather than from large flocks that rarely see a dog (other than a predator) or human.

 

As Mark noted, setting for the novice classes is usally more difficult usually because the dogs are more often wrong on their outruns or lifts and the distances are so much shorter (which also gives the set out person less time and space to get the sheep settled).

 

As for the set out dog, I use only dogs who are either running or working at the open level. It's not a place for training because you are supposed to be having as little effect on the sheep as possible, and if you're having to correct or train on your dog, you're influencing the status of the sheep, even if it's only a subtle influence. I think the dog needs to know its job well enough that you can set sheep with minimal commands. I don't want to be talking to my dog while the competing dog is trying to lift the sheep as it could be a distraction for the competing dog or, at worst, the competing dog could listen to your commands. And I certainly don't want to have to shout or whistle at my dog while there's another dog on the field. I think the best set out is the one that is NOT remarked on by the handlers, because it means that you were seen but not heard, so to speak. If I have to use a less experienced dog (after all, the dog has to gain experience somewhere before it's, well, experienced), I will do so for the novice classes, but because these classes actually present their own difficulties because of the nature of the competition, my inexperienced dog still needs to be well trained enough to handle any problems that might arise.

 

I rarely trial the dog I'm using for set out. I've done so in the past, but I think it's a bit unfair to the dog to ask it to put in a 10-hr or longer day and sometime in the middle of all that go down and put in a stellar run. I don't think it's a physical issue so much as a mental one (that is, physically the dog could handle running to course while also setting sheep all day, but mentally the dog has been working very hard reading and working *every* set of sheep that comes out on the field and also has had to pick up the wrecks that end up back at the set out, as well as move the whole flock as it needs to be shifted back up the field and put back in the set out pens--again, a small farm flock issue where sheep have to be re-run throughout the course of the trial--and I just don't think the dog can be on top of its game on the trial field after doing that sort of work). Specifically, if I had to point to one trial activity that is most affected by set out, I'd say it's the shed. If I've spent 40 runs asking my dog to hold the sheep to me quietly and then I turn around and run that dog and get to the shedding ring and then ask to dog to come through the sheep, it's a big paradigm shift for the dog. It's not that the dog can't do it, but I find that even my great shedding dogs are a bit slower/less sharp on their sheds when they've been setting sheep beforehand.

 

Another rarer issue I've had is that if for some reason I'm competing and the set out person is still working the sheep (for whatever reason, sometimes valid, sometimes not), my dogs are reluctant to take the sheep away from the other dog working them. I think this is a very real side effect of having been taught to let the other dog have the sheep over and over again while setting out at a trial, even when things go to hell and every fiber screams to them "Stop those sheep!" Fortunately running into situations where the set out person is moving his/her dog around actively working the sheep when my dog gets to the top is pretty rare.

 

Oh, I also wanted to note that when I set sheep, I stay still and my dogs stays down until the competing dog has moved the sheep down the field beyond us. That may seem elemetary, but I've seen plenty of situations where the sheep bolt one way or another, sometimes because the dog is wrong and sometimes not (again, I'm generally referring to farm flocks here), and the next thing you know, the set out dog is between where the sheep are where the competing dog needs to take them. My dogs know to stay still, not interfere, and just let the competing dog work around them. I think that's the best policy for not influencing a run for better or worse when the lift has gone badly for whatever reason. And it's up to the judge to judge accordingly if the lift ends up being at a point where the sheep now have to skirt around my dog to be on line to the post.

 

J.

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Oh, in answer to your question about affect on your trialing dog, the only other real issue I've had is that if for some reason I'm competing and the set out person is still working the sheep (for whatever reason, sometimes valid, sometimes not), my dogs are reluctant to take the sheep away from the other dog working them. I think this is a very real side effect of having been taught to let the other dog have the sheep over and over again while setting out at a trial, even when things go to hell and every fiber screams to them "Stop those sheep!"

This is what happens to Lou, too. If he sees the set-out dog and person actively working the sheep, he might stop and just 'hold his side' or something. As Julie said, it's rare for the spotter to be moving his dog around a lot, but sometimes it happens and it might take a few whistles or hollers for Lou to get moving again.

 

The only other issue I have with using my trial dog to set is that setting brings out his eye. I try not to set before our run, but sometimes that's the assignment you get. In our local trials, Open handlers are asked to set maybe 5 or 6 runs per day, so not enough to wear out your dog, but often enough to get Lou really eye'ed up.

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Kristi,

Your comment about eye is one of the reasons I've not used Lark for set out before this past weekend. As a dog who is clappy because of too much eye, I've always thought that setting sheep would just exacerbate the problem. But I'm not trialing right now anyway, and I wanted to save Pip (who is having intermittent, as-yet undiagnosed lameness issues) for open, so Lark got tapped for the job. But it is definitely a concern for dogs that might have problems with too much eye.

 

J.

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If I'm not careful, both of my dogs will get more hyped and will slice their flanks while setting sheep. This can happen with mental fatigue. Naturally wide dogs will flank off when they get mentally fatigued putting them farther and farther away from where you need them to be to stop sheep making a break for it.

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This can happen with mental fatigue. Naturally wide dogs will flank off when they get mentally fatigued putting them farther and farther away from where you need them to be to stop sheep making a break for it.

This is the problem I'd have with Twist at the end of a long day of setting difficult sheep. It's easier to deal with the sliciness than the wideness in such situations, I think.

 

J.

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