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Holding a line

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Happy New Year!


From 'turning the post' question you say, 'If your dog has done sound drive training, it ought to be able to help you hold that line, once you have established where you are headed.'


Will you please expand on this? What does it mean for a dog to hold a line--what does the dog do to help?


Are there reasons you would not want a dog helping you hold a line? I've run into a few folks over the years that have come down on me for saying I expect this help from my dogs. And I'm not clear why it might not be a good idea.


Most importantly, what are some ways you use train this skill?


Thanks. I've enjoyed reading your responses and appreciate you taking your time for 'Ask an Expert'.

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I have watched hands teaching driving with disregard for what the sheep are doing, they pour their concentration on the dog and forget the sheep, wanting the dog only to fall in behind their stock. Such dogs have to wonder where they are headed with the sheep, the sheep wandering in big arcs. I never let that happen. My dogs always understand, or come to do, where we are going with a line.

From the beginning of driving, I share the dog’s concentration on the sheep and keep the dog in my peripheral view. When the sheep stray from the line, I can give my small flanks and show the dog how to hold in a clear direction. When they pass behind me, I use the word steady for my chosen line, when my dog is in the right place to take the sheep on my chosen route. I step out of the way and bring them on a slight inside flank and away we go. I go short distances and then turn, a precise turn. I say steady and assume a new line. I go about forty yards and turn again, another precise turn. I say steady and take up a new line. My dogs understand surprisingly quickly, where we are headed. They love to make sense out of line holding. My last couple of trainees have nearly hugged themselves after a flank "I knew she was going to say that!". Sometimes I can let my more mature ones drive on their own. It is disappointing to see that they do a better job, than when I am part of the equation. Often, you can see one of my dogs list before I have an idea to ask it to do, and improve upon a line I was holding. I love it when that happens. A little thrill. Very clever. I am not such a great handler and I need good helpful dogs to get by.

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