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A bit above my dog budget too...

I was very lucky with my current one though, got her a year old, great pedigree, and great personality, untrained but talented, for free!

Whether we will ever make "open" level is another question :lol:

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

There's tremendous demand for UK dogs in europe and scandinavia and prices are often higher than we see here.

 

The gene pools are, for all practical purposes, identical. Training methods are, for all practical purposes, identical.

 

The advantage the British dogs have over ours (and fewer and fewer British dogs have it) is practical work. A dog with a hill/moor lambing under its paws will be wiser than one that has been trained w/o benefit of difficult intense practical work. And, in my view, should command a higher price.

 

I once trailed sheep with a Montana rancher who worked four dogs with whistles, voice and hand signals. These dogs had never been asked to be trial precise and never been asked to shed. I'd rather have one of those dogs than a dog whose life has been training and trialing.

 

Donald McCaig

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I can understand the business of starting dogs off and selling them on as a useful worker.

 

I can understand a farmer wanting to buy a dog that should be immediately useful.

 

I can understand weighting the odds of getting a good dog in your favour by buying a pup from good working lines.

 

But what I can't understand is where the satisfaction would be in buying a trained dog to compete in trials with. Isn't the satisfaction in travelling the road to excellence together?

 

The advantage the British dogs have over ours (and fewer and fewer British dogs have it) is practical work.

 

Why do you think that is? Is the popularity of trialling partly to blame? Trials started off as a side issue to the real business of work but now there is a lot of money in it for the owners of the most successful dogs.

 

Trials originated as a test of a working dog, not a test of a competition dog. Are there really trial dogs that don't have a proper job? What is the point of that?

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Why do you think that is? Is the popularity of trialling partly to blame? Trials started off as a side issue to the real business of work but now there is a lot of money in it for the owners of the most successful dogs.

 

Trials originated as a test of a working dog, not a test of a competition dog. Are there really trial dogs that don't have a proper job? What is the point of that?

Your question was about the availability of practical work. Donald's point is that in the UK shepherding is still very much a way of life, there is still a hill and there are large flocks where dogs can gain a lot of practical experience.

 

I raise sheep, but here in the east we are limited by high land prices (pasture is tough to come by) and so I can't keep large numbers, nor to they range over large open spaces. My dogs can get practical work, but it's not the same sort of practical work as a dog might get in the hills of the UK or the US western range. I imagine there are parts of the UK that are more like what I experience here, and the practical work those dogs get is not the same as what they would get on "the hill."

 

As for trial dogs who don't have a proper job, I think you know the answer. There are a lot of sports out there that have NO correlation with any real work. Would you ask what is point of any of them? But of course border collies are still used for practical work too, so the situation is a little different from other dog sports. And yes, trialing is a sport. It has roots that are different from those of other sports, but it's a sport all the same.

 

That said, *most* people are not making a living solely by trialing and selling dogs. The rest of the folks probably trial for the same reason you do (in agility): because it's challenging and they enjoy the competition. One could even argue that at least the trialing folks are tapping into the raison d'etre of their dogs....

 

J.

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Ms Mum wonders "where the satisfaction would be in buying a trained dog to compete in trials with. Isn't the satisfaction in travelling the road to excellence together?"

 

Uh, er... I don't understand the satisfaction anyone might get running for President, but some do.

 

And, perhaps more pertinently she wonders why fewer British dogs sold as trial dogs have had practical work. She is better placed than I am to answer that. In my half dozen visits to the UK since 1988, the removal of subsidies and the mad cow/hoof & mouth panics have changed British agriculture dramatically. In short, there are fewer traditional working shepherds and they are expected to do quicker work (motorbikes, ATVs) on bigger flocks.

 

Thirty years ago, the US offered maybe a dozen trials, scandinavia and europe none. Demand for the dogs has expanded even as hill trained dogs have become fewer. Instead of the shepherd who keeps a few extra dogs to sell on, I've met British trainers who keep several dozen dogs to train up and resell to farmers, trial men and for export.

 

Their sheep are only incidently economic.

 

Donald McCaig

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I have had this very friendly discussion about the "real life" work many times. I agree that with a few exceptions, the overseas dogs and handlers have the advantage. Add the centuries of working in that type of life, it is a much deeper knowledge. For the most part anyway. To me it is like so many other fields. There are exceptional dressage trainers and horses here in the US. But there are more in Europe.

 

Now as far as why to buy a trained dog. I also teach riding lessons. My focus is on learning all there is, not just to show. My invaluable partners in crime are my school horses. The ones that allow my students to feel when they do it right. The ones that allow my students to put the instructions and the horses reaction together for the whole picture.

I love to train. I live to learn. I love to figure stuff out. I have never owned a trained dog. And I have loved the journey. I just added a young dog to my bunch that is trained through nursery. It has helped me so much to understand the connections, the how it can/is supposed to feel like. It helps me bring along my other dogs. And I have the feeling that is exactly what the op is looking for.

Personally, I will always prefer to do all the work with the help of a trainer. But adding my boy has sure made a huge difference.

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Plus, at this point I just would like to add, a school master (dog or horse) will only add to the whole picture. He will not be the whole picture. He will bring his own challenges.

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Plus, at this point I just would like to add, a school master (dog or horse) will only add to the whole picture. He will not be the whole picture. He will bring his own challenges.

Yep, and this is why I pointed out the OP that choosing the best dog for *you* (the general you) is important. Others have said similar things. If there's not a connection, or your training/trialing personality doesn't match the dog's training needs, you're likely setting yourself and the dog up for failure. If you're not a strong trainer and you purchase a really hard, pushy dog, things aren't going to go well. If you're the type of person with a lot of presence, or are someone who tends toward yelling or similar, a dog with a softer nature is not likely to reach (or maintain) its potential with you. Of course you will still learn from any type dog, and that learning may be invaluable, but what you learn from a dog who is a poor match may not exactly meet your original goals, and you may make yourself and the dog miserable in the process.

 

J.

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Your question was about the availability of practical work. Donald's point is that in the UK shepherding is still very much a way of life, there is still a hill and there are large flocks where dogs can gain a lot of practical experience.

 

I was asking why he thought there were "fewer and fewer" dogs here gaining practical experience.

 

As for trial dogs who don't have a proper job, I think you know the answer. There are a lot of sports out there that have NO correlation with any real work. Would you ask what is point of any of them? But of course border collies are still used for practical work too, so the situation is a little different from other dog sports. And yes, trialing is a sport. It has roots that are different from those of other sports, but it's a sport all the same.

 

But those who participate in other sports don't usually insist on the necessity to keep the breed as a purely working dog. And they don't express the view that the only dogs worth breeding from are those that do well in Open trials, as some do on here.

 

There's no real point in any hobby except the satisfaction an individual gains from it and it could be argued that there is no point in trialling as a sport without also demonstrating the practical application of skills in the real world.

 

Trialling for its own sake could be as potentially damaging to the breed in the long run as any other activity the breed is used for. That's not just my opinion as an observer from the sidelines, I have heard it said by a couple of people who know far more about working dogs than I do (not hard, I know. As you say, trialling bears more resemblance to what the breed was intended to do than other sports but it is formulaic and limited in the set tasks, from what I have seen. Do you not find that some dogs perform well in tasks that they have done hundreds of times before in a very similar way but have more difficulty when faced with a completely new situation?

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Their sheep are only incidently economic.

 

I don't think I've ever heard a sheep farmer say there's money in them here, however many they have - and that's going back long, long before the last foot and mouth outbreak.

 

They still raise them though.

 

It's very true that quad bikes are used a lot, but one of their uses is to get the dogs from place to place. Amazing how they manage to stay on.

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Do you not find that some dogs perform well in tasks that they have done hundreds of times before in a very similar way but have more difficulty when faced with a completely new situation?

One could ask the same question of farm dogs and the answer would be dependent upon the size and terrain of the farm and the livestock management methods used on that farm. A farm dog on a 50-100 acre farm with smaller fenced pastures will have significantly different bredth of skills than a farm dog where the livestock is pastured on 100s of acres with minimal cross fencing. Management of the livestock, once gathered, can vary signifcanlty from farm to farm; dogs used to sort stock will have more skills than dogs used to push stock into a pen attached to a handling system.

 

Trialing has the same issues. If all you run on are dog broke/training sheep on small fields with easy terrain or only at a few venues, the dogs are not gaining much experience. However, if you go to many venues with varying terrain with sheep of varying temperament the dogs are gaining breadth of experience from which skills are developed.

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Trialling for its own sake could be as potentially damaging to the breed in the long run as any other activity the breed is used for. That's not just my opinion as an observer from the sidelines, I have heard it said by a couple of people who know far more about working dogs than I do (not hard, I know. As you say, trialling bears more resemblance to what the breed was intended to do than other sports but it is formulaic and limited in the set tasks, from what I have seen. Do you not find that some dogs perform well in tasks that they have done hundreds of times before in a very similar way but have more difficulty when faced with a completely new situation?

This is not a new argument you're making. You probably aren't on many sheepdog forums, but this is a topic that comes up a lot. Yes, dogs bred solely for trialing could change the breed. Will they do more damage than dogs bred for activities *other than* trialing? Probably not, because at least trials test the basic skills the dog must have to do basic tasks at home. But certainly you will find people saying that, for example, AKC trials are a poor test of a dog because they aren't very difficult, are run on sheep that know the drill, etc.

 

I don't get the argument about limited in the set of tasks, though. Penning sheep at a trial is the equivalent of getting them to go through a gate--it doesn't matter if that gate leads to a pen, another field, a barn stall, a handling system, or a trailer. The skills needed are essentially the same. A freestanding pen is probably more difficult than many of the examples I just gave, but if the dog can put the sheep in a pen on the trial field, it ought to also be able to do all those other tasks listed. Likewise, the other tasks one encounters at a trial. At home, I gather the sheep (usually either to get them out of one field or to bring them to me so I can catch and treat, trim, shear, etc.), I drive them off in some direction (e.g., away from the feed bunks while I'm putting out feed, or through the woods a mile from one pasture to another, or from one open graze to another; I put them through gates or into pens as explained above; or I sort one or more off from the others for whatever reason. There really are no others tasks we do that would fall into some other category than gathering, driving, holding, or penning.

 

For example, right now I have the ewes with their month-old lambs grazing a pasture with one of my rams. At night I move them back to another pasture that is more secure and has shelter for them. In the evening, I use a dog to gather them up from the ram's pasture (outrun, lift fetch), I sort the ram off (shed/single), I push the ewes and lambs through the gate into the night pasture (driving and penning) and drive them well away from the feeders. I put out feed and ask the dog who is holding them away (having driven them off) to go around and bring them back to the feed. Many evenings, I let them back out to graze the yard. I then go out after dark and close gates, after either gathering the ewes and lambs from around the yard, or if they've put themselves up, then I gather to do a head count). Next week a friend will be borrowing some sheep to do a demo. She will have to gather them out of a field, sort of the ones she wants, load them on the trailer, unload them, and so on. All of these things are tasks that are tested on the trial field. Gathering is gathering, the only real difference being the size of the field. Driving is driving. Sorting is sorting, and penning is penning.

 

Your last statement/question is the very reason that some people consider trials important. A dog that does the same task hundreds of times on his own fields and with stock he knows (and that know him) is probably going to do a very creditable job. He should--it's routine to him (and to the stock). Take him out of his familiar routine, though, to a different field on stock he doesn't know and suddenly the routine doesn't count for a whole lot and you'll have a better test of the dog. Take a dog from the eastern US that's used to working with farm flocks and try it out on range ewes. You'll soon find out what the dog is made of. And vice versa.

 

So yes, the trial layout is routine and stylized, and I'm sure dogs do learn that they need to take the sheep toward the gates or put them in the pen. The dog will even understand what the handler is doing when s/he's setting up a shed. BUT the big testing factor is the fact that the dog does not know the terrain, nor the stock, and those are the things that will end up truly testing a dog's mettle because the dog is going to have to take what it *does* know and "extrapolate" it to the new situation and new stock.

 

J.

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Hello, ObeytheBC

 

It looks like your original post has sparked a tangential discussion, so I just wanted to chime in to say that I have been the lucky recipient of a trained and experienced dog. I mucked around with my first dog who was very difficult for a beginner before being matched up with the *perfect* first dog. Rae was 8 when she came to me and we have had a very successful 3 years together, progressing from our start in PN to placing at Open trials. Some others have already given you great ideas as far as what to look for. I will just add that you need to be sure the dog doesn't need an Open handler to work appropriately. There are many dogs who would run over a new handler if given the opportunity. I'd recommend a dog that is biddable, relaxed, has good feel for it's sheep, good pace, and at least moderate eye (the last 3 qualities should allow a novice some extra thinking time). The problem can be finding such a dog, and as people have mentioned, an Open dog in it's prime is hard to come by and is not cheap. I'd definitely want to know why the dog is being sold, and hopefully the seller is open and sincere.

 

I absolutely suggest a retired dog! Or maybe a dog who might not have what it takes to be the next world-beater, but is otherwise a capable worker. If your goal is to trial, I'd suggest a dog who is at least experienced with the trial scene and who knows it's way around a course. Many dogs could run the lower classes pretty much on auto-pilot.

 

The USBCHA trials are starting to get going this time of the year. Maybe it would help to visit one and expand your contacts. That is a good way to get the word out to people who may be considering selling or placing a dog.

 

I see you are in VA, where? I am in the SW part and travel to many trials, as do lots of board members here. Maybe we'll see you down the road sometime.

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Two questions I would ask myself...

 

Do I want another dog?

 

What happens if I decide I am no longer interested in stock work?

 

I've read that people are only involved in a particular dog sport for an average of 3 years before they lose interest.

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But what I can't understand is where the satisfaction would be in buying a trained dog to compete in trials with. Isn't the satisfaction in travelling the road to excellence together?

 

 

 

For me, buying a trained dog is not about the satisfaction that I trained or trialed the dog, but is my opportunity to learn from the dog. My current dog (who turns a year old next week) will always know more than me about how to move stock. She will always understand the stock and how to shift her body best. She will always know more than me about what herding is and can be. It is in her mind, body and soul because it is what she does. Now, does that mean she knows what we are doing together - not completely, at least not in each exercise. That is the training part. But since these dogs have such an advantage over me, I need to learn somewhere.

 

Buying a fully trained dog gives me the oportunity to learn from the dog who knows supremely more than I do. It is a struggle to take a dog as a green as can be novice and teach it. My handling instructors teach me much, but it is the dog I learn from the most. My puppy has taught me a lot about patience and how to handle her; this dog will give me an oportunity to understand what my puppy and I should be doing. And that is why I am planning on purchasing a dog. Every chance I have had to work with an older, more experienced dog, teaches me how to handle myself, handle the stock, and handle the dog better. It teaches me what I should be doing and I in turn can be a better handler for my dog. Whether that be on the farm or in a trial field, whatever situation we may be in, it is about building a better team.

 

I am hoping that buy adding a trained dog that I can be better for my current and future dogs. I certainly do not plan on purchasing every dog as a trained dog and trial them - that would not hold satisfaction for me. I know that there is a long journey ahead for both dogs and myself - after all, I am the novice in the trained dog relationship - and that is what I am looking forward to.

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Hello, ObeytheBC

 

It looks like your original post has sparked a tangential discussion, so I just wanted to chime in to say that I have been the lucky recipient of a trained and experienced dog. I mucked around with my first dog who was very difficult for a beginner before being matched up with the *perfect* first dog. Rae was 8 when she came to me and we have had a very successful 3 years together, progressing from our start in PN to placing at Open trials. Some others have already given you great ideas as far as what to look for. I will just add that you need to be sure the dog doesn't need an Open handler to work appropriately. There are many dogs who would run over a new handler if given the opportunity. I'd recommend a dog that is biddable, relaxed, has good feel for it's sheep, good pace, and at least moderate eye (the last 3 qualities should allow a novice some extra thinking time). The problem can be finding such a dog, and as people have mentioned, an Open dog in it's prime is hard to come by and is not cheap. I'd definitely want to know why the dog is being sold, and hopefully the seller is open and sincere.

 

I absolutely suggest a retired dog! Or maybe a dog who might not have what it takes to be the next world-beater, but is otherwise a capable worker. If your goal is to trial, I'd suggest a dog who is at least experienced with the trial scene and who knows it's way around a course. Many dogs could run the lower classes pretty much on auto-pilot.

 

The USBCHA trials are starting to get going this time of the year. Maybe it would help to visit one and expand your contacts. That is a good way to get the word out to people who may be considering selling or placing a dog.

 

I see you are in VA, where? I am in the SW part and travel to many trials, as do lots of board members here. Maybe we'll see you down the road sometime.

 

 

 

Thank you for your advice - well, thank you all for your advice - the post certainly ran on several tangents I had not been expecting.

 

I do agree with many thoughts here - I have been looking for pretty much what was described here and I agree that it is not easy to find. I have been searching for quite a while and the dog I am referring to in this post is actually the first dog that really has caught my eye and seems (in writing) to match what I have been looking for. He is a trial seasoned, well trained, biddable dog that, on video, does not seem to have too much eye or too much power that I will be run over by. Now, no dog is perfect so I doubt that he is, but so far, everything I have asked, read, and seen via video matches me. He is not retired, and is fairly young for a trial dog.

 

I am headed to meet the trainer/handler and dog in one week and bring the dog home with me for the 30 day trial period. From there we will see. See if the dog will even work for me, if he fits in with my life, my training and my world. If he isn't a fit, then it is back to looking, but if he is, then I will see you all on the trial field (EVENTUALLY - MAYBE).

 

Again, I thank you for all the advice on what to look for. Any advice on what I should be doing during this 30 day trial period or even about introducing a dog that has been the only dog for 6 1/2 months to it's new housemate would be appreciated. I am excited for the coming time - even if he is not a fit, it will be a lesson to me on housing a different dog and an experience for looking in the future.

 

Edit: I am in the Southeastern part of Virginia (about 40 minutes from the beach).

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  • 1 month later...

I wanted to give another thanks to all of those who answered here. I am coming up on the 30th day of my trial period with "Beck". I have decided to purchase him as he has been exactly what I was looking for. He actually started working for me the day after I brought him home, will take my corrections when he knows I mean it, and, in our time together, has already started teaching me so much. As I said, I am a very green novice and I know, with this dog, I will go far in learning how to be a better handler and better trainer. He is really the exact dog I was looking for and I could not be happier. I am looking forward to a long partnership with him and, one day, hope to see and meet many of you out there on the trial field. Thanks again and I am sure I will have plenty of questions and requests for suggestions in the future.

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I've also enjoyed this thread (and I've also been advised to purchase a trained dog for my second dog, as I muddle my way through training my not-yet-to-novice-level dog, with the help of a very competent handler). Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I wish you and "Beck" the very best of successes!

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