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Back in the (proverbial) saddle


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Since about a week Gláma and I are back into training with sheep after a five month long winter stop. I really like how she is doing, but as a pretty inexperienced handler I find it difficult to make a realistic assessment.


I got Gláma a year ago, she was about a year old then (so makes her two now).

A great pedigree, but completely untrained, hardly even knew her name, but a pretty smart dog, biddable, and as I discovered last fall a good talent for stockwork.


We trained for about three months then (September/October/November), and she learned to fetch, nicely wide running, learned her flanks, we got to off balance work, and got to the point where wee were beginning to drive. That was something that needed (and still needs) some convincing.


Her "come by" side is best, if I send her too far "away to me" there is a pretty good change she´ll cross over (she often thinks she knows better than I, often she is right...).

Stockwork commands she knows more or less now are come by, away to me, down, walk in, get out, get back, steady, that´ll do.


The sheep I use at the moment is a group of eleven Icelandic yearlings, undogged, were never worked in their life. Gláma took firm control of them. In the beginning some of the sheep would challenge her, but Gláma resolved that by eye alone, she usually backs up from the offending ewe, and stares, which does the trick.

Grips do occur sometimes, but that´s in high pressure, tight corner situations, and we are talking about the occasional mouthful of wool, nothing vicious.


The sheep though they start to get somewhat dogged, are still fast and flighty.

This poses problems for pace on wearing as well as driving, and as I said our driving is in its beginning stages. I did some succesful flanking on the drive, but it´s a fine line, it happens (too) often I give the "down" command too late, causing Gláma to blow me off, and go all the way fetching.


So I try to work on getting things to move a bit slower, my question is, am I worrying too much. The sheep, have just been worked for little more than a week, should I just keep my cool until they are more dogged?

Gláma is starting to understand what "steady" means but she often needs some stickwaving before she actually slows down...If she doesn´t obey I down her, this seems to work, there is progression.


An other question is about the drive, some forum members seem to value "holding the line" a lot, and implement this from the very beginning (if I understood right). I am actually very happy when we are both at the same side of the sheep and actually driving with me behind/to the side of the dog. I am not too concerned with the direction. We have still some way to go for reliable flanks during the drive.


For those familiar with it, I am following the method in Vergil Hollands book, I would say we are somewhere in his "intermediate stages of herding training" chapter. We are not tying to follow it by the letter, but we are following the general guidelines. For instance for some exercises in this chapter like the one for maintaining work radius, our sheep are too unsteady, so I am saving those for a later stage.


So that is our training status in a nut shell. The goals this summer are getting a better pace, improving the "away" outruns, driving well. And when and if that all comes together, maybe some trial next fall.

Oh yeah, I would like to get a grasp on using whistles, that would be very useful.


Well, as always any comments and tips would be appreciated.


Nb. For those wondering, I have found a pet home for Táta . Her new owner told me recently she took to family life as a fish to water. I should change my avatar.

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Hey guy,




I am not a trainer but I do know one thing, it is importent to train on the right kind of sheep, sometimes, to get a point across.


The Icelandics I have get dog broke and heavy pretty fast.


When Patrick taught me how to drive Sweep he wasn't that big on holding a line at first. As we progressed Patrick and Maggi told me to use the draw to teach the dog about the pressure. So we would create draws.


It seemed that for Sweep when I finally got the idea of pace better the dog held lines better.



Taw was way easier as she is a driving fool.


Sounds like you are doing great!

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Thanks you two, of course I was looking for a little pad on the back... :lol:


Here in Iceland Tea, Icelandic sheep is all there is, no import of other breeds. Also the regulations for buying and selling sheep are pretty draconian, this means buying some dogged sheep is impossible. Work with what you got!


The sheep I use now are very light (they completely stopped challenging Gláma), and I expect them to stay that way for some time. After the fall roundup I plan do train on the group of sheep I used last fall, they should be nicely dogged, and good for exercises that require a group of sheep that do not run for the hills the moment they see an opening. I will then also dog the lambs that are selected to become producers.


Around that time Gláma and I should have gained experience as we will have done a lot of pretty difficult work in the hills.


Of course you are right Maja, a movie would make this topic way more interesting, but I lack an acceptable camera (you don´t want to see the 30 s. clips we shot with a Nokia phone...), and the skills to use it.


Also to be honest I am a bit self conscious, call it shy, to put my amateur performance out in the open, the net is a very public space...


Nb Tea, I saw your question in the expert section, I should worry about special commands for half flanks now? I just give a flank command followed by a down/stop if I don´t want the dog to go all the way...Making the dog realize right away she just has to go halfway does make a lot of sense.

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