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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Perhaps Pam Wolf is defending her own practice. I knew Pam slightly many years ago when we both attended Jack Knox Clinics at Ethel Conrad's. As I recall, she did some trialing in those days. She may no longer do so; I don't know. Not having watched her instruct nor met any of her students I have no opinion about her methods nor ability. I hope she is "the non-trialing trainer who CAN get the best out of a student's dog and doesn't care 2cents about going to a trial is a gem and hard to find"

 

Such trainers are hard to find. I know none personally nor do I know any by reputation. Some of this may be because of how we sheepdoggers learn. While training books can be more-or-less helpful, I don't know any capable pronovice handler who learned from a book. I do know a couple ranchers with extensive livestock experience who attended two clinics and were thereafter able to handle their own dogs on hundreds/thousands of ewes. Neither, however, hung out a shingle.

 

I believe we learn by mentoring and we mentor others in turn. That all-important first mentor is largely a matter of proximity and luck. I know handlers who wasted four or five years with a poor mentor, others who hit on a good one and were trialing in open in the same time period.

 

The mentoring relationship is very strong. The mentor's jokes are funnier, his/her dogs are likely to sire the student's second dog and some mentors (not all or even most, thank goodness) keep their students ignorant of other possibilities because they need their admiration and respect. Some probably need the money too.

 

 

So why is trialing so important? Pam's right. There's no "logical" reason someone can't get the very best out of a sheepdog (his or another's) without trialing. There is, however, a cultural reason and it comes right back to mentoring.

 

Mentoring never stops. No handler trainer is ever so skilled he can't/won't learn from another. Understanding of the dogs changes - it has changed from those first Ethel Conrad clinics to today. Clappy dogs have been in and out of favor, as have loose-eyed and sheep kindly dogs. In those bad old days, very, very few top handlers knew how to shed and if you wanted Ralph Pulfer to come to your trial, you didn't offer a shed.

 

One learns by teaching - it's one of the reasons I - sans shingle - do it. But one learns more importantly from those who are as good or better than I am, whether such learning is formal (coaching/clinics) or informal: "Why'd you give that flank, Donald? Your dog had them."

 

A

 

Donald McCaig

I'm not sure that mentoring need come from trialing only, nor that trialing is the only 'cultural' way of learning good stock work. Tru IF someone is training primarily for trials, then the best mentoring comes from trialing. However if the mentoring (or instructing or whatever) is geared more towards GOOD farm work, then for the most the nuances of trials don't matter one bit. Good stock work is simply good stock work (and the original purposes of trials was to pick out the best stock work-although I am not sure it does any more). Straight lines are good because the stock travels less distance. Driving is helpful and penning necessary-the better means less work and less stress on the stock. And knowledge of good stock work (and making oneself familiar with the rules of whatever organization is promoting the trials)will enable someone who so desires to trial as successfully as they are capable

 

As far as calling someone who would intentionally limit a student's knowledge by not allowing them to learn from others, then I would NOT call them a mentor but rather an instructor (more dedicated to $$ than quality perhaps-and afraid someone might just learn what the 'instructor' doesn't know)

 

And Julie is correct, the beginner doesn't know how to find a good instructor, it is a matter of trial (pun intended)and error. To the newbie, look around, ask for references, go watch a few people instruct and work dogs. Too often I've known people who trial but don't really use their dogs on the farm outside a training/trial situation.

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Since Pam has started giving me training advice, some of the best handlers in the country have pulled me aside and complimented me on my dogs. Several of them have said specifically that they can tell my dogs are not just trained for trials, but for practical farm work first and foremost. (One said he was happy to see a well rounded dog like mine on the trial field.) Now, if their pathetic trainer/handler can just react more quickly and not be such an airhead, they will be all set.

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Hum, Diane, Do I know these persons? I guess not if they don't come to our trials.

 

BTW Diane is a cool person and I love her dogs!

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ah Diane, you speak of the "professional Novice" we have those in USBCHA trials too. It is easy to stay at the novice levels and even earn many year end awards from doing so, yet that does not mean one can train above a novice level, nor does it mean they cannot-depends on the individual-

But in my experience, those professional novices stay there because they cannot train at higher levels

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.....there can be people who trial here and there but yet know how to train/work a dog and stock or maybe have a farm or a ranch but don't trial very much and when they do, they run in Novice....I am not speaking of those as they actually have an idea of what it is all about but I am speaking of those who have a few lessons under their belt and then "know it all"....those are the ones who 'hang out a shingle" whether it be in person or online training.....

 

We have our Professional Novice too.....peer pressure around here, get them to move up.

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Some compare "farm training" with "trial training" as if there's a difference. I don't know what that might be.

 

I have seen top trial dogs who would be less useful on a particular farm and ranch with a particular rancher than the farm/ranch dogs he already has: for a month or so while the top trial dog figures out the routine and that when the farmer says, "Go round, you sumbitch", he means "Come bye". Since routine work is very much easier and more relaxing for the dog than trial work, soon enough that trial dog would be at least as good at the routine work and better at the unpredictable work every farm dog sometimes has to do.

 

The contrary is not true: I have never seen a dog come straight off the farm or range into a trial and do well. Trialing is very much harder than farm work. It was designed to be harder.

 

 

I know a couple dozen farmers and ranchers who use dogs but don't trial. All of them have attended at least one clinic, all have been mentored by trial folk. None - not one - can do as much with their dogs as the average open trial handler. There is no "culture" training or working farm dogs unless you live near or work for a farmer/rancher who uses dogs. The peruvian herders working my Montana rancher (5000 ewes) friend's dogs weren't as good with their dogs as the average pronovice trial handler and were far more likely to neglect a dog or get it killed.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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The reason I distinguish the two is that I've seen too many trial dogs (some winners) that cannot take a group of my sheep into the bottom field without loosing them in the woods.

 

Tru the BEST trial dogs are work dogs first-but unfortunately trials have grown so much more and more trial dogs exist.

 

There should be no difference between farm work and trial work-that's my point. Good work is simply good work, and one does not have to trial to know how to do good work. Those tasks defined by traditional Border Collie trials are useful on the farm and a dog trained to do them to a high degree is a very 'useful dog.

 

And one does not need to trial to understand the nuances of trials

 

Just happens I've been around good farmers who actually use their dogs to a high level. And while there are many chores on a farm/ranch that are routine, the best can still get the job done when the sheep escapes from the local locker and the neighborhood dogs are chasing it and kids running around, not to mention a few cars here and there. Or the Vet who uses his dog to gather a herd of cattle that haven't been dog broke and not gathered in 4 years. There are good farm dogs and more stockmen on farms.

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Donald, there are trial people out there who run the same course with the same sheep at home over and over and over again. They are teaching their dogs to run a course, not necessarily how to handle stock. When the shit hits the fan in a trial setting, their dogs can't get things back on track. I never said those people were the good handlers or running at the National level, but there are plenty of them out there.

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It would be nice if those in this conversation would perhaps qualify what they mean by "trial dogs". There is a great variety of dogs that can be given the very vague label "trial dog" - from the novice novice dog that barely gets around the course (if at all) to the top Natl Finals dogs doing double lifts of 600-800 yards. Some "trial dogs" are AKC A course experts with really good obedience, knee knocker sheep and not a lick of talent or ability. All it really takes to be a "trial dog" is someone willing to pony up an entry fee.

 

When i see people like Pam Wolf say "The reason I distinguish the two is that I've seen too many trial dogs (some winners) that cannot take a group of my sheep into the bottom field without loosing them in the woods", i always wonder what sort of "trial dogs" you're talking about, and what sort of "winners".

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"Trials" and "trial dogs" are not all the same.

 

Lots of trials with dead broke stock on small fields.

 

Plenty of chore work on ranches that is not that tough.

 

There are also trials on big courses with un dogged sheep.

 

Plenty of ranch work that is physically and mentally demanding.

 

I have seen dogs and hands that could lay down a run on the field and not be able to put sheep away or set them well. These are NOT top hands or dogs that do well in tough trials, but it is a sad thing to witness at a dog trial.

 

I also see dogs that can barely move 4 head of sheep win dog trials. Not always easy ones either.

 

To say that those dogs can come to a ranch and pull 500 lambs out of the neighbors alfalfa is simply not true.

 

It makes me mad to see sweeping generalizations based on very little first hand experience. Trial or ranch.

 

If you want to talk about "trial dogs" step to the post, and i don't mean at some arena or tiny field.

 

If you want to speak about how easy ranch work is then pay some dues, and i don't mean talking about what you saw others do.

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Was thinking about this topic last night, over the last 8 years since we became exposed to stockdog trialling and formal training we have met quite a few that offer lessons, we do it ourselves, though what we do has evolved, it's more of a sharing of what we have learned and offering people the opportunity to train their own dogs with us, I suppose it's a bit of a mentoring vs. actual instructing.

 

Some don't like our process, they want to be told what to do and when to do it, kinda like the types that go through obedience classes everytime they get a new dog coming to class with a dog that is no better prepared then the first one. It's always interesting to me when someone who takes lessons does't think about what they are going to be doing and working on outside of the drive to and from the lesson. It sounds strange, but I've run into that alot, it is like the only time they think about stock work is when they are thinking about going to their lesson, no drive to learn more, do more, understand more, the assumption is that they will learn all they will ever need to know at the lesson, kinda weird deal, especially since my personal expirence was different, the desire to understand consumed me, I still wake up in the middle of the night with my mind going 100 mph trying to problem solve or rerunning a situation through my head trying to see what I am missing.

 

What I have discovered is that the people on the paying end want different things and will gravitate toward the instructor the offers them what they want. With some it is more about being part of a group then what is actually being taught or learned and success is measured by how individuals progress using other group members as a measuring stick vs. the outside world.

 

There are very few that actually want to follow the mentoring method of learning, also very few that are looking toward what we do as something that they really want to understand and learn, they just want to do it and say that they did it. So in those cases their money is better spent with someone that is going to tell them what to do and when to do it along with setting up courses and livestock in a fashion that nearly guarantees success.

 

The biggest frustration I have is those that have no desire to understand livestock, even in the most simple terms of simple cause and effect. The second biggest is those that don't have any interest in understand why their dog did what it did. I guess it's the difference between wanting to understand how to do something and be as good as you can be and wanting to just do something and being happy with what ever happens.

 

Anyway, I used to be bothered by those that never seemed to be able to accomplish what they are trying to teach, but then I realized that many of those going to those people don't care, those that want more soon figure it out and move on until they find what they are looking for, either in a instructor or in themselves.

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Donald, there are trial people out there who run the same course with the same sheep at home over and over and over again. They are teaching their dogs to run a course, not necessarily how to handle stock. When the shit hits the fan in a trial setting, their dogs can't get things back on track. I never said those people were the good handlers or running at the National level, but there are plenty of them out there.
[emphasis mine]

 

YES!! I see quite a bit of that around here. People want to come and use my sheep (fine), but I always have to warn them that my fences are NOT sheep-proof. I sort sheep off for them, move them to a pasture, and then point out the specific places in that pasture where the sheep will race to, given the chance, to escape to go back to the rest of the flock. I would say more often than not, they lose their sheep (and I end up sending one of my dogs into the orange or avocado grove to find them).

 

and:

"Trials" and "trial dogs" are not all the same.

 

Lots of trials with dead broke stock on small fields.

 

Plenty of chore work on ranches that is not that tough.

 

There are also trials on big courses with un dogged sheep.

 

Plenty of ranch work that is physically and mentally demanding.

 

I have seen dogs and hands that could lay down a run on the field and not be able to put sheep away or set them well. These are NOT top hands or dogs that do well in tough trials, but it is a sad thing to witness at a dog trial.

 

I also see dogs that can barely move 4 head of sheep win dog trials. Not always easy ones either.

 

To say that those dogs can come to a ranch and pull 500 lambs out of the neighbors alfalfa is simply not true.

 

It makes me mad to see sweeping generalizations based on very little first hand experience. Trial or ranch.

 

If you want to talk about "trial dogs" step to the post, and i don't mean at some arena or tiny field.

 

If you want to speak about how easy ranch work is then pay some dues, and i don't mean talking about what you saw others do.

[emphasis mine]

 

YES!! It's not necessarily true that the "trial dog" that could not pull the 500 lambs out of the neighbor's alfalfa could not potentially learn to do so, but many have never seen that many sheep and so just don't know how to handle that situation. Then again, there are some that just would not live up to that challenge, as they simply just aren't enough dog. Similarly, there are also quite a few "trial dogs" who have never had the opportunity to gather a large pasture with sheep spread out; they only ever do an outrun (even if it's an 800 yard outrun) on a little packet of sheep standing nicely in one little spot. Learning to scope a field is a great skill.

 

This past weekend I judged a trial and was amazed at the number of people who obviously had no idea of the principles of shedding. They stand there in the ring (often on the very edge of the ring), and wait for some hole to appear so they can call the dog through. Many got reasonably lucky in that regard. One person in particular I saw stood there with her stick and seemed to be "be-knighting" the sheep--the way the Queen would. This seemed to me to point out that there are a number of people out there running in open who do not have much knowledge of livestock or how to handle them. And some of these people also call themselves "trainers." I think that's kind of scary.

 

Now I realize that not everyone has access to hundreds of acres or hundreds of sheep. Many in this area keep 8 or 10 sheep to train their dogs on. But I think if one is to call him- or herself a trainer, then that person should find opportunities to get access to more sheep or more space or different situations that require more of themselves and their dogs than just practicing that same course over and over again. Both dog and handler can only learn so much doing that.

 

My 2 cents,

A

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Trials= USBCHA type at P/N (Open w/o shed) or Open dogs, often those that have gotten placements from the east coast to CO.

 

I would specify other type trials as I do not feel they generally exhibit the abilities needed to do work outside a limited set of skills. And as these boards are Border Collie oriented It would be an assumption that is the type of trial spoken of-hence in the future should anyone question, please refere here tyvm

 

Guess I mad an error in 'assuming' trial dogs at that level could negotiate some woods and hills

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[emphasis mine]

 

YES!! I see quite a bit of that around here. People want to come and use my sheep (fine), but I always have to warn them that my fences are NOT sheep-proof. I sort sheep off for them, move them to a pasture, and then point out the specific places in that pasture where the sheep will race to, given the chance, to escape to go back to the rest of the flock. I would say more often than not, they lose their sheep (and I end up sending one of my dogs into the orange or avocado grove to find them).

 

and:

[emphasis mine]

 

 

A

 

Oh dear...I think that was me ;).

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If I had a nickel for everyone who lost sheep into the groves here, I' be a very rich woman. And lots of them, who should know the drill, do it repeatedly. And, hey--you didn't send any up the stairs in the shop loft and then through a glass window!!! :D

A

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Oh dear...I think that was me ;).

 

Not sure whether you are joking or not (about Stockdogranch's sheep), but it happens to everybody, including old hands. Don't be overly concerned. Young dogs, unruly sheep, escape route, and off they go. The best handlers after losing their own sheep, must say a few choice words as they have to round-up a flighty bunch.

 

Try to use opportunities like described, if reasonably possible, to fix the situation yourself. Take your time, and see how far dog and handler can go toward getting sheep back through bad place in fence, or nearby gate.

 

Used to train at a facility where the fences were really mere suggestions for sheep to stay within them. Low and bent-down everywhere. Instructor ran it in a clinic-style; people/dogs just showed up on Sat mornings. Was watching another handler and strong eyed dog (yes, it wasn't me and my dog this time B)), as one sheep in packet near fence simply hurdled it at low spot, and headed for the barn across a big field. Had seen escapees numerous times over the months. That dog hadn't done anything amiss, IMO. Nobody stepped forward, so just on a prayer that perhaps my dog could run quick enough and flank sufficiently wide to cover/head the ewe, and bring it back to my location near a gate without turning the maneuver into a chase across the field, I sent her out. Sheep had big head start. Must have been a slow one, 'cause Josie flanked wide and got to ewe's head, stopping her in good order. Elected to pause dog for a moment, and then had her slowly walk-up toward ewe, while I remained at gate perhaps 75 yds away. Darned if that sheep didn't turn and hop back over the fence, rejoining her buddies in the packet. Unfortunate things can turn into excellent training opportunities that you couldn't design if attempted 50 times. Try to use them to advantage. -- Kind regards, TEC

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If I had a nickel for everyone who lost sheep into the groves here, I' be a very rich woman. And lots of them, who should know the drill, do it repeatedly. And, hey--you didn't send any up the stairs in the shop loft and then through a glass window!!! :D

A

 

 

True, but I did get to witness part of that and I have to say, it's much more entertaining (when nothing is hurt of course) to watch another person's wreck than to participate in your own. Edited to add: that particular wreck did result in a very extensive tour of your awesome grounds :)

 

@ TEC ..I was not joking. It's the kind of thing I see happen with other people all the time. I saw the window of opportunity to send my dog and rescue the obviously about to bolt sheep and it just...slipped.... by.

 

I make a point to stop at Anna's whenever I can to work sheep - great lady and great place to work dogs.

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I have to smile at myself. At one trial the outrun could be made through the woods. And it was the better choice. Very few sent that way. At home I am often moving sheep on the trails and wooded areas and miles from home with no fences. The scotties and mules can take this chance of going into the deep brush. Something my dogs have to figure out.

 

So I sent my dog at this trails through the woods. He did a great outrun through the woods to find his sheep, perfectly. (This was Open) But then the dang guy chased them down the fetch line almost into my arms.

 

:/

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There are lots of trial dogs and hands IN OPEN who can't work or handle their way out of a paper bag, and sometimes they win. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.

 

So, let's talk about talent.

 

A powerful dog, with balance, feel, clean flanks, scope, keen to listen and fearless consistently in all kinds of weather, on all kinds of sheep regardless of numbers.

 

Ever watched a traditional dbl lift? 20 sheep not enough for you? Well, it may be if you've ever tried to turn a dog back, move the 2nd packet in a straight line regardless of draw from the 1st packet, move them all around a big drive, shed off 5 marked and pen them against a completely different type of draw after spending 1 or 2 runs kicking ass in the qualifier/semi finals too.

 

Hands who repeatedly train talented dogs to high levels of success, because they know what to look for in a dog, and continue winning from one dog to the next making it look easy consistently under all kinds of circumstances.

 

That's talent.

 

If you don't think talent like this can move sheep to the bottom pasture, or keep them inside loose fences, you're mistaken.

 

And if you never compete against them, you'll never know how bad you really are. And you'll never improve. Or just stay home, send your dog for sheep he knows by name in terrain he knows by heart, become a self-proclaimed expert, and hang out your shingle.

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20 sheep not enough for you?

 

nope

 

If you don't think talent like this can move sheep to the bottom pasture, or keep them inside loose fences, you're mistaken.

 

 

 

Not sure if this was for me as my example was 500 lambs out of standing alfalfa...and no i don't think all the good trial dogs can. We can talk whether it is breeding or exposer but that is another topic.

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I and my dogs are not very talented.

 

This is why I smile at myself.

 

But we watch and learn and do our job at home.

 

 

'A talented dog can get the job done'

 

Everyone I think would agree with that.

 

But at least for me. I watch for moments in which something is improving or at a clinic, like this last one I had with P when a light bulb FINALLY goes on in my dim brain.

 

And that makes the journey worthwhile.

 

Because all of us gotta start somewhere.

 

consistancy, that word keeps popping up in my head...something I am striving for.

 

 

 

Have fun my friends. Love your dogs and the work they do. And the trialing family.

 

Life is short, and these momemts so sweet.

 

 

 

Gah....I gotta go write poetry before I bore everyone to tears.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Today we had to worm sheep. Diane M, my vet was here to help me and get a lesson

 

Teine, who has had a few months of lessons, was selected to help. Diane M was not sure if she could do the role. She was soft to begin with and it took a bit to get her going. She found her power in the last few months. She plans to run her in a trial when she is ready.

 

Teine gets bored doing the foundation work so we have to mix up her lessons. She often wonders why she has to stop and listen.

 

Today the pieces fell into place with her

 

She gathered the flock and tucked them into a corner of the pasture

 

She held and tucked the runaways while our backs were to her. We never said a word to her. Some ewes would try to bolt, she would tuck them back in and hold her position while we worked.

 

She did the job quite well. As if she had been doing it for years.

 

We never told her once to stop. Now she understands the reason for a stop.

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