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But when your watching those dogs or reviewing results, if they fail you have to discern as to if the handling is what lacks, vs. the dog. Many who are watching from the outside in credit winning and fault losing to the dog, when in many cases the dog may have been perfectly capable of executing the work, and executing it well, the failure fell on the shoulders of the handler.


This is so very true.


I'll never forget a trial at Ethel Conrad's Sunnybrook Farm in the early or mid '80s. Everyone was loosing their sheep in the drive . . . until Ralph Pulfer and his dog took the field and executed a nearly flawless drive.


It was a very odd looking drive, though. The dog wasn't behind the sheep as the others had been. Instead Ralph positioned his dog so it was walking along side them. And that was what made the difference.


Those of you who remember Sunnybrook Farm know that the pastures were often rolling terrain dotted with trees and rock outcroppings. This field was typical and the sheep were bound and determined to drift up the hill, which was what left everyone loosing the sheep.


Ralph was the only one to figure out where the dog needed to be to prevent this, and he figured it out before he and his dog went to the post. It looked like the dog was almost casually talking a walk alongside the sheep rather than driving them, but it resulting in their maintaining their line and getting to where they were supposed to be.


It took a consummate handler and stockman to see why the previous dogs were having trouble holding their line, and where he needed to position his dog to compensate.


After that run, everyone following also positioned their dogs beside the sheep, right between them and the hill they so wanted to gain access to. All did better than the previous teams, but IIRC, non bested the supremely skilled Mr. Pulfer, at least on that drive.


There were many excellent dogs competing in that trial, but it was handling that brought out the best that day.

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I had the privilege to watch a trial on that field, and I can exactly picture what you are describing!


Balance is balance, not a particular location. A dog that has it and a handler that knows it have the makings for a great team.

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Yep, and I think that's an example of how the handling/training has improved over time. I imagine that if a trial could be held at Ethel's place today, most of the handlers would recognize where the dog needs to be to hold a line and you would see sheep being lost over and over....



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That was, in all fairness to the other good handlers there, a particularly deceptive situation.


It took a man who understood stock as well as he understood the dogs to see that the sheep were pushing up the hill and that the dogs that had the sense to know where the balance point was were being called off it by their unwitting handlers.


Everyone there, other handlers and spectators alike, watched in awe and had an aha! moment when we realized what Ralph was doing and were gobsmacked that no one had seen it earlier.


But, yes, handlers are generally an intelligent bunch and have learned a lot from the brilliant Big Hats of days gone by.


This is an example of that, and also how the right handling can make a good dog great and even a mediocre one look better.

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Patrick is someone I regularly go to for advice and lessons when I have the $. He is the person that told me my dogs would learn to understand, this is the job today, Loading mama cows, or trialing on 3 sheep, I am grateful to him as his saying that kept me from giving up, him and Gloria and a few others. Everyone has a type it seems that suits them. And their work.

Unless I have walked in their shoes. I say very little.

I have to agree with Tea wholeheartedly here, very well put. I have a Riggs boy, and while I originally got him to trial in herding and agility, he has a remarkable desire to please that translates in his ability to do his best at whatever job I need him to do. He is a remarkable service dog, and I can say pretty firmly that that is not something he was intentionally bred to do. I am more than a little skeptical at some people's claims that people who breed and train herding trial dogs are hurting the breed. IMO as long as working instincts AND temperament and biddabity are maintained, you will end up with a dog that will work for you no matter the job you need done.


I have little to say on "improving the breed" other than I also think it is a very KC mindset and IMO attributes greatly to the exaggerations of temperament and physical structure common in conformation bred dogs.

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I met an open handler and their dog at grass creek.

The person was looking for some sheep to work.

I explained mine had lambs with them and were not dog broke.

The dog had no problem moving them in a orderly fashion and quickly had them under control.

This dog is not a farm dog and does not do any thing but trial after watching what he could do with my sheep I would take that trial dog to work on my farm any day

Nothing got paniced or run to death

I know that this dog is out of my league for now

But it was doing everything I would need a dog to do


Dan & Tilly

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