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She is coming on, but certainly in the first part ( and then again, but less so, In the second) she is uncertain going past you as she sniffs at the ground ( indicating she doesn't want to have a confrontation with you) and when you ask for the drive away from you, she flicks an eye back towards you to check she is really doing what you require.

 

,..just out of interest, what do you hope to achieve with the,long line?

 

Because it seems to me that once the Blackies get at a distance from you, they speed up and make a bid for freedom (bcause they are so light), Lady is a bit uncertain what to do. As she starts to loose contact' you encourage her to walk on, the sheep speed up further in response. Lady is relieved when you ask for a flank to fetch them back.

 

Have you considered driving along a fence line?. Alternatively, driving in a square. It doesn't need to be a precise square..but driving shorter distances and then ask for a controlled (rather than 'rescue') flank.

 

In both cases,Lady will have more chance of remaining in control of the Blackies.

 

Also, to reassure her about the concept of driving, I think I personally would still be walking with my dog more, using the position of my body and calm hand gestures to help the dog understand what is required (less verbal commands).

 

As she progresses and learns to understand the concept better, I would continue to walk alongside, but further away so that the dog can still see me out the corner of her eye. I would use a neutral body language and minimal command to indicate to her that I was satisfied with what she is doing. At this stage I would also use a focal point ( e.g gate or tree) to aim towards.

 

JMO YMMV

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I also think that at times you are actually inadvertently blocking her with your stick (for example, many times when you're trying to set up the drive, you're patting your leg to call her toward you while pointing the stick toward her, which is blocking her coming toward you and likely confusing her). It may be helpful to not use the stick at all at this point.

 

I agree with Maxi about continuing to walk with her on the drive as well.

 

J.

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Thank you both for the comments! Agreed that I'll ditch the stick. I did notice watching back that I held it awkwardly at some points which made Lady second-guess my intentions.

 

About driving, I am pretty much trying to teach myself this since my mentor has fallen ill and hasn't come out to the field with me in around 6~ weeks. I really appreciate both your advices on this matter. He tasked me with beginning the drive with Lady, and gave a few pointers, but what worked for the much heavier, and large group of sheep doesn't have the same effect on this much smaller, lighter lot.

 

The long line, I was thinking would help her be reassured I was still in contact with her and to keep from having to use excessive verbal commands to prevent her heading the sheep as often. As we increase distance her desire to head them does get more noticeable, so maybe I can avoid using it if I stay closer? Or perhaps driving along the fence line... yes I think I will try that and the square idea.

 

I'm trying to keep in mind what advice I'm given in person when doing this but it is pretty tough being a newbie and not having a mentor around to correct me right away when I'm doing something incorrectly, or setting my dog up to fail/be uncertain. I'm so happy I received good input after uploading the video. It'll really help me later this week. Thank you both so much!

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Shame that your mentor is currently unwell.

Here is what I would do to start a dog off driving.. Send your dog on an outrun, lift and fetch as normal. As the sheep approach you, ask for a steady and when the sheep are near and calmly moving towards you, turn your back on them (and your dog) & start walking in the opposite direction. Let your dog continue to hold the sheep to you as you walk away - keep an eye over your shoulder to check all is OK.

The sheep will probably push pass you (they are Blackies after all!). Let them, and continue walking alongside your dog.. Now she is driving - No confusing commands, no waving sticks or arms about, no hassle.. she just will be doing it.

As the sheep start to move out of contact (they are Blackies after all!) but before they have gone too far .. ask for a flank and stop her off balance at 90degrees (ie 3 or 9 o’clock) to you.
You should turn in the direction you want the sheep to move in and start walking as you encourage Lady to walk onto her sheep. Repeat around the ‘square’ (it won’t be precise right angles). Practice in both directions and also practice asking her to flank behind you.

 

Once she is confident with the flank behind and stopping off balance (it will take time), start to ask Lady to flank in front of you (this is a more pressurised situation and so will phase some dogs). - When you do get around to teaching the flank in front, make sure you give Lady enough room between you and the sheep.


When starting to teach the drive, try not to let the sheep get so far away from you (yes.. they are Blackies.. and gauging the ‘right’ distance will come as you learn to read the sheep better). If you continually need her to head the sheep back to you, she may start to think that she should be doing this after driving just a short distance. Also IME some dogs tend to cut their flanks when sent on an 'emergency' gather to stop fleeing sheep .. .and this is not something you want to encourage an inexperienced dog to do too often.

 

Many dogs find driving and flanking off balance difficult. So only do it for short periods.


To break up the session (especially if she is becoming increasingly uncertain), stop your dog and call her to your side. Let the sheep get further in front of you. Set up for a ‘standard’ outrun, lift and fetch and let her work the sheep towards you until she is relaxed again.. Then you can go back to your driving practice as before.

 

Also if the sheep get away from you during your driving practice, rather than being tempted to send her on an 'emergency' gather, you may find it more productive to set up for a standard outrun. This way, Lady may appreciate that heading the sheep during a gather is completely different from driving sheep.

As always this is JMO.. you may find this method does not work for you and your dog.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to explain, especially the thought process behind it all. I will run this with her on Sunday and report back as to how we got on. :) I've printed it all out so I can refresh myself once on site! Thank you again!

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Here's around a minute of yesterday's training efforts. It took a couple of times to get the hang of it. I favour one side more than the other (it's easier to walk along and keep an eye on her with the sheep to my right, for some reason). But we did try a couple times with them on my left. I'll ask my husband to record that exercise later in the week.

 

It really did help a lot! Lady did drop her head a couple of times, but I found that I could help her along and keep the pace going if I maintained a gentle voice. Unfortunately it's hard for her to hear me with the wind blowing so hard so I had to cup my hands around my mouth for pretty much the entirety of our time on the field. It does keep me from waving them around uselessly though, so that's another boon!

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  • 1 month later...

Hello again!

 

Been a bit more than a month, and we have made some headway in this long process of getting the drive. :) To vary things up we've also been doing really basic shedding practice along the fence line, working on ORs, things like that. Lady and I will be participating in a demo day at the farm's nearby agricultural college, as part of a presentation of working sheepdogs. There'll be a couple others there who are really way beyond our current skill level, and a couple young pups just starting out so we're representing "the middle way".

 

Hope the work we've put in since our last video is at least slightly evident! I think Lady's gained a lot of confidence - which is probably the most difficult thing to do with her! - and definitely drifts much less than before. Plenty of progress left to be made but I do feel we are getting somewhere. It's very encouraging and keeps one coming back... at least, I will be when my car's out the shop!

 

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Lady is definitely coming on. Plus the Blackies seem calmer and more accepting of her too.. (and you also seem to be more relaxed and walking more).

 

Well done to both of you.

 

You both must be so chuffed with your progress..

 

Good luck for your demo day.

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Yes, I think we're all as a whole a lot more relaxed and used to working with each other. Thank you! It has been very rewarding to do this largely on my own with online input! Makes it all a bit easier. :)

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  • 3 months later...

 

I was very lucky in the month of April to travel to the Lake District with my fellow sheep/dog enthusiast friend, and take a lesson at Derek Scrimgeour's new home, Raise Lodge. While definitely smaller than his previous tenancy farm, it was a magical experience nonetheless because I got to meet probably the person who, through his work and literature, changed my and my dog's life. I was very thankful for the opportunity to work with him and to listen to the various anecdotes and stories from sheepdog trials of decades past. Insightful, entertaining, and most definitely inspiring.

 

Since then, Lady and I went back to the basics. Until reading Derek's book and training with the man himself, my approach had been moulded by the old-school thinking that still pervades many trainers' minds out here. Perhaps with a more obstinate dog, one who can bounce back every time from the chasing, stick-waving, shouting and so on, I could have seen "results" earlier in my dog. But Lady's not cut from the same cloth as those tough guys. She required an alternative approach, and I am happy to say I think we're on track.

 

In this video, she takes a "look back" and is fetching some 60-odd ewes and lambs to me. It's the biggest flock we've ever worked on, and we don't do anything by halves, so naturally some are quite moody and protective. I learnt a great deal after looking at the video footage about my own commands, what worked and what didn't. My work with Lady, getting her to keep her flanks from slicing, I think we have come a long way from where we were. Unfortunately there's no driving in this clip, but I will try to secure some footage next time.

 

She does her "surge" forward a couple times, whether out of impatience or because she felt it was appropriate, I don't know. I think about halfway through she got more into the gist of "wearing" behind the flock, taking flanks on her own judgement, and it seemed to bolster her speed and confidence further. This was our first day working on the big flock, previously we had but the small lot of Blackfaces. Lots to learn and to appreciate from the chance of "expanding" our numbers.

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Thank you. :) I am so happy I got the courage to take a lesson there, even though in the grand scheme of things there was little to fear! I was worried I'd be too much of a super-novice to warrant taking an hour of his teaching time. But it's paid off so well for us!

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I was worried I'd be too much of a super-novice to warrant taking an hour of his teaching time. But it's paid off so well for us!

Yes. Getting off with a good start is very important, and for this the best are very experienced teachers who can see what your dog is and what the dog needs and the handler.

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He really did mark a turning point in my approach to sheepdog training. :) Thank you for reading our story! It has been a rewarding journey.

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Thanks Maxi. :) You and the others have been so kind, helpful and patient during our progress! I cannot thank the members of this forum enough for the support!

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It's a good thing there's footage of us shedding, because now I can see how my body language is sometimes confusing or unclear. I called Lady in to sheep on her right, but my body was facing those on the left. I think I'll need to reduce the groups even further (and maybe not have lambs present, but good luck with that...) to be able to practise calling her in on the heads of the "back" sheep. Right now, everyone's just sort of... everywhere.

 

 

I called her in but wasn't quick enough to realise I should have turned to the shed group, and asked her around behind me to the heads of those closer to the camera. Again, I'm seeing things I definitely need to improve upon.

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