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Location for Lessons/Apprenticeship?


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Hey everyone,

I'm going to be moving at the end of this year and have the opportunity to choose to move anywhere in the country.


I have a young BC pup, 14 weeks, that I acquired with the intention of teaching him to herd. I know he is young still- I intended on sending him out for training when he's a old enough. But I would really like the opportunity to learn to train in the meantime.

I have no daily access to stock where I am, but I do have the ability to go somewhere that access may be easier to come by. I've done minimal work on stock before, mostly with rescue dogs who were either lacking the ability or the instinct.

But what I'm really curious about is whether there are any trainers or handlers who might offer some kind of apprenticeships with their program to newcomers in exchange for help around the farm, other tasks, etc. Basically I'm looking for the opportunity to learn.

Is this something that is done at all in the herding community?

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I don't know anyone off the top of my head, but would guess that there is someone willing to do an apprenticeship. do you have a state or location in mind? I am not sure how many serious sheepdoggers are still on the boards, but you could also post something to the yahoo group - sheepdog L -- to see if there is anyone that bites. If I had more experience, I would do it. So I would guess others would be interested as well. Do you know where you would like to be? aside from an apprenticeship, I know a handler that is both an amazing handler and trainer as well as the best shepherd I've ever met, living close to someone like that could also be good.

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Dear Aspiring Sheepdoggers,


Most if not all top handlers apprenticed - whatever the arrangement was called. For novices almost any open handler will be a good teacher - the basics, though counterintuitive, aren't rocket science. 4? years later when you're running in open you'll need a Big Hat for the fine points.


Sheepdoggers are a generous lot and many spend their time freely to help out and teach a keen beginner.


The problem is - at first - you won't have much to offer in exchange. Farmwork and stockwork are far, far more complicated than urban dwellers believe. Can you drive a tractor? Weld? Use a chainsaw? A syringe? Flip a ewe? Stacking hay on a wagon can be taught in an afternoon, mucking out stalls in a few minutes but most seemingly simple farm jobs are quicker to do oneself than teach. To feed our sheep, you must know enough about sheepdogs to send a dog to fetch them and keep them off you while you put out grain. You must know how much to put in each feeder and why every ewe needs headspace. You must know how to spot sick ones. You must know why you protect and cover the feed barrels, every time. You must know when you'll need high boots and how to get snow out of the feeders. And sheep feeding is one of the simplest tasks.


And if you're not available regularly at predictable times you might as well not be available at all. (If I'm going to town for parts and the kid who works for me doesn't appear, I don't drive to town. No parts.)



Two concrete suggestions. (1) Put an ad with your particulars in Handlerspost.com. (2) Since you are free to travel, attend our National Finals, find a seat in the Handler's tent and explain your purpose. I'd bet you'll find somebody and your willingness to locate anywhere makes it possible.


Donald McCaig

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Our Wisconsin Stock Dog club is starting a mentorship program. An open handler donates an alloted amount of time to help an inexperienced handler. I'm not on the comittee so I don't know lots about it, but depending on where you are located its a possibility a stock dog club near you might do something similar.



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I agree with Liz there are parts of the country that have higher concentrations of flocks who trial and those who use dogs for livestock production - not necessarily the same places. I think you could in any state and find some people who are involved in herding. I would think it would depend on your goals how much you want weigh that in your choice. Missouri has quite a few people, CO, both east and west coasts.


I would narrow down what your goals are - trial, have a farm, hobby, livestock production...While the skills and knowledge are similar for dogs that work on farms and those that trial the goals are different and I feel the training reflects that. Doing either requires knowledge of sheep/livestock.

I am one who uses the dogs daily at home and involved in livestock production do not have the opportunity to trial much. I have had people come and stay for a couple days who wanted to learn about sheep and how the dogs contribute to the operation. Recently there was a gal who wanted to learn about sheep so I would call her when I needed to sheer, deworm, ect. SHe spent some time over a couple years helping then got sheep of her own. This year she she added a bc pup and I am helping her learn to use him. She comes over and works one of my older dogs and gives him some time on sheep here so I can help them.

Not sure how common that is across the country but you can find folks who teach lessons and clinic opportunities.

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