Thursday, October 4, 2012

Missed Training Days

I took a couple of days off from training recently and boy did it make a differance. Both dogs, Kate and Wage were kept in there runs except for a morning walk with the rest of the pack. I cut back also on the number of sheep in the training area and it was as if someone held a match to there butts.

Kate has always been strong on stock but weak on handler pressure. She is now hitting hard when she does a lift, something to be corrected later, and balancing like she has been doing it all her life. She is starting to listen to commands and will bring sheep to me no matter where I am. Some more practice on sides then I will introduce her to the whistle then back to cattle where she originally started.

Wage also looks like he finally figured it out and is much stronger. When he lifts the sheep he still wants to come around and head. I stop him with a walk up command and for the most part it works. What I'm seeing is he should be a very good, strong dog by the time he is 1 year old. The next step in his training is sides and working the length of the training area in out runs.

Here in lies a problem with the fetch and lift. In the trial world you are always working towards square flanks. In the real world if your dog is using ssquare flanks he is wasting so much time and energy that chances are the job will not get done or he may miss some of the stock. So how does one solve this problem? I have used 2 word commands in the past: ie Away to me or Go bye. I will explore these 2 word commands in a later post.

Until next time Onward and upward

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Into the Field

 I was recently asked to help prepare a group of Heifers for an annual Fall Fair Cow Dog trial. My job is to dog break the cattle which should calm them down for when they go to the arena. The trial is indoors and when you take a bunch of cattle that have never been exposed to that type of surrounding it can take a great deal of fun away from the trial.

This is a perfect time and place to evaluate the training my pups have received to date. I had my new pup, Wage, with me as well as this mother, Kate, and of course my main dog, the old guy. Each morning we would round up the Heifers out in the field and bring them into a paddock. We would then separate a few and move them into another paddock and work them for about 1/2 hour. We then join the separated ones up with the rest of the herd and move them back out into the field. We did this up to 4 times a day.
Wage working the flank
Here he keeping everyone on the straight and narrow

While moving the cattle I used as few commands as possible. Mostly “there” and occasionally a directions command “go bye” or “away to me”. This gives me an excellent opportunity to find out where we are in the reaction to the commands. So now that we are back home it back to the side commands.

Even in the paddock he is keeping order
It was very interesting to watch Wage, he is 8 months old, work the flanks with very little direction. He would swing out and run along to near the head of the herd and then turn into them and run back to where we were driving from. This appears to be natural to him. He exhibited the same technique in the paddocks. He certainly did not pull any punches when one of the Heifers stepped to far of the line.

After 3 days of this, training in the training paddock is not going to be as exciting. Back to working on sides

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Go Bye"

I am frequently asked why the "Go Bye" command rather then the traditional "Come Bye" command? I learned a long while ago that a dog can be come confused by the "Come By" command. Just think about it for a few moments. How do most of us call our dog to us, the recall. The vast majority of us call our dogs to us by using the command "COME". No we know that the dog usually reacts to the first word it hears ie "Come Bye". To avoid the possibility of confusion I use the "Go Bye" command.

Be who you are and say what you feel....
Because those that matter...
don't mind...
And those that mind... don't

Side #2

This week we start to train on the “other” side, the “Away to Me”. It's interesting when we started the training this week, Wage, would automatically go to the Go Bye. Now I would like to think that he has that command down pat but I suspect that it has become instinct.

In order to counter act that "Go Bye" command I have had to adapt to it and change my approach. I get behind the sheep and get them moving along the fence line and give the "Away to Me" command.  When he moves up towards the head I call him back and go through it again. The heading instinct in this breed is so strong that it does present some challenges. Of course this is counteracted by the easy by which these dogs can be trained. To finish off the training session I do a couple of “Go Byes”.

You can imagine the added complexity of training if we started on cattle. It probably would be harder on fences and the trainer.

And the training goes on.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And the training continues

Training is moving right along with the sides being the key. I move the sheep, in the mornings, to the training paddock. It is 130ft by 60, ideal for teaching sides. Not to big so that the trainer is not run off his feet.

With straight sides and corners, I can teach 1 side at a time. The dogs have the stop command ("there") down pat as well as the "stay" command. When I get the sheep positioned and the dog in the stay position I can get the sheep moving along the side. I then send the dog with the appropriate command and he/she heads the sheep and we then work on the walk up command and bring them back to where we can do it all again. A week of doing this then I will start working on the other side.

On the walk up
Wage, the young dog, comes with me to the field each evening to round up the sheep. It seems that I have to go less distance each night and he is out there looking for them. He is now rounding them up and moving them back to the barn, mostly on his own. I don't think he realizes that he is being trained!!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The first day of the rest of there lives

The first batch of sheep arrived to day, I custom graze sheep and cattle. With the arrival of the sheep the start of custom training for Kate and her son Wage begins. Kate has been rough trained and is very effective with cattle. Wage has been exposed to sheep starting at 4 months of age and showed a remarkable talent for heading. Formal training is now underway.

Today the training is all about control. The dogs must learn, at this stage, that they will only work when told to do so. It's like boot camp where they learn the other side of themselves. First command is the "with me" command. This is some what like a heel command. Incorporated with this command is the “There” command. This is the stop command.

Today's training incorporating the above commands, was primarily shepherding. In other words we got to watch the sheep eat grass. It's a great self control exercise for the dogs and will be very useful in the future when checking cattle and sheep. This training will likely go on for about a week. All things being equal, we should begin to start on some directional commands: the "way to" and "go by" commands. Until the next time enjoy ....

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Training Kate

 Kate is a New Zealand Heading dog/Border Collie, 18 months old and works Cattle instinctively. Her main job up to this time has been keeping cattle away from feeders while I put the hay in and then to bring them in. She also filled in nicely when moving cattle by taking up a flank position and all of this with minimal training and only a few commands. The time has come where commands need to be put on the dog for better control and directing her. In my case I want to eventually begin to do some trialling so will need that control.

After a lay off, both me and the dogs, this spring I have taken her to sheep on 2 occasions. I'm getting a different reaction from what I was expecting. She is not acting as strong as she does with cattle, you might even say that she is “soft”. I guess she thinks they are delicate. So its back to basics. 

If you have read my blogs in the past you will know that I'm not a fan of round pens for basic training purposes. Her training will take place in a small pasture that is 3/4's hill side with lots of dips and mounds. I start out the training on the flats and then will move to the hill side to give variety.
Moving up the flank to head
 I firmly believe that if all the training is done in one location, ie flat and no obstacles, the dog will become bored very quickly and lose interest in the training sessions. In each training sessions I use my main dog as a training assistant. His main job is to guard the gate and when we get into a sticky situation to lend a hand.

Jim lending a hand