Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I do have an opinion

I have been reading some discussions online of late, and I am happy to say that I have stayed out of the fray, and read what is being written, and feel enfranchised to post my opinion here, as well, it is my blog..

On starting dogs. I have seen two methods used on starting dogs. One is the control every movement, dog on line, big rake in hand, and the other, dog on line, a long stick in hand, but dog is controlled vicariously- not by any line- though he may trail it to catch him up if he is super keen and, well, grippy, or doesn't want to stop.

I much prefer the latter method. Lucy experienced the high control method, rope on the dog, and not allowed to actually influence the sheep. For a young, talented dog, I can't see how this does ANYTHING to teach said dog that a) they can control the sheep, and b) we WANT them to control the sheep. Both they are born with. If you put that dog on a line, never letting them get to the head to turn the sheep, they never learn that they can. Sure, some people say that all well bred dogs will be able to head and gather, so we can "quash" that for now, until they are under control. I say that is hooey. I say you can teach a sensitive young dog real fast, how to quit, as they can never be successful. Starting a dog is not "easy" and should not be geared toward making it "easy" on the novice handler. It is about starting the dog. If the trainer needs to get a few first lessons on that pup, or dog, then so be it. Once that's done, the novice handler can shadow the trainer in the field, and learn what has to be done.

Just in case there is any question, what should be happening is you have a super keen young dog, running around you/the sheep. The sheep should be appropriately doggy or "puppy sheep", thusly, they stick with you, making it EASIER on the dog (notice, I did not say the handler). The main deal is to keep that pup from gripping, get it to change direction a few times, and most importantly, keep the sessions short, and positive. That dog will learn a LOT about working sheep, even though it appears he is just circling wildly. That's how they gotta learn. They have to be able to feel and react to sheep. It's their lot in life, these sheepdogs. Keeping the dog on a line so he can never react, or make a single decision, is just a tragedy. It is a strong instinct, but it can be very fragile. Our job is to cultivate the dog's inborn ability, not control the heck out of it, so he never learns to actually control, and work the sheep without our help- isn't that why we have sheepdogs? To do a job?

When starting dogs/pups, it's about the dog, not the handler. A good trainer should fade away when the dog is right, and come into the picture when the dog is wrong.

So, that's my opinion on starting dogs.


BCxFour said...

Good post. Starting Bonnie has been challenging! Certainly NOT easy. I have been running around the field (backwards) at a high pace, dripping sweat & panting. Not easy at all...but oh soooo rewarding when I see my dog learning and her brain working.

sheepkelpie said...

When you see them progress from the last time, you are just sort of in awe. They just know what to do. There is nothing better.