We want calm, relaxed dogs around livestock. If we have that, we can work on all other commands.
Build a firm, reliable foundation. It is very important.
6 key points of a herding dog’s foundation
Interest - Dogs willingness to do the work and be happy.
Stop - I prefer a stop on the dog’s feet. Stop is Stop. Down is Down.
Out - Dog turns straight away from the stock and runs out till the handler says stop, down or
Back -Dog backs up like a horse.
Walk - Straight walk up to the stock.
Flanks - Directions - Go bye and Away to Me
Call off - Come to the handler no matter what the stock is doing.
Step by step to trained dog.
1. Picking the right puppy for you. Then spending time to socialize the puppy and teach him to lie calmly and be handled by you. Teach to move away from your pressure, can start some of the dry work with the rake and toy or food.
2. Balance – Getting the dog to find the balance between you and the sheep so all are calm and relaxed. This is what we should spend the most amount of time reviewing.
3. CLOCK - Stop – Teach a reliable stop or down away and on stock. The easiest way to do this is to ask for the stop in the balance point till the dog understands the work. Walk - Straight Walk to livestock any where Out and Back - Straight away from the livestock Flanks – The directions. These should be when the dog steps back and goes around the stock nice and calm with out moving the stock.
4. Test – Test if the dog knows the stop, out and flanks. You should stand still (no movement on your body) and the dog will take stops and downs. If you need to help, do so but remember that they are not ready to go on.
5. Next size pen – Go through the 2 – 4 key points. :Keep going bigger
6. Off Balance- working the dog with sheep on your left side or right side in an off balance position.
7. Driving - Teach the dog how to drive sheep away from you.
8. Backing – IF you have been asking for a back in dry work, you can now add it to the dog’s training. We would like a straight back. We can do this on one sheep or in a race.
9. Biting – Steps to teaching a dog the correct way to bite. Use a race or one sheep
Backing in a Race - This is Kelpie style event for trials. Not used much in US
10 Packed Pen - putting many sheep in a very small area.
11. Outruns – The dog is passing the above tests and knows their flanks, then it is an easy road to get the dog to do outruns. Slowly get them longer and longer.
12 Shed – Splitting sheep into 2 groups.
Exercises to get you on the road.
Perimeter - Walking with dog on the very borders of pen, using command back, get around to teach the dog to relax and be comfortable at the edge of the pen.
Down and a Stop on the dog’s feet.
Walk up and down. - This is doggy pushups. Do get the dog to walk slow.
Flanks / there/ stop /out - The dog can flank a 360 around the sheep and understands that he should stay off the sheep. Not moving the sheep going around the sheep
Dog learns walk about - A full circle around you and the sheep. To teach this, we are doing walkabouts. If the dog pushes sheep past us we stop - teaching him to go around and tuck the sheep in, then walking again. No commands are given on this exercise.
Half moons with down then work on down and walk up. I use this mainly on light sheep.
Half moons with dog going into the fence and out the other side, then lying down in the middle of pen.
If control is maintained, go for a walk with the sheep.
Walkabouts in a big area. Walkabout with one and a half flanks at each end. Dogs learn to naturally widen themselves.
Introduction to the small pens.
Working out in the open on occasion.
Always review your foundation after going to the open.
Stepping stones of training
Round pen rope work
On the rope walking the perimeter of any pen, say "get around". Other commands that can be taught are "there" "walk" & "back".
On the rope walking the perimeter do a "there" and "walk" - stop the dog just as the livestock move. If the stock startle or split you got too close.
If the dog is calm and relaxed you can go on to the next steps.
Work downs, stand and stops on the perimeter..
Can get to the point where you can drop the rope and still stay on the perimeter.
Teaching the dog to bite correctly. Have a sheep tied to the fence and have the dog walk up controlled and steady. When the dog can reach the nose of the sheep and hold steady you will then encourage biting. Biting should be on command "HIT", then hold the dog in the same position so they cannot give ground. This teaches to "hold the pressure".
Small pen work
Flanks/ Stop/ Out/ Walk - The clock excersise
Figure eight in the small pen. Cherrios
Tuck sheep in behind handler.
Work down or stand on balance. This is always started when the dog wants to lie down.
Outside flanks. The key to inside and outside flanks is that the handler stands still till the dog settles and is listening to the commands. If the handler moves, it draws the dog into the sheep and will make the dog pushier.
Mini outruns in the pen.
"There" - "walk up."
Driving in a circle around you.
Slightly bigger pen
Flanks/ Stop/ Out/ Walk up
Inside and outside flanks
Straight line back up. Do one and a half circle at each end, then walk off.
Cheerios - two full circles walking forward letting the dog work each side, no commands.
Driving around you first in a nice flow, then work to get the livestock on the fence.
Flanks/ Stop/ Out/ Walk up The clock excersise
Taking livestock out of the take pen and around the arena.
Driving steps - Finished dog
Put dog on the rope and have them pull forward and follow behind the stock around the pen. When you use a flank command use a SMALLER command (Go and Away) and step back; and this will naturally square the corners and teach the dog a correct flank.
Small pen or round pen drive in a circle around you. Handler will stand in the middle and the dog will fall in behind and to the inside flank position on the sheep, maintain pressure, and the sheep on the fence line. The beginning of a true drive.
After this is mastered you will move into larger and larger areas.
Beginning to drop rope or have a very light rope.
If the dog takes a wrong flank, you can flank the dog all the way around (the way you wanted) so they realize they didn't do as you asked. This makes more work for them and pretty soon they figure out to do it right.
Work up to a THERE and walk up anywhere on the perimeter of the clock.
Drive the L - This will work on Fetching and Driving in one step.
The handler needs to begin to stand still. If the dog has trouble, help the dog, and then move back to your position. If the dog is more advanced keep working the step till the dog understands to push the sheep away.
Work up to working the dog from outside the pen including panels work.
If any areas of your foundation are broken, go back and work on that till it works.
I always look to myself and the training we have been doing if things are not going right.
If you decide to trial, use this as an evaluation of how you and your dog are doing with training. If you have a problem at the trial, it will always go back to your foundation.
Always have positive thoughts so the work you are imagining is the work you get.
Farm chores are always good for dogs and handlers to see how dogs handle different situations.
Even in farm work or chores, square corners and all your foundation must be in place.
Information to further your knowledge of herding
HALL OF FAME KENNEL #186
Australian Shepherd Club of WA
Ben Means, Rt 1 Box 1185, Walnut Grove, MO 65770-417-995-2552 $40. Training dogs on cattle day one to 30 days, introduction to driving. Excellent addition to your library.Jerry Rowe Video 2010
The Traveling Herding Teacher Bob Vest available on Amazon
Training and Working Dogs for Quiet Confident Control of Stock by
The late Scott Lithgow was a highly regarded Queensland trainer who worked dogs mainly on cattle. There is a special section in the back of this book by Dr. Morris on the way dogs think that makes this a good book for anyone interested in herding dogs. It is the most complete book available on working cattle with dogs and includes training techniques aimed at the dog, not the livestock.
Australian Sheepdogs, Training and Handling, Rod Cavanagh,
training book filled with photographs, humor and illustrations. Included is a complete guide to Australian commands and detailed whistle graphs. This book covers general training of the sheep dog in the paddock, yard, shed and truck work. This was privately published by Rod Cavanagh who is a shearing contractor in Australia.
Way of Life , Sheepdog Training, Handling and Trialing, by Glyn Jones
One of the best books ever written on sheepdog training and handling. This is a popular book with both breeders and trainers. It describes training, handling, breeding and trialing the Border Collie. It includes excellent diagrams.
Herding Dogs, Progressive Training,
by Vergil S. Holland
This is the newest book on training. It was released in 1994. All phases of herding dog training are covered, from the dog's first exposure to livestock through advanced work done on the farm or trial field.
The Farmer's Dog, by John Holmes,
This is an excellent British book that has been reprinted many times. John Holmes has a clear understanding of working dogs. Presented in an easy to understand manner, it's a good beginning book.
Humane Livestock Handling By
· CUTTING - One Run at a Time by Barbra Schulte (www.amazon.com)
· Excel-Erated Learning by
Dr. Pamela J. Reid