I get a lot of Novice students in with young untrained dogs. The easiest way to handle that is for me to work the dogs for them … but some dogs spend more time worrying about where their owner is than actually working. So, then I attempt to have the owner follow me around while I work the dog. This usually works … but a few dogs just won’t work for anyone except their owners. That’s the hard one
So, I put some VERY dog broke sheep in a round pen. Then I try to guide them by giving verbal instructions on how to move to control their position as well as the dogs and sheep’s … NOT easy.
It’s awkward for the novice as they don’t know where to be in reference to the sheep and dog. I will tell them move left, right, etc … but “by the time” I say it, they decipher it and actually move it’s usually to late :@)
So, I try and explain the “concept” so they at least have a picture in their mind of what we are trying to accomplish. I tell them a good Border Collie is a “scale” and will counter balance your moves … only instead of the scale going “up and down” … it goes sideways :@)
He will be on the other side of the sheep trying to hold up his side. So if you go to your right he will want to fill the “vacuum” you left and move to his right. Accordingly, if you keep circling he will keep going and holding the sheep up to you.
Usually the hardest part for a novice is getting the dog to the other side of the sheep. The dog tends to run TOWARD the sheep instead of around (since you are both on the same side there is nothing to counter balance to). Sometimes it’s easier to just lie the dog down and have the person walk to the other side.
However, there does come a point where we have to send the dog and there lays the one of the biggest problems … keeping the dog out. Visualize a circle around the sheep and make it your job to keep the dog out of that circle. If you are in the wrong spot and he gets into “your circle” you will know — he will slice in as he flanks. The circle is yours and you need to find a way to push the dog out so he doesn’t encroach into “your space”.
If it was a person trying to get into that space how would you push them out? You would need to find a position between them and the circle and put enough pressure on them they can’t get in – but not so much you “over commit” … getting to far away from the circle to protect it … “there by” enabling them to run by you and dive in. You circle with the dog but not really follow. If you follow then they will find “that” angle where they can cut in. It’s more push them out of the circle but then you get back into it – waiting to push them out again. So, it’s push, step back into the circle, push, step back, etc.
So, a bit like a star around the circle … with the points being the push out and then you come back toward the sheep, then step and push the dog out , again come back toward the sheep. You aren’t trying to keep the dog away from the sheep (just the opposite) but trying to guide him to a position where he can control the sheep without spooking, chasing or splitting them.