This is why I don’t judge trials … math and I are mortal enemies. OK, I can add but I sure wouldn’t be considered a linear or left brain person. However, one of the advantages of being mostly right-brained is you tend to be creative. I’ve found this comes in extremely handy for training dogs because it allows me to remain untethered in my thought process. I think it’s this “thought process” that makes me willing to try a lot of different techniques to solve a problem.

If you try to make training linear or just “black and white” without altering your training to fit the dog – it will limit the variety of dogs you can train. You can have two dogs with the same issue … one dog might need encouragement while another would need a firm hand. One of the best things I’ve learned through the years is to be flexible with a little patience thrown in.

All this is getting around to an update on the two 1/2 brother pups (that really aren’t pups anymore) I’m training.

Gear (just turned 2 in July):

Was/is “fast off the blocks”. Gear started running in nursery young and has won and placed on both hair sheep and range ewes. He’s a sharp, quick learner that was a pleasure to train. It was all about standing out-of-the-way and let him develop. He had all the right moves and tons of drive. His only fault is lack of push (and that’s more because of the way I like to run dogs). We have worked on that more for my comfort than his. He’s now shedding, sorting, and working on look-backs all without a lot of pressure from me.

Basically his training was all about “unwrapping a mind”.

However, it doesn’t mean everything went perfect. He had issues if he couldn’t “give” on an outrun he would stop (usually when a fence stopped him from “kicking out”). I had to walk out (over and over again) to encourage him to keep going even if a fence was “restricting” him from releasing pressure on the sheep. This was done to give him confidence – he didn’t need a correction – he needed information on how to accomplish what I had told him to do with what his instincts were telling him (a major conflict in his mind). This dog tries so very hard to be right that “getting on him” would have done nothing except “beat him down”.

Tech (will turn 2 in Sept):

He has hardly been “off the ranch” and sure hasn’t run in any trials. He is harder to train – not that he doesn’t have a ton of talent … but training was more teaching him how to listen so he could learn. I spent a lot of time trying to mold him into what I wanted. He’s not really hard-headed but he’s more inclined to get so involved with what he’s doing he tends to forget to listen.

Flanks are to him what math is to me “a un-comprehensible concept”. He’s just now understanding that “those” words being spoken to him actually have meaning. He’s still not set on his flanks but he’s beginning to understand that I’m asking him to change the sheeps direction. His original view of an outrun was “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line”  – is now starting to shape and he’s giving room on his own.

Now, if I wasn’t flexible or I kept comparing him to Gear – we would have had major training issues. He has really good points – he’s ALL forward (which suits me) – he’s looser eyed (which I also tend to like). He has great feel on sheep (blended in with a bit of “chase”). The thing I’m trying to get across is “he’s NOT Gear” and that’s JUST fine! He is just going to take time to train up but he’s well worth the effort and time.

Basically his training was all about “shaping his mind”.

Talent is talent — it just comes in many different forms.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Donna Marsh says:

    I’d love to hear you expand on this concept:
    he didn’t need a correction – he needed information on how to accomplish what I had told him to do with what his instincts were telling him (a major conflict in his mind). This dog tries so very hard to be right that “getting on him” would have done nothing except “beat him down”.

    This sounds like my current dog, an Aussie who is my first stockdog and we are learning herding together. He has loads of natural talent, but there are many times that I feel I’m in hte position you describe of my command vs. his natural instincts.

    How do you handle those situations? Can you give more thoughts and examples?



    1. Sure :@) I could have run out chasing him … yelling “get out of that” (when he stopped on his outrun). With some dogs that might work … but he stopped because he was confused on how to accomplish what I had asked him to do. When he’s outrunning he wants to give room to the sheep (“instinct telling him that he needs to do that”) but he couldn’t because the fence prohibited it. So by walking out saying “sssssshhhh” to encourage him on while blocking him from going the other direction (trying to give room to the sheep by going the wrong way). This was to allow him to understand that he needed to complete an outrun (to get to the other side) even if it was “uncomfortable” for him.

      In other words I helped him sort through his “programming” and my commands without making him wrong.

      Hope this makes sense … hard “on paper” :@)

      1. Donna Marsh says:

        It makes perfect sense. The “problem” I have is lacking the experience to know how to help my dog when he is confused by what I want when what I’m asking him to do seems to go against his instinct. I’m afraid I’ve corrected his natural instinct when he has wanted to do the right thing in the situation but it wasn’t what I was asking for. I’ve created confusion and then corrected him instead of helping him understand. I’m so grateful that he’s so driven to work. I think less driven dogs would probably have given up on me by now. It is getting better and he has hung in there with me. : )

        I also appreciate your discussion of handling the two dogs differently. I see trainers who have a particular “style” trying to fit all of their dogs into it without any consideration of differences in the dogs. Kind of sad to see that.

  2. Kat says:

    You gave me new inspiration for my OWN progress. I have been comparing myself to other students where I train and sometimes get frustrated at my rate of progress. Some of them are “Gears” and I’m more of a “Tech.” I may take more time to train but it will be worth the effort. My dog’s doing great — I’m the one holding her back!

    1. I’ve always told my students that as long as they are progressing and enjoying themselves what difference does the speed make. Sounds like you are doing both :@) Good luck!

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