W.A.I.T (Work as I train)

Is a program of fully training a pup at work while attending to the daily jobs on a farm. It does require that the handler can properly and safely restrain the pup in the work place when it would otherwise be at risk of injury or death. The pup must have the genetic potential to control livestock naturally as there are very few vocalisations from the handler other than a call and words of encouragement. Screaming and words like Argh are banned. A rapport between handler and pup must have been developed in the camp before training begins. (eyes are a camera, group feeding etc.)

The WAIT program is successful because doing real jobs tends to take some of the handlers attention away from the pup allowing it to solve problems on its own and to allow its inherent genetic makeup to be expressed. Also, while doing real work the handler tends to vary the exercises by necessity and work the pup down so he learns to pace himself. Just remember it is a pup so match the job to its physical and mental capabilities.

 Trust the genetics.

A common error amongst pup trainers: after they have done intensive research into the genetics of their new pup, seen at least the parents working and perhaps a couple of the grandparents as well, they begin teaching a down or stop.

I would never teach any sort of down command to any useful kelpie as it is a command for dogs selected so much for taking command that they have lost their “touch” with livestock. Good dogs stay on the edge of the livestock’s flight-zone and from there they  move up into the block section of the eye of a mob to steady it, or drop back into the drive to create movement. It is a wonderful thing to watch a clever dog breaking wide and then coming in close to the lead and trotting against the direction of a mob/flock to increase its speed. Any sort of stop at this point of training only frustrates a dog tracking along that flight-zone and it will react unfavourably. Trust the genetics. Teach a stop later on so you can allow livestock to enter a paddock controlled by a waiting dog.

All of these natural traits develop exponentially when you ask your dogs to help you drive livestock rather than just balance them to you, just trust the genetics.

17 comments on “W.A.I.T.

  1. Chris says:

    Hi David. Question for you…when do you begin teaching your young dogs to drive? Do you begin early on? I can see the pluses and minuses of both beginning early and then waiting a bit until you know the dog can get to the heads and control from there. If I have young dog that is mad to the head, I’d think I’d want to begin teaching driving earlier since I would want them to understand early on that they can control from the rear as well and that should help them relax a bit. Am I thinking correctly?? Thanks!

    • Hi Chris,
      This is a good question. A lot of handlers misunderstand the meaning of balance and so think drawing livestock towards them for session after session is in some way helpful to the pup. As soon as your young dog can make it to the eye on both sides of a mob and hence control the speed and direction, based on me walking in a straight line, as a point of reference. I then begin to get that pup to roll the livestock through a gateway. This is the start of a drive with the advantage that you can easily step in and allow some cattle to drift back if the pup overheads and leaves the position of responsibility. This allows the pup to understand the fundamentals of balance so necessary for dogs driving, ie Keeping cattle walking ahead in the direction and speed that I am traveling. So in summary I start this process as soon as the pup can cover and hold the mob to me and I generally finish the work by getting the dog to hold the stock to me as well, say as I put them through the gate I expect the cattle to stop and graze while they are held quietly by the dog/s.

      • Chris says:

        Great. That is a good description. Running to the head and stopping a mob should be a no brainer for a well bred Kelpie and I think you are correct in what you say about balance and gathering. Many people misunderstand balance and the fact that balance is not a static thing, i.e. it changes and is different depending on what job you are trying to accomplish. It is not always at 12 o’clock from handler and it isn’t always on the opposite side of the stock as the handler. To me balance means wherever that dog needs to be to move the stock in the direction you want them to go. And many times (most times really unless you are pulling stock to you) it is not in relation to the handler. Hopefully I made myself clear in what I was trying to say. Thanks!!

  2. fats says:

    are there any dvds or info on this WAIT system of training availiable??

    • Hi Rick,
      We run 3 day clinics in Australia and the USA which cover all of the facets for this program. You can understand there is a lot of inter-related knowledge that is impossible to cover in a short video. However we do show some of the results on video at the clinics so email me your location so we can send you our schedule.

  3. Chocey says:

    I am a little confused about this W.A.I.T what is it you are trying to convey, what is meant by the Eyes are a camera, and trust the Genetics?

    Why not teach a stop or down, I am a bit slow on the up take, and I feel I need a little more information to understand your program, you say that (I would never teach any sort of down command to any useful kelpie as it is a command for dogs selected so much for taking command that they have lost their “touch” with livestock.) but than this (Teach a stop later on so you can allow livestock to enter a paddock controlled by a waiting dog.)

    Why not scream Argh? How will the dog know if it right or wrong if not corrected.

    (Any sort of stop at this point of training only frustrates a dog tracking along that flight-zone and it will react unfavorable)

    What if we need a change of direction, if the dog is tracking along the flight-zone why are we going to get an unfavorable reaction if we were to stop the dog.

    I need some help here please?


    • Hi Chocey,
      These are good questions and are fully answered by attending one of our “An introduction to Stress Free Stockhandling” clinics. However, to your specific inquiries, “the eyes are a camera” is an exercise designed to make the very first development of an invisible lead on your dog. Trust the genetics refers to starting a new pup that you have invested considerable time and effort into its selection based on you observing the working capabilities of its parents, and preferably, its grandparents and then the temptation is to take it to stock and start telling it how to work. Just shut-up and allow the pup to demonstrate its innate abilities while you assist and encourage it while protecting your livestock.

      The down command that I would never enforce on any good Kelpie refers to the dog physically lying down, often referred to as clapping. This is used as an extreme stop command for dogs that if not stopped would disrupt the desired movement of the stock. I would prefer to own and use dogs that have a natural way with their livestock so that they guide them firmly and yet fairly, almost without command. Later in a young dogs development a stop and stay command is useful when letting stock out of yards or moving into a new pasture etc.

      Use your voice in a positive manner and your body language to correct mistakes. This almost always results with the dog wanting to continue to try for you and learn more quickly than the old “Argh” technique. Try it.

      If your dog possesses the desirable natural ability to read flight zones and gently dominate livestock he will adjust his position many more times and much more quickly then you could command him, on a large mob/flock he may be required to work out of your sight, so if you start to dictate to this type of dog it will frustrate him as you continue to override instinct with command. He will either suffer you as a fool or more than likely break the contract and leave. If you find you have to find position for your dog, continually, perhaps it is time to go back to that Genetics homework. A change of direction for a mob is simply a matter of you asking your dogs to move further forward to the bend section of the mob, remember you always have the ability to ask your well bred dog to cast up to balance a mob to you so a bend is a slightly modified balance command.

      Good questions Chocey and I look forward to seeing you at one of our up and coming clinics.

      • Chocey says:

        fairdinkumkepie thank you for the explanations to my questions, this will help, but I now have another:
        What are the genetics, you are looking for that make up the dog that possesses the desirable natural ability.

      • Chocey,
        I look for dogs that can dominate livestock without unnecessary violence, dogs that naturally give relief to animals accepting guidance and to those that have challenged a dog, been corrected and are returning to the mob. I like a dog that works well outside his stock and naturally has a perspective of his surroundings. Good dogs inherently know when livestock are being driven and use their position to assist with correct movement and direction. Perhaps the rarest desirable trait to find in a dog is the ability to lift its work rate on command, a flooded creek, stock near a highway or even imminent inclement weather can all call for more force and faster cover for a short burst and then back to calm, on command.
        Temperament is very important as it dictates how a dog fits into your camp as well as how he reacts to the challenges he faces in the workplace. Physical type must fit the environment or all of the above traits aren’t given an opportunity to be expressed.

  4. Blackdog says:

    The roundyard and grass rakes are to help succeed on dogs that do not have the correct instincts and at the end of the day it works I mean you cannot argue with the Greg Prince track record. And really it was dog trialing that began all the need for formal training, now we have just worked out instead of teaching people how to correct faults in dogs we are angling more at better selection of genetics and then the WAIT program will work.

    • Chocey says:

      I think that you probably should argue with the track record it has been developed on an oval
      And was it dog trialing that began all the need for formal training?

      • Blackdog says:

        Hey Chocey,
        Most of those who know Greg Prince are aware of his practical upbringing in the Cobar area and also the work he did in the Dubbo sale yards would speak as part of his track record. As for the formal training, how many people use a reverse in standard day to day work? Some commands mustering but usually you can wing it with a call and a send. The backing of a race needs to be taught for loading shearing sheds but you can still wing that with the dog working the side of a race and using the call and send again. Probably the biggest thing most of us have to learn is patience and trust, but if you do not have the correct genetics then it is very hard to achieve with either.

      • Chocey says:

        Blackdog, a very fair reply, I am not really sure what I was on about, I am going with a cop out: too much Single Malt and chocolate, we’ll leave it there.

  5. Kath Roberts says:

    I am going to find a strainer post to scold with a poly pipe whilst saying ” Good dog”. Gonna need to practice that one ahead of time 😉

  6. Jan Lowing says:

    That’s what I used to do, David, then Greg Prince, round yards and grass rakes turned up…..!
    You need sensible older dogs for this to work.

    • Jan,
      If you learn the stock handling principles best explained by Bud Williams, you can educate your sheep, cattle or deer in a stock yard to the point where even a young pup can help you influence their movement and direction. From this start it is easy, depending on the capabilities of the pup, to allow it to develop balance, rolling stock through gateways, patience, etc. Trust the genetics.

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