Do your homework. A young pup generally has a potential governed by his ancestors, and the recent ones are the most pertinent. Would you bet on a Corgi at the dog track?
2. The Eyes are a Camera.
Don’t waste the effort you put into achieving the first goal of selecting for the very best instincts by allowing the young pup to run amuck on his own or with other dogs. Don’t chain him up and wait for him to grow out, but do teach him to tie up and lead correctly. He needs to spend quality time with you to be able to graduate from Kindergarten and then primary school etc. Develop the invisible rope and then lengthen it. If you have more than one dog introduce them to group feeding. This is possibly the most important technique to establish a caring dominance over your pack. Expect and develop basic manners when walking, going through doors and gates, leaving the kennel or releasing the chain. That pup should now want to “photograph” you due to mutual respect.
Because you have succeeded with the second commandment you will have a rudimentary call for this pup. You may still be winging it a bit, but that is far better than insisting on a perfect call at this point in its career when its instinct for work is just starting to surface. Tie the pup up in a safe area next to where you are moving livestock. Do this for as long as it takes for the pup to develop, both physically and mentally, to start on the livestock you intend to work.
What I dream of is an art of balance. (Henri Matisse 1869-1954)
At first this concept of “Balance” seems so obvious that we tend to do this: Send pup around livestock, livestock lift and come towards handler, handler leads off, or more commonly, backs away while blocking the pup from crossing. Righto catch the pup because it has balance. Wrong. This pup hasn’t been given an opportunity to develop balance because the concept has been misunderstood by the handler.
So what is balance? It is rarely the handler at 6 o’clock, the livestock in the middle and the dog at 12 o’clock.
It is better defined as “the dog allowing the livestock to achieve relief when they are in close proximity to the handler”. So, if the handler is stopped, the dog’s job is to only provide relief when the livestock are also stopped, near the handler. Moving off, the relief will be realized for the livestock when they are moving at the same pace and same direction. Change direction, dog/s will move to the bend section of the eye of the mob/flock and only give relief when the livestock realign with the new direction. Similarly, gravity, or early in their education, livestock may over-run you in the lead. A balanced dog will be out in front of the eye of the mob/flock, and you, until it steadies and it achieves relief in its rightful place. Remember The 500 Metre Rule when your dog is young and inexperienced.
When driving a mob/flock balance dictates that your dogs take up positions along the sides to maintain the desired speed and direction. Changes in that direction are effected by asking your dog/s to move ahead of the point of balance and to encroach further into the flight zone until the new direction is achieved and the dog moves back to the point of balance. Use the call and send commands to allow your dog to find this critical point. Flock/Mob Work
Ok, Ok so we do need a stop, but notice it is the 5th commandment and like all of these commandments, where learning for the dog is involved, it is taught at work. W.A.I.T Once your dog has developed a good sense of balance he will know when a stop is the most effective action, so just put a name to it. You can reinforce the stop with prudent use of your body language and after this point in his development you can remind him around the camp whilst playing games, group feeding and releasing from his kennel.
You now have a couple of choices to get useful side commands: Drill your dog enough so that he understands which of your send commands means clockwise and which means anti-clockwise, or do what I now do and use “Come” for clockwise and “Here” for anti-clockwise. I use “Over” and “Back” for the corresponding send commands. It seems a moot point but you will find the Four Word system is far more compatible to the W.A.I.T philosophy. But there are two sides to this story and both systems work well. Just work out if you are into drilling or getting on with practical work.
7. Rolling Livestock through gateways.
This is an everyday requirement for a lot of operations. Muster some livestock up to a gate, move ahead of them to open it and then move back along the side to regulate their progress, count them and help your dogs roll them through. Practise this as it teaches the young dog to be patient as stock move away from him. If he attempts to break for the lead before the tail end have been drawn through move your position to spill a few back so he understands that the point of balance can still be at the back. Good dogs relish at excelling at this job as they do for the next exercise. Ask your dog to stop out in the paddock and wait for the livestock that you put through the gate. After the cattle/sheep have settled allow them to graze while being tended by your dog/s.
While tending your stock in the last exercise you may have had a young dog forgetting the concept of balance and coming into the flight zone too much to allow the livestock to graze. Teach the keep out command by keeping your voice really calm and positive while lobbing a few light branches between him and the cattle/sheep. Most of us equate the “out” command to exorcism and our dogs think that we are possessed when we start teaching it. The secret is to keep your verbal utterings positive and allow your body language and props to deliver the correction.
Rather than get frustrated when your young dog leaves one slow, grazing animal behind, use it to teach the “look” command. Move yourself in between the main group and the satellite group and call your dog’s name to get his attention, say “look look”, because it’s fun to say, and walk towards the small mob. Call your dog away from the main group and when he starts working the small group back encourage him lavishly. After a few times you can get him to look and search and even get direction with “look back” or “look over”.
If you have made it to the 9th commandment your dog will be able to cast around livestock well enough for most practical circumstances. A practical cast is fairly direct up to the flight zone of the livestock and then a kick around to the point of balance for that particular mob/flock. That point of balance is probably not directly opposite you but if the livestock cease movement away then the dog has got it right. If you want to improve any of your dog’s skills just do more practical work.
11. A small red dog named Megan. ( Reward for doing the whole 10 yards)