Orchard Hill Ranch
Fae's herding clinic work
I was excited to take Fae to a Lynn Leach herding clinic in April, 2016, when she was just a year old. It was perfect timing to really start her training as a herding dog. I had worked with Lynn in the past (two of my other dogs have been to lessons with her), and really appreciate her training methods. The clinic did not disappoint!
I was also particularly interested in comparing Fae and her littermate sister, Ruby, who was also at the clinic. Ruby gets almost daily exposure to her owners’ Low Line Angus cattle. She had helped a little with them prior to the clinic, and had “stock manners”, recognizing that moving critters was a JOB to help her owner, and not just a fun time. Fae had to learn that moving critters was not just for her entertainment. Both girls were equally powerful, both brought very good stock instincts and natural rating abilities. At this point, Ruby is the more serious dog, Fae is more fun-loving. Ruby tends to work more calmly, Fae with a little more bounce. Lynn commented that both were really nice working dogs, and some of the nicest working English shepherds she had seen recently.
The setting: facilities included a 50 x 50 foot pen. It was solid wood on two sides, and at all four corners, with mesh fencing on the remaining two sides. The owners had ducks, sheep, goats, and cattle for training. We worked with their goats, which were Kiko/Spanish crosses. They had been handled well, and were wonderful to work. The dogs had to have some power to make them move, and they weren’t skittish and prone to panic runs.
The schedule: The clinic ran for three days, and each dog worked once in the morning and once in the afternoon each day, for a maximum of 20 minutes each time. That let each dog have a good lesson time, everyone got equal time, and the dog didn’t get overwhelmed. Fae, just beginning, was ready to quit earlier a couple of times, which we did – ending on a success, then putting her away to think about things.
Things we worked on at the clinic:
Rating, or controlling the speed of the stock’s movement, is accomplished by sending the dog to head the stock (a pressure point, and tough for them to do) to keep them behind the handler. The dog has to go there, and stay until the stock turn back and are fully behind the handler. Telling the dog to “lay down” or “easy” if he/she is pushing too hard, just teaches the dog to rely on you to set the boundaries. Your dog needs to learn that control himself. Making him “fix it” when he pushes stock past the handler, teaches him to rate himself.
“Eyes out” is something we worked on a lot. If the dog keeps watching the stock directly, that puts pressure on them, and they may move before the dog is in the correct position. When you send the dog, look for it to turn its eyes out away from the stock and in the direction it is traveling. This releases pressure from the stock and keeps them from moving away. Stock should not be moved by the dog’s pressure during a flank (going around). If your dog doesn’t turn its eyes away, stop him, reposition (back to starting point) if necessary, and start over. You may want to/need to wait to send the dog until you see it (by chance) look away. Two or three times of that, and it will figure out what you want. Block the dog’s access to the stock with your knees – step from side to side to stay between the dog and the stock if necessary, until the dog turns its eyes away from the stock.
90 degree turn off the fence – When you are moving along the fenceline, and the dog is moving the stock along behind you. This allows you to leave the fence and get to the middle of the work space. It also give the dog practice in getting stock off the fence, and shows them how to accomplish it. To do this, the handler pauses, dog goes out around to flank and stop the livestock, and handler walks out away from the fence. The dog scoops the stock off the fence (at the beginner stage, the stock kind of want to follow the handler anyway), and the dog keeps them with the handler across the pen.