It’s not how they start

BUT how they finish that counts.

I’ve always worried about pups that start out doing every thing with “precision” – my concern “stems” from if they are “this good” at a year – will there be enough “engine” by the time they are 4? I’ve seen a lot of really good young ones that started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Through the years I’ve had very few pups start out “perfect” that went on to finish into a great Open dog. Usually the pups that look like a “trained” dog when first started don’t have enough push to be competitive in open (before you panic if you have a really nice starter … I did say “usually” … nothing is carved in stone).

NOW after saying that … dang it’s sure fun to work them when they start out so well. To see smooth natural flanks is so refreshing if you have been fighting to push dogs out. To see them “kick out” on an outrun instead of you having to correct them to get them right is wonderful to watch. To see a young dog show so much feel, pace and flow makes working them pure pleasure.

So what can you do to overcome the dreaded curse of the “perfect starter”?

First thoughts in the equation of  the “when is good too good” … is just how much training pressure is put on them. JUST because they are capable of doing an advanced agenda  – doesn’t mean they are really ready to be pushed for “trial training”. So, “one solution” don’t make them do it perfectly all the time. Stir it up. Teach them that pace is great but some sheep need push. Teach them that slow and methodical is wonderful but not always practical. If every work session is quiet, slow, smooth … how will he ever learn that some sheep will stand and graze if he’s that “polite” to them. He needs to learn there are different methods to work sheep. He can learn to have pace AND push at the same time … but if all you do is make him pace … he will find “his bubble” too far off for sheep that don’t just “move off” dogs.

Also, mix up the “type” of sheep along with the way he works them … making sure you don’t put them in over their heads (i.e. don’t put them on a ram just to see if they have enough power!)

This can go for older dogs also. If you crank them down every day making every move they take perfect … it takes the joy out of working. So balance “rough work” with “finesse work” to get the best out of your dogs. Work light sheep – heavy sheep – a few sheep – a flock of sheep, etc. to keep dogs fresh in their work. If you do “course work” on the same 5 sheep day after day … you will both get stale and be in for a big surprise when you get “trial sheep” that don’t just “go through the motions”.

Learn to ascertain if your young “protégé” is emotionally mature enough to take what you are “dishing out”. Savor and enjoy the “easy” training but make sure you always keep in the back of your mind you’re developing a complete working dog. So, STAY focused — the “end game” is a good open dog not a great nursery dog. If you are willing to work on it you can have both.


Candy Kennedy