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Arena-format Trials


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#1 TEC

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 07:14 PM

My young border collie and I have competed in both beginner-level ISDS-style trials, along with ASCA (and other clubs') arena-format trials. It has been fun, and competition lets us know how we are progressing in our training program.

My instructor does not advocate "training to the test", and keeps his field mostly free of gates, chutes and obstacles of the type found in, for example, an ASCA trial. He does have a small pen in the middle of the field, which we practice from time to time. His practice field is much larger than the typical arena, so the dogs/handlers don't have the opportunity to get the "feel" for the positions and angles that will be needed to, for instance, begin the drive phase of an ASCA trial, and to negotiate the gates at the end of the arena from behind the handlers' line. My understanding and experience is that time/space are considerably compacted in the arena, and there is little of either available to correct miscues and mistakes. Arena trials may be somewhat unique in that regard.

So, my question is: do you have suggestions/advice for brochures, books, videos or other qualified material, that will provide trial tips for negotiating SPECIFICALLY arena style courses? I believe my dog and I have a portion of the skills (driving, fetching, maybe penning) required for open class ASCA trials, yet we don't have the opportunity, except at infrequent trials themselves, to put the skills all together into the whole package. It seems to me that reviewing training materials would allow my dog and I to fill the gap that we are experiencing in our training curriculum. I am looking for the "x's" and "o's" kind of material, much like a basketball/hockey coach might give his team just before the big game, and after weeks of drills and practice. "If this happens, then here are some ways to react....and if you do this, then you can expect that to happen", sort of thing.

I cross-posted this question to the General BC Discussion Group. The responses in the General Section are valued, but didn't go to whether written/video materials about arena-style handling exist, and where to find them.

I see other questions not related to specifically ISDS-style trials in this group, so hope this is OK. Thank you in advance for any suggestions and advice re: training materials you may be aware of. -- TEC
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#2 Smokjbc

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 07:41 PM

I've done some AHBA trials and arena cow dog trials- the pressure is very different in an arena but really the basics of livestock handling are the same. I don't think it's necessary (or desireable) to train for arena trials, the same things (correct flanks, pace,etc) will win the day. A good stop is probably a "must" but I don't think a diagram will help you learn to read that pressure. Just keep things going as slow as possible at first so you can see mistakes before or at least as soon as they happen. You will have to be very aware of where the draw is and use it to your advantage and cover it when it will be a problem. Most arena trials (at least the AHBA ones I've been too, except for one) have dog-broke sheep. Dogs that listen and have good control will do the best- usually they will be the exception too :rolleyes:.

I don't have any experience with ASCA however, so it may be different. I really liked the AHBA trials I went to as far as they were friendly, mostly constructive and fun. Also, in the AHBA trials, you have at least one course that is designed similar to the ISDS model.

#3 hsnrs

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 10:51 PM

We have a BC trainer for our Aussie. She has competed in AKC (not well liked I know) and ASCA. We plan to do a AHBA ranch trial this spring and a arena trial. If my dog is working and having fun we don't care what venue it is in. What does everyone here think about these trials? We are newbies but personally the ranch trials are my favorite to watch.

#4 TEC

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 11:18 PM

We have a BC trainer for our Aussie. She has competed in AKC (not well liked I know) and ASCA. We plan to do a AHBA ranch trial this spring and a arena trial. If my dog is working and having fun we don't care what venue it is in. What does everyone here think about these trials? We are newbies but personally the ranch trials are my favorite to watch.


As you may have inferred from my above-post, I like arena trials for the same reasons you do. I have competed in BCSDA, ASCA and I intend to do AHBA. I have avoided AKC, despite the fact that they have a pretty active local group. Arena trials are fun for me and my dog. They're fast paced. The organizations almost always offer beginner levels, while many USBCHA trials often overlook novice and ranch classes for the less experienced dogs/handlers. My BC did her best in a Handy Ranch Dog course. They seem to be more frequently available in my area. -- TEC
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#5 Lora

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 10:14 AM

I run USBCHA but have also run some AHBA and ASCA...actually have put a post advanced title on my dog in ASCA....I will probably never WTCH her because I do not have access to cows. But back to arena style trials......my suggestion would be to talk to you trainer about putting a panel and a "v" in the pasture. Not the obstacles that you will see themselves but I take two sheep panels and make a v and use the fence and put that v about 5 feet out. In all the arena trial venues the started class starts out fetching and the mouth of the obstacle can get quite interesting depending on the sheep. If the sheep are real dog broke...the handler standing at the mouth of the obstacles actually repels the sheep from wanting to go in so once the sheep are there.....if the handler slides back it helps draw the sheep through. If the sheep are real lite (like with penning) the sheep won't want to go into the mouth of the obstacle if the handler is standing there putting pressure on the sheep.....and you only get these ideas by practicing. For the folks who train at my place, it is not drilling the dog to know the obsticle...it is helping the handler to see and feel where the dog/handler needs to be to get the job done. Once you can maneuver a v...then a panel set parallel with the fence makes a chute that is more difficult to get stock into because it is not winged in the front.

I am not aware of any books or DVDs that give stratagy...but I see you are from the NW. Every now and then Fido's farm in Olympia does a handlers clinic for arena style trials. www.fidosfarm.com

I don't like the idea of the obstacles themselves set up because I see folks "drill" them....and make the sheep not very honest in the process. But to throw a panel out on occassion...can make things interesting and help the handler learn how to manage the stock. If you were willing to put them up and take them down after your lesson.....maybe your trainer would let you have a go.

On a side note, I am personally working on seeing the line and hitting panels at a distance for USBCHA. Having missed a few panels last year....that I would have bet my bank account I was hitting...well, I am working on my seeing the line, finding tools to know if I am hitting those darn panels or not. As with the above, I feel this is a "person issue"...and not a dog issue. So, I practice......plus maybe I should go get my eyes checked. :rolleyes:

Good luck,

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#6 Eileen Stein

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 11:23 PM

Arena trials are fun for me and my dog. They're fast paced. The organizations almost always offer beginner levels, while many USBCHA trials often overlook novice and ranch classes for the less experienced dogs/handlers.


It always concerns me a little bit when people see arena trials as a good place to begin with a young dog. I understand the thinking -- the area is small, so things can't get too out of control, and the sheep are usually docile and semi-trained. But I think starting out under these conditions can be damaging to a young dog's training in the long run. This type of trial tends to reward "obedience on sheep" and small precise movements, whereas the young dog should be first learning bold, sweeping movements and developing a feel for how to move and control his sheep. If precision and absolute obedience are insisted upon too early, the dog may never develop the scope, initiative and confidence that he might have, and may not realize his full potential. This is a difficult concept to express, but I like to see the dog learn to feel and take charge of his sheep first, even if it isn't so pretty, and have the fine tuning and polish put on afterwards.

JMHO.
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#7 kelpiegirl

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 06:09 AM

Very well put Eileen.
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#8 1sheepdoggal

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 06:32 AM

That hits the nail right on the head Elieen for the dogs training/work, but another thing that I have seen in arena trials, is the lack of stockman ship in the handler. Folks not even watching/ learning the sheep,( being as they are so "trained" it takes the need for the handler to have worry about that little nuance) but moreover, just getting the dog through an obsticle course, with the sheep being a secondary obsticle, rather than the main focal point. Getting the dog through the course, seems to be the main objective rather than good stockmanship, and I think if you loose that, you really never get the whole point of trialing or working/training your dog. Maybe Ive just had to many trainers yelling "WATCH YER SHEEEEEP!!" that when I see an areana trial, thats the first thing that I see when some thing goes wrong, is that the handler was always concentrating more on the dog, and not the sheep.
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#9 TEC

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 01:05 PM

I appreciate the above comments and suggestions. I run USBCHA and Arena style courses. Please understand that USBCHA offers few, if any, trials that are available to me in this rather large portion of my State and surrounding States. The "big field" contests that are within a day's drive, usually don't offer novice/ranch classes for beginners, like me and many of the local handlers. If it weren't for ASCA, AHBA, and BCSDA, I would be virtually cut-off from the enjoyment of seeing/competing with other enthusiasts. It's been fun, and my dog has done well. My interest in arena trials has little to do with fencing, small field size and whether sheep are dog/field-broke.

The discussion got a little off-topic. I have recieved a number of private emails in response to my original question about training literature and DVD's for arena handlers, and for those of you who may be interested, Lynn Leach of Hope, BC has a new video that can be obtained through her website: http://www.downriver.org/videos.php.

My dog and I practice in large fields without gates/chutes, learning the fundamentals of sheepdog herding. Nothing can substitute for the essentials. -- Kind Regards, TEC
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#10 kelpiegirl

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Posted 23 April 2008 - 01:24 PM

Can you set up some smaller pens, chutes, etc- in the big field? That's what many of us do. Fwiw, I ran in an asta trial last year, and we had never done any of the stuff needed- maltese cross, 1 width foot baths, etc., my dog did well. Why? Not because we had all the props to work on, but because she stayed off them, flanked when I asked and gave me the downs I asked for- she also had very good cover. I would suggest you get the panels/chutes, etc., set up and work on them at home, and enter the odd competition in an arena, just to see if you are up to snuff.
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#11 Pipedream Farm

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 08:24 AM

All I know is USBCHA trialing, but we do have one arena trial in our area. One thing to keep in mind is that some dogs are really uncomfortable in a small space because of the pressure. I would be sure to at least practice up close work before going and focusing on making sure the dog seems mentally relaxed in a tight space.
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#12 mbernard2424

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 10:29 AM

All I know is USBCHA trialing, but we do have one arena trial in our area. One thing to keep in mind is that some dogs are really uncomfortable in a small space because of the pressure. I would be sure to at least practice up close work before going and focusing on making sure the dog seems mentally relaxed in a tight space.
Renee


I've been doing some arena trials for that very reason, my dog hates to work in close. It's helped my timing, ability to read stock quickly and my dog's comfort working close. I have found that the people going to these trials really seem to appreciate good stockwork, when they see it. I also like that these trials tend to offer sheep, ducks and cattle runs which I really like.
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#13 TEC

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 11:37 AM

All I know is USBCHA trialing, but we do have one arena trial in our area. One thing to keep in mind is that some dogs are really uncomfortable in a small space because of the pressure. I would be sure to at least practice up close work before going and focusing on making sure the dog seems mentally relaxed in a tight space.
Renee


What are the pressure-induced problems you see in dogs that are uncomfortable in small space work? Is it excessive downing (clapping), inability to get the stock to move (lack of power), excitability and tendency to alarm the stock (everything in double time)?

My dog really gets wound-up and excited. Her outruns, that are good in large spaces, become flattened and too fast. She tends to become hard to guide, and she does everthing overly energetically.

Do you have suggestions to fix those difficulties? Is it just a matter of getting more practice time in an arena, and getting the dog accustomed to the environment, or are there other ways to go about it? -- Thank you, TEC
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#14 mbernard2424

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 12:36 PM

What are the pressure-induced problems you see in dogs that are uncomfortable in small space work? Is it excessive downing (clapping), inability to get the stock to move (lack of power), excitability and tendency to alarm the stock (everthing in double time)?


My dog over-flanks,
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#15 Lora

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 10:42 PM

One thing I have found in arena trials is the difficulty of a powerful dog to get enough room to work adequately (not my dog by the way :rolleyes: ). Also, many of the trials have huge draws in their arenas and it makes it quite difficult for a dog to cover. Some of the arena trials I have been to have very dogged sheep...which to me are not honest sheep. Lastly, fences can put pressure on dogs that don't work tight quarters regularly. I would wonder about a dog coming in tight on top....is it pressure from the fence creating this?? Or are the sheep dogged and lifting early (my point on dishonest sheep) because the sheep "know the drill" and because of this the dog is coming in from sheep motion? Fence pressure can be helped with real work....like driving sheep through alleys for shots and foot baths. One thing that I've had the privilege to do was help a fellow that owns a sheep operation lamb and shear. During shearing, my girls were working the back pen....going into a big round pen packed with 800 ewes gets a dog over the fence pressure real quick! TEC I know you mentioned working with a trainer....if that person needs help with the stock chores especially those involving smaller spaces.....the work is hard but puts miles on the dog that weekly training can't. I also think a long days work helps to settle a dog...so when I have done a day of pen work my dogs settle into a mode of "this is what we do" and the work becomes way less frantic/energetic. Well that is my humble oppinion....

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#16 DeltaBluez Tess

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 12:25 AM

I just got done running in a ASCA trial this weekend. For yrs I refused to so any arena trials since I had quit AKC but in 2001 or so, but my friend Kathy arm twisted me to try ASCA and I did. I had fun and compete in a couple ASCA trials a yr, including their ranch and post adv. I run in then to refine my and dogs skills, to be able to do close work, feel different pressure and train to work in a intense tight, fast paced atmosphere.

This weekend, Tess did really well...she won in her classes...ducks and sheep and got the highest score ever given by a judge to any dogs ...123 out of 125....on ducks....she also did the same on sheep. Scott did well on sheep, ducks and cattle. The stock at this trial are good, honest stock and not dog broke arena stock. I will not run in an arena trial on dog/course broke stock.

I run my Open dogs in this venue to put the polish and fine tune on them. They will do the wide outruns and sometimes have to be far back in the arena back to work the stock (meaning far off the stock) but you see the seasoned dogs adjust themselves. But my dogs also work chutes, stalls and tight spaces at home so they can adjust themselves to the situation. I do my work in the ASCA trial as if I was working at home.

The problems i see at the ASCA trial is handler running their dogs when they are not ready and also no down on their dogs. A dog with no down going after sheep in a arena is not a pretty sight

BUT, my main love is USBCHA....it displays the dogs to their natural ability. And magnifies my flaws as a handler.

Diane
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#17 jdarling

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 10:20 AM

for those of you who may be interested, Lynn Leach of Hope, BC has a new video that can be obtained through her website: http://www.downriver.org/videos.php.


Uh oh! Run for cover!

123 out of 125....on ducks


Wow! Sounds like a very nice run, Diane! Congratulations! Our ducks runs are generally ... umm ... a little more exciting. :rolleyes:

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#18 Sue R

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 10:44 AM

I think there is a wide variation in arena trials. Some do reward hell-for-leather work and are a detriment to the "sport" of dog trialing. But there are other, well-thought-out and -conducted arena trials that do showcase good dogs and handling in aspects of practical work. In my limited experience, the handlers and dogs that do well are those that are good partnerships, work the stock in the least-stressful manner, and demonstrate good everyday work skills in a smaller venue.

However, I don't believe that arena trials (on sheep, at least) should be sanctioned and provide qualifying points because they are not good indicators of a dog's suitability for a National Finals course. But that's another issue.
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#19 mbernard2424

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 01:50 PM

I just got done running in a ASCA trial this weekend. For yrs I refused to so any arena trials since I had quit AKC but in 2001 or so, but my friend Kathy arm twisted me to try ASCA and I did. I had fun and compete in a couple ASCA trials a yr, including their ranch and post adv. I run in then to refine my and dogs skills, to be able to do close work, feel different pressure and train to work in a intense tight, fast paced atmosphere.

This weekend, Tess did really well...she won in her classes...ducks and sheep and got the highest score ever given by a judge to any dogs ...123 out of 125....on ducks....she also did the same on sheep. Scott did well on sheep, ducks and cattle. The stock at this trial are good, honest stock and not dog broke arena stock. I will not run in an arena trial on dog/course broke stock.

I run my Open dogs in this venue to put the polish and fine tune on them. They will do the wide outruns and sometimes have to be far back in the arena back to work the stock (meaning far off the stock) but you see the seasoned dogs adjust themselves. But my dogs also work chutes, stalls and tight spaces at home so they can adjust themselves to the situation. I do my work in the ASCA trial as if I was working at home.

The problems i see at the ASCA trial is handler running their dogs when they are not ready and also no down on their dogs. A dog with no down going after sheep in a arena is not a pretty sight

BUT, my main love is USBCHA....it displays the dogs to their natural ability. And magnifies my flaws as a handler.

Diane


I've done two ASCA trials with Gel. Our highest score was a 121 on sheep, I think 119 on ducks. In the two trials we've done, we went HIT in both trials. That was kind of neat. Yes, I agree with you on handlers running dogs before they are ready and not having downs on their dogs. It's very horrible to see. How about the take-pen with untrained dogs? That's a train wreck waiting to happen.
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#20 DeltaBluez Tess

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 02:30 PM

>>How about the take-pen with untrained dogs? That's a train wreck waiting to happen.

They go into the pen at my side At home I start them by using a leash to have them go inside with me....but then again, we do tons of stall work so by the time we do a take-pen, they are pretty comfy with it

Other folks who do not do this....it is a train wreck!!!

Diane
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