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#1 DeltaBluez Tess

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:23 AM

So I was chatting with one of my students recently and the subject came up of "what makes a good trainer" that morphed into "Hanging out a shingle but you are all talk and no results"

We all agreed that anybody can hang out a Training Shingle....you can have a slick website ot talk big, trash talk, whatever.....

....so we kept on chatting on this subject and came up with numerous criterias that we would look for a GOOD trainer who had their "Training Shingle" hanging up. (This "Training Shingles is not limited to real life training but internet training as well)

some of the basic criterias were being successful in your venue - meaning at the top level and not at the bottom level (whether it was herding, agility...), being respected by your fellow handlers, being respected by your dogs, training your dogs in a good manner, being humble, knowledge, not having a ego, real life hands on experience....

There were a lot more criteria but some Mike's Hard Lemonade was involved so I forgot....

what criterias do you have?
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#2 Donald McCaig

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 05:48 AM

Dear Fellow Sheepdoggers,

Good question. Got me thinking because, though I have taught informal classes and coached individuals for years, I haven't hung one out.

I'd guess there aren't many open handlers who don't teach.

Not hanging out a shingle gives me options the pros don't have. I can wait. If a dog isn't ready to start, I'll tell its handler to bring it back in a month or so. If a dog is without talent and the handler NEEDS a sheepdog, I can advise her/him to get another dog. If on the other hand, said talentless dog is much loved and loving and isn't harming the stock I can shrug and wait a couple years until it matures into an occasionally useful thoroughly mediocre routine dog. Okay by me, just don't breed it.

And like most other open handlers I direct my students to top instructors' clinics - I've never had a student who knew about them. The difference between me and the clinicians I recommend? Number of sheepdogs trained. In my life I've trained or helped train fewer than three hundred. Jack, Alasdair, Patrick, Kathy, . . . have trained thousands.

While it doesn't take a lot of knowhow to start 90% of sheepdogs, starting the unusual 10% is very, much easier if the outlier isn't the very first of its type you've seen. Once a dog is running in trials (or is the equivalent farm worker), improving its performance is trickier. The dog has a history, the handler has habits and the dog won't be brought to me unless its owner has tried the easy solutions.

I don't hang out a shingle because I can do some good without one and I'm not needed. In my part of the country, there are better instructors.

Donald McCaig

#3 juliepoudrier

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:05 AM

not having a ego,

I wouldn't care about an ego per se, as long as the person in question was a good teacher. More important than ego (or lack thereof) to me is whether I am compatible temperament-wise with the teacher. If I am not comfortable with (or don't mesh with, for lack of a better term) a trainer, then taking lessons from that person is not going to be as beneficial/productive to me as going to someone I am comfortable around, because if I am set on edge by a particular trainer, then I know I am less likely to learn well from that person, no matter how brilliant they are. <--I think this is a personal thing, but may apply to some people.

Likewise, the trainer's training style needs to mesh with my training style. If a trainer uses technniques that I couldn't see myself using, then I am not likely to use them, and so wouldn't be successful with that trainer; this includes training style (loud/quiet/aggressive/laid back, etc.) as well as training tools (e.g., as a real beginner novice I couldn't even begin to successfully implement Bobby Dalziel's method with a long line; now as a more experienced open handler I believe I could, so some of these issues are situational depending on where the student is on the journey as well).

I am always amazed at the number of folks with little or no experience beyond novice who hang out a shingle and train others. At that level they could hardly know what they don't know, let alone train someone else to be successful (beyond the novice level). I don't think one needs to go to the biggest of the big hats, but it does make sense to find someone who has had success at the top level of your chosen venue first and then someone you are comfortable working with.

Like Donald, I have not hung out a shingle as a trainer. If someone comes to me and wants help, I will provide it if I think I can. If I think the dog is hopeless, I will offer suggestions for alternate activities or of a trainer who might be willing to continue with a dog, but I am upfront with people who come to me--that is, I won't keep encouraging them just so I can take their money. I think trainers like that, even if they are successful handlers in their own right, are doing a disservice to the student.

J.

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#4 diane allen

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:35 PM

Full disclaimer up front: I do agility with my "don't have a lick of herding instinct, neutered border collie." :rolleyes:

I suspect this is at least as true in the herding world as agility, but MY criteria is two-fold: trainer must be good with dogs AND good with people. While I have pretty tough skin, and can certainly take constructive criticism, I don't pay money to be insulted. The very best agility trainers are good PEOPLE people, as well as knowing/understanding dogs and their behavior. Ego is often there, but it can be controlled nicely in the best of trainers.

Just my two cents' worth...

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#5 gcv-border

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:17 PM

I think a good trainer also has to be a good communicator. For me, that means explaining the goal (either short term or long term or both) and what is the first step in reaching that goal (i.e. the skill to teach the dog) and how we hope to make it happen. And all should be explained well. I also like to hear feedback sooner rather than later - what is going right and what is not working and how can we improve.

I experienced a few lessons where I was told to send the dog out to see if the dog would circle the sheep and then try to get the dog to 'lie down'. I expected that my dog would have trouble doing it at first, but I never heard 'why' we were doing this, nor did I hear any suggestions on how to help my dog or if this was normal for a naive dog. After a while, I felt rather isolated with no feedback and was wondering if the trainer even cared what I or my dog did.

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#6 Pam Wolf

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:35 PM

I might add trains the dogs they compete with or use on the farm. that is a trainer.

An instructor has trained many dogs, preferably a variety of working styles and has an ability to train people perhaps moreso than training dogs
I'd rather be a shepherd than a sheepdogger

#7 Maralynn

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:03 PM

It's not a lack of an ego that I want but the ability to set aside their own ego in favor what is best for the dog/person/situation
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#8 DeltaBluez Tess

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:25 PM

What level of competion do you base your criteria for a trainer?
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#9 Pam Wolf

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:36 PM

If you are referring to my definition, at least training dogs to the highest level in whatever venue the student is wanting to learn. If trained for farm work, then to the level of fetching with minimal commands, driving, penning (trailer), sorting/shedding.

If I look at an instructor that has sent most of their high level dogs off for "professional" training, then I have to question their knowledge of training, but perhaps they are a good instructor-them's that can, do. Them's that can't teach.

From the instructor angle, I look at their students. Do these students struggle for years, never getting out of lower levels (assuming they have a dog that can), is the student particularly 'dense'? But if I see student after student spinning their wheels for years under an instructor and going no where I question that instructor's ability.


And I will add: does the instructor show an ability to convey good stockmanship practices to his students and do they show both stockmanship and good sportsmanship
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#10 Donald McCaig

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 05:59 AM

Dear Trainers,

The "herding" world is awash with guff. One story I heard regarded the trainer who'd been praised to the skies by a mini-celeb dog writer.

Trainer shows up at a big trial announces she wants to run. Host (who doesn't know this woman from Adam) says "sure, the novice classes run Monday."

"Oh, no. No. I'll run in open."

"Oooo-kay."

The announcer is known for her intelligence and acerbity. "Ms NEWBIE goes to the post. She's a new handler to most of us and we'll be wishing her and Spot good luck."

Dog is sent, runs most of the way to the fetch panel, stops, returns to the trainer's feet.

"Uh, I see Spot is a little confused. Sometiems even the best of dogs get confused. Ms NEWBIE calls him back to resend. She's DQ'd at this point but our judge is letting her try again so Spot can find his sheep."

Spot is sent, gets almost to the fetch panels, stops.

Announcer is tongue-tied.

Fact is, most trainers with a little experience can get a well-bred 9 month old Border Collie to circle their handler and Down! in a small ring. It is much, much easier to do that than get a pound mutt to heel off lead. That's the Border Collie trainer's HUGE advantage. And the marketing advantage not-very-good trainers have: their clients can't believe what Spot can do in just a few minutes and assume it's because Spot has a real trainer. Nope, kids. It's the dog's genetics.

The problem comes when this same "trainer" meets the outlier (the 1 in a hundred) or the dog that is too much dog for the beginner. If the trainer's ego is too big (or his/her income needs too great) to refer that novice to a more experienced trainer, there's heartbreak ahead.

Some people hang out their shingle without ever having won an open trial and some have never trialed.

True, some top trialers can't teach and most good instructors are most helpful at one skill level - some with novice dogs, some with open trial competitors.

That said, I wouldn't recommend a trainer who hasn't won an open trial and I'd be hesitant to recommend one who once won a trial but no longer competes. If they are skilled, why don't they want to prove it? I don't know one great artist or writer who was indifferent to peer appreciation of their skills. Even Emily Dickenson tried to get published. And, this trainer goes on to teach others? Absent peer approval? Hmmm. . .

And anyone who thinks that the best handlers in the world don't learn from trialing and don't learn from other handlers, hasn't sat in a handler's tent and listened.

So here, we have this recluse who won't test his/her skills publicly, and has stopped learning from his peers and the unsentimental realities of the sheepdog trial, but is willing to hang out a shingle and take money from novices who have never seen a sheep before and couldn't possibly tell the difference between MacRae's Star and a sulky chore dog.

In some parts of the country skilled handler/trainers are far apart on the ground and the lack of more skilled competition has allowed some people to set up small businesses with devoted students whose dogs don't seem to get very far - even those they buy from their instructor - but the students figure it's fun for the dogs, they're spending time with nice people and what the hey?

These trainers are better than nothing. Some of their students do learn enough to move on.

Donald McCaig

#11 Pam Wolf

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 07:58 AM

So Donald, training is all about competing to you? There are excellent trainers who for whatever reasons do not desire to trial (be it finances, farm work or whatever). Tru these may not be familiar with the nuances of trialling, but they can be exceptional trainers and perhaps instructors.

I'd rather learn from someone who is a great trainer than someone who is a great competitor but doesn't start his/her own dogs. The later may not know how to start dogs. While it is easy to get most BC's to circle sheep, getting them from there to a high level of work requires a certain amount of skill as a trainer.

And it takes a better trainer to take that Border Collie that won't circle/head/go around to train such a dog-or should they just tell the owner to get a new dog? Does it matter in such cases thatt he trainer competes or not? How does the skills as a handler translate into training a dog? Yes the ability to see what is happening is necessary-but that can(and does) exist in trainers who do not trial.
I'd rather be a shepherd than a sheepdogger

#12 juliepoudrier

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:24 AM

That said, I wouldn't recommend a trainer who hasn't won an open trial and I'd be hesitant to recommend one who once won a trial but no longer competes. If they are skilled, why don't they want to prove it? I don't know one great artist or writer who was indifferent to peer appreciation of their skills. Even Emily Dickenson tried to get published. And, this trainer goes on to teach others? Absent peer approval? Hmmm. . .

Well, it's entirely possible to be a competent trainer/trialer who for reasons outside one's control can't afford to trial (I happen to fall into that category; then again, I rarely give lessons, but I will take in young dogs to start, and trust me, if someone were willing to bankroll me, I'd be out there trialing every weekend all over the country--it kills me that my good dog, in his prime, isn't being given a chance to prove *himself* but being able to pay the bills and put food on the table has to take priority). But I do know folks who trialed "back in the day," who rest on their (very old) laurels, and who have scads of students. Then again, your comments about students not getting very far is apt in many cases like this, but is not always the case either. The good ones will often rise above their start.

Then again, I had an excellent teacher who was not particularly successful in open (though ran in open) and to whom I owe a great deal.

I don't think there's a black and white in any of this. Yes, there will be trainers who can impress the masses with their words and not their deeds, and if folks are happy going to such trainers, then I suppose no great harm is done (without getting in to the harm done to the dog for not being allowed to learn properly <--granted, MY definition of properly). But really if the students are achieving their goals, then whether we agree with such a trainer doesn't really matter does it? I think people who want to go farther sooner or later realize they won't get there with such a trainer and move--I've seen it many times and encouraged it as well.

Note that I am not arguing for trainers who aren't capable of competing at the highest levels in their chosen venue--just pointing out that it's not so crystal clear as some would like to believe.

And I agree with Pam that if you want to start a young dog, you would be better served to find someone who *has* started young dogs and gone on to success with them. That's not the same as looking for instruction to improve one's skills as a handler, but a superior handler who has never started a youngster and trained it up to be competitive in open would never be my first choice for starting a youngster, because that's apparently not where their skills and experience lie.

In other words, as in all things, the potential trainee needs to be a smart consumer. And recommendations from others who have traveled that road before (and been successful at trials) would probably go as far with me as the trainer's current success on the trial field.


J.

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.

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Julie Poudrier
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Willow, Farleigh, Boy (3/1995-10/2010, RIP), Jill (8/1996-5/2012, RIP), Twist (the troll), Katty Rat, Little Miss Larky Malarky, Phoebe (the rabid possum), Pipit (aka Goober), Kestrel (aka Messy Kessie), and Birdie!
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#13 Donald McCaig

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:51 AM

Dear Sheepdoggers,

Citing Pam, Julie (who is a very fine trainer/handler) writes: ". . .a superior handler who has never started a youngster and trained it up to be competitive in open would never be my first choice for starting a youngster, because that's apparently not where their skills and experience lie."

I don't know one top handler who has never started a youngster and trained it up to be competitive in open.

The non-trialing trainer who cannot get the best out of a student's dog because he/she has never got the best from his/her own dog - that trainer is easy to find.

Donald McCaig

#14 Debbie Meier

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 10:12 AM

best kept secrets of the sheepdog world....

Every now and then you hear a whisper, so and so sends all their young dogs to this or that person to get started.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it is a bad thing, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, things that they enjoy or don't enjoy. Some really enjoy started dogs but don't like refining them, those same we also don't see often at the trials, some would be surprised who they are starting dogs for. Then others specialize in refinement, you may see them at the trials, or you may not. They may have their plate full getting dogs ready for others.
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#15 Pam Wolf

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:45 PM

Dear Sheepdoggers,

The non-trialing trainer who cannot get the best out of a student's dog because he/she has never got the best from his/her own dog - that trainer is easy to find.

Donald McCaig


And conversly, the non-trialing trainer who CAN get the best out of a student's dog and doesn't care 2cents about going to a trial is a gem and hard to find
I'd rather be a shepherd than a sheepdogger

#16 Amelia

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 05:00 PM

Saw a vid recently of a young dog on stock that was slicing, cheap-shotting and bending off pressure for lack of power. There were many comments about what a wonderful dog this was, and the handler takes money for lessons presumably from people who feel they're worth it. If they know what they're seeing, a student has to ask themselves whether they want to handle and train like that, and then choose accordingly.

I'm with Donald on this one. I don't know one top hand who doesn't train their own youngsters, except Red Oliver, and that's only because he's 80-something and can't get around like he once did.

I also know more than a few who train their own youngsters poorly, are considered to be tops and aren't. How is a student gonna tell the difference?

If you don't know what you're looking at, here's a few ways to tell:

Who shows up in the final round? Who wins? Who places in the points consistently? Who's "sold" dogs do you see placing with others in the p/n and open? Who's dogs can run out 600 yards, or farther, bring wild sheep to their feet and go on to win? Competition is the only way I know of to separate the wheat from the chaff. And if you don't think these winning hands could get a job done on the farm, you're mistaken...they could, can, do.

#17 Pam Wolf

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 05:16 PM

IOW these are the ONLY people qualified to train or instruct? So someone who lives in an area where there are no 'wild' sheep and cannot 'prove' their dogs capable by your definition is not a good trainer nor instructor?

Without the opportunity to show it how would you know? and does that lack of knowledge (of their ability to show) make them less 'qualified"? Now someone who would brag that they could do it w/o showing (or being willing to shoe) the proof is totally different from someone who might be able given the opportunity.

I will agree that some of the top handlers do start their own dogs (and others who do not start their 'good' dogs)and it is impossible for the beginner to know the hidden 'dirty' secrets of the trialing world. But competition is NOT what training is ALL about. Training should be about getting a dog trained to a high level so that it can be of the most use on the farm IMO. And many a good trainer is a lousy instructor.


It is difficult for beginners to sort the chaf from the good instructors. It is best for the student to keep an open mind and see results. And to remember a trainer who can do great with dogs may suck at dealing with people and vice versa.
I'd rather be a shepherd than a sheepdogger

#18 Amelia

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 07:03 PM

I love "IOW." It means, watch it! I'm about to take what you wrote and give it a good, hard, spin... :lol:

#19 Pam Wolf

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 09:39 PM

nice non rebuttal no spin intended, just asking for clarification
I'd rather be a shepherd than a sheepdogger

#20 Smalahundur

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 05:49 AM

Well, I like to not over think such matters too much.
Basically "the proof is in the pudding", the teacher should have trained multiple dogs to successful open level.

To me excuses why someone that offers teaching hasnīt accomplished this sounds a bit similar to the BC breeder who would win trials with his dogs if he/she only had the time, the sheep , the facilities etc.

On top of that he should of course be able to instruct/ teach others. And it is true that having a certain skill does not automatically mean you can teach it to others, but you canīt reverse that ;).


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