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Brent Swindall

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  1. Brent Swindall

    Mechanical training/handling

    In a perfect world, the gather should rely mostly on the dogs natural ability with some guidance from the handler. However, once the drive begins, the handler should take over as the leader and ensure that the dog is in the correct position. I believe that the shed and pen should consist of a 50/50 dog handler team. Depending on the sheep, the pen and shed may require a great deal of natural ability but the handler must do his part and keep things under control. All this being said, at any point during a run you may rely on the dog's natural ability to keep things under control or your ability as a handler to keep your dog under control. I think a truly mechanical dog is one that has difficulty in tough situations when the handler cannot help. A successful farm or trial dog is strong confident and biddable. A dog like this will rarely loose difficult sheep on a trial field. You may get called off for other reasons (such as a grip), but he will almost always keep the sheep on course. I have witnessed this first hand at many trials when working fresh range sheep or even a sour farm flock. Some dogs simply loose the sheep during their run and the sheep run to the exhaust. A natural worker should not allow this to happen. Now I am going to contradict myself. The type of dog mentioned above may or may not be mechanical. He could be a little weak or just lack confidence. To add fuel to the fire, the handler may have caused some of this by over handling the dog on a daily basis. The handler may have caused it by not putting him in the correct position to deter the sheep from trying to run off in the first place which also causes the dog to loose confidence. I don't believe that truly mechanical dogs are born. I think they are made. Even a mechanical dog must have presence to move livestock. That's the reason that a border collie excels in stock work they have a natural ability to control and move livestock. In summary, all of our dogs are prone to becoming mechanical if we do not train and handle them correctly. Perhaps we can allow more freedom when working at home with the needed checks in place to ensure that they are still obedient to our commands. Create situations where the sheep are trying to get away and develop the dogs ability to hold sheep. Running a trial course at home can be detrimental. Save your high scores for the trial field and focus on problem areas at home. I'm not a professional horse trainer (or dog trainer). but I have tried to learn from many different horseman in years past. A common thread is the statement to save your best run for the show. Prepare at home but don't show at home. I think this mindset will help keep our dogs from becoming mechanical dull workers if we apply it. As I ramble on, I keep thinking that I need to practice what I preach. So I' going to go now and try to think about these things when I work dogs this afternoon.
  2. A very light weight cord like parachute cord is my preference. I then tie a loop in the end that will just slip over her neck. Make sure to tie the knot correctly so that it cannot tighten up and choke her. Then just slip it over her head next to her collar. Do not attach it to the collar. The idea is that it is very uncomfortable for the dog to pull against. You can start with it in your hand but do not allow the dog to reach the end. As she wanders too far, call her name and give a sharp tug on the cord before she reaches the end. then call her to you and start over. As things progress, you can let her drag the cord. If she tries to run off or ventures too far, step on the cord and allow her to hit the end. But call her name to get her attention just before she hits the end of the cord. The cord can get shorter as she progresses. Just before she is ready to go without the lead she should be very obedient on a short, very light weight, cord about 6 feet long. I should do more of this myself, its a great exercise. Remember who is leading who, there should always be a little discomfort when she reaches the end of the cord or lead. Make sure she is able to walk on the lead without pulling.
  3. Brent Swindall

    Breeding question- mixing or sorting of traits?

    I enjoyed reading the link above about breeding for different traits. Especially, the one posted by Ludi, "Heritability of Herding Related Traits". This was very helpful to me. It has been my experience that eye is becoming harder to find around here. I have noticed this as a general trend around here. I have often wondered how eye is passed on. Is it dominant or recessive? Based on the study in the link mentioned, it seems to be recessive. In my conversations with fellow handlers here in Texas, most are reluctant to breed a sticky or very strong eyed dog. My experience with recessive genes tells me that if you want a moderate amount of eye, you should probably select a puppy from two parents with medium to heavy eye. Possibly even more eye than you are comfortable with. It seems that the dogs that are considered not useful for having too much eye may also lack power. I have a good friend who has a very strong eyed dog that also happens to be his best farm dog. However, his eye does keep him from being a top trial dog. I had a female from him that was really nice. Arthur Allen once said "The only time you can have too much eye is when there is not enough power to back it up." In summary, I think this knowledge will help me select my next puppy or the next bitch to breed my dog to. However, it is a scientific fact that not all of the puppies will inherit the same amount of eye, power, etc. We can only hope to improve the odds. On the bright side, it is very uncommon that I receive a dog in for training or raise a puppy that does not work. Eye and Power are only two of the many traits that make a dog good. There are many other traits to consider in a breeding program. It is no surprise that outstanding young dogs seem to be few and far between.