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I'm a ProNovice handler (I'm the novice, my dog is the pro) who is starting to learn how to shed. I recently watched Alasdair MacRae's shedding video and now understand the importance of the cross and how you are supposed to use the dog to make an opening. I think I know what a good shed is supposed to look like for trialing but haven't really done much shedding of my own. I guess I'm a bit nervous of doing it wrong from the get-go and teaching my good-dog bad habits.

 

What is your perspective and philosophy on learning/starting to shed?

What are the key things to have or recognize in your dog and in your handling in order to be successful in shedding?

What do you think a handler should be capable of before starting to learn shed with a trained dog who already knows how to shed? How about with an intermediate dog who hasn't shed before?

 

Thanks for your insights!

 

 

Hi Janet. If you watch Alasdair's video on shedding again you will find that he is showing you, not only what the shed is supposed to look like, but how to accomplish the training for it. You will do some things to "train the dog", that you would not do in the shedding ring, ie, step into the hole to call the dog through. You need to use lots of sheep to get started and get to know how to "read" the sheep so that you can determine which ones you want at the front or at the back etc. You'll make a large hole and call the dog to you with a lot of encouragement. You want him to come in quite fast if possible. If he doesn't come in fast enough you will need to encourage him to come to you more quickly. You can do this with just straight enthusiasm or you can give the dog a flank on the way in to speed him up. If you are using the flank to speed him up don't worry about the hold or control part of the shed, just deal with the coming through at that time. Once you have the coming through accomplished then you can deal with the control part of the shed. When the dog comes through on the shed and he gets to the front of the back sheep, then you will turn him onto the sheep and start to walk him up on them. I usually tell him, "this one" and point to the sheep I want him to go on. If the dog knows his walk up pretty good and will turn on the sheep and walk into them, then the shed will be completed. I usually have the dog do something else, like driving around the field for a while or penning the sheep or turning back to get the others. Be careful that you don't do this too often as you will form a habit in the dog and he will want to go back and get the others all the time. If your dog doesn't have the ability to turn and walk into the sheep, then you will have to show him what you want. With a yound dog just learning I will usually stop him when he is in front of the sheep, give him a look command and when he turns to look at the sheep, give him "this one", a walk up and go with him to help things get going. Keep this training in a very encouraging manner all the time. You want the dog to love shedding and he will if he is taught properly. Don't drill him and don't do it very long. Shedding is a very demanding and stressful exercise for dogs and they become brain fried pretty quick if you do it too long. Try and use nice quiet sheep when you first start and at least 15, the more the better. You make the big hole, at least 6 or 7 feet and call the dog in to get started. Once he is keen and confident with it, you will not need much of a hole to get the shed. A word of caution. The more eye the dog has, the more difficult he will find shedding, so be patient and keep it light. If you lose control or get frustrated, you'll quite likely set yourself back quite a bit and turn the dog off for a while and then your job will be twice as difficult. I have found that Alasdairs video on shedding which was made while he was doing a clinic at Geri Byrns place is probably the best one available and was made under actual learning conditions so there really isn't any set up done for the video and it is real time conditions. If you have it watch it often and try and disect what is occurring and I'm sure things will come along fine. If you have any more questions let me know and I'll do my best to help. Good luck.......Bob

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I'm a ProNovice handler (I'm the novice, my dog is the pro) who is starting to learn how to shed. I recently watched Alasdair MacRae's shedding video and now understand the importance of the cross and how you are supposed to use the dog to make an opening. I think I know what a good shed is supposed to look like for trialing but haven't really done much shedding of my own. I guess I'm a bit nervous of doing it wrong from the get-go and teaching my good-dog bad habits.

 

What is your perspective and philosophy on learning/starting to shed?

What are the key things to have or recognize in your dog and in your handling in order to be successful in shedding?

What do you think a handler should be capable of before starting to learn shed with a trained dog who already knows how to shed? How about with an intermediate dog who hasn't shed before?

 

Thanks for your insights!

 

I think I may have not covered all your questions in my last post so I will try and finish the job tonight.

 

(What is your perspective and philosophy on learning/starting to shed?)

 

Reading sheep is probably the most important part of learning to shed. Get out there and start learning what sheep do and trying to figure out which ones want to move and which ones want to stay. Try making the hole yourself without a dog and see if you can stop the ones you want to shed off and hold them there or drive them away. This will help you to understand the way sheep think and, don't kid yourself, they do think! I like a dog to come in with furvor and keeness wanting to do a job. At times, I have even trained the dog to grip when he comes in and turns on the sheep if he appeared to be a little lethargic when turning on the sheep. Of course, I would back him off once he had a good ethic of the amount of control I wanted him to have. I don't do this with all dogs, just the ones that don't catch on to what I want them to do during the shed. My main philosophy concerning the shed is that every shed is different. Be prepared for you and your dog to be patient and calm but you need also to be prepared to be flexible in the shedding ring. All sheep are not the same and some need to be rattled a bit to get them to split. It's your job as the director (handler) to determine what method you will use. You will have already decided this by the time you get to the ring as you will have been "reading" the sheep all around the course during your run. You will have a pretty good idea which ones will leave and which ones will stay. Fortunately, in most of our qualifying type trials we get to choose which sheep get shed off. In the bigger trials with marked sheep, the choice will not be yours and things will get a little tougher.

 

(What are the key things to have or recognize in your dog and in your handling in order to be successful in shedding?)

 

Once again one of the key things is your knowledge of sheep and their mannerisms. Another key attribute would be knowing your dog and his working style. Is he extremely keen? Is he a calm sort of character? Is he cautious or is he aggressive? Is he confident naturally or do you need to increase his confidence level to make a better dog of him? Is he stubborn or is he biddable? I could go on and on for quite a while asking questions about what your dog's mannerisms are but you get the picture. Another key desirable attribute is knowledge on your part of the intracies of trialling and working a dog on sheep or cattle. There are many methods of learning and I have found in my experience that watching the top handlers work with their dogs and trying to figure out what it is they do to become that successful and consistant has worked very well for me and I have spent many a sleepless night trying to figure out how a great handler accomplished a certain aspect of work that impressed me and made me feel like I would love to be able to do that certain thing myself. Ask lots of questions and observe all you can when you have the opportunity and remember, it's like building a house. You need to get all sorts of perspectives and then choose those that you think will work for you.

 

(What do you think a handler should be capable of before starting to learn shed with a trained dog who already knows how to shed? How about with an intermediate dog who hasn't shed before?)

 

You need to be able to help your dog and place him properly in order to be able to form the partnership that is required to accomplish good shedding techniques. I have found over the years that if the dog is placed to come in on the sheep's heads at a bit of an angle so that when he is called in he is already in front of them and in a position to stop them from following the leaders ahead of the sheep you want to shed off. It's a bit of a balancing act as if you have him too far ahead, he will stop the front sheep also so you need to work on good control in order to place the dog properly and also have the dog geared to come in immediately that he is called in. With Scotty who has been shedding for a while now, he probably knows what it's all about but it is still imperative that you place him right so that he can come in on the last two or the single, whichever is required. With a dog that has never shed before you need to follow the routine I explained in my first post in order to get the dog to the level required to be competitive in a trial. This is not going to happen overnight so be prepared to put in the time to accomplish this very rewarding task. I bet it took me somewhere in the vicinity of ten years to learn to shed well and I've still got a long way to go and I hope I'm still learning when I'm just a puff of dust somewhere. That's really where the rewards are in this business is seeing your dogs come along and seeing yourself progress along with your dogs. Have fun, be determined and be willing to put in the time required to progress. Alasdair has a very good bit of advice with his five P's. POOR PREPARATION PROMOTES POOR PERFORMANCE! and I think he's right. Good luck......Bob

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