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Kestrel (17mo) got to try his paw on sheep today at an ACD event. The instructor took him into a small square paddock (maybe 50' by 50') on a long line. There were 3 very dog broke sheep in the pen. He dawdled a bit but as soon as he realized that the sheep would move if he moved he became very aroused and focused, but more frenetic than I usually see in the BC vids here. He tended to run straight into the cluster of sheep, split one off, and then run with it, not gripping, but barking and shouldering into the animal at times. He did not back off when the stock stick was waved, and got a few light smacks with it to stop a few lunges toward the stock (he's generally a very "hard" dog so I was fine with that level of correction). After that he did respond to the sit cue from the instructor, though he was certainly keeping one eye on the stock. She was able to force him around instead of through a few times, but he was raring to go with tail up and barking almost the entire time.

 

At the end of his 5 or 10 minute session she told me that he showed some promise but that if we were to try to work with him on stock we'd need to downsize to a smaller pen to teach him to go around instead of through the stock in a more easily controlled setting. He had sent one sheep into the fence and he obviously does not need to be practicing that.

 

To my untrained eye, it looked like Kes was totally "Wheeeeee!" the entire session and he never really settled down. I was sure the instructor was going to tell me that he was too pushy for stockwork and I was surprised she let him continue what appeared to be chasing (to me) for as long as she did. Given this, I thought I'd get some input from you guys on whether her response might've been different than I expected 1. because the instructor works primarily with ACDs and she has a different definition for what is worth working with vs. someone who works primarily with BCs, and/or 2. because this type of "sheep bowling" behavior is more normal for ACD type dogs vs. BCs. Additionally I'd be happy to hear some thoughts on how the interaction between Kes and sheep was handled (I want to make sure we find a trainer that practices good stockmanship) and if this would be a dog you'd continue working with or not and why.

 

Links to the two short videos from the session today in case it helps:

 

Part 1: http://s10.photobucket.com/albums/a134/ean...nt=927_6056.flv

 

Part 2: http://s10.photobucket.com/albums/a134/ean...nt=927_6057.flv

 

Thanks guys - it's so nice to have this resource so readily available. I appreciate any thoughts you have on the matter.

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I would have no real issues with what the trainer did. If she did what she had to to get the dog to yield a bit, she may have turned him completely off. You want to minimize what he did (grabbing/splitting), but you need to keep in mind, it's his first intro to sheep, and experiences there last well, forever for many dogs. He is very interested in them, but he will need a real balance between the rules to stay off, added to encouragement.

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Erin,

To me Kes looked not much different than a lot of youngsters I've seen their first time(s) on sheep--I don't think what you were seeing (splitting and chasing) was necessarily specific to ACDs, but rather to a young dog's first time on stock. Border collie youngsters generally don't bark at first (but some do), but that's the only real difference.

 

All I really know about ACDs could fit in a thimble, but there is a girl who trials one around here, and she has told me that ACDs have no eye. They also don't have a natural outrun and so you would have to have one put on them, so to speak, so the trainer was right about that. And yes a smaller pen would make it easier for the trainer to set things up so s/he could get the dog going around rather than through. (FWIW, both Pip and Phoebe started out as bowling balls--straight up the middle with liberal use of alligator teeth. Pip is running in open now--will be 4 in mid-July, and Phoebe is doing open-level work, so straight at the sheep isn't an indicator that the dog won't be able to do the work. Many times it's just a matter of a youngster wanting to get to the stock and taking the most direct route to do so.)

 

A bop on the head with a stock stick is not a big deal, as long as it's not a constant thing. As Julie W. noted, it's a fine line between correcting for bad behavior or allowing it to become habit. Most of the time, the bop is more of a "Hey, remember I'm here and part of the picture" than a real "punishment."

 

Anyway, given what I saw in the video and given that I know next to nothing about ACDs, I didn't see anything that would make me think you shouldn't continue with Kes if you want to. I also think it's a fair assumption on your part that the instructor is going to be more willing to work through whatever Kes presents because she is familiar with the breed and does realize that some things just might not come naturally to the dog (like an outrun). To me, the most disconcerting thing when watching the ACD I've seen at trials is that the dog kind of runs out looking around like "la, la, la, la, la" (not appearing to be focused on the stock at all; my description would be the dog was out on a lark) but I have been told that what I'm seeing is a factor of the dog being a loose-eyed breed. As I prefer my border collies with some eye, I certainly might find a really loose-eyed dog disconcerting. Take that for what it's worth....

 

J.

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As a long term owner of the ACD, my thoughts are that over here at least it is hard to get a working bred ACD these days unless you go to station country. The purpose for what they were originally bred as been taken over a lot by helicopters. I certainly very rarely see them used on sheep because the BC and Kelpie is a better sheepdog, which makes sense really as it is not what the original ACDS were bred for.

 

I was talking to a woman who has both ACDS and Kelpies and she says that ACDS can make reasonable sheepdogs but have to be trained to do what a BC and Kelpie have entrenched in their genes with regards to sheep work.

 

The expereince with my ACDS on stock is that they are very focussed on getting up close and controlling with body and teeth contact in a fairly rough way. I am finding my BCs natuarally give the sheep a lot more space and flank much wider and are more focussed on gathering than chasing although my youngster is not adverse to a nip and chase from time to time if he is challenged by a sheep, but it is nowhere near as intense as my ACD who could inflict real damage.

 

I am afraid when I go training and working on my sheep I leave my ACDS behind. They are still my fav dogs but not for sheep. Some friends I know use them for hunting feral pigs and they are very good at that!

 

However if I could find a trainer who was experienced with training ACDS I would definitely have a go so good luck with Kes as there is no reason you shouldnt give it a go with an experienced trainer. He is a lovely dog.

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Thanks so much for all the insights! I'm glad to hear there's nothing that raises red flags in what I described or showed. Being a newbie makes gauging things rather challenging.

 

It sounds like we should give it a go with this trainer given her special experience with the breed and see how the first few real lessons (instead of our short trial run yesterday) go. I did find someone much closer to our new place on the Little Hats but it sounds like I might be better off at least starting with an ACD person. That an accurate thought?

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If it were me I would go to a person experienced with ACDS, I believe they are very different from Border collies and need someone experienced in traning them as sheepdogs. ACDS are extremely smart but they are also a handful in certain situations and I believe sheep could potentially be one of those situations. Again it is pretty individual, I have had a couple of ACDS who were very good and calm around horses, but my current youngster is just way more full on.

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UPDATE!

 

Maggie and Kestrel had a herding lesson with our ACD experienced instructor, Ellen, this afternoon since I was in town. No pics because she had me working too, but it was a great time for everyone.

 

Maggie went first since she has a bit more self control. After a few "wheee" moments, she settled down and gave us some nice work. Since Maggie is 11yo we'll dabble in herding informally - it's mostly something fun for her to do with me and a chance for me to learn handling skills on a more controlled dog before getting more serious with Kes.

 

Kes went second and given his last experience on stock, we worked a lot on just controlling him as we walked up to the pen, teaching him to respect the stock stick's movements, and getting/maintaining calm set ups to the stock. He did get released to stock a few times for nice calm approaches and is already looking much nicer. He actually went around the stock when I was in the right place at the right time and he *will* stop (if the conditions are right). Ellen and I were both very happy with his improvement over the session and it was so cool to see him get a bit more serious!

 

I learned just as much as the dogs - and have bruises to remind me not to lose track of my sheep!

 

Hopefully we'll be able to make it down there about once a month or more, especially after we move.

 

A new question for you all: what's a good venue for a non-BC? USBCHA seems designed for dogs with eye vs the looser eyed breeds (and rightly so since it's a BC org), and AHBA seems interesting but there are very few local trials (i.e. none listed within less than 6 hours between now and October and only one less than 10 hours!). Ellen is very familiar with AKC and thinks both dogs could be PAL'd as ACDs but I'm not sure I'm ready to give money to the AKC...

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Erin,

I think you could certainly do the novice classes (N/N and P/N) in USBCHA type trials with an ACD. As I said, there is someone around here who does that. I would look for AHBA and ASCA trials and avoid AKC if at all possible.

 

There are folks in NC who are active in other venues, like AHBA. You ought to be able to find some trials around here....

 

J.

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Oh good to hear! How do I go about finding those NC people who do AHBA? :rolleyes: USBCHA is likely alot more accessible I'm guessing, but I'd love to at least see some AHBA, too. A friend of mine really dislikes ASCA because a severe lack of respect for the animals being herded is common in her area - do you know anything about the ASCA events around NC (she's in IN)?

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I don't really know anything about ASCA, and I've attended exactly one AHBA trial, but I think I can at least put you in contact with folks who are active in AHBA. I'll gather some e-mails and PM you later.

 

J.

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That would be fabulous Julie! Thanks!

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Our herding club puts on stockdog events as does the Aussie clubs in AZ. The AHBA farm trials are lots of fun. One lady has ACDs she rescued and does well with them.

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I put up some maps in Google of various associations/websites and AHBA is one of them. To do a search, go to maps.google.com, and type herding into the search box. You need to click "Show Search Options" and pick "user created maps" from the dropdown box before you start the search. My maps all start with "Deb's". Enjoy!

 

Debbie

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