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As a person who has seen more trials from the back side than the post, I have the best seat in the house. I can defend the use of corn on dog-and-trial broke sheep because in the end, the dog with the best outrun and lift will likely win it. It isn't perfect, but if you needed to move sheep off a feed bunk, how the dog handles might be the same.

 

From my vantage point, the dog who has left his handler's feet and comes around quietly and stealthily will present himself to the sheep in such a way, even on corn, that says "I mean for you to move, and if you co-operate, I mean you no harm. If you blow me off, I will move in until you leave that corn, and you will leave me no choice but to get in your face and bite your silly nose." My hope is that only sheep well-dogged and educated about dogdom will have corn to settle them, and not just hungry sheep that will die of a heart attack when they look up from it to see DOG! in the picture. A dog who runs in at anywhere from 9 to 3 and chases sheep off chow hasn't come intending to read his sheep. He just moves them from point A to B. I kind of wish all trials could be held on effectively spotted sheep without using corn, but sometimes it looks like folks want the sheep exactly quiet, in perfect packet-formation, precisely at 12 o'clock before they'll send their dogs. A good judge will size up what he sees happening and evaluate it accordingly.

 

 

I contend that dogs can't really be trained to be that wonderful dog who has the presence to move sheep effectively, using what power he has judiciously and wisely, waiting when a wait will shore up uneasy sheep, moving just enough to influence the sheep to go steadily in the direction he's being asked to move them. A good sheepdog can shift weight from back to front and laterally and tell the sheep what he intends to do when that sheep turns an eye. That ability is in a dog's heart and mind, and we as handlers can screw around with it in training, but bottom-line, you can't really see what's going on as well as you'd like. This is the one place you have to trust your dog, and it's up to him what he does when he and sheep find themselves at that one place in time where they size each other up and each decides what has to happen next.

 

This is the foundation you have to set your training on, I guess, and I respect the handlers who have those special dogs and teach them how to help us manage sheep.

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Wow, Debbie, I really enjoyed that! The view from the top...

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Debbie, your entire post is so well articulated, but this one sentence really struck a cord with me.

 

I contend that dogs can't really be trained [emphasis mine] to be that wonderful dog who has the presence to move sheep effectively, using what power he has judiciously and wisely, waiting when a wait will shore up uneasy sheep, moving just enough to influence the sheep to go steadily in the direction he's being asked to move them.

This is a question I have been really pondering of late. I, too, do a fair amount of setout at sheep trials (and have seen more sheep trials from the top than from the post, as well (cattle trials, different story)). I see a number of dogs who seem to not have a "feel" for the sheep, and have been wondering how much of the dog's "non-feel" is due to genetics, and how much might be attributed to training. I have come to the conclusion that it seems to be, in part at least in some cases, a function of handling/training, but I also think that a dog with true feel for stock has it innately. If one has a dog that does not have this feel inherently, then, given "perfect" training/handling, how much "feel" can a dog acquire?

A

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