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sometimes I think the divide is impassible

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Dear Doggers,

 

Probably the worst rudeness I've seen among dog people was in the press room of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show where several low status women were reduced to tears. Although theirs was a bullying culture, many of the AKC Officers and Directors were nice enough to me though several had certificates from the Donald Trump School of Etiquette.

 

Ordinary Dog Fanciers, whatever our political/religious differences seem as pleasant as those with bigger belt buckles. I have noticed one odd difference. Some years ago, I was at a trial where both a sheepdog trial and AKC "herding" trial were offered. All the sheepdog handlers went down to watch the AKC event, none of the AKC folk came to the sheepdog trial. From this I concluded that for a dog culture, they are remarkably incurious about dogs.

 

Donald McCaig

Interestingly, I have thought the same thing.

For about a year I had a girlfriend who breeds and shows AKC dogs, Basenjis. I went to some dog shows and hung out with some of those people. I thought at first that I could sort of suspend my opinions of the AKC, or at least just put them on the back burner (after all, Basenjis are not deformed or mutilated, and I wasn't going anywhere near the Barbie collie ring), and just enjoy being around people who were really into dogs, even if we did not agree on some particulars. But what I observed time and again was that these folks were not really all that interested in talking about dogs. They did not talk about the things that I and my other doggish friends spend hours at a time talking about: what makes a certain dog tick, what training worked for them and what did not, new research about dogs, funny dog stories, and so on. All they talked about was the show judges and the gossip. Here are all these "dog people", and they don't really talk about dogs!

 

In the end I decided to break up with that girlfirend. The divide was impassible.

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Well I have had different experiences where I live. I do a bit of ANKC herding, I dont know how similar it is to AKC. We have A and B courses. I like the B courses which are run in open paddocks and advanced requires shedding and driving the whole course remotely with your dog. The few people who do it mainly have have working collies and kelpies and we sit around talking for ages about dogs and most of us have gone and watched the 3 sheep herding trials and the Supremes and take lessons from people involved in these venues that are run by the working sheep dog associations. We often have beer and BBQ for lunch at trials and dogs and herding is all we talk lol.

 

I have also had a go at the yard and utility trials with my kelpie and love hanging at the let out at trials and chatting to the old stockmen who are generous in their advice and genuinely interested in passing on their advice.

 

I don't know anything about dog confirmation shows, not my thing, but the ANKC herding crew are fantastic and genuinely interested. Most of them are also very good agility handlers. I actually don't give two hoots about all the politics because my dogs work sheep on my farm anyway and are awesome to me. I realise the situation is probably different in the States but I would be happy to run my sheep dogs at both venues just cos it suits me and I like both sets of people. None of them seem to care either way and apparently in the some parts of the country it is not uncommon to do both venues..

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I know this is an old discussion, but I don't frequent the boards as much and I really wanted to comment on this. You specified "conformation people" when discussing rudeness, which makes sense to me, because I think (in general) people who primarily do non-breed-ring AKC events are not concerned with "status" as much as they are just out there wanting to have a good time with their dogs. That is going to make a difference, I think, in how fellow competitors and newcomers--and sometimes the dogs--are treated. I'm sure there are exceptions, but this is my general impression.

 

Concerning difficulty....I've started with AHBA style learning as well, not because my dog is a novice (she isn't) but because I am a pre-novice and it all looks hard to me! Incidentally, my trainer is an ASCA person with working Aussies who happens to be kind and unassuming in spite of many years of success with her dogs.

 

Even in conformation events (where I've been most critical), there are people who are sincere in their concern for their breed (misguided or otherwise), helpful and mannerly to others and showing good sportsmanship.

 

I think the tautology "people are people" is a good reminder (to me, anyway), as someone on these boards once implied in response to my criticism of AKC folk. Unfortunately, the AKC conformation paradigm is bad for the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd (and for dog breeds in general, I think).

 

 

I had a conversation recently with a friend who has non-BC herding breeds who told me her first forays into herding with her dogs was around people with working BCs and working Aussies and they were rude and mean to her, and only the AKC people were nice and helped her. It was a wonderful back-and-forth where I was able to point out how rude some conformation people are and how one bad experience shouldn't mean that the working sheepdog people were all terrible and she agreed. But its true that sometimes its not what you say but how you say it that colors others perceptions.

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Yes, I understand, and to be fair, they are fairly easy, just not *that* easy!

 

I was kind of shocked to learn this week that in AHBA there are just a few "courses" that are always the same and advertised in the premium so one could practice the exact course they will be working prior to the trial!

 

I don't understand this comment. In USBCHA trialling, there is only one course (outrun, lift, fetch, drive, shed, pen) and the only variants are right-hand vs left-hand drive and shed before/after pen. The distances and sheep will vary but the course is always the same and there are people who train their dogs by going over and over that course every day.

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Dear Pearse,

 

With due respect I disagree. I think the USBCHA trial is more flexible than you suggest. It's not uncommon to introduce a maltese cross or eliminate the shed and split. One year, when my sheep (2 ewes/2 yearlings) were likely to be to easy to shed, I put a collar on one ewe and the handler had to declare: ("Ribbon" or "No ribbon" before he/she shed. Some years I've narrowed the gap between the gates.

 

I've run in trials where the Pen was a stock trailer.

 

So long as what's required is a fair, practical test of the sheepdog's working abilities, I've always felt free to (cautiously) innovate.

 

You're right that handlers often practice on the "standard" trial. I do so myself and spot for friends who wish to work sheep their dog doesn't know. But sometimes when training I'll drill that part of the course which the dog finds difficult and as ithe dog "gets it" I'll make it harder than the real thing.

 

Donald McCaig

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Even if the dimensions and terrain were identical between two trials, there is very little chance that the two trials will be identical (for various reasons, not the least of which is pressure differences on these fields). Even within one trial, it is very difficult for each dog/handler team to have the identical conditions (every group of sheep to be the same and have been treated the same by previous teams, the weather be the same, the time of day be the same, etc). Having defined courses does not retract from the difficulty presented at each trial. NEBCA has 4 defined courses.

 

It's all about the sheep/livestock. If all you train on is a small flock of hair sheep (that are heavily dogged) don't expect to do well trialing on undogged Suffolks. Don't expect heavy dorpers and light cheviots to work the same.

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And don't expect lambs to work the same as mature ewes or as mixed groups, or fresh sheep the same as those that ran earlier in the day or the day before.

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I don't understand this comment. In USBCHA trialling, there is only one course (outrun, lift, fetch, drive, shed, pen) and the only variants are right-hand vs left-hand drive and shed before/after pen. The distances and sheep will vary but the course is always the same and there are people who train their dogs by going over and over that course every day.

 

The AHBA arena trials have 4 courses that are described in detail in their rules and the premium advertises which course will be set, including types of obstacles and distances so one could set up whichever course one will be doing and practice it.

 

Of course, there will always be variety in terrain and livestock, but I guess I expected it to vary a little each trial.

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I am sure this is going to be obvious to most here, but I don't know, so I am going to ask. What is the difference between a shed and a split? Sorry for the thread hijack, but I can't seem to find the answer elsewhere.

 

Mr McCaig said:

It's not uncommon to introduce a maltese cross or eliminate the shed and split.

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Aspiring Sheepdoggers

 

When a judge calls for a Split, usually though not invariably on 4 sheep, the dog/handler teke off two and exhibits control. The Shed, commonly on 3 or 4 sheep takes off one sheep and controls it. There are variations when more sheep are available and can be collared: "2 of the 3 collared sheep for the Split", " an uncollared sheep for the Shed" etc. but these varients are more common in the UK than here.

 

Donald McCaig

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And I always thought the shed was taking away more than one sheep, and a single was taking away one sheep .

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The AHBA arena trials have 4 courses that are described in detail in their rules and the premium advertises which course will be set, including types of obstacles and distances so one could set up whichever course one will be doing and practice it.

 

Of course, there will always be variety in terrain and livestock, but I guess I expected it to vary a little each trial.

 

Quite a few of the USBCHA trials that I go to are quite descriptive on the entry form re: what the course will be. "Approx 400 yard outrun, 200 yard drive, 350 yard crossdrive, mature dogged hair flock," And even if they don't put it on the entry form, I know that it will start with OLF, there will be a drive, very occasionally with some variation, and then we will do some at-hand work, be it a shed, a maltese cross, or what not. The challenge isn't in the course design. ;)

 

The last trial that we went to is the first one in my 10 years of trialling where there was some variation on the outwork. Your dog had to find a gate at the bottom of the first field, travel through that, and then kick out into the second field to get the sheep (set about 450 yards from the post). It was pretty fun and required strategy, timing, and some prayers. I knew that there was a gate involved when I entered (it's an infamous trial! :D ) but honestly, short of finding an identical field joined in the middle with the correct sized gate, I'm not sure how knowing in advance what the course and the sheep were was going to help us much. And while my dog had never done that shape of an outrun before, nor been sent through a gate in one field to get the sheep in another, he did figure it out and made it through the gate to the sheep both times.

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And I always thought the shed was taking away more than one sheep, and a single was taking away one sheep .

I've heard it said that way too. It's only confusing abstractly.

 

Donald McCaig

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My understanding is that a split only requires the dog/handler team separate the sheep and take off either set; in the shed, the team must take the 'back two', either for full points or for any points, depending on the judge's instructions.

 

Amy

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he last trial that we went to is the first one in my 10 years of trialling where there was some variation on the outwork. Your dog had to find a gate at the bottom of the first field, travel through that, and then kick out into the second field to get the sheep (set about 450 yards from the post). It was pretty fun and required strategy, timing, and some prayers. I knew that there was a gate involved when I entered (it's an infamous trial! :D ) but honestly, short of finding an identical field joined in the middle with the correct sized gate, I'm not sure how knowing in advance what the course and the sheep were was going to help us much. And while my dog had never done that shape of an outrun before, nor been sent through a gate in one field to get the sheep in another, he did figure it out and made it through the gate to the sheep both times.

At the 2005 World Trial in Tullamore, Ireland, the Field #1 was also used for the semi-finals and finals. But whereas the gather for the preliminary rounds was a straightforward OLF (even though it was still a pretty big field), it was tricky for the first packet on the double-lift.

 

There was a double row of woven wire fencing along the top of the field on the left-hand side so when a dog was sent come-bye on the first gather, it would come up to the fence and run towards the right along the fence, then slipping through a not-very-noticeable opening in the fence, then kicking back out to the left and coming up behind the sheep. At least that was the theory. While some dogs were successful, a few were not. Some of those that did not spot the opening readily on their own, did get it quickly with a good redirect.

 

One memorable run was Jim Cropper's Sid. He had a great outrun but missed the opening and so ran past the sheep. He stopped and (probably redirected) ran back to the left. He went back and forth a few times, apparently just not seeing the opening (and it wasn't very obvious, not with big gate posts on either side or anything to catch your eye). He knew where his sheep were all along but he just didn't see how to get to them because of the fence.

 

This very practical dog finally had enough of this searching for the way to his sheep. He leaped over the first and second fence (they were high and he had to scramble but he was a leggy, lanky dog and determined), and ran to balance to lift his sheep, which he then successfully brought down through the opening. He received many cheers from the crowd that had been holding their breath watching what they knew was a very good dog working under a renowned handler, who just was puzzled by a real-world situation that simply did not make sense to him. He was a dog who knew gates but this opening was just not visually obvious.

 

He did one other thing that many people found humorous and clever but which might have cost him a point (or might not). As he came around the post with all his sheep, after a long double-gather, he was working along the fence right in front of the tented bleachers. There was a water tank there for cooling dogs, sitting right alongside the fence. Sid ran along the fence, leaped into the tank, and then leaped out and continued onto his drive. He stayed on his course and got a quick cool on an unusually warm and humid Irish day - smart dog!

 

And back to our regularly-scheduled programming...

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My understanding is that a split only requires the dog/handler team separate the sheep and take off either set; in the shed, the team must take the 'back two', either for full points or for any points, depending on the judge's instructions.

 

Amy

Dear Amy,

 

Usually the judge doesn't care which two the dog takes off during the SPLIT but I've been at trials where the judge wanted the last two but called it a SPLIT. What my old Intro to Phil prof called "A mere terminological dispute" which takes up time at the handler's meeting.

 

Donald

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To get our dogs looking for sheep on long outruns (like before Edgeworth) we send our dogs from near our mail box in the field on the right side of our drive (camping field) through the gate to the trial field (exhaust gate for the trial field) to the set-out point for the open outrun on our trial field (a challenging 600 yard outrun). The fetch then requires a dogleg fetch to make the gate. We've talked about sending around the outside of our trial field (in the exhaust field) through the set-out pen, to the setout point for our open trial. All this trying to get our dogs to think about looking for sheep in difficult situations and to listen to redirections from the handler.

 

It's not about practicing exactly the situations (course layout) in upcoming trials; it's about practicing situations that require the dogs to adapt, think on their own, and be willing to take directions from the handler.

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...All this trying to get our dogs to think about looking for sheep in difficult situations and to listen to redirections from the handler.... It's not about practicing exactly the situations (course layout) in upcoming trials; it's about practicing situations that require the dogs to adapt, think on their own, and be willing to take directions from the handler.

 

Agreed! That's why I think it matters not if there are only four courses in AHBA trials (or whatever the number is) because the variables that are significant are likely the sheep and the terrain. Incidentally, I was at Fido's Farm right after they had the RLF trial, and I had a chance to do the course after others had left. It wasn't exactly cookie cutter, even if the elements and order are unchanged at each trial. And it was 25 minutes of stuff! From my POV, it was appropriate for what it purported to test.

 

My young dog is not great at spotting sheep yet. While I brought him out early to watch previous gathers, when it was our turn to go to the post, it was clear by the way that he was scanning the field that he thought the sheep were in the upper left of the screen. Still, he took his stops and redirects, and while he crossed (more than once!), I was so proud that he listened at let me help him find the sheep.

 

 

By the second day, he had a better inkling about how to get through that gate, and I made sure to blow him out several times, just to make sure he kept on the correct trajectory.

 

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Dear Aspiring Sheepdoggers,

 

Although the handler may, I doubt sheepdogs learn very much running in a trial.

 

There are few things more useful than setting up a training session on a friend's farm.

 

Unexpected sheep, unexpected terrain, unexpected pressures. Way back when, I ran Luke and June in the Sturgis ! nurseries and upon their return ran them in an open trial so I couldn't run them in anything less. The rest of that year, whenever I yearned to run in a trial, I phoned a friend instead. Run in the cool evening, overnight, run in the cool morning, drive home.

 

It seemed and now seems to have been a really good idea.

 

Donald McCaig

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I joke about my sheep that they are "the sheep of truth", I've had several competitors come to train and fail miserably in their task. Some see it as an opportunity to notice the gaping hole in their training and want to come back. Some never do.

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The example that Sue gave is helpful, at least to me (unless I am way off again), to illustrate the difference in venues. The dog is given an opportunity to think for himself--problem solve--in that example, and this is facilitated, I am guessing, by his genetics. It's a beautiful thing.

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I love that you post these videos, airbear. I watch them and those like them repeatedly. For someone such as myself, who has not got past walking around followed--and sometimes surrounded--by sheep (with my dog no doubt rolling her eyes and inwardly laughing at me), it is nice to watch the real deal. Thank you for sharing them!

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I love that you post these videos, airbear. I watch them and those like them repeatedly. For someone such as myself, who has not got past walking around followed--and sometimes surrounded--by sheep (with my dog no doubt rolling her eyes and inwardly laughing at me), it is nice to watch the real deal. Thank you for sharing them!

Aww, thanks! I think you're the only one who watches them, so maybe I'll just send them straight to you LOL!

 

I remember walking backwards, falling down, getting stepped on, watching the sheep leave ... it's how we all start! But it's an incredible journey and I hope you enjoy every bit of it.

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I remember walking backwards, falling down, getting stepped on, watching the sheep leave ... it's how we all start!

Not to worry you can re-live it if you get a keen feisty youngster :lol::lol::lol:

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Not to worry you can re-live it if you get a keen feisty youngster :lol::lol::lol:

Well, what I meant was

  • walking backwards
  • wondering if you're doing it right
  • realizing that you're not doing it right at all
  • trying to process what your instructor is saying while walking backwards
  • catching a glimpse of what it's supposed to look like when you accidentally end up in the right position
  • going home and watching your starting dogs DVD for the umpteenth time
  • looking at listings for farms in your area
  • buying your first whistle even though your dog has no flanks or a stop
  • attending your first trial and seeing what could be

That is the stuff that I remember from when I started this journey with my big rescue Aussie. Every time I go to the post, I thank him for showing me this world. Even though he never did get flanks or a stop. Or an outrun. :D

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