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KelliePup

Starting out

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After sitting on this for a while, recent events and monetary means have given way to finally starting Kellie herding.

 

I think she has very good instincts. She has "herded" rabbits, other dogs, cats, and the occasional sugar glider back to me without formal training. In addition, with the realization of my own mortality, I have arranged for her to be sent to TX to my friend's ranch should anything happen to me. And since she is my baby, I want her to be useful so that keeping her will be a joy and not an obligation.

 

I do have several questions though:

 

1.) What should I be looking for in a trainer?

. a.) IYO, which is better: Private sessions, Group classes, or sending her off to be trained?

. b.) I have two trainers in my area, can I, with no herding background, tell which would be better by watching their dogs, or is it better to have them do one session with my dog and see how they interact?

 

2.) How much difference is there between cattle herding and sheep herding?

 

3.) Are there any good books I could read to get a better understanding of what I'm getting into?

 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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I hate my computer! I just wrote a really long reply, and when I went to send it, I had timed out or something, so now I have to re-do it all! Argghhh!!

 

Ok.

 

First, finding a trainer: Do your research. Ask questions. How long have these 2 trainers been working dogs? What kind of dogs do they have and what kind of work do they do with them? Do they start their own dogs, or buy trained dogs? Do they compete in USBCHA trials (Open, and do reasonably well)? Ask if you can go watch them with their other students. Do they take in dogs for training? Ask for references--go watch those dogs work. Ask to see the trainers' dogs work, not just big gathers, but also close work--like in pens and chutes. Do their students also compete? At what level? Find a USBCHA trial in your area, and ask the good handlers there if they know of this person. Bottom line here--look for someone who is SERIOUS about training working BCs, not someone who has a few "titles" on their dog (if you get my drift, without opening THAT can of worms) :rolleyes:

 

Group vs. private: depends on what the trainer you decide on does. Some just have class at a certain day and time, and everyone shows up. That can get crowded, but it's also great to watch other students and their dogs. But, you might spend all day waiting for your turns. I don't like to have more than 2-3 here at any one time-that way they can interact with each other (dogs, too), but it doesn't use up your whole day and everyone gets lots of individual attention.

 

Lessons vs. sending the dog out to be trained: there are merits to both, but my preference is always to learn to work your dog from the ground up yourself. If you are new to livestock, you will learn a lot about reading stock (if your trainer is good) and learn WHY you are doing WHAT. If you send the dog to be trained, it will be up to speed and useful much more quickly, but you miss out on the journey together. That's the fun! But be prepared: this will probably be the most humbling enterprise you have ever undertaken!

 

Cattle vs. sheep: I always start beginning dogs and pups on sheep--I can control what the stock does WAY better, so that I can get the dog to do what it needs to do. I believe the dog needs to get a sense of self in relation to stock in general by working sheep for a while before the bigger challenge of cattle. As a rule, cattle don't move as readily off a dog as sheep do (unless you're talking ewes with lambs or range ewes), so you need "more dog." It's easier to build confidence on sheep first, than to just hope you have "enough dog" for cattle right off the bat. The dog generally has to work closer to cattle, which means the dog WILL get kicked at some point. But, "the work" is basically the same: the dog still needs to walk up, stop, flank, etc.

 

Books: there are a ton of them out there. My personal favorite is The Farmer's Dog by John Holmes (originally published in 1960). It's not a training book per se, but really is insighful into the psyche of the working dog. and handler as a team. ALso has some training info.

 

Hope some of this is helpful. Please keep us all updated on your journey.

 

A quick proofread and then sending so I don't have to do this all AGAIN! :D

Anna

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You already received a very nice reply but I'd also like to mention the idea of attending a clinic.

 

Clinics are given (generally) by extremely accomplished and experienced handler/trainers. The clinic experience is excellent in that it provides (like group lessons) the opportunity to not only work your own dog but also to observe a number of other dogs and handlers. People like Jack and Kathy Knox and other excellent instructors give clinics all over the country (I don't see where you are located).

 

While a clinic is fairly costly at first glance (usually around $150-200 for two to three days), it provides several days' worth of instruction pertaining to different dogs, situations, handlers, etc. It can be mind-boggling initially but I have found it a very helpful alternative (or complement) to lessons.

 

I know that my dog's progress is slower because of my inexperience and only being able to take lessons/attend clinics less than I'd like, but I wouldn't trade the journey together for anything. We are both learning as a team.

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