Flanks & Driving

I have promised my web genius, Tim, that I would produce a new blog each Friday. He is also making it possible for me to add video links so readers can SEE what I am describing. This should make this blog a GREAT teaching tool for all of you! Keep your eyes pealed on Fridays! Continuing the discussion of flanks: how to turn those big circles into a simple “left, right” turn for the dog. Most of my discussion has involved making the flanks bigger, wider for gathering. However, the same commands are used to produce the drive. Most of my students think the challenge is getting the dog to push the sheep away from the handler to achieve the drive. It’s not. STEERING the sheep is the tough part. Just like you don’t drive in your lane on the freeway by slinging the steering wheel left and right, the dog shouldn’t be wearing big circles. Small movements are what keep the sheep in a straight line. How do we take those wide, beautiful circles into little, precise movements? Read and learn… The other problem w/ teaching the drive is the dog doesn’t even KNOW THE COMMANDS! Most beginners use their body/stick to produce the turns, not realizing the dog is DEPENDENT on the body language. Therefore, as the dog begins moving sheep away, his back is to the handler and can’t see the cues. This causes the dog to turn around and look for direction; some dogs go all the way back to the handler. Makes it difficult to take sheep on a jaunt around the course. The training for this is EASY but requires attention to your every movement. First, when introducing flanks to the dog, REPEAT THE COMMANDS AS LONG AS THE DOG IS DOING IT!! ” Here it, do it” is the motto for good herding dogs. Once you think the dog recognizes the word, give one cue w/ the first command and then duct tape your arms to your side and keep repeating it. I guarantee the dog will stop as soon as you stop moving. You need your dog to take the command w/out moving your body. That’s the first step. Next, start making the flanks of varying distances. Full circles, half circles, quarter circles; dog should be turning to HIS right and left. He should NOT angle toward the sheep or toward the handler. When this is accomplished, it’s EASY getting the dog to go toward the sheep. Don’t expect the “walk up” to always be STRAIGHT; sometimes the dog bends. I will address how this can be amended in upcoming blogs.