Soooo, I hope the importance of the flanks in your dog was branded into your brain from the last blog. However, what about your dog’s brain??
I am teaching a schooling lesson on Thursday to demonstrate HOW to train these flanks. It’s not enough that the dogs have a rudimentary understanding of clockwise/counterc.w. There has to be NO hesitation in their obedience to the directions given by YOU. You will never learn to handle sheep until you WATCH THEM. Watching to see if your dog is obeying your instructions doesn’t allow you to focus on the sheep. Your timing is off, lines askew, panels missed, all because you weren’t seeing what your sheep were planning.
Sheep are devious, wooly bastards. The more they are worked, the smarter they get.
The handler’s job is to prevent the wreck, limit the chaos. That is the definition of herding trials. The quicker YOU are in circumventing their plan, the more they have to take the correct path. If you are busy seeing whether your dog took the flank correctly or whether he took the “stop”, the less you are seeing the sheep. How do you ensure your dog’s fidelilty to instruction?
School, School, School. It’s hours of mindless training to get your dog’s mind in a receptive state. Muscle memory (ever danced?). Repetitive steps till they flow w/out hesitation. That’s what the dogs have to do. It’s good for handlers, too. The drilling makes the whistles more spontaneous and clear. I had four dogs on different sets of whistles. How did I keep them straight?
I would see the dog and hear the whistles in my head. Hours of schooling. The dog would have to hear the command and respond REGARDLESS of what the sheep are doing. Hours, hours of training.
Unfortunately, the instant gratification we have come to expect in our life isn’t pertinent here. I found I must have a small clinic to address this as my clients thought if they worked whistles for five minutes, drove sheep around, played w/ sorting, penning they would make a trial dog. No, it’s much hard work w/ monotonous, jaw-breaking, hyperventilating effort.
Oh, yes and much running around.
For my Intermediate/Advanced clients the rule is: for every 1/2 hr lesson, they need one hour of drilling.
I have been speaking more to BC owners than the other breeds. However, even they need this schooling. They can’t take as much as a BC in terms of pressure but they need the drilling, too. When these dogs get to trials, they need to be under more control that most BCs. It’s more difficult to get them to respond w/ speed but having them obedient is even more important. If the dog has any drive to work, the drill sessions are for them.
Hear It, Do It: That’s the successful handler’s motto.