September 19, 2005

Stock Dog Handler's Workshop

Dusty and I went to a stockdog handler's workshop at Hampstead Station near Merriwa. Myself and a woman who bred kelpies were the only people there who did not work their dogs for a living. Everyone might have thought we were a waste of space, but they didn't treat us like that - making sure we took our turn, and offering help when needed.

The workshop was given by Greg Prince, Australia's most successful stock dog trialler. He was great. I've been to agility workshops where the instructor talks about effective, positive training but never thinks to apply those principles to the human students. Greg's patience and sense of humour never failed him.

Greg has a ten step training plan:
  1. Instinct (Bring it out)
  2. Teach the first command, `the call' ( a dog must come to it's name)
  3. Balance (To me) with no commands.
  4. The Stop (The most important command)
  5. Teach the sides
  6. Teach to come off balance.
  7. Force (Bark and Bite)
  8. Keep Off (7 & 8 are taught simultaneously)
  9. The cast
  10. Backing and Barking (The extension of 7 & 8).

He taught each step, then those who were up to that stage tried it and the others practised the step they were at. It was a good way of letting us see what we were working towards, without over-reaching ourselves.

Dusty seems to have the instinct, and a good call even in the presence of sheep. However when we started to work on balance we were using a rake as an indicator to change direction and go back behind the sheep. Whenever I put the rake out in front of her she thought this was a new game and started to bite it. Still, some dogs were so afraid of the rake that they left the yard, or cringed by the fence.

We have started to work on using the clicker to train her to change direction when the rake is placed in her path.

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