Welcome to The Real Time Canine

My name is Amelia Smith of BorderSmith Kennel and with The Real Time Canine, I am providing training technique for Border Collie Sheepdogs. Beginning with 10 week old Kensmuir Star, I will document his daily lessons in words and pictures every Sunday. Previously subscription based, the complete working journal is now available here every Sunday.

From the moment I collected Star, his training began and you will be with us every step of the way. Good manners, willingness & confidence are necessary for him to attain my goal to become a useful working sheepdog and successful trial competitor. From the first lessons on manners & socialization to his first exposure to sheep, you will be a part of Star's journey to success.

After a lifetime with animals, dogs, horses and livestock, I am happy to share my expertise with you. I have found success in sheepdog trials at home and abroad and have trained dogs that went on to find success with others. To learn more about me and my dogs, please visit my BorderSmith website and my BorderSmith Blog! Cheers and thank you very much.

May 31, 2009

Week 28

Star has had exactly 30 days of training on sheep to date and I am impressed by how much he has learned in such a short time. He will take a flank on whistles or voice, will run out a good distance to gather sheep, has a reliable lie down, steady and recall and is quite biddable and attentive with increased confidence each time I work him.

This week's lesson:
  1. A little bit of kindergarten

Here is an excerpt:

There has been no "training behind the barn," and I have written about each and every day Star has been trained on sheep. I've even thrown in a few instances where he simply did a chore. I mention this because it occurred to me today how far this pup has come in a very short time and I don't want you to think that I am cheating. I'm not. It all came together for him today when he happily and willingly took his flanks by voice and whistle, widened when I asked and ran out to gather his sheep a good distance with enthusiasm, speed and comprehension. We worked on driving a bit, he demonstrated a beautiful down and steady, called off faultlessly and ran up the dog ramp with a simple "load up." As opposed to feeling like I was training Star today, I simply enjoyed having him to work and we both had fun.

May 23, 2009

Week 27

Star had his ups and downs this week and learned some lessons the hard way. His training progressed, but he struggled with practical jobs. Patience, patience and more patience was needed and, because that is what he received, he overcame adversity and accomplished the task after 3 attempts to get it right.

This week's lesson:

  1. If at first you don't succeed, you need more time

Here's an excerpt:

Success, comprehension and willingness all rolled into one good, young dog this morning when I put the sheep out. When I opened the gate, Star flanked nicely around his sheep and this time followed them out of the pen. Hah! He broke hard to get around him, and I let him bring them back to me rather than diminish his enthusiasm. I flanked him around, and with the sheep headed in the right direction, I downed him. He hit his belly like a champ and as I walked ahead of him, he started to break again. I downed him quietly each time he started up, which resulted in him walking beside me down the lane. It only took a few times for him to understand that we were walking down the road, not gathering the sheep and when we got to them, he waited while I opened the gate and then put them through for me. Again, he broke to cover as they trotted off, so I let him bring them back, then flanked him around and called him off. Patience rewarded. Happy dog, happy handler.

May 19, 2009

Week 26

Star became useful this week as I used him to move my ewes from their overnight pen to the 3 acre training field. Teaching him what needed to be done and watching him struggle to understand reminded me just how much easier it is to get things done with one of the big dogs. Somtimes I take them for granted.

This week's lesson:
  1. Working for a livng
  2. There's no I in team

Here's an excerpt:

Star had a bit of a hard lesson today. Instead of putting the ewes out, I was going to use him to put them away and headed down to the 3 acre training field with him. He knew where we were headed and broke down the lane without taking my stop or recall. There is an easement road to cross before the field, and I don't let the dogs cross it until I make sure it's clear of cars.Star crossed the road and waited at the gate eyeing the sheep. I considered a correction for not taking my commands, but decided against it because I want to encourage, not discourage his interest. It was hot, I was impatient with him, but purposefully calmed myself so as not to lose my temper. I left him at the gate and went back to the house for a lead. I put him on it then said "that'll do," gave him a tug and walked back up the drive before turning around to go back. He hadn't been on a lead in a while and it showed when he pulled on it, earning himself a sharp tug back. Then we walked back while I made him lie down and come back to me a few times when I said "here."

May 10, 2009

Week 25

I introduced Star to whistles this week and he took to them uncommonly well for one so tender. It is foxtail season in Southern California and Star had a near miss this week. We ended up at the vet office having the deadly diaspore removed from Star's left ear, and just in time. Star is showing uncommon intelligence, even for a border collie, but with that comes unusual sensitivity. I am interested to see how long it takes for maturity balance him out.

This week's lesson:

  1. Whistles
  2. Diaspores
Here's an excerpt:

"I introduced Star to whistles today. Usually I wait until a dog is solidly on voice commands to do this, but he took to it just as easily as he did voice commands. Going forward, I'll likely use both interchangeably. I like the idea of training voice and whistles at the same time and because of Star's sensitivity to my voice and mood, I think he might like whistles better. Last Friday Star went to the vet and had a foxtail removed from his ear that he picked up in my 3 acre training field. Even though the sheep have grazed the field, the plants just head out closer to the ground."

We have winners in the BorderSmith SheepShot PelletPick ConTest, so please visit the BorderSmith Blog to see who won.

May 3, 2009

Week 24

Star continued to improve this week and became more confident and more smooth. He understands my voice flank commands and gives them to me without hesitation or confusion, which is fairly advanced for one so green. He is a very clever dog so far. I keep his training sessions consistent, 4 or 5 times a week, but short. I don't want to wear him down, I prefer to keen him up and create an atmosphere where he looks forward eagerly to next time.

This week's lessons:
  1. "There"

  2. Come-bye and away-to-me

Here is an excerpt:

Star gave me the most beautiful flanks and small gathers today. He seems to be internalizing his job, he stayed on his feet for the most part and completed quiet, short gathers without encouragement from me to make it all the way to the top. The nice thing about his gathering is that I can send him from my feet by just gently pushing his first steps out as opposed to laying him down, backing up to the sheep then sending him around as I've do with most trainees. I sent him on one bigger gather letting him decide which direction, (away to me, of course,) to travel because I want him to understand that his first and foremost lesson is to bring me sheep no matter what or how. All of his fetching was nicely done for one so green. Nothing rash, no gripping or chasing. I introduced a "there" today. I flanked him, said "there" then "lie down." In this way, I'll eventually be able to say "there" and he will stop his flank, turn onto his sheep and walk up at any point in his flank. In other words on or off balance.

There is 1 week left in the BorderSmith SheepShot PelletPick ConTest. Please visit the BorderSmith Blog and take your best shot.