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.

Jun 28, 2009

Week 32

Star had a few ups and downs this week. One was his first bath, which he survived despite the "you're killing me" look pictured here. He is such a precocious pup and I've asked a lot of one so tender. This week I sent him on big gathers of several hundred yards and it proved too much for him. He lost confidence and became cautious. So, it was back to basics and we finished the week in grand style.

This week's lessons:

  1. When to say "when"
  2. Little base hits

Here's an exerpt:

It was back to basics for Star man today and we worked on his favorite, the outrun, in the 3 acre field. Together we put the sheep out this morning from the overnight corral. I have been meaning to give Star exercises to increase his willingness to lean on the sheep more and we accomplished that first today. I unlatched the gate into the pasture, but held the chain and made Star drive against the sheep before letting it open. He needed a little encouragement, but came on to the point that the sheep split and he had to tuck in the ends, which was great. I like seeing him brash. Once he got everybody back together, I let the gate swing open, the sheep trotted through and Star broke to head them, which was fine with me. I wanted to keen him up and let him have fun today, and that was a great start.

Jun 21, 2009

Week 31

I am so pleased to say that we are back on the B I G field, which has been so good for my dogs over the years. Star fared well here as he learned what an outrun really looks like, and how to listen and find sheep that you can't see. I can see his confidence increase with every step of the bigger gathers and longer fetches. He and I both love it here.

This week's lessons

  1. All ears, or listen and trust me
  2. Re-setting the outrun odometer
  3. Drive like you like it

Here's an excerpt:

I let Star unload sheep from the trailer and drive them out into the field for me. I lie him down out of sight of the sheep beside the trailer gate before I open it, and he has to lie there until the sheep come out and I ask him up. This teaches him obedience and to trust me that sheep are not necessarily going to escape when they start away from him. Earlier in his training he would jump to cover when sheep started away from him and I let him go so as not to diminish his enthusiasm or confuse him. When sheepdogs first start training, they're main thought is to get sheep, and if I do not gradually take a dog from "get sheep!!!" to "get sheep when I ask you," I run the risk of souring an otherwise excited youngster that is only doing what hundreds of years of inbred instinct tell him to do. In the beginning I sacrifice obedience for enthusiasm every time.

Happy father's day to all the happy dads. I wish for you an exceptional day.

Jun 14, 2009

Week 30

Star has exceeded my expectations and has come a long way in a short time. He is useful around here doing chores and has reached the fun stage of his training. He is flanking in both directions on whistles, has a good beginning to the inside flank, a great down on stock and recall off stock, and I have started to teach him to drive. At just 9 months of age, this is asking a lot and he has proved to me that he is up to the challenge.

This week's lessons:
  1. Drive away
  2. Off pressure flanks, yes you can
  3. The little dog is bigger than you think

Here's an excerpt:

He seemed to be a little more comfortable driving today. It seemed like he was beginning to internalize that job. I had him drive away to set up the inside flank, and when I gave it, he just laid still. I gently gave him the flank with whistle and voice a couple times and then all of a sudden he just popped up and flew around on the inside. He has always been a thinker, and he considers his options until he's ready, then Bang! He's off. He demonstrated this performance in both directions, and, based on other experiences I have had with him, it is his prelude to understanding. I finished by letting him load the sheep and sending him out about 100 yards to gather them. I let him choose his own pace on the fetch, which is a bit faster than I would like, but the sheep knew the way after all. I'm choosing not to steady or down him yet, because at this age with Star, I need more dog, not less and he takes the stop and steady a little too well.

There's a new caption contest going on over at the BorderSmith Blog. It involves a picture similar to the one above, with little Dexter using every advantage. I will choose a winner next Sunday and everyone is welcome to play. First and second prize are a 1 year and 6 month subscription to the RTC. Come and play. Tell your friends and good luck!

Jun 7, 2009

Week 29

Star gained a lot of ground this week as he is very precocious and learns quickly. I have to be oh-so-careful not to ask for too much too soon, as it is easy to do with one so capable. There comes a point in a learning session where a pup can become over-tired mentally, physically, or both. Once that happens, they are complying, not learning and it does them no good at all.

This week's lessons:

  1. Driving
  2. The inside flank

Here's an excerpt:

After working the other dogs, I started again as I had the first time, with him wearing sheep to me, but when I stopped to let him drive, he kept trying to head them and I worried him trying to keep him on my side of sheep. He became confused. Instead of recognizing that and returning to something he knows and is comfortable with, I switched back to inside flanks, which worried him more. It wasn't until he refused to lie down and kept moving away to avoid me that I realized I had gone too far. At that point I did finally return to something he likes and simply trotted around the field giving him the shush-and-flank letting him have his sheep his way. Ending on a happy note, he got another break while I worked the others.

The first-ever BorderSmith webcast was cut short by technical difficulties. I have them resolved for next time and I sincerely hope you will join us. To be able to instant message your questions, you must sign in, which I hope everyone will. Your participation is definitely the best part.