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.

Jul 26, 2009

Week 36

I am being very careful to keep it short and sweet, but Star went back to work this week, and clearly, the time off was good for him. I purchased some Dorper lambs to re-focus his attention and provide new challenges, but he demonstrated more maturity and confidence as a result of the break, and the mental respite it provided.

This weeks lessons:
  1. Short and sweet
  2. Quit while you're ahead

Here's an excerpt:

I was running out of dog after just a few minutes and wanted to finish up with some fun. I let him tuck in the ends with me against the fence, and again he came in for a grip. He is remaining on his feet during this exercise, which is improvement over him lying still, staring and requiring me to shush, and encourage him to engage. He likes to tuck in the ends, and it's good for his self esteem. It was my intention to call him off, move away and finish with a gather, but when I said "that'll do" he retreated under a tree and was reluctant to come out. It was hot after all, and like I said, he is sensitive to it. I trotted after the retreating ewes shushing and calling him to me. He broke to cover with intention, so I stood in the middle of the sheep shushing him, while he made mad dashes flanking around them. He was clearly having fun, and we called it a good day.

Jul 19, 2009

Week 35

This day signals the end of Star's summer vacation. It is so hot around here, however, that I am not sure how much we can accomplish, but we are going back to work. To mark the occasion, I bought new Dorper lambs so Star will have fresh stock on which to make his come back. They will provide new challenges for him and should help to focus his attention. I took more questions this week in the digest and, appropriately, one was about starting over.

The question:
"I have muddled through some of his training but want to start at the beginning again. What would you suggest we work on first? His downs are bad and he hates to comply. Should we work on the stop or stand or insist on the downs? From the start he chases the sheep; splits and grips to get them together. With my Sam do I let him gather the sheep and do the flanks in the round pen? Or should I continue to let him do as we have in the past which is moving left and right (he doesn't know his sides yet)? "
My response:
This is a great question, because I plan to do a bit of starting over with Star as well. It is never too late to begin again as far as I am concerned. When I imported my 2 Welshmen, Mirk and Lad, I had to essentially start over with them, because they seemed to have no idea what I wanted. While they were both fully trained adults, they were not working that way for me, so I treated them much like slightly trained youngsters until they and I understood each other. I kept them close at hand while working. I was very deliberate about my commands and made getting results a consistent priority.
I will suggest that the time it takes to correct faults in a dog's performance is dependent on your resolve, not on the dog's ability or intelligence, and the first step is to believe you can persevere. If, at first, you don't believe you can, believe that I believe you can, because I truly do. The attitude a dog has also strongly enters into the equation. When we are being too hard or too soft, we have to be observant to find the happy middle ground where our dog behaves, obeys and works willingly. Not always easy to do and the reason why it's OK to start over.

Jul 12, 2009

Week 34

Star is on vacation this week. He is on summer hiatus, his theater has gone dark. That doesn't mean he has been idle though, and he has been busy cooling off in the breezeway with Mirk, helping me garden and playing peek-a-boo with his blanket. In other words, he is having fun just being a dog. While Star rests, I took your questions and reported my answers in this weeks' digest.

Here is an excerpt:

"we'll go out to the field, the sheep are at the top, he's next to me then I say either Come-by or Away, and he then starts off, but often not at a run, but more of a trot, with his head down, looking at the sheep and going out and around, but it's more like stalking them, then as soon as they start to move, THEN he starts running."

I don't know the dog personally, so I don't know if this is the case, but sometimes what she describes in her dog comes about when the dog is feeling picked on. If we give a command and then nitpick the way the dog carries it out, sometimes they think something along the lines of "I thought I was doing what she wanted, but I'm wrong. I'm confused and now and I don't know what to do. I'm going to do what I thought she wanted, but I don't like it and I really don't want to any more, because I got in trouble any way." When this is the case, as an International Supreme Champion once told me, "you have to put the dog back in the dog." Let him run through the stop, have sheep his way, make a mess, slice, chase, grip a little. Once the dog is feeling better about things, you can go back to the drawing board and start again with compromise between you and the dog until the teeter shifts in your direction and the dog responds confidently.

Jul 5, 2009

Week 33

It has turned quite hot here lately and everyone is feeling the heat. At just 10 months, I believe I have asked too much of my good young dog and have come up with a different plan. He is getting 2 weeks off. Call it summer vacation, mentally injured reserve or hiatus, but Star will be enjoying some down time.

This week's lessons:
  1. Overacheivement
  2. Why didn't I just...
  3. Support

Here's an excerpt:

I started trotting towards the sheep, calling him with me and he came. He started to gather come-bye and I let him. I trotted around the field shushing Star to keen him up and let him have his sheep his way. He felt much better about himself when I called him off. I walked back towards the truck and asked him for an away-to-me outrun of a hundred yards or so. He hesitated. I asked again. He hesitated. I asked again, then off he went. Why didn't I send him on his favored side? He pulled in to cross over and instead of letting him just have his sheep, I stopped him, gave a correction and a redirect. He took it pretty well, got to the top, and lifted. The sheep were not cooperating and had wandered a fair distance apart from each other. To his credit, he did not want to bring just a few, but tired and confused, he hit his belly. I decided to send in reinforcements thinking that another dog would help him feel better about the job. It worked and he and Mirk brought the sheep to me without incident. Star helped me load them and we got out of there in one piece. Writing today's misadventures here has made it clear to me that I am asking too much of this good young dog. I have come up with a new plan.