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.

Aug 30, 2009

Week 41

With the temperatures in triple digits, it was simply too hot to work Star, or any of the dogs. So, this week I take a look back at when we started, how far we have come and where we are today. Here is an excerpt:

At almost exactly 11 months of age, I recently put Star's name on a sanctioned nursery entry form to be run not far from my home over New Years. My little guy is growing up and has come full circle from a rambunctious puppy, to an over-burdened youngster, to a well-trained young dog with confidence and ever-burgeoning self-esteem. It feels to me that he has turned a corner to enter the next phase of his life.

I will be judging a dog trial in Carbondale, Colorado, 30 minutes from Aspen this October 16-18. It is being held in preparation for a possible National Finals bid in 2011. Please visit the Strang Ranch website for more information and an entry form. It is a breathtaking venue, and whether you plan to watch or compete, I hope to see you there.

Aug 23, 2009

Week 40

Star man learned a valuable lesson this week about who sets the pace and when to call it a day. It's hot here, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but I make the rules, and all of the decisions. This week's lessons:
  1. Flow and go
  2. When not to brush up

Here's an excerpt:

Star man made a very nice move today. I sent him on a little gather without noticing that the sheep had split. A few were brushed up under a tree about 25 yards behind the others. He started to turn in on the first group when his head swiveled as he noticed the others. Without any help from me, he smoothly kicked himself back out and gathered them all. I almost cried. I get so excited when a youngster's little bulb begins to glow. Today it was all about drive, drive, drive. We cross-drove, drove away, flanked off the pressure and turned the fetch into a cross-drive, drove sheep away after turning the post, flanked beautifully inside and out while driving, and we had fun doing it! There is still a little hesitancy about starting a flank while driving, but it is diminishing each time I work him.

I put Star's name on an entry form this week. I plan to run him at the Canine's and Ewe Trial over New Years. I have no expectation for success, but Star is ready for some experience and this will do wonders for his self-esteem.

Week 39

It was a breakthrough week for Star man. His maturity and confidence caught up to his talent this week and he is beginning to make a dog, as they say.

This week's lessons:

  1. Flow and go
  2. A little feel

Here's an excerpt:

I can send him on a gather and get a decent outrun in both directions. Originally he was better to the left than to the right, but that has reversed, and he's a little tight on the come-bye side. I will leave that alone until I see how he is in the big field. He is running out and fetching with enthusiasm. He will flank off the pressure on the fetch to straighten the line. There is some hesitation with it some of the time, but some of the time, he gives it to me easily. Those flanks were sometimes too wide and it wasn't from the pressure of the sheep. It appeared to be out of caution and uncertainty, so I'm not worried about it. When he gave ground on the flanks, I simply said his name, or "here, here" to pull him in. Today he was turning sheep around me and driving them off willingly and happily. That was nice to see from a dog that was reluctant to drive just a week ago. They change so much at this age. He was driving away a hundred yards or so and would flank on the drive as well, inside and out, and I could stop him anywhere on his flanks to straighten the line.

Aug 9, 2009

Week 38

Star got over the hump this week and began to show improved confidence and maturity. My efforts to keep him on his feet and get him driving really started to bear fruit and by week's end, he was showing great style behind his sheep and some very pretty inside flanks.
This week's lessons:
  1. Rollin', rollin', rollin'
  2. "There," not there

Here's an excerpt:

Star and I finished up this week making great strides, so to speak. As the week wore on it became easier and easier to keep him on his feet while driving. I observed and learned the rhythm of when he would lie down, and anticipated it with a walk up whistle, which by week's end, kept him driving forward. He still needed the occasional shush, clap and "come on," but with less and less frequency and animation on my part. There was a bit of correction involved by Saturday as well. I was able to walk directly behind him while he was driving without him becoming fearful, so when I did give him a "come on" from behind him, I said it, and he reacted to it as if it were a correction. In other words he would change his mind and continue driving to avoid it. Star did not have sufficient confidence driving for me to correct him for lying down previous to this, but it worked well by the end of the week.

A few subscribers have suggested that I recount my exploits with the other dogs, while Star is being re-set. In the next few weekly digests I will talk about Imported Mirk. What he was like when he first came across, and what it took for us to become a team. Please subscribe now to learn about Star's progress and now, to learn about Mirk's big adventure.

Aug 2, 2009

Week 37

The dogs days of summer are upon here in sunny Southern California, and it's hot. For this reason, because I am starting over with Star after 2 weeks off, and because of his tender age we are taking it slow. I see increased maturity and confidence in Star after his summer vacation and his progress is slow, but steady. Without question the dog has talent, and now we begin to find out whether I do as a trainer. He is not necessarily my type of dog and is challenging for me to train in many ways. The bottom line is that this youngster is teaching me a great deal.

This week's lessons:

  1. Working and learning
  2. A bit of tenderness
  3. Slow and steady

Here's an excerpt:

All week, we've begun each day with simply wearing sheep to me. Initially, it takes a bit of encouragement to keep Star on his feet, but as he warms up, it gets easier for him. Every day, using voice and whistles, I practiced his flanks and finished with a couple small gathers with me positioning my body near the sheep to reinforce and keep his outruns wide and deep in both directions. He prefers to slice on the away-to-me side some of the time, but a quiet "ahhh" from me, and he hitches up and kicks out. His come-bye flanks have always been clean and remain so. What I've noticed about Star since his 2 weeks off is a bit more maturity and a bit more confidence. I'm choosing to bring him back slowly. Partly because it's so hot and partly because I am basically starting over with him. In a sense he is getting a refresher of everything he learned early on, as well as a chance to internalize each step at a slower pace than the one I initially set. At this point, he is responding to the approach and I see improved confidence, maturity and skill in him every day.

I have been asked to write about the other dogs and their training in addition to Star's daily lessons. In future digests I will talk a bit about Mirk and what it is like to handle a mature and talented imported dog that was trained by someone else.