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.

Jan 31, 2010

Week 63

Photo credit; Jan Elliott
All the look, listen, trust me lessons paid off this week as Star was put to the test. The sheep shifted far from the set out, and he had to take several stop whistles, walk-up and re-directs to find them. Using his determination and focus, and my vantage point, we collaborated to find them, which made Star the winner. Game over for that day.

This week's lessons:
  1. Stop, listen and look
  2. Never, ever give up
  3. It's always fun when you win

Here's an excerpt:

I see too many people hesitate to help their dog, and I don't understand why. It's like the vacume cleaner that won't pick up the penny. Instead of just bending down to get it, we keep running over it, shake the nozzle, or pick it up and inspect it before running over the penny again. Picking up the penny is the vacume cleaner's job, right? I think it must be the same with our dogs. After all, they are supposed to handle the sheep, but if they are struggling, it's no benefit to let them continue. Help them, teach them, and continue until they can manage it on their own. Never be afraid to help your dog. Unlike standing by, getting frustrated, blowing ever harsher whistles, raising your voice, and blaming the dog, there's no shame in helping.

Jan 24, 2010

Week 62

We received lots of moisture this week, as the heavens opened and deluged us with angels, I mean rain. Southern Californian's NEVER complain about rain. Or at least we shouldn't, we only get about 5 inches per year. The Zamora Sheepdog Trial is next month, so we worked when we could. It was more of the same; challenging Star on the outrun.

This week's lessons:
  1. The pressure release valve
  2. Swamp work
  3. Interference

Here's an excerpt:

Off he went, nice and wide, and directly in the path of the hunters that were now walking towards Star. "This will be interesting," I thought, but also that it would be good for him to handle interference. Carrying huge bags slung over their shoulders, the hunters looked like camouflaged Santas, and Star slowed noticeably when he spotted them. The hunters slowed too, and I can only imagine what they were thinking. Apparently, though, they weren't too scary, because Star moved past them without deviating from his path, shifted back into high gear and finished his outrun nicely. I promise you, that experience will come in handy sometime, somewhere.

Jan 17, 2010

Week 61

Listen and trust. Listen carefully to my whistles, and trust that I will help you find sheep that you can't see. Those are the lessons impressed upon Star this week and he internalized them beautifully. I sent him blindly, I sent him far and wide, and I sent him for sheep in areas of the practice field that he didn't even know existed. Clearly, it became an enjoyable game to him as he took each re-direct and encouragement to "look" for his sheep with eager enthusiasm.

This week's lessons:
  1. Look
  2. Listen
  3. Trust

Here's an excerpt:

More distance and more trust today and I'm pleased to report that little Star-man handled it well. We worked from the other end of the 40 acre field, from bottom to top, where the hearing is spotty. While the field rises up, it does so in terraces with little peaks and valleys and the odd boulder outcropping to challange you. I set the sheep far to the right and completely obscured by a small rise. I couldn't see them, and neither could Star when I untied him. I set him up for a left-hand outrun, showing him the way with the direction of my steps, and told him to "look." I waited until his head swiveled in the right direction, then sent him with a quiet "come-bye." He ran out with authority and speed, requiring no help whatsoever to land spot on balance behind his sheep. I did little to straighten the fetch line, because I wanted to reward him for a job well done. Sometimes when we get too picky about all the little things in practice, the dogs feel over burdened. With the youngsters especially, I like to let them have their head quite a lot to make sure they are having fun and figuring things out on their own.

Jan 11, 2010

Week 60

This week I gave Star a break after all the hard work he made in preparation for last week's dog trial. This edition of the RTC contained my perspective of the trial itself together with Mirk's results. He is the open dog I ran.

Here's an excerpt:

Mirk ran 13th on Friday, so I had the opportunity to see a good number of hands maneuver the small and deceptively tricky course ahead of me. Just like every year, the lambs were recalcitrant without an older sheep to guide them and were set on hay where they would just as soon stay, thank you very much. As usual, many dogs struggled to lift them. Most of what I saw at the lift were hands who have interfered with their dogs much too much, taking the power out of them in training, sacrificing effectiveness for perceived obedience or perfection. It always saddens me to see Border Collie dogs wearing at the lift, eyeing their master over the sheep in case they're wrong, finally surrendering to lie down and wait for the inevitable, whatever that is to them. I hate it actually, and I see it a lot. Then the discussion afterward that goes something like this; "My sheep were so tough, did you see that?" "Joe Hand sure got lucky. His sheep just marched around like 4H lambs." No credit given to the good dogs, and none to the effective trainer and handler. And it's the same people saying the same things, who perform with consistent mediocrity as a result of their self-serving excuses. I see it at every trial I go to.

Jan 4, 2010

Week 59

At 15 month's of age, and a scant 13 months after receiving him as a puppy, Star won his first-ever dog trial. This weekend he won day 1 of the nursery division at Jennifer and Ron Ewer's On the Border Sheepdog Trial. I've heard it said that the nursery is the potpourri of herding and so it was with Star. From the 6 of 8 dogs that finished in the 2nd nursery, Star was dead last.

This week's lessons:
  1. focus when distracted
  2. Just like practice
  3. That's a lot of sheep

Here's an excerpt:

"From the entire weekend, there is one sight that still makes me laugh and will likely continue to bring me joy. On the first day Star and I exhausted our own sheep. As he approached the exhaust pen he was treated for the first time ever to the sight of hundreds of sheep milling about. The look on his face reminded me of the feeling I experience each and every time I visit the Grand Canyon, disbelief, awe, some kind of rapture. There is something so very innocent and pure about running a talented nursery dog. Nothing is taken for granted and each accomplishment is a happy surprise. The youngsters are clean, fresh, untainted, and there is never a time when the dogs are more reflective of our own abilities and shortcomings as trainers and handlers. After our second run and even though it was clear we hadn't run as well as the day before, I walked over to the blind where a friend was watching, and said; "That was so much fun." "