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.

Mar 30, 2010

Week 71

Photo credit, Amanda Milliken
This is the last of my Sonoma series, but in as much as I am still recovering from the trip, I did not get much dog training in this week. I have chosen instead to write about tips to maximize the dog trialing experience for you and everyone else.

Here's an excerpt:

There is a finite amount of daylight on any given day, and I prefer to be as efficient as I can with the amount I have to run my dogs. I am always ready when the sheep are, and no matter how near or far I am to the post before my run, I am sending my dog the instant the sheep are set and settled. I have practiced this timing over the years, but I am good at it, because I am aware of it. I desire not to waste another competitior's, or the trial host's time. At Sonoma, with more than 40 dogs to run on each field each day, in early Spring, and with a lunch break lasting a good hour, there's no time to waste fiddling around at the truck, comparing notes with other hands, setting up your photo-op, or glad-handing the judge on the way to the post. There are folks behind me who are just as excited to run as I am, and I owe it to them to use my time, and theirs, wisely.

Mar 24, 2010

Week 70

We were entered at the Wine Country Sheepdog Trial last weekend on California's stunning central coast, in the heart of the state's world famous wine country. The weather was perfect, the sheep were grand, the trial was spectacular, and Star ran his 18-month-old heart out for me to finish 7th among 14 entries in the nursery.

Here's an excerpt:

Maybe because of the unfamiliar sheep, or the presence of a set-out guy and dog, little Star man erred on the side of caution and slowed considerably on his away-to-me outrun. Left was a good option, and right went past the set-out pen, but I went that way anyway, because it has always been his preferred side. The sheep were only 150 yards, and I knew he would easily spot them and focus his attention, so I wasn't worried about passing the set-out pen, and he didn't even glance at it on his way by. It was well beyond that when I worried that he would trot, or even stop, and gave him a redirect, which was all he needed to hit another gear and finish his outrun nicely. He overflanked slightly though, and the sheep wanting to go that way anyway, were drawn off line costing more points. The sheep drew determinedly to my right, and Star took the flank 2 or 3 times to cover. Because he gave ground each time he flanked, they were outpacing him on the way back to the set out, and he eventually lost them to the pen. There at least he had them stopped, and I'm not quite sure what he did to bring them to the bottom side, but after a second, there they were. Assuming he would never get them off the pen, I took a "retire" step away from the post, before I saw that he had them heading my way. I stayed put and did some enthusiastic shushing, which meant all the world to that little dog, and on he came. I was approached later by more than one hand expressing that it was a good job for him to have gotten them away from that pen. I agree.

Mar 14, 2010

Week 69

Are you ready Star? Well, are you? Only 3 more practice days before the Sonoma Sheepdog Trial, and we surely took advantage of this one. There is no training going on now at the practice field, only fine tuning and confidence building. With Star, I am keeping things short, sweet, light and happy.

This week's lessons:
  1. Make it snappy
  2. Mixing it up
  3. Are we having fun yet?

Here's an excerpt:

Star man is handling easy for me at this point. He reminds me of a rally car with good speed, great steering, and very precise braking. I schooled him on responsiveness in preparation for the upcoming trial, and mixed up the whistles and flanks adding a shush as needed to keep him keen. I gave him clear whistles in rapid succession, and what I was doing was keeping his confidence up while making things snappy. I carefully kept all my whistles soft, because to do otherwise would likely scare him, but I was flanking and stopping him, changing his direction, speeding him up and slowing him down with whistles that came in rapid succession.

Mar 7, 2010

Week 68

The good news is that my entries were accepted into the Sanoma Sheepdog Trial held in Santa Rosa later this month. This trial is one of the biggest, best run trials on the West Coast, and I am very excited to be going. It is a 70-dog trial. Mirk will run in open, Star in the nursery. This week was spent in preparation.

This week's lessons:
  1. Wide, but not that wide
  2. Over the river and through the rye
  3. The start is the start

Here's an excerpt:

He came to the top on one of the outruns to discover that the sheep had lined up in the dreaded 3 - 4 defense. That is 3 had drifted some distance from 4. I watched while Star figured it out. I helped, but only with a few quiet walk-up whistles, because I thought it a better lesson for him to learn on his own. I was happy to see him eye both sets determinedly, and work the corners until everyone came together. When I first started Star we followed the lesson plan on never leaving anything behind, which was his inclination anyway. You can teach it to them, they can be predisposed as Star was, or they are born knowing, but it's an important lesson for the dogs to internalize from the outset if you want to find success working livestock.

Mar 1, 2010

Week 67

Price, the old master

This week I am looking back on the progression of my abilities as a sheepdog trainer. It has been a long, twisty road from the beginning until now, and just about everything has changed for me. It all started with Price, the dog shown here, and together we learned how to sustain a successful working relationship. It was harder for me than for him to learn how to do that.

Here's an excerpt:

Things were beginning to get easier for me and my dog, and Price was really starting to blossom. He had been like a race horse carrying too much weight to the post. He was running, but not easily, and not at anything close to top speed. As I began to let up, open up and leave him alone, his entire demeanor changed. The one thing that never changed was his unwavering commitment to the job at hand, and now he was free to do it. Suddenly, I was conducting the orchestra, and the music was soaring.