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.

May 30, 2010

Week 80

Star and I continued to practice his shedding this week, and it's getting easier for him. The weather is warming up here in sunny So Cal, so the works are shorter in duration, but as productive as ever.

This week's lessons:
  1. Repeat shedding
  2. Speed shedding
  3. Hold him

Here's an excerpt:

Star either had some luck today, or is finding his power to turn back sheep trying to break over him and join the cast offs. I am not sure which it was, but at one point, Star shed my ram away from his best friend, and the ram tried to break past him and join her. I am not sure whether it was skill or luck, because I just caught it from the corner of my eye. I saw the ram make a break, and I saw Star shuffle his feet. With that, the ram almost jumped to turn away from Star and stay with his group. I gave Star the benefit of the doubt, and praised him up for the effort. The final chapter of learning to shed for Star is to stop sheep in their tracks that are trying to break. His ability to do that will determine his success in life as a sheepdog, because without it you can never rise to the top.

May 23, 2010

Week 79

This was a blurry week. The time went by too quckly, and I am not completely sure how I spent it. There was some dog training that occurred, but on another's dog, so this week I considered how my circumstance lends itself to successful dog trialing. Reading about others' adventures training and trialing as the season begins to heat up, caused me to remember what a past International Supreme Champ taught me one day. Evn though I'm training on a little league field, doesn't mean that I can't compete in the big time. I just have to want it badly enough.

This week's lessons
  1. The daily routine
  2. Getting creative
  3. Bicycle, what bicycle?

Here's an excerpt:

I watched the Bluegrass scores on my computer, and caught the results of Big Willow the same way. I read blogs written by folks who are training and trialing all over North America right now, and I wish I could do the same. My dogs and I will have our chance a little later this year, and I'm grateful and looking forward to the travel and the test. I considered recently that it may be a little harder for me to be competitive without the advantage of more sheep, more work, and more variety, but then I remembered what Bobby told me, and I simply determined to work harder/better/smarter with what I have. For me, that means getting off my butt, loading sheep in my trailer and making an effort to get out and around. It also means calling on my friends to share their sheep and training fields, and lowering my long-ignored bike from the rafters, and getting the dogs in shape. My ex had a favorite saying with lots of stories of his own to back it up. He said you have to want something badly enough to be good at it. He spent his whole life wanting it badly, and was as good as it gets in his sport. I still have a ways to go.

May 16, 2010

Week 78

Star and I continued through shedding this week, and it was 2 steps forward and 1 step back. On 2 days he was brilliant, and then he slid back 1 day. 2 out of 3 is pretty good for one so tender, working with uncooperative sheep, while the weather heats up.
This week's lessons:
  1. slow and steady
  2. Put your right foot in
  3. Put your left foot out

Here's an excerpt:

He's beginning to get it. There is a bit of a glint in Star's eye now when I call him through, and he comes right on. He is still a little unsure of himself when they try to break back over him, and he does lose them some times, but he is beginning to understand how to avoid it. I learned something today, myself. I have been calling him through, then attempting to help him hold the shed off sheep. It was confusing him, and it was causing him concern. He thought he might be doing something wrong, and was a bit hesitant as a result. Today I simply called him through a hole that we made together, crossed in front of him, ran to the heads turning the shed into a fetch, and allowed him to sink or swim. I gave him lots of encouragement in the process, but he overcame his hesitancy and tried harder. I set it up again for the same result, and then quit while Star was winning, and retreated to some exercises that are fun for him.

May 9, 2010

Week 77

Photo credit, Jan Elliott
It's foxtail season here at BorderSmith Kennels, and training was kept to the minimum of what was necessary. It was more of the same for Star as he continued his lessons on shedding, and he continued to improve.

This week's lessons:
  1. No need for support
  2. Rear view
  3. Getting "juked"

Here's an excerpt:

It worked again today. This time away from the fence, I was able to call Star man through to shed off the sheep that were moving away. In other words, I called him through on the butts. After 7 days of shedding practice, (I counted them,) Star is easily coming through now without hesitation...on the butts. He is still reluctant when they are looking at him, but that's OK. I have to be happy with the progress he's made by going from staunch unwillingness to separate sheep to sliding right through in only 7 lessons. I am also encouraged because he flanks squarely most of the time, and comes in behind me, which is my strong preference. If you have ever had livestock running at you trying to get past, or if you are a football player, you know that the more room between you and the animal/ball player running at you, the better chance/more time you have to read the moves and stop it. It's the same for the dogs, and by coming in behind the handler on the shed, it gives them more room and time to shut down the shed off sheep if they try to re-group.

May 2, 2010

Week 76

Cool weather and cloudy skies brought out the best in all my dogs this week. The sheep liked it too and were cooperative as a result. Star and I continued shedding practice and it was 2 steps forward, 1 step back. By week's end we were making real progress.

This week's lessons:
  1. It's foxtail season, be careful
  2. What's the difference?
  3. They're looking at me...

Here's an excerpt:

I learned something today while working on shedding with Star. It's easier for him to come through on the sheep's tails than it is when they are looking at him. This is true with the sheep we are working now anyway, and might be different on another type. When he comes in on the heads of my sheep, instead of turning away from him, they are trying to break back to join up with the others, and they are trying very hard. Star worries about it, because he doesn't know yet how to stop them, or even that he can. Honestly, even Mirk has trouble holding them sometimes, and will occasionally have sheep spread wide apart all over the field. The difference is, he knows what to do about it...and he likes it. At this point, I really don't care whether he comes in on the head or tails. I just want him to internalize and enjoy shedding. I called him through once on sheep that were moving away. I crossed in front of him, and turned it into a fetch. He happily flanked behind me, and fell right on balance to easily fetch them to me. I thought; "ah hah!" and called it a day.