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 29, 2010

Week 93

There was quite a bit of up and down this week as Star hit a rough patch. I can trace it all to an in appropriate correction I gave him a few weeks ago that caused him hesitancy in his outwork. We are endeavoring to correct my mistake using a few different techniques getting with mixed results. Gone for 2 weeks, I leave for The Soldier Hollow Classic and Meeker Championship sheepdog trials in 2 days, however, and I am confident that the change of sheep, scenery and job description will work wonders for Star and re-boot his connection to the work.

There will no posts here or to The RTC II-Jed for the next 2 weeks, but please check back often to the BorderSmith Blog. I will be blogging from the road with commentary, pictures, results and dish from 2 of the year's biggest sheepdog trials. Stay tuned...

This week's lessons:
  1. In the groove
  2. Out of the groove
  3. Half a pound of cure
Here's an excerpt:

In the big field again, I used to Price to set sheep on the high end, then took Star and Mirk and began walking to the bottom. Learning from yesterday, we stopped half-way, I staked out Mirk, and sent Star for his sheep over a distance of about 200 yards. Even though they were slightly obscured behind some low brush, Star ran out well away-to-me, found them easily, and looked quite keen during the entire process. I allowed him to fetch them a short way, then together we drove them back up on the hill for Mirk. This is my last full day to tune up for SoHo and Meeker, so I ran the hair off Mirk before giving Star another go. I had Mirk leave the sheep a few hundred yards away, and sent Star away-to-me. With the sheep in plain sight, he ran out like a shot, and looked every bit his old self doing so. I called him off, we walked a few hundred yards away, and I sent him again only this time, come-bye. I was watching for it, and he again pulled in while eyeing his sheep. No good. I again called him off and we walked a short ways away. This time, I left him lying down, walked to the sheep, and sent him come-bye using the presence of my body to push him out wide on his outrun. Not only was he nice and fast and keen, but he made a beautiful gather. That worked so well that we repeated the endeavor for the same result then re-grouped for shedding.

Aug 24, 2010

Week 92

My turn, my turn

Mirk bore the brunt of my focus this week as I prepare for Soldier Hollow and Meeker. Star will be working on the trip, doing a demo at SoHo and exhausting at Meeker, but he is on my back burner just now as far as trainig goes. That certainly doesn't mean he got the week off, however.

This week's lessons:
  1. Why oh why?
  2. !##% *^!(!!
  3. Just a minute

Here's an excerpt:

Back in the big field today, and Star was all over the place. I set up big outruns of 500 yards. I don't care if he's running wide just now, I'm making final adjustments to Mirk for trialing, and Star will just have to play along. Still cautious away-to-me, I gave the odd whistle as he was running out and helped him retain impulsion. The whistle also kept him happy, and he was better to that side than the other. He ran out quite wide to the left, and would have missed his sheep altogether if not for my "there" whistle. He disappeared through the wash, then ran out around the big hill, instead of across it. When he appeared again, he was too deep, missin his sheep, and continuing on. You know, I just can't feel frustrated with him just now. He needs my acceptance and encouragement, and his work wasn't that bad anyway. I just left him to it with lots of praise and enthusiasm when he was at hand. I feel like I caused this slump he seems to be in, and together we'll just have to figure out a way through. I have absolutely no doubt that our up coming road trip will propel him in the right direction. I have never had a dog that reacted any other than favorably to the new and different away from home. It will likely be just what he needs.
Part of the problem too, I believe, is that he is getting only cursory work. He's there, he's young, he needs to be trained, so I work him. Clearly Mirk is my focus right now, and feeling the unmitigated glare of my scrutiny. Little Star man only has a supporting role. The producer of Soldier Hollow, Mark Petersen, has asked me to put on a demonstration at the trial for the masses. I will use Star as the demo dog, and at Meeker, he is signed up to exhaust. He will be getting work, he will be getting attention, and he will be getting socialized in grand style. All good.  

Aug 14, 2010

Week 91

Star had more opportunities to travel and work different sheep on different fields. I also recognized that he may benefit from more socialization. The economy has meant more time at home, and Star hasn't had the benefit of attending many dog trials, so I made a point of including him in more extracurricular activities, and he made his first-ever trip to PetCo.

This week's lessons:
  1. Recovery
  2. Working big
  3. Introduction to the look-back
Here's an excerpt:

By the time he got there, about 500 hundred yards away, the sheep had split up, and 3hd were well in front of the other 2 on his side. He only saw the 3, and turned in on them. I tried to whistle him around on the others, but I think I might have been late. It's hard to tell at that distance, because your depth perception isn't always accurate. He lifted the 3, I decided to make lemons into lemonade, and started jogging up the field. I wanted to get to Star early enough that the 2 laggers would be close enough to facilitate my look-back lesson. When I got to him, they were another 100 yards further down-field. I flanked him come-bye around the 3hd, then told him to stand. I walked past the sheep he had and started in the direction of the others. I blew my look-back whistle then said; "that'll do." Star tried to flank come-bye to hold the 3 hd to me. I kept walking, repeated my look-back whistle, and said again; "that'll do." He began to flank again, and I repeated my lesson, then said "here," which caused him to look towards me now well past his sheep, and see the others. At that point it was a simple matter of giving him a verbal "away-to-me," and he was off for them like a shot. Dogs tend to love to go back for more sheep. They are getting more sheep after all. To them, that can't be bad. This is a lesson easily learned by Border Collies when taught correctly, and because of that, I will use it sparingly. Honestly, I had planned to introduce it about now anyway, but then thought better of it after last week's surprising incident. I decided to stay with what we know in the interest of confidence, instead of introducing something new. But the opportunity presented itself today, and it was just too good to pass up. I don't know when I'll have the opportunity again, and I don't know that I want it for a while.

Week 90

Star and I went visiting this week. We practiced in a new, bigger field, on new and improved sheep, and Star showed his approval in the work. With just a few more weeks before The Soldier Hollow Classic and Meeker Championship, we will be out and about more and more and it will be very good for my youngster.

This week's lessons:
  1. It's not the end of the world 
  2. Where did you learn to move like that?
  3. When the going gets tough...

 Here's an excerpt:
Sheep were being held for him by my friend and her dog, and I was quite happy to be told that Star never glanced at the set out dog on his way by with the sheep. That a boy! And he had fun on the fetch. Instead of having to push sluggish Dorpers, these sheep moved off easily, to the extent that his pace required an occasional steady whistle instead of the accustomed shushing encouragement. Nice! We were both having fun. He needed some support to accomplish the off-balance flanks on the fetch, but what I really liked was the fact that his flanks were animated and he didn't give ground at the outset. The pressure of the heavy Dorpers causes him to over-flank, but because these sheep were moving forward, the arc of his flanks had to match their momentum and he was a different dog. So nice to see. This is a reminder to keep in mind the type of sheep you train with when you are working your dog. I could have called Star bad, and attempted to fix the perceived problem when he gave ground to the Dorpers on his flanks, but I would have been wrong in doing so. Different sheep bring out different reactions from a dog, which is why some dogs are inconsistent from trial to trial, or are only successful at home, or do not handle fill-in-the-blank type sheep. The truly great dogs are able to rise to the occasion on all types, and the truly great handlers understand the difference.


Aug 5, 2010

Week 89

Keeping things short and sweet, we never left the small practice field. As an accomplished Scottsman once told me; "just because you practice in the little field, doesn't mean you can't play with the big boys." Star's best work was done in practical work, and I was left with the impression of a very useful dog.

This week's lessons:
  1. Don't let him get to you
  2. The rolling stop
  3. In and by

Here's an excerpt:

I like this dog more each time I work him, and today my "like" started in the driveway. We worked in the little field across from my house, and while walking to the field, Star would not lay down when asked and I asked more than once with some intention. Why would I like that, right? Well, here's why; Star has always been hesitant about things. He questions, he thinks about it first, and he worries. So, when I see him become his own man, so to speak, I like it. One size does not fit all. I do not treat one of my dogs like the other. They are all uniquely different with individual temperments, personalities and talents. When Price did this kind of thing as a youngster, I corrected him. Without it I never would have gotten a 1 whistle down from him. Likewise Mirk. He's 7 and still has to be reminded. Star, on the other hand, needs confidence and an environment where he can find his power, so I allow the California stop from time to time, such as on the driveway this morning. Letting him have the reins and running through me a bit will help put the "dog" in him, as they say.