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.

Oct 29, 2010

Week 98

Photo credit: Jan Elliott
We have 3 or 4 trials coming up in the next few months, so there is lots of training going on around here. I have also had a dog in for training, which is highly motivational, and gets me out in the big field more often. All of it means that Star man has been receiving lots of attention and benefitting mightily. At just 2 years old last month, I notice his maturity has increased, and his confidence. It is just what I expected, and right on time from my past experience with other dogs. 2 and 4 years are milestones for a sheepdog's maturation, and it almost seems like you get a new dog.

This week's lessons:
  1. Precision
  2. Hold it!
  3. Be the dog
Here's an excerpt:

Shedding breakthrough today! Yeah! I don't know whether it will persist, but for the first time Star took the initiative and made a strong showing of holding shed off sheep that wanted to break back over him. The first time, he reached up and grabbed a jowl, but lost her. The second time he simply flanked and covered the ewe before she got past him, which is my preference and highly desirable. Both times were unbidden by me, and I was thrilled. We completed a few more sheds and I again ran to the heads of the shed sheep, simply to reinforce his confidence and remove the pressure of him having to do all the work by himself. What a good dog!

It was my intention to load up for the big field, but fatigue got the better of me, and we worked in the small field at home. Small gathers, reverse flanks on the fly, and widening the off-balance flanks on the fetch and drive were what we worked on today. In case you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, reverse flanks on the fly means I give the dog a flank while I am standing with the sheep, then give a flank for the opposite direction while the dog is still moving. Not only should the reversal be immediate, but it should be square, and this is a good chance to make sure a dog is flanking freely and listening. Star was. He is really good at it. To keep him pliable, I also sent him to gather, then stopped him and reversed his direction of travel a few times on the way out. Another great way to make sure he's listening and compliant, and again, he was.

Oct 17, 2010

Week 96

This was one of those weeks where things started out badly, then got better, then I had an awakening. Awakenings are always good. By week's end, I was feeling better about Star, and Star was feeling better about life.

This week's lessons:
  1. No way, absolutely not, too scary
  2. She likes me. She really, really likes me
  3. Pay attention please
Here's an excerpt:

I had a minor epiphany today regarding Star. I trailered out to the big field so that a student of mine could have some quality time on a great field. We took turns working our dogs. While I was out working Mirk, she sat down, leaned against the truck, and cuddled up with little Star man. He looked so incredibly happy, and needy, appreciative, relaxed and peaceful. It made me think that, as I suggested earlier in the week, maybe that's just exactly what he needs more of from me. While she was out working her dog, I tried it. I sat on the tailgate of my truck with Star's head in my lap. I hugged him, stroked him, and otherwise made him feel very loved, and safe, but the best part was that I enjoyed it as much as he did. I felt drawn to that dog as never before, felt an attachment that I hadn't, felt a stronger bond than I've known with him as a result. He responded by worming closer than ever. He kept giving the nose flip whenever I took my hand away, and looked meaningfully into my eyes with his face just inches away from mine. I'm not saying I don't give Star affection, but this was different, and we both felt it.
As I have said, Star is just my "kinda there" dog. He doesn't seem to need much of my attention, is the one that perplexes me most, and consequently that I like the least. Do not misunderstand that to mean that I don't like him. I really like him, but in my kennel, he is the one I like the least, if that makes sense. If I didn't like him, I would have moved him on long ago and not spent this much effort on him. His odd-ball behavior can be so frustrating at times, but then he goes out and gives me a beautiful, booming outrun that curls my toes, or the squarest, most precise flank you could ever hope for, a stop on the head of a pin, or floors me working good sheep away from home, and I think; he just needs more time. Any way, today I may have found part of the problem.

Oct 10, 2010

Week 96

Oh, the ups and downs of training a sheepdog. The week started out so well with both Mirk and Star running their best. Star gave me some pause for frustration later on, but it's all good. It was just Star being Star, and we all have our moments, don't we?

This week's lessons:
  1. Nice, clean grip
  2. Listening intently
  3. Really?
Here's an excerpt:

Star man's outwork was perfect in both directions. He even showed more determination on the fetch, and moved the loopy Dorpers with more ease than usual today. I had used him to move sheep up on a hill when I first got to the field, and saw him do something he's never done before, that pleased me mightily. One of the ewes turned back and looked at him as he was driving them away. He simply reached up and took the cleanest nose grip that you could ever ask for. Then he quietly went straight back to work. It occurred to me that I have been wishing this dog would grow into his power and confidence, and that was a great indication that it is happening. Then it occurred to me that Star has overcome many other things that took him longer than I thought they should have, and that consideration gave me more to look forward to.
 Once I put him to work, he delivered gorgeous outwork. Solid, confident, and well-shaped outruns followed by stronger fetching, and even more willingness to take my flanks off the fetch. He was solid in both directions today, and gave me some very nice sheds as well. We even practiced singling. He needed some help holding the single, but had no hesitation coming through. During one fetch, he was reluctant to take a come-bye flank, so I moved closer to him, and asked him for repeated come-bye flanks all the way around a couple times. It seemed to break him loose, and he was better for it. After that, I flanked him from side-to-side both fetching and driving just to keep him pliable.

Oct 7, 2010

Week 95

I admit it. I only worked my dogs once this week. Yes, I can be very lazy, and yes, that is part of the story of my dogs. Sometimes they have to be that good without consistent training, and sometimes they are not up to the task. Good bad, right, wrong, challenging, or challenged, it is always my responsibility to see that my dogs get what they need in the way of training, and this week...I didn't.

This week's lessons
  1. Resiliency
  2. Short and sweet
  3. Worry-wart
Here's an excerpt:

There was one hiccup today that has proven to be a problem from time to time, and it doesn't occur while we're working. It occurs afterward. The dog in for a lesson is proving to be a tough nut to crack, and there's a bit of strong correction that takes place when she works. Star does not like it at all. He has never personally received anything half as strong, it is unfamiliar to him, and makes him very nervous. When the other dogs works, he goes to the end of his chain to hide as far under the truck as he can. When I called him off today, instead of going to the truck, he ran into some tall brush nearby and refused to come out. He has done this on one other occasion, and it was when I had that same dog in for training. It took some coaxing to get him out and then he headed for the truck and water. I do not like to see him scared, and am considering leaving him at home when I give lessons. On the other hand, I'm undecided, because he needs all the big-field work I can give him, and there is a part of me that thinks he should just get over himself, and grow up. Time will tell on this one.