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.

Apr 10, 2011

Week 116

After all our hard work and practice leading up to Zamora and Sonoma, I gave the dogs, and young Star man in particular, some time off. In my opinion, a break now and then does them good. It gives them a chance to refresh, reflect on the lessons learned, rejuvenate, just be dogs, and find their joy. That is the way I see it, but I am not sure the dogs concur. Left to their own devices, I believe they would simply work, work and work some more, but rest they did, and we are back at it now.
Nice tongue, Star
Day 221os
Reflecting back on Star’s melt down at the pen in Sonoma on the flat field, I was taking steps today to eliminate the problem going forward. We were working against the fence. With my back to the fence and the sheep between me and my dog, I shushed and choused the sheep to keep them moving away, which caused the dog to flank back and forth of his own accord to hold sheep to me that were attempting to flee in either direction. It is a fun exercise that most dogs like and Star was no exception today. The idea is to create excitement and keen the dog up, then allow him to teach himself how to stop fleeing sheep, and enjoy the process.

It worked for Star to a certain degree. He was definitely having fun, but I would like to have seen him come forward more towards his sheep whenever he successfully stopped them. In other words, he would flank quickly enough without direction from me to keep his sheep from getting away, but gave ground, moving away from them on his flank, which caused the sheep to stop incrementally farther and farther away from me, instead of continually closer as you need at the pen.

Watch it!
At the pen, it is critical for the dog to boldly come forward and move sheep into the small enclosure they would rather avoid. If the dog simply flanks and stops any escape, but fails to push them forward into the pen, tougher sheep will size up the dog’s lack of resolve quickly enough. They might stand in the gate, or even worse, become more determined to escape and simply walk right over the dog on their way out, al la Star on the flat field.

Even on the days we didn’t actually work this week, I used Star to put out the sheep and took a few minutes to repeat this exercise against the fence. With much “shush, shush,” and lot’s of happy “walk up” and “come on’s,” I was finally able to encourage him enough that he was able to hold sheep tighter to my body.

Day 222os
The unexpected residual benefit of all Star’s work against the fence was in his shedding. He internalized his lessons about putting more pressure on the stock, and today when I practiced shedding, he came through with more intensity, and more determination to keep them apart. He surprised me, and it was surely nice to see.
Hot two-beat trot
We were back in the big field today with Mirk and a new dog I have in for training named Buff. I wore a wind jacket, but the sun was shining, and after all the rain we’ve had, everything was bright and emerald green, even though the grass is just a shade below too tall to work. I am attempting to put together a plan whereby I will utilize the feed available on the big field, and keep it useable on a year-round basis. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Today involved a couple of bigger outruns, which left my dogs panting and showing me just how quickly stamina dissipates in the absence of conditioning. It has only been 2 weeks after all, and it was certainly not hot. With now 2 other dogs to work, I was able to rest Star liberally in between his turns, but decided to practice close work after just 2 outruns so as not to overdo it. That is where the stellar shedding became apparent, and Star’s driving, as always was precise, smooth and efficient.

A most unexpected event came when I sent, Buff, my in-training dog on little gather. I had worked him in a small pen at home 1 time previously and understood immediately that he was exceptionally well trained. He had only been in my possession for few hours before we went to the big field, and that time was spent in the company of all the dogs together, so we could establish our pecking order, and get to know each other. Buff fit like a pair of favorite jeans, intuitive, unafraid, attentive to me, and willing, so we headed out.

I walked him up until he could clearly see his sheep about 50 yards away. I knew by his speed and body position, creeping forward, low to the ground, that he saw his sheep, so gave a quiet “away-to-me,” taken brilliantly at great speed. Wonderful, I thought, then he widened. Then he widened more, then he widened alarmingly, was completely out of contact and heading to God-knew-where 500 yards away before I could react. My heart rate and my pace picked up immediately as I tried to at least stay in visual contact with him, calling his name, and blowing his stop whistle with as little panic in it as possible. Now down at the very bottom of the field, he was becoming obscured in the knee-high grass, and then he popped up…on the other side of the creek! Remember this is a 140 acre field and he was a good 500 yards away, ignoring me, heading away. I started running, never my strong suit, and continued to blow a stop. Well, at least I thought it was his stop, but it seemed to have no effect. I had listened to his whistles once on a tape recorder, but all of a sudden, I was beginning to doubt my powers of recollection.
Look back
I lost him in the deep grass on the back side of a hill, and by the time I got to where he had last been seen, it seemed eerily quiet to me. The creek flowed, the birds chirped, grass riffled in the wind, but no Buff. How am I ever going to be able to explain this one? I kept calling, and whistling, and walking. Nothing. More of the same. Nothing. Who can I get to come help me? No Buff. Which neighboring houses will I check first? Wait a minute. This is a sheepdog extraordinaire, right? So where are the sheep? When I looked over my shoulder and saw movement, I knew where to find him. Bringing me sheep at a pretty good clip, there was Buff, driving them straight as an arrow towards me. OK, let’s try that again, only shorter for a while!