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  • Writer's picturekier scott

Get Them Working

This blog is brought to you by Diamond T Cowhorses and The Bullpen Arena. Check out their full range of products on their Facebook page. They've been long time supporters of Herding East and I personally recommend them. Thanks again to Tom and Micaela Thorlakson for their excellent friendship and support.

I remember asking an open handler once "how do you get a dog broke at those distances?" See; I was always amazed that they could get a dog broke at 400+ yards without getting them sour to being controled. I thought they simply used magic and pagan rituals. What I was told was "you have to let them have fun." Which is a classic open handler Jedi response. But I went home and messed around until I figured out what they meant. It was much like histories "what goes up must come down" moment. It was so glaringly obvious that I'm almost embarrassed to be writing about it but here we go. What I realized is that these dogs are true workaholics. I mean we all more or less knew that but it has an important role to training. You have to let them work. You can't do commands for the commands sake. Take time to show the dog why that command is important. A good example is gathering a flock and putting them into a coral/barn. You can teach them all sorts of things while you're doing it. You can teach them to lie down and hold pressure in the correct spots, you can teach them to inside flank to help hold a side from breaking off, you can teach them to drive in a straight line since you have a true destination. It's these kind of practical moments where a dog can see what your saying has a purpose. When they see that, they can see that you aren't trying to whip a slave but instead you're trying to guide your partner. They love being useful and as a rule they crave training that allows them to feel useful. Then when you get to those situations where they're 500+ yards away, they trust that you're telling them to do things that are beneficial to the task. Keep in mind however, this doesn't happen in a day. It probably doesn't even happen in a month. You'll have to use them practically over and over and there may be a fair deal of wrecks. Understand that can happen and have patience. It's about knowing that they will make it take longer and doing it with them anyway. After a while you'll forget about the last screw up they had and you'll thank yourself for taking that time when you did. To me, training is about shaping and guiding their instincts. It's not about over ruling them until you're left with a mindless robot. Give them a sense of purpose in they're life; keep the working.

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