This isn’t necessarily a true guide on how to. Everyone has their own style and everyone is right and hardly anyone is wrong. All I can say is what works for me. I hate when people give you this advice that is “you have to do it this way, if you don’t you’ll never succeed”. Now I will use language that sounds like hard and fast rules but they most certainly are not. In this sport try to always be learning and never simply just following in someone else’s bible without trying your own style first. But back to starting a dog. In a previous blog, I talked about the age to start so I won’t spend any time on that. For sake of ease, I’m going to pretend that the dog is turned on and excited to work. Now, I always start with a long line (a 15 foot leash) and ideally I’ve done some work to get the dog to give in to pressure. I find it impossible to control a dog that won’t bend off of me when I step toward them. With that said, a dog can’t bend off out of incredible fear. Normally that becomes a dog who quits every time I try forcing them to bend or slow down. For obvious reasons, that’s also unworkable. If the dog doesn’t have any pressure respect, I do sometimes let them on stock regardless and try to develop that on the fly. This road is peril. It can work, in the same sense that the lottery can be a retirement plan. Now, regardless of the pressure respect, I normally spend the first 10 minutes the same… as a general assessment of the dogs interest or ability to work livestock. I follow those initial moments with the question “where does he need help”. You do have to be careful helping though because it gets real easy to frighten a dog off of work. You’re basically telling them in those first minutes to go chase livestock. They don’t know the difference between good and bad chasing and trying to correct them too early just tells them that chasing is bad. The beginning of a dog is about having fun and building confidence. That way, when the going gets tough, they’re ready for it. Whether that takes the form of tough training or tough livestock, they have to believe they are God’s gift to the world. God being you and you being a jealous god that expects immediate obedience. I think that analogy was quite complete. Afterwords, you can guide your dog without them melting like a millennial and you can actually start training. First, show them how you want livestock handled. Especially before verbal commands. Verbal commands get people caught up on obedience and off of the true foundation of a true stockdog. I, of course, am talking about stockmanship. Stockmanship defined by handling stock in a effective and efficient manner. This normally means I spend a lot of time in the beginning leaving the dog responsible for their own livestock. In other words, I’ll set up a goal (can be bringing me the sheep or putting the sheep in a corral), and give the dog minimal commands. Assuming the dog has brains and understands the goal, you can get incredible results. It helps teach them how to cover and how to get jobs done. Completed tasks have the added bonus of being fun for the dog and building it’s confidence. From there, I’ll start forcing more obedience and ask nonsensical things from the dog so they learn to pay attention. I implore you however, earn their trust. Reward what you want and correct what’s wrong. Dogs trust honesty and respect. So that’s starting a dog. Bye.
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