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TRIALING AND TRAINING
DOG FIRST AID
MADE IN THE USA
SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
Well, I finally
did it. I entered Decker into a local ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of
America) sheepdog herding trial. The trial is set for memorial weekend in
Started is just like it sounds, for the started on sheep dog. I feel that Decker is now working in the second level-"Open", but he is required to enter his first trials with ASCA in the Started level. He will be required to take them out of a pen, then fetch, and either drive or fetch through two panels, trying to keep straight lines.
ASCA has developed handler lines for the human competitor. Depending on the level of the dog, the handler has limits as to where he can go in the arena. In Started, he can go anywhere he needs to be to get the dog to work the sheep. The entire course can be fetched if needed, or driven if needed, or even a combination of both. Usually novice types of handlers choose to fetch the entire, not wanting to take a chance on making handling mistakes. Fetching is probably the safest bet for most started dogs.
When I run a Border collie pup in their first ASCA trials, I try to work my pup in a drive position and from the Advanced handlers line. Then as the run progresses, I have the option of moving closer to the dog or sheep, if additional help is needed.
With Decker, the
hardest part for him, I fear, will be this "take pen". This
particular pen is where the dog has to go in by himself and go around the sheep
in order to bring them out into the arena to start the rest of his run.
With many young dogs, this could be the hardest part for him. Young
dogs naturally want to go to head (positioning his body at the heads of the
sheep) in order to stop the sheep from moving. And this pen has a nasty
jig in it. It is shaped like an L, making is most difficult for many a
dog. We will be practicing this pen during our herding lessons.
At home, when I train, I have the drive panels set closer together, in order to make it tougher than at an actual sheepdog herding trial. I mix things up, not training by a set order, what we humans are so good at, so the dogs don't anticipate what comes next. If the dogs do that anticipation too much, they just might do their own thing and not listen to you.
At a trial, you could come up against something unusual. There are fetches called doglegged fetches. These are where the dog does his outrun, and then does not bring the sheep directly back to the handler. They have to be directed to some other point off to the left or right first, and possibly go around a post, then back to the handler. If the dog anticipates, because he always brings the sheep back straight away, and directly brings the sheep back to you and misses the dogleg, then major points can be lost.
Another reason that I like to make my training harder is unusual obstacles can be included in mix. A Maltese Cross can be included in a course. If your dog just does his course by habit, and not by thinking, the cross might be impossible to accomplish.
I feel that if my dog is over-trained for the job at hand, then that job just might be a little easier.
I still want to sell Decker as a trained Aussie, and this trialing might get herders interested in him, or they might know of someone that is looking for a trained dog, we'll see!
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