We squeaked by this week with a last-minute question! Hey, better late than never, right? Smile and nod folks, smile and nod.
So, ze' question of ze' week? A reader is wondering what books/videos/websites I'm using to teach myself and my crazy pup to herd animals. Well, *I'M* not the one running around herding animals, but you get what I mean.
My first reaction to the question was, "I wish I knew!" Then I remembered that I do have a few things... For the most part I'm only dealing with the bare bones basics of training Gyp. He's got a good bit of natural talent, so that helps too. But right now he and I are just killing time; I don't want to train my first herding dog, I want a professional to do it, so that I don't mess Gyp up. At first I thought Gyp and I would head to weekly lessons here in Oregon, but now we're waiting to settle in Missouri and then I'll find a trainer over there who will take on a farm girl and her English Shepherd.
The main book that I've been using (and is forever next to my bedside for reading sprees) is Vergil S. Holland's book titled 'Herding Dogs: Progressive Training'. I found this at a thrift store 6 years ago and got it because I was curious to know how on earth people trained dogs to herd livestock. Today I'm using to train my own! It's a great read; easy to understand, and it breaks the process down into small, doable lessons. I've skimmed through a couple other training books but didn't care for those. This one sticks around.
I've also been watching some Youtubes, and I have to say that these made a HUGE impact. I always figured I would teach Gyp the basics of "sit, stay, down, come, etc." and then leave things like "Away to me" and "come by" to the trainer. The videos made it so easy though! So I started teaching Gyp the commands! Granted, he's still a youngster and is apt to forget his commands every now and again, but at least there's effort.
The Youtubes in question are taught by Ted Hope; an Englishman who excels with Border Collies, and training them. The videos are a little hard to understand (he has quite the accent, and footage quality is sometimes uneven), but they're worth the effort of watching.
Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
And Part 4 is here!
It's also just been a bit of watching Gyp and putting commands to the desired action. For example, my book says that teaching the command "Go Back" (meaning, the dog turns around and does a straight line AWAY from the stock. No dog wants to do that!) is the hardest thing to teach. I accidentally taught it to Gyp without trying, when he was 4 months old. During the height of summer, I would always have to stomp down the tall grass before setting up the next day's portable fencing for the sheep. It took awhile and Gyp would get bored and would try to follow me via the path I had stomped. I never allowed him to follow because he was notorious for getting tangled in the netted fencing. So I would always say, "Gyp, go back!" and the only thing for him to do was to turn tail and run back down that straight, stomped path. After about a week of that, I could tell him "go back" anywhere and he'd make that straight line away from me. He and I still do this twice every day. Before he gets his food I have him "go back" and "come" multiple times at varying distances to keep him on his toes.
He also responds to the word "wait", which was another accidental teaching... He likes to run ahead of me, and when I was done moving the sheep I was always afraid he'd run into the road and get hit by a car (we had to cross a road to get to the neighbor's property, where the sheep were). I'd watch him until he got close to the road and then I'd shout "Wait! Stay!" which got his attention enough to pause his galloping until I caught up. It eventually morphed to the point where I could say "wait" and he'd hesitate on anything and listen for another command. Nowadays he usually stands in place until I catch up to him, or if he can't see me then he'll turn around and come back. I like it that he hesitates though; I can slow him down, remind him to be cautious, or just make him wait on me.
And as a random tip that someone once shared with me... I used to always have a hard time remembering which direction was 'Away' and which was 'Come By'; then a shepherd told me that he remembers it by thinking about how "time goes by" in a clockwise circle; just like a dog "Coming by" on sheep. Clockwise.
Hope this helps. ;) Gyp and I are still learning this ourselves!