At the present time most people that have become involved with dog hobbies are aware of the economic value of the stockdog on farms and ranches as well as herding competitions. Dog fancier and non-dog enthusiasts may have seen working stockdogs on TV, in the movies, at herding demonstrations or at a wide range of competitive events. But, few have actually witnessed the true value and function of these dogs performing daily work on ranches and farms. When an individual’s interest brings about a desire to learn more about stockdogs, their training and how to train there own herding breed, they often don’t know how to begin.
The internet has many many good links to training information, sources for herding items, herding internet lists, events, sanctioning organizations, etc.
Stockdog publications are a good start too. They carry training articles as well as information about using stockdogs. Even if the publication is directed at a breed of dog different from your own, most basic training is similar and the information you gain will be of great benefit. They also carry advertisements from vendors specializing in stockdog training equipment, books and videos. Coming stockdog events, past event results, listings of clubs and organizations as well as advertisements for dogs, facilities and training opportunities appear too. General dog publications and breed specific publications may also carry some herding information. There are two main PUBLICATIONS focused on stockdogs, their use, training and competitions.
Whether your information comes in books, magazines, videos or individual instruction you want to maintain a cohesive training method, step by step on solid building blocks. Avoid drastically changing your procedures or you will miss essential building blocks and most likely confuse your dog and yourself. If you do not understand what you are doing completely how can you expect your dog to learn from you? Do your homework BEFORE you begin actual training.
The MOST valuable piece in the stockdog training puzzle is a GOOD INSTRUCTOR! And this may be the hardest piece to find and utilize. This person should be a successful trainer of useful stockdogs and ideally have successful students too. If you are totally new to herding you may need to call club listings in the stockdog publications and contact people that are using stockdogs. Attend clinics and events without your dog at first. Asking handlers you admire who has helped them may also be a beginning. Keep in mind that though you are reading, watching and learning as much as possible from every opportunity, it is important to stick with one instructor and/or method as you progress step by step forming the building blocks of your dog’s training.
Having frequent evaluations of your progress will be of the most benefit. Stockdog training progresses with exposures to livestock and good training methods. You will progress only at the frequency you train and take instruction. If you are not progressing at a rate reasonable for the amount of training you do, revaluate the training method, yourself as the trainer and your dog. Perhaps your goals are too ambitious for the amount of commitment you intend or another training method may be more suited to your temperament and the talent of your dog.
Becoming active in a herding organization will also open up a wide range of opportunities. You can meet other herding enthusiasts, discover more training facilities/instructors, get more experience using your dog and support the herding fancy through your group’s efforts to offer learning experiences and competitions. It does not matter if the herding group isn’t aimed at your breed of dog or your particular goals. Your efforts are sure to increase your contacts and expand your knowledge.
Any person or group can sponsor or host a herding competition, set their own rules, offer prizes, etc. The wide variety of stockdog competition opportunities is what makes herding events so challenging. For the most part, the same good training methods, working skills and handling knowledge are used to achieve the requirements of the wide variety of demands to you and your dog’s stock handling abilities.
There are four main sanctioning bodies for herding events - The American Kennel Club (AKC), The American Herding Breeds Association (AHBA), the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and the United States Border Collie Handlers’ Association (USBCHA). The first three recognizes specific herding breeds and are open to all these breeds. They also award titles for specific skill level accomplishments. The later is open to any breed that can perform the work required and advancement is done at the handler’s determination of the dog’s capabilities. No titles are issued. All of these associations also have regulations for their events and coming events listed on the internet.
To become successful at stockdog training and competing may require a big effort on the part of the handler to obtain good instruction, training opportunities, good stockmanship, events and handling skills necessary for competition. A new fancier’s accomplishments are their direct responsibility. As in all dog sports - the more you put into the effort the more you can expect to reach your goals.
Article Author - Claudia Frank lives with her husband Gary and their JusDandy Shelties and Border Collies on 135 acres of rolling Ohio farmland, Finelia Farm. Claudia has been very active in a wide range of dog sports for over 50 years earning championships in a number of venues. At present they compete in agility and Claudia also trains stockdogs for farm use and competition. With her wide range of background Claudia finds stockdog training the most challenging and rewarding of her pursuits.
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Page Updated 12/09/2011
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