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Basic Terminology

The natural instinct of most herding dogs is to FETCH. Fetching means the dog brings the sheep to the handler. The traditional view of the dog, sheep, and handler is to imagine a clock with the handler at 12 and the dog at 6. Wherever the handler moves, the dog counter balances to match the handler's position.

The dog pushes the livestock away from the handler. Once you have taught driving to your dog, you are on the way to a fully trained (or "broke") dog. Driving can be easy if beginning training the handler stops the dog off balance.

The instinct of the dog should be to keep the sheep all together in a group. We need to encourage this ability. Splitting may occur and is common in young dogs; we let the dog figure out how to fix the messes. We encourage the dog to be on the perimeter of the livestock.

There is a lot to be learned from livestock. A big part of your job as handler is to begin to watch how sheep react to different things and how they move. All livestock see out the side of their head, NOT straight ahead. Most work should be on the sheep sides to "work the eye". Ears should be watched because the sheep will let you know when the dog is connected. If the handler demonstrates control of the dog, the sheep will trust the handler.

The dog’s ability to read the stock and to find the spot where the stock will move in the correct direction without stopping or running. This balance point on my dogs you can see naturally when fetching. The balance point in driving is the same, just the position of the handler has moved.

It is important to set goals so you know where you are going and develop a plan to get to that point. A good place to start trialing is an instinct test or a Pre-trial. This will give you the opportunity to get experience in front of people and on different livestock. I recommend ASCA and AHBA trials before you go to AKC trials. AKC requires more control on the dog and will take some experience handling your dog around a number of obstacles in a small area (course A).

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