The first step is a Herding Evaluation. The evaluation includes an assessment of your dog’s temperament and ability for herding and a discussion of what you wish to achieve with your dog.
We'll begin in the round pen with some dog friendly sheep who won't threaten or challenge your dog. What we're looking for is a sign of interest in the sheep from your dog. Sometimes, the dog is happiest when its owner is in the pen with it; in other cases it works best if the owner remains outside and the trainer introduces your dog to sheep for its first exposures.
Results are all over the map! Some dogs don't acknowledge the sheep, some are so excited that they suddenly forget all of their obedience skills and become apparently mad, others get a little too in touch with their inner wolf. In some cases, the dog is frightened.
Not every dog from a herding breed family has instinct. If instinct is present, we can work with what your dog has. In some cases, an individual dog might not be cut out for this pursuit, or for our training methods. We do not use harsh training techniques or devices, and if that seems to be required for a dog to work sheep without eating them, perhaps a different activity should be explored!
So you and your dog are in agreement, you want to pursue the arcane art of working livestock together! Herding lessons are the place to start. To begin, most dogs won't need or want a full 50 minute time on sheep. Yes, they will be excited and love it, but it is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing on them. A half hour is usually appropriate for dogs starting out.
Another option is to join a group of 3 or more dog/handler teams for lessons. You will be matched with others at a similar stage of training, and alternate turns. This provides a good rhythm for the young and exuberant as well as for the older and potentially tired! Shorter work sessions interspersed with rest are good.
As you and your partner advance to work in the great wide open spaces, to prepare for an event or are ready to work with larger groups of sheep, it's time to move up to a 50 minute private lesson with one on one time.
For clients who may not have the time or other resources available to train their own dog, I offer in-house custom training. Dogs in for training will be treated as we treat our own working dogs here at Palm Cottage Farm. They are housed in comfortable kennels in the barn, fed premium food and exercised regularly. Training is billed on a monthly basis; dogs are trained on stock five days per week. In case travel or other commitments interfere with the weekly training schedule, fees will be pro-rated. For most dogs who are ready, a month of regular training will yield a basic "started" dog. Your dog should be going around sheep with some confidence, have a modest outrun, and beginning to respond to commands on stock. Most dogs will be introduced to the concept of driving within the first month. Some individuals are not mature enough to take the pressures of training, and they should go home to grow up a bit before returning to learn. Generally, a well bred dog is ready to begin a fairly demanding training program at about 12 months of age. Contact me with questions about openings and rates for custom training.
Working border collie puppies
Occasionally we have trained or started dogs. If we don’t have what you’re looking for we might be able to help you find it.