Welcome to week 1 of Starting the Young Dog with Scott Glen!

Here’s how the class works:

Each session in the class is presented in a 7 day presentation that you will experience in this format:

  • Monday: Watch the video instruction for the week.
  • Monday thru Wednesday (Noon PST): Submit your questions for Scott Glen by emailing them to questions@sheepdogtrainingcourses.com. Please keep your questions to the dog(s) and training method as it applies to the dog(s) in the segment. In order to allow Scott enough time to develop his answers while traveling to trials and clinics, please submit questions by Wednesday, Noon PST.
  • Thursday afternoon: Answers to submitted questions will be available to listen to. Question and Answer sessions will also be available in writing to make finding specific answers easy.
  • Friday: Check back here for final thoughts from the week and the homework assignment developed by Scott Glen.
  • Saturday/Sunday: Review what has been present in this week’s class.

This page will contain all of the information as it becomes available throughout the week. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at questions@sheepdogtrainingcourses.com.

This Week’s Video

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Questions & Answers

Click the play button below to listen to the MP3 version of the Q&A. It may take a few seconds before it buffers enough to play.

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Q- At what age should you start a young dog?
Give or take, I usually wait for a year.  It is pretty individual.  I have started them as early as six months and had pretty good luck. But, it is pretty rare I start them at six months.  Partly because I have quite a few dogs to work, so no sense starting one too young. I might start playing around with it a little bit  but not start formal training until a year, give or take.

Q -It was determined that Mike wasn’t quite ready for serious training. For the record, how old was he in this video?
Mike was about 8 months when we filmed this session.

Q- In general, do you find one or the other sexes to mature faster?
A-  I think have found personally females mature faster.  It certainly varies.  Different lines will start working earlier than others.  Early start does not necessarily mean better dog or vice-a-verse.

Q- How often should you work them on sheep?
Myself, everything being equal, once or twice a day for ten or fifteen minutes. 

Q Should you teach the lie down before you ever put them on sheep?
I like them to know what it means.  It certainly does not have to be perfect, but I like them to know what it means. With the exception being, if I am just seeing if a young pup is ready, and it doesn’t know lie down, I am not going to try and use it if they don’t know what it is.

How big should the round pen be?
My round pen is 50 feet.  It depends, with the sheep we were using in that session, it could probably do with being 10 feet bigger.

Should you be concerned about a pup that does not seem to want to go to the head?
It is nice if a dog will go to the head straight away.  I don’t try to force the issue at first.  Unless of course, if the reason it is not going to head is it is viciously attacking the sheep.  That being, is it just a little bit young, or is it being just a little bit bad.  If it is being bad, I might try to force the issue then.

Q- It looked like Lass only came to balance a couple of times. How do you decide when to start letting her/encouraging her to reach balance?
It was difficult for them to come to balance with those sheep we had simply because they were going round and round. Which was nice for enthusiasm; I touched on that while the sheep were going around.  That was Lass’ second time on sheep, I won’t insist she gets to balance until we get to a little bigger pen.

Q- In your opinion, is it ever too late to start a dog on sheep? 
A- No I don’t think it is.  Of course earlier is better, their careers do not span for decades.  Obviously the older it is the less time is has got for a working career or a trialing career. The other thing is, the older they are, the more ingrained the habits are: good and bad mind you.

Q- If a young dog strongly prefers one lead, do you make a concerted effort to work the dog both directions equally in future sessions?
Certainly I want a dog to go both ways, but I am not going to try to get it to go in one direction so adamantly.  If it doesn’t want to go one way, it obviously doesn’t understand the concept or is worried for one reason or another about going that way. If I press it too much, it is not going to get any better with the worry. But I will try to trick them to go around the way they don’t want to some.   I won’t worry about equal times if that is the case.

Q- How long did you work Lass?
A- I worked her  a couple of ten minutes sessions.

Q- What are the signs you look for in the dog that a session should end, or is it really just a matter of a set length of time?
A-  It is not really a set amount of time.  It might be when they are getting the concept of what we are working on. It might be very, very elementary concept such as getting around the sheep a little bit with giving a little distance such as it was with Lass.  But I don’t like to over-do it with a young dog.  I don’t want to create any worries that don’t have to be there just because we got a little bit greedy with the time.  It is going to be a long process to train a dog so probably stretching it a little extra five minutes to get that extra little bit, if you are trying to make it better all the time, doesn’t always work.  So it might be fifteen minutes at first or it might be five minutes, depending on the dog, it might be two minutes.

Q- Can you please tell us what you mean by “knee knocker” sheep?
Knee knocker sheep are sheep that really prefer to be around the person and it doesn’t matter where the dog is, what the dog is trying to get them to do right or wrong, they just want to stay with you.  Unlike the sheep I was using there in that round pen, it helps you stay right with the sheep.  The good part is, they want to stay right there with you. The bad part is, other than a target, they don’t create as much enthusiasm .

Q- During the brief “lie down”, Scott situated himself between the sheep and the dog. Was this to ensure that the dog couldn’t cheat? Is this the positioning he’d use for all young dogs?
Yes and yes for the first few session.  Good observation!

Q- When or what do you see when you decide to try a young dog on sheep?
I’m just curious as much as anything sometimes to see how it is going.  Quiet often I just got off the phone talking about something bred like that in another dog so I just want to see what this one is doing.  Maybe it is eyeing  a kennel mate, or  stock across the fence, or it’s getting some habits that are attributed to boredom.  Let’s give them something to do, something to think about that we want them to do.

Q – What made you decide that Mike might be ready to start in the round pen – just age or did you see something in him just being around sheep?
A- To be honest, I brought Mike out for the video.  He was the young dog I had, him and Lass, and that was the first time he had been worked and some of his kennel mates were working and his dad went to work about the same age. I gave him a break there , it was the first time and I said I put him away but really I have quite a few I’m working with now. But if not, I probably would have continued on with his training. I did not say that in the video because he was looking a little distracted but if he were my only dog or one of two dogs, I probably would have put him into some formal training assuming nothing else popped up.

Q- Why did you have Lass on a long line but not Mike and when would you take the long line off?
A- I couldn’t catch Mike to put the long line one!  But seriously, I wanted to give just a little less impression of freedom with Lass, you know, dragging a little bit of a line. And to make sure I could catch her.  That was the second time she was on and I wanted to make sure I could catch her.  And with Mike, first time on, I was expecting it to be a little more rough. I think I said it, those sheep are certainly not ideal for a young dog.  He was trying to be fairly honest but not all dogs will.  If they are going to fly in and grip and be stupid, it will certainly be brought out with sheep like that.  So it was just to give him a little more freedom, see if he would go…good or bad.  You saw the cameras distracted him, I did not want a line to distract him as well.

Q- You remained calm and quiet when working both dogs. Are you always like that or are there dogs that you would really encourage and excite on?
Yes I like to remain as calm as I can.  There probably always is a time not to be calm. I’d probably be exciting them a little bit if they were scared of making a mistake to the point where it got slower and slower. Or if it looked like they were really afraid of the sheep, assuming that they weren’t just too young.  If they are too young, obviously give them a break and let them grow up a little bit. When you give excitement, you’re probably going to get a little bit of a mistake.  A young dog is not going to go faster, with you making quite a bit of noise without probably cutting in and making a mistake.  I certainly would be ready for that and accept that for a while knowing that you might have to fix it later.

Q- With Lass we saw a few instances of balance, when would you start asking for that more? How would you set it up?
A-  We will get to this in the next few sessions.  The next session is still in the round pen, going over what I am thinking about for balance with a dog that is a little more experienced, but it is certainly a lot easier for the dog to come to balance when the sheep are farther away from them.  So when they are staying off a little bit better it is easier to assess if they are balancing right or not, because they have a definite direction to bring those sheep and that is to you.   As long as the sheep are right around you, they are already there.

Q- Both dogs pictured in the segment seemed about equally willing to circle in either direction. What do you do at this stage of training with a dog who does not go well in one of the directions, and do you stay at this level of training until that issue is resolved?
You certainly don’t want to get out to a bigger area unless I think it is the proximity itself that is keeping them from wanting to go around that way.  And then certainly I will just get to a bigger pen.  I think I mentioned earlier, if they are already worried about going a certain way, you being worried about it and making an issue out of it is not going to make it better.  If they are worried about one way, and you can’t get them to go around fairly quickly, without too much delay and you have to work at it too long, it’s probably not going to get better. So if you can get it done fairly quickly-great.  And if you can’t, you’re probably best letting them be confident the one way and then sneaking in the other one. You know, sneak in bad side, but I certainly don’t expect it to look good.  I just want them to go around.  I think both Mike and Lass, I think they split them going around on the flank one way at least once.  And if you are going to worry too much and get them in trouble for that…if they relate that trouble to the direction, of course you don’t have to use your imagination to know what might follow.

Q- When you put pressure on the dog, where are you directing your pressure (at the head, at the shoulder, ahead of the nose?)
In there at the start, I was looking more for the shape of the flank than direction so it would probably be just at their nose to get them to move off.  I want them to just move off and they can go the direction they want so the pressure would probably be right at their nose.

Q- When you hit the sheep with the bag, were you trying to get them to do something (and if so, what, and how were you expecting the dog to respond) or was the purpose just to make a noise to affect the dog? If it was to make a noise, how do you pick when to hit the sheep vs whacking the bag on your hand or leg? If it was to make a noise, how do you pick when to hit the sheep vs whacking the bag on your hand or leg?
A- To get the dog to bend off me, I was hitting my leg and my hand.  To get her to pay attention to the effect she had on the sheep, I was whacking the sheep.  The feed sack is all about noise, we are training dogs to be nice to sheep. Young dogs get a little rough with the sheep, that’s just the way it is.  It is all about looking after your sheep.

Q- If at this stage you have sheep that are such knee knockers that you end up in a tight spiral, what can you do to widen things out? They seem to make the dog get very tight and I’m not sure what to do about it .
The dog is probably not moving off of you.  This week’s homework will help that a little bit I think.  Obviously the sheep don’t help them do it so it has to be you if they are knee knockers.  That’s what I said before, knee knocker: we all need them but they certainly can outlive their usefulness as far as training.

Q- What do you do if the dog doesn’t know you exist and gives no reaction to your pressure, but is just going through you to get at the sheep and making a mess, or just speeds up instead of moving away?
Probably see previous answer.  It is a good question,  but I think again, hopefully this week’s homework will help.  I would think quite likely the same problem.  (editor’s voice:  there comes a point where online training can provide tips and ideas and training suggestions.  If the ideas presented aren’t working for your own dog, we want you to seek some one-on-one, eyes on the dog, profession help to get answers for your specific dog. ) Very good point, and couldn’t be truer, I think.  That’s the limitation of on-line lessons, you can see one person’s opinion on what they are doing with a certain dog.  There are very few absolutes in training dogs and there are many, many good trainers throughout the world.  We are just after opinions, and that is one of the limitations. There is nothing like a trainer looking at that individual dog and giving their own opinion on how to make it better.

Q- If you have a dog who is look out of the ring, sniffing the ground etc do you put them away and try again later?
A- Put them away and let them grow-up a little? You can never make a mistake by stopping.  It may or may not help, but it is never a mistake.

Q- What if you have a really sticky dog that just wants to stare at the sheep…do you use the lead to move him around the sheep?
A- That is pretty much case by case.  I’ve had people come with a sticky dog and I don’t actually believe it was sticky at all.  It was just afraid to go, afraid to make a mistake.  And then of course, just the opposite, this dog is working fine and it has so much eye it makes it quite difficult.  So that’s a pretty case by case, better not tackle that one without seeing it. Again, this is the limitation of on-line training.

Q- Does it matter on a young dog ,to you, how you enter the ring/field etc…
You first? Dog first? Dog first, enter field then lie down? On leash? How
/when do you give the dog more freedom on this?
A- I personally at a trial like to walk out with a young dog with a leash.  I don’t want to start having to upset them by calling them back or get that horrific feeling of your dog heading off towards the sheep: turnaround from latching the gate and off your dog goes.  I don’t use a leash at home much, for good or bad. If it is a very tentative worker, I don’t mind them going in first and I am ready for them to go. Part of having a plan before hand is to know to let it go.  If you didn’t go in with that plan; you would go in without a leash with a tentative worker and it takes off towards the sheep, and you panic and call it back, obviously it’s going to get more tentative.  That is not saying it is not going to create a bit of bad habits but it will know it can get to the sheep.  Probably to be safe as anything, I would have them on a leash.

Q-  If you see your young one sulking a bit, do you put them up and/or let them have a bit more fun?
A-  If it was something I had done, or they had misinterpreted what the sheep had done, I would try to finish on as good as note as possible.  It can’t always be as good of note as you want.  So it realizes that it doesn’t take that personal. When we give it a break it doesn’t end on “that really worried me”.  You are probably better off quitting too early than waiting until what was worrying them is now terrifying them.

Q – Does it make sense when the young pup is out with the sheep to praise, “Good Come Bye” or “Good Away to me” as the dog changes directions so that in the same way he associates the words with the actions?
That is an interesting question.  I think, myself personally, that command “away to me” or “come bye” should be the praise.  Thus they are not always waiting “where’s my praise” after they hear the command.   Or if the “good boy” or “good girl” is first, that is pretty generic especially when you start putting it on with stop and that’ll do, it is almost more a get ready  than a command.  If the praise is the command then obviously it has got to sound like praise. You don’t want it to sound like a reprimand if you want them to take it like praise.  They will start liking the command better; they will learn it and also like it.  Not saying later on we won’t start putting inflections into that command. But when you are trying to get them to like it, make the command sound pleasant and not forced. It should inflect encouragement. Having said that, there is an exception to every rule, so if the dog really has a worry with that side, if it helps (use the good). But even if it helps I would drop it as soon as I could.

Q- How do you create quiet training sheep?
The ones I had are not what I would say were quiet training sheep. Having said that, if it were a closed round pen, I think you would have seen they would have been quite a bit quieter.  (Closed being solid side?) Yes, so the sheep could not see out.  But training sheep….treat them well.  If they are terrified of the dog they are not going to be quiet.  (would you put an older, more trained dog on them before you brought out a young dog?)  For sure if you had one, we all started once and I dare say that when I first started that was not an option.  I had the dog I had, and I didn’t have a round pen when I started. That is probably why a lot of our first dogs could get the job done because when the sheep are heading off yonder; I was raised where there were miles and miles on each side and it’s ‘the heck with the pretty’ then. It’s get the sheep – we will worry about the pretty later!
Thank you for all the questions!

Week 1 Homework

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