Welcome to week 2 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– How old is this young dog, and how much previous work has she had?
She had 2 weeks previous work, maybe just a shade over, and she is a year and a half.  That was filmed first of December and she was born on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. And she was worked pretty much every day for two weeks.

Q– Is she just normally good at the down and call off, or how much work on those items do you do before starting to work them on stock?
That is a good question.  Certainly a dog should be able to do it with some training too but she was actually quite naturally wanting to be obedient. Obviously it did not happen automatically, but she is a nice, obedient dog.

Q– Would you normally put this much stop at the top on a young dog, or let them “float” a little more, or does it depend on the dog?
It depends a lot on the dog.  If it is a sticky dog to start with, it just depends an awful lot on the dog.  But with her it may be a little bit contradictory maybe later getting her to get close to the sheep. But I want to be able to stop her to keep her off the sheep later.  When she gets out far, I want to be able to keep her from  getting in to a fight if I don’t want her to see it.  

Q–What do you look for in the dog to let you know when it’s time to move on to the balance work?
I thought that was an interesting question and I can see where it came from but the whole “being” in the border collie is balance work.  I structure everything on the foundation of balance work and you build off of that.  I think the one question  was, Lass not going to balance.  It is not so much the dog not going to balance, it’s about not forcing them to balance when they are wanting to over-balance a little bit, like coming off of balance at the start.  Because, later on we will want them to be able to come off of balance.  We don’t want to get too carried away, right away, making sure they are exactly at balance.  It is more about allowing them to not be at balance then trying to get them to go to balance .  I think this question came from last week where we allowed her to go around balance without her thinking she was doing anything wrong.  Basically she was just going around trying to get to the head all the time.  I am not going to give them trouble for finding balance, nor am I going to give them trouble for going around it either.

Q– Bliss seems to have a better lie down and a call off and to work a bit wider off the sheep than the dog in the first week’s video. Would you continue on with the circling (from week 1) until the dog reached that point? If you did move on to balance work too quickly, are there certain things you might see that would indicate the dog wasn’t ready for it yet?
Like I said with the balance work, it is the foundation of the border collie. Yes, Bliss opposed to Lass, obviously it was Lass’ second time on sheep, and opposed to Bliss, I would like to see her going around to the back of her sheep a little bit wider, which will come fairly quickly.

 Q–Are you concerned at this stage of training if the dog pushes forward into the sheep on its lie down at balance so that it pushes the sheep past you before stopping?
They should stop when they are told.  On the tape, I was once late giving it.  They should stop when they are told but I don’t care if a young dog pushes them past me.  I don’t want them so worried about where to settle down not to push the sheep past me.  Especially if we have dog-broke sheep, that’s a very unnatural feel of those sheep if they were to stop where that dog is quitting to put pressure on.  It is not the dog not pushing that is keeping the sheep to us, it’s the sheep feel comfortable with us.  It is not so much you are teaching the dog exactly where to be, it is those sheep are going to be there anyway, and that dog can either be 20 yards off or it can be 50 yards off.  If you leave it all up to them, with dog broke sheep that want to stay with you, then it is a little bit artificial.  Regardless of the sheep, I don’t mind if the dog pushes them by me at all.  I tend to like a bit of a pushy dog anyway, which I’ve lived by that and I’ve died by that!

Q–You talked about the dog weaving back and forth instead of slowing its feet down. Do you just try to stop the dog before it gets that close (so avoid creating the problem) or do you leave the dog to see what it might do and then how do you react if you see it starting to weave? Would you just stop it at that point, or push it back out?
That is a real valid question.  I let them get in there, and if they start weaving, as long as they are not getting better at it; if they are learning something by it, once they are that close with a young dog, they quite likely are not going to come out of it right then.  But if they learning by it, the next time they get in there, they don’t get quite so close that they feel they just have to move.  I like to stop them before, and a round pen there is really no place and if you push it out it is most certainly going to get better at staying out. But for everything concerned, I just as soon stop them right now until I get into a bigger area.  I don’t want them to think as soon as they are close, they start weaving or biting as far as that goes.  I just want them to comfortable being a little closer without letting their feet be nervous feet : if you are worried you just don’t use your feet to escape it.

Q– how soon after the first exposure would you expect to get to the lesson two stage and what do you see that makes you think the dog is ready to do short gathers and balance work?
Hopefully they are pretty quickly to balance and like we said the whole make up it is to find balance.  With Lass, like we said before, I’d like to see her stay out around her sheep.  I don’t necessarily mind if she comes on, once she is at balance. But I’d like to see go out a little bit like a mini outrun a lot better.  But you can see, different dogs certainly, but the difference between two works and 10-12 works is quite a bit.  Two different dogs but I think both pretty decent out-runners in their own right.  Even Lass, although she doesn’t know it.  It can be dog specific, but if it looks like an arrow or a reverse shed, you know it is not a natural out-runner.  Or it is buried in there and needs to be brought out as opposed to Lass, although she is not finishing up good, where Bliss is, you can see she still wants to stay out.  And the homework for the first time, with Lass tied to the fence has a lot to do with how you help them get around.

Q–The dog in the video goes around the sheep quite smoothly. What do you do when a dog will not stop trying to head the sheep and stops or gets hung up at 8 ror 9?
To quote that old ancient poet, “Confidence or Defiance: That is the question”  In all fairness it does make a difference.  Is it just young, are the sheep just trying to look at is so much and because the dog …..if you are between the sheep and the dog and those sheep are so much knee knockers they are just looking for any avenue to get back to the handler, it is going to be more difficult to get that dog around.  When you shoo the sheep away to get a little distance they are just staring at that dog and it makes it a little more difficult. They should still go around if they are moving off that bag for instance.   Again it can be the dog is just not ready to being defiant to too much eye or it can be a multitude of things.  That might feel a little like a copout but it is the truth.  You might need different sheep, or to be able to get ahold of your dog and by that I don’t mean just stopping them but also getting them going too.   (Seeking help from a clinician who can evaluate the dog in person would be good to do)

Q–Why was the one sheep in particular turning on Bliss from the beginning, what was she doing or not doing, or maybe what was the sheep feeling or not feeling from her that it turned to challenge her several times?
She was up too close.  I could have stopped her and kept her out of that but it’s a round pen and there is not that terrible much room. And to be honest, I want her to see not just butts but to see faces.  It’s not that I am trying to make her pick a fight….but I do want her to see it.  I want to see what she will do for one thing.  If she was quite afraid right then, I probably wouldn’t show her that and would have avoided it.  But with a young dog it doesn’t hurt, I don’t think, that they see a head; see a sheep face them.  Not attack them but face them.  And when I say attack, I mean an outright coming out of the flock to get the dog, I certainly don’t want that right now. But it does two things, it lets the dog have a little glimpse of what it looks like and it also, if we are watching, gives us a little clue on she is going to take it.  Do they need work on it, are they pretty good at it?  A young dog is probably not going to be fantastic at it at first, are they going to try and avoid it, are they going to fly in and grip, are they going to turn around and run?  You don’t know until you get there.  I do realize it has only been two weeks but it is in a controlled situation and that sheep, it was one that turned and it is not all the time do get sheep that turn too much because they know it is easier to move off.  Those were new sheep that a brought in a month ago or so they were a little different than mine.

Q–At about the 5 minute mark when you and the sheep are at the fence and you are encouraging her to come in on the sheep, you talk about it being a good confidence builder but didn’t want to do it too long for her to get concerned. How do you know it was building her confidence not just causing excitement? What do you look for to know that it is building her confidence and not her getting too concerned?
It is causing a certain amount of excitement or tension. But it building her confidence because that one time the sheep faced her a little bit she went in, and although she did not have a clue what she was doing, took actually a pretty good little nose shot.  It wasn’t very aggressive but it was where we would like to see it and I think that was about the only one that was really nice.  Then excitement got a little bit carried away but certainly that is what I would be looking for.  Opposed to it running away, or barking, or tail up in the air, or something that obviously doesn’t have to stay but that wasn’t there so it was nice to see. As far as gaining excitement, it certainly was a little excitement.  Simple because, if she is already worried about the sheep, I don’t really want; myself personally, like I said, I’ve lived by it and died by it; I don’t want a dog that is afraid to make a mistake.  If I have to encourage the mistake a little bit, then I will. I am not going to make a habit of it, and there also is a lot to be said about a dog being stressed by a sheep, getting excited and then settling down, there is a bit of a learning curve in itself.

Q–Are you introducing flank commands at this point in training on purpose? When do you actually train the flank commands or do you use them from the beginning?
I use them right from the beginning. If you are going to say something it might as well be the flank.  That’s me, and there are certainly people who don’t and I won’t argue with that.  As long as it resembles a flank, I will, they have to hear it sometime.  Some dogs pick them up fairly quick, some dogs I think you could say it a hundred billion times and they will still miss flanks, there’s just that odd dog that just will miss flanks and get a bit dyslexic.  Like I said, you have to get them to go on something.  If it’s a brand new puppy that is new on sheep that hasn’t heard the flanks I certainly would if it looks like a flank.  No sense putting a name on it if it is absolutely horrible or is going to go the wrong way or just throw itself into the sheep.  But if it looks like a flank, I think they might as well hear it.

Q– Does Scott just add the verbal cues in when he’s sure he’ll get a good flank?
I like to have a decent flank and to be clear, it is more at the first, I know by where I am at which way they are going to go.  So I can give that verbal cue but it is more about a young dog hearing it while they are going.  If I am going to use the cue to get them going, I’ve got to be pretty confident which way they are going to go.  I am going to guess wrong once in a while and in a round pen the sheep can change but it should be pretty rare that we get fooled.

Q–Are 3 sheep what Scott recommends for young dogs?
Yes three sheep is a good number.  Three or four, just enough that we are able to see where the dog is at and help.  If we get too many, although working a bunch of sheep certainly has its benefits for a young dog but, if it needs help, like a body cue or something it’s more difficult for us to get through the sheep and help them.

Q–Can Scott comment on his cue for the dog to reach balance? (as opposed to just keep circling your sheep as in the previous video). Is it him pausing and walking away from the sheep toward the fence-line?
As far as getting the sheep off the fence, I give them a little body cue and maybe shush them or basically give them just a flank.  In everything, it should be a “go to” to reach balance for the dog, I think.  Ideally, I would want a dog to go to balance if it doesn’t hear anything else.  As we find out later and we look at different things, even as silly as it sounds, even shedding is based on balance.  And to get them to shed very good, is based on “I’m taking the balance away, but I’ll give it back.” You’re keeping them wanting that balance. There are no absolutes, the big thing about the video on-line is your asking for an opinion and I’ve got the utmost respect for a lot of different trainers.  Of course the on-line has only been done a couple of times and we want to make that clear; there are a lot of people that  are very, very good trainers and handlers.

Q–Bliss comes in on her stock very easily and closely. Is this normal?
It should be and is normal but it is not always normal.  It will be the breeding a little bit.  Her grandfather comes up really good; her mother, not as readily as her grandfather but pretty darn good. And her father comes up really well.  But it’s a bit of a two edged sword as it puts the owning on you to read things yourself a little bit.  I think we have a question right near the end where we it solidifies things pretty good: If you expect a young dog to stay out, and if you keep working on keeping them out, and not telling them to stop when they are told or not walk on when they told when they’ve got room. If you keep working on them to feel that bubble, then eventually if you are not careful, and by the time you know it, it might be too late.  Then the dog won’t walk up because you’ve done such a good job of keeping them out of that bubble.  Now certainly it is something they can learn. A lot of it is breeding so it’s not that rare for sure.  I don’t like to lose that because you can always slow them down and for me, I like them to feel that bubble later instead of early, to a point. There can certainly be too much of a good thing.

Q– At what point in training, do you let the sheep respond aggressively to a dog that is putting too much pressure on the sheep?
That depends, if it is afraid of them, I don’t want it to get too close to see that.  If it is just coming up too close I don’t want them to get in the habit of doing it to pick a fight.  Getting them to like the head, and not be afraid of that head, can certainly go the other way and they like picking a fight; that’s is no good either.  If it’s a dog that’s afraid to let those sheep stop; you might have a dog that is afraid to get them going– they are not quite enough at the lift to get the sheep going but once they get them going they are way too much. There is saying that says “they are way too much dog when we didn’t need one, and not enough dog when we needed one”.  If it was that case, I would try to slow them down so it was me slowing them down or stopping them. So when they struggled a little bit moving them, I don’t want them scared to stop and all the sudden one faces them. So if one faces them when they are like that, they are either going to ignore it and just go by it, or just be afraid of the sheep.  I don’t want them to do it if I can possibly help it.

Q–Why didn’t Scott walk through the sheep and have her pull them off the fence and rebalance?
Simply because that is exactly what I did want.  I want her to know that she can hold it without going side ot side, or whipping around or bringing them off the fence. That was a very good question, but the exact thing that was asked, “why didn’t I just flank her and keep that from happening”  I want it to happen.  So she sees that and learns to hold pressure and not make trouble and avoid it.  Now certainly, I let her come in too close and that is what started it.  It was by design.

Q–If she had balanced them to Scott, and then stopped her forward movement when they were forced against the fence wouldn’t she have done her job?
Right or wrong that was by design.  I want her to get used to it, like I said, I tend to like something that wants to get on with the job. 

Q–Is there not a bubble that the dog should respect unless the handler asks the dog to come forward?
A—The border collie was originally a farm dog doing lots of different things; from gathering the fields to pushing sheep through creeks or cattle through chutes. There is always a place to know that the bubble can be encroached on.  If they feel the bubble too much and you have some chores to do, I’m certainly not going to be thinking the dog is as good as it can be, if I go out to gather the field and have to push some sheep or sort some lambs, something that is difficult through a chute, or tuck them into a barn stall that they don’t want to go in, I’m not going to feel that dogs is as good as it can be if I have to take two separate dogs.  Because one can gather and one can put them in the barn; but neither one can do the other one’s job!  Ideally you should be able to do everything with one dog, they all have strengths for sure.  

Thank you for the questions!

Week 2 Homework

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