That’s a little Personal isn’t it?

Yes, yes it is. It is personal, and it should be.

I’ve been approached with a question a multiple times in the last couple days; is it worth it to train this dog? That is one of the hardest questions to answer. It is hard to answer because it is a personal question.

Why is it personal? Truth is, it can be nothing but. We all have selected our dogs for a reason. What will be required of your dog will not be the same as the next person; even if your purpose for your dogs are the same. Things that I am willing to put up with others will not be and vice versa.

The reason there are so many  different types of dogs is we all like different things in our dogs. Preferences can be as simple as the size of a dog for example or as complex as genetics can make it.

Now with that being said, good work is good work. No matter what your preference in a dog, if you are working livestock, the work must be appropriate.  This is not a style, style is a preference. Appropriate work is a matter of how the dog is communicating with the livestock no matter the style it uses.

This is where things become difficult to answer the question.  Every dog has strengths as well as weaknesses. When we are training we are working to develop weakness into strengths. What your dogs strengths or weaknesses are will determine what is required to make a dog appropriate.

Now things have to get personal. Only you can decide if you are willing to put the time and effort in that is required to turn your dogs weaknesses into strengths. You can make up for a dogs weakness by selecting livestock or situations that will only show your dogs strengths. We see this all the time in the sport dog world when people will only run at certain types of trials or on specific types of stock. You can make a dog that will not pressure livestock look really good on flighty stock. A dog that insists on being too pushy can be made to look decent on very dull stock. Some dogs are hindered by fences some rely on them.

If you are working only in specific situations you may be well off to select the dog that is going to have strengths that lend themselves to that type of work, i.e. pushy dog for dull stock sensitive dog for light stock. This does not mean you have the dog everyone else would want but everyone else does not have to live with, and therefore, like your dog. There are very few people that will sell your dog above their own. You are the only true advocate for your dog.

In the end it is a very personal decision. Only you know the situations you are, or are planning to be, in. Only you know the time and effort you are willing to put in to turn a  dogs weaknesses on stock into strengths. Only you know what you are or are not willing to deal with. If you like the dog you have and are willing to help the dog be appropriate with the stock and situations you will be in; you have the right dog.

Don’t let what anyone else would do with a dog make the decision of what you would do with your dog. Don’t let the work that I am willing to put in to make a dog make your decision for you. Don’t let what myself or someone else is able to get out of a dog make your decision for you. Be honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses; know if they will fit with the strengths and weaknesses of your dog for the work you want to do with your dog.

In the end; it is personal.

Check Your Settings

Recently I had an update to my operating system on my computer.  After the update I processed a photo and posted it. I looked at the post from another computer; it looked terrible. I quickly deleted the post.

I re-posted the photo and asked what people saw. The feedback lead me to have to figure out why they were seeing different then what I saw. All things pointed to the update as the point things changed. I searched through my settings trying to find how to fix it. After a bit of searching I found a place that I could manually calibrate my monitor. I now have it back so things look reasonable on different monitors.

This got me to thinking about working dogs and how it can actually be similar. Yes, it seems like a silly comparison but that is how my brain functions.

So your question; how does this even compare? It is rather simple. Each time we train something new it is like updating the operating system. If we only look at what we have added, by training, and do not test the things that we thought were set we will find things change in the dogs mind. Things we thought were set is looked at with the new information in a different way.

One reasonably common example of this is, a dogs outrun changing when the handler begins teaching driving. Handlers get so excited about driving that they work on it all the time. They never check the other settings.  After a while they need to gather stock. They send the dog only to find the outrun has shortened or tightened up.


Another example might be a handler working on cleaning up flanks. They get so focused on the shape of the flank that they forget its purpose. They develop a dog that begins flanking without thinking about balance so it just circles.

The list of possible examples could be long. The simple point is that each time we get focused on training  (updating) we must go back and review what they already know. By reviewing, we can see how all of the training is working together and be sure we are not changing important settings.

Teaching and reviewing keep us on task and make for balanced training.

Each time you update check the current settings.

The photo above is my test photo after rechecking my settings. A recent shot of my young dog, Bull.  He is testing my ability to update and check my settings on both computer and the training field.