Category Archives: Bull

These Three

A friend of mine took a photo a number of years back. It was my dogs lined up at the edge of my pick up against the tailgate. They were waiting to get out of the pick up. I have for years taught my dogs that if the tail gate is up they are to stay in. I would like to say they are perfect but….

The dogs in the photo were my first Kelpies. They were, Austin, Ty, and Vaider. Tonight my current group gave me a chance at a similar photo.

In this photo we have: Watkinsons Chuck Cheemo,  Kuawarri’s Vaider, and Double V Bull.

I find it fascinating to see the ages together. To look back to see Vaider as the young  dog in the one photo and the old dog in this one. The differences between the individuals and especially to see the difference age makes in an individual. Life with stock dogs is full of fascinations and discovery.

These dogs are use to being on the road with me. They travel most everywhere I go.  A good stock dog is not much use waiting at home.

I feel lucky to be able to be able to spend time with them even if it is not as much as I would like. They are handy to have around and patient in their waiting on me.

3 Ways To Fail A Stockdog?

1)  Rigidity:

While a rigid training program can be good, too much rigidity within the training is not. When we look at a stockdog we are looking at an individual; not a machine, not a program, not even a group, but an individual with a mind and purpose.

Thinking a dog sets its own purposes may bother some but hear me out. When a dog moves it does so for food, shelter, comfort, interest, etc.; there is a purpose to the movement. A dogs motivations set the purpose.

With this in mind we have to look at what each dog is doing at any given time. Motivations can change with time or in moments. We have to adapt our approach to what the dog is thinking; its purpose at the moment. As soon as we think there is only one way of getting the task accomplished,  we set ourselves up to fail (or our dogs to fail).

We have to adapt to each dog and/or each day. What works for one dog may not be as successful with another. What works one day with a dog can be different with the same dog on another day.  The dog or handler can be in a different frame of mind at different moments. This changes how they have go about accomplishing the task at hand.

Adapt to the dog. Adapt to how you feel and how your dog feels. You need to get the things you have asked for but find the way that works with that dog at that moment.

So to set up for success with rigidity: Simply be rigid in your training but flexible in your approach. Train your dogs, set your standards, but adapt to the situation.

2) Lack of rigidity:

Wait didn’t we just say rigidity was a sure way to fail? Well if you were paying attention, we did. In this case , however, we are referring to not having  standards. Good work is good work. In order to accomplish good work we have to have a standard of good work.

Now this is not saying to be a perfectionist. Demanding perfection will cause you to fail due to a problem with Rigidity (see #1). As we train our dogs we set our standard based on what they know. What is acceptable from a pup can not be acceptable from a trained adult. We build to perfection but can not demand it.

Good work does not change with breed of dog. Styles may change but work does not. A dog needs to be appropriate with is stock no matter the breed. Lowering a  standard of work because that is what a breed does, is an excuse. Some breeds, as well as individuals in a breed, may hit certain standards quicker or easier then others. Time changes but standard of work has to stay the same. Remember we turn weaknesses into strengths to achieve a standard of work. if that is not the case, why train?

As an example of standards that rise; when I have a young dog the standard is that it is fair to its stock. This might mean that it is a little pushy or does not flank clean or any number of things but it is allowing stock an option to go (or stay if the dog is holding) someplace  and everything is safe. As the dog learns the standard has to increase. In this case the standard would continue to raise till the dog was pushing and flanking appropriately. Once there the standard must be maintained.

Be flexible in how you get it but be rigid to your standards.

3) Failing to try:

This is the surest way to fail. When we fail to try we do not avoid failure, we ensure it.

One of the main reasons I think people do not try is the fear of mistakes. We learn from mistakes as well as, if not better than, from our successes. You determine success. Sometimes learning is more of a success then accomplishing. If you learn, accomplishing becomes easier the next time.

I know in this blog post I have been talking about failing, but I think it really comes down to this: Not setting standards or not being adaptable are really mistakes. We can learn from them and grow when we see we are making them. The only way to truly fail is to not try.

So get on out there. Have fun, learn, grow. Let failure go because you never really fail unless you stop trying.

Enjoy the photo of my dog Bull, my current teacher…

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.