Life is hard. Everyone has an opinion about what you should or should not do; how or how you should not act. Their opinions will vary based on; their experiences, education, where they were raised, where they live currently, who they associate with, and of course, their own moral compass.

With so many people we could listen to, each with their own list of variables, how do we choose what to do or who to follow when we need help? This takes us back to… life it hard. 

So to keep this from becoming a discussion about politics and/or religion lets look at this from a herding dog training point of view. There are as many ways to train a dog as there are dogs to train and trainers to train them. Every trainer will have their core set of principles, values, and beliefs. On these they will develop their preferred methods of training as well as their preferred types of dogs to train. This is why you have sheepdog, cowdog, trial, or ranch dog trainers, to name a few. Some trainers will want to only train in pens, others will not train in pens. Then of course, trainers who will only work certain breeds or trainers who will work any breed. We could make an extensive list of ways that you could look at trainers and styles to decide how you should go about it, but I think you are getting the point.

The other day I was watching Trudy working on inside flanks with her young dogs. It reminded me of a principle I have used for year to get a dog to inside flank; “if the dog does not want to cross the line between you and stock, you cross it for them”. I thought, “I have always liked that idea and have implemented it on many dogs, why have I not put it into practice with my young pups this time?” The next time out when I went to do some inside flanking on the young dogs I went to add this to my practice again. The result was actually opposite of what I was after, it pulled the dog towards me and changing the direction of their flanks rather then getting inside flanks. What the….

Like I say I have used this principle many times. I had just watched Trudy using it the other day. I had used it on other dogs in the last few days. What was different? Well it comes down to; different place, different dogs, different day, different moment, different mindset (handler and/or dog). Here again we have run into individual variables that make training herding dogs so interesting and challenging. 

So before I move on, how have I found works best to get Tim and Phyl inside flanking? I keep the line moving till the pups have enough momentum in their motion they stopped thinking about the line, then I stop moving the line and allow them to cross it. Someday I can explain more but for now I’ll leave it at that.

Back to the question; Who do you learn to train from? The answer is, everyone. Don’t limit your learning and handling to one persons methods. If you try to copy one person you will never be as good as they are or you will become better. Why, well it goes to variables again. Since you do not move or have the exact same understanding your execution of the principles will be different then theirs. The difference may be so subtle that you have trouble seeing it but the dog will not and the results will then vary between trainers (even if only slightly).

Learn from everyone. Some will teach you things you will want to copy. Some will teach you things you do not want to do. All will teach you things you will want to hold onto for later with the current dog or maybe one down the line. Learn all you can. Take all the things you learn and make them your own, add it to all the thinks that make you, you. Train like you, with the knowledge gained from others. As long as you train ethically (though, even ethics vary with where you are from to a degree), the only one that can tell you if what you are doing is right or wrong is the dog you are working at the time.

Train like you, let the only judge that counts, your dog, be the judge.


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