Nancy’s Fall Classes 2019

Wow, what a ride this year has been. We arrived back from Sweden in late March, but didn’t move back into our home till early May. I really committed to the 2019 Nursery season with Rey. In September, 2018 she qualified for the 2019 Finals in Carbondale with 2 1sts and a 2nd at the Bacon Valley Trial in Idaho. We then had a 9 month hiatus in Sweden. In that time I really missed the arena trials that our area hosts in the winter. My first trial back in the US was the Goring Ranch Trial in Tremonton, Utah on tough Range Ewes. Rey held her own and grabbed two more firsts. We were scheduled to return in May but a bee-sting wrecked her pad and we had to pass. I ran her booted at her next two trials. We placed upper third at Vashon and then took a 3rd at Miles City on tough Range Ewes again. To finish the Nursery Qualifying year Rey took top Nursery Dog at my favorite trial, Moon Creek in Washington. I also moved her up to Open at this trial so there is no going back. In August we took a nice tour of arena trials in Eastern Montana to get more exposure to Range Ewes. I spent a really fun two days at the Canadian Finals where Rey took 11th overall on tough Range Ewes again. The USBCHA Finals in Carbondale marked the end of Rey’s Nursery eligibility. After hitting three panels my sheep turned on Rey and wouldn’t budge. Because the hosts pulled the guard dogs, to protect contestants dogs, coyotes were getting into the sheep pens each night and snacking on fat lambs. In no way do I want Rey to meet up with a loose guard dog, so all’s well that ends well.  I didn’t know enough to run my first dog, Nero, in the Nurserys so this has really been a fun ride that took us to 4 major final events.

  1. 2018 USBCHA Nursery Finalist
  2. 2019 European Nursery in Holland
  3. 2019 Canadian Nursery Finalist
  4. 2019 USBCHA Nursery Finalist

My next trial with Rey is in Open at The Trailing of the Sheep in Idaho. This is a major event at one of the top farm festivals in North America.

My next Nursery dog is Finn who is eligible up to the September Finals. Finn is slower to mature than I’m used to, but I see moments of strength and brilliance that makes me pretty excited to open each page as we go along. I’m in no rush with him and willing to take the time to create a diamond.

Class Schedule for Herding

Mondays–5-7 at 8265 Fowler Lane, Wednesdays 2-4 at 8265 Fowler Lane

Rey at the USBCHA Finals 2019

July 19th Sheepdog Roundup

We offering a sanctioned Nursery Class at the Sheep Dog Roundup at the Big Sky Country State Fair. In addition there will be two non-sanctioned classes: Open Range (same course as Nursery) and Novice (Outrun, lift, fetch, assisted drive, pen).

In addition on July 20/21st Billie Richardson will be teaching a small clinic open to all breeds.

Open this PDF for more info:  July2018trialclinic

Week 4 Homework

Last week we worked on stays and recalls with all the dogs loose which was super successful and fun. Continue to work on that as it is a great exercise to build duration.

We will not have class next week because the ranch is hosting a herding seminar so this homework will take you over to the fifth week of class on May 10th.

  1. Backing to 2 feet on and 2 feet off a box.
  2. Going forward to 2 feet on and 2 feet off a box.
  3. Figure 8 two obstacles. Don’t spread the obstacles apart till the dog is incredibly enthusiastic and sending to the obstacle (trees, chairs, cones).
  4. Loose leash walking. Use the same method we used to build the stay. Keep your dog engaged and happy while walking in “heel” position.
  5. Sit, go through a gate, sit and look at you till going off in a relaxed manner with a loose leash.

That’s all for now, Nancy


Dry work at home without obstacles–Week 3

This video shows Rey doing some “dry” work in the yard without sheep or obstacles. I have a lot of “urban herders” in my training group and even though we may not own stock at home there is lots we can do at home to make progress. This video shows: Lie Down, Walk Up, Steady, Behind, Get Back and Stay and in a short fun period of time.

Ranch Dog Manners Week #2

Time for more homework for the next week. Last week we had 5 basic assignments to get started on a positive training relationship. This week we are going to build on those ideas to build towards better and better understanding of body position for all dog sports like agility and herding.

  1. Don’t forget to be working on 10 comes a day for something. Many of the students in this class have horses. If your dog is approaching the horses without control then use a longline. As soon as the dog as the dog looks at the horses then call them back and reward with treats and/or toy play. With livestock and herding dogs it is always about your management. If something happens out of control in the pasture it is your fault for not managing the situation. With Rey I had a lot of trouble with her greeting people out of control so have had to start using the loneline again on walks to keep her safe. With puppy Finn I always have him drag a line on walks. He can enjoy some freedom but I can prevent unwanted interactions with strange dogs.
  2. Don’t stare at the food/toy. If you learn to break your dog’s stare on food/toys then later with herding when dogs need to be called off the stock they can do this. Once I start training tricks I like to do it with an open container of food on the ground beside me. So for the following exercises have your treats in an open container that is where the dog could reach it. This is really good for teaching self control.
  3. 4 Feet in a Box: over the course of the next week work with smaller and smaller boxes so that you dog has to really think about their feet as they step in. I like to “mark” as the hindfeet go in the box.
  4. 2 Feet on a plate. Again the theme is smaller and getting more precise with the front feet. Continue to reward after a very short period of time so the dog doesn’t develop the habit of staring from the plate. At home I toss the treats away from me to encourage movement from the dog. Add in a pot lid that moves and makes noise when the dog puts their feet on it. You might start this on a rug or towel and then slowly remove the noise muffler.
  5. This week we are going add going through something.  I use two stools and reward once she has looked between the stools with a tossed treat. If your dog is having trouble with staring at the food/toy do not lure them through with the object of their affection. Rather wait it out and when they look between the ‘stools’ mark and reward.
  6. Around something. At class we are using the pylons for this, but at home you will find many things your dog can go around. I use “tight” for counter clockwise and “wrap” for clockwise. Many people use one word for both directions and cue with their body. Once your dog becomes fluent then start to have them go around multiple times.

Bonus Trick! Some dogs naturally lie down with their back legs behind them. I call this “frog”. With my good dog Nero it took a long time to train this trick because I didn’t think he could do it. One day when he jumped up on me I realized that he was indeed flexible enough to get into this position. After that it still tooks a few weeks to train the “frog” but it became very handy in the spring for cleaning his belly on the snow. Rey loves this trick and does it on our bed every morning when she wakes up.

Enjoy training!

April 5th, 2018 Ranch Dog Manners Week One

Quick Reference: What is my “marker”, 4 feet in a box standing, 2 feet on a plate quick, 10 comes a day,  and don’t stare at the food.

For those of us with herding dogs and access to stock that temptation is to herd-herd-herd but through teaching group classes in herding for the last 6 years I have learned that the little things like going politely through a gate and walking calmly behind the handler are also important and can make a strong first impression. At a recent trial one of my mentors was walking around the hotel with her three dogs off leash in perfect heel position. When she stopped they stopped with no tension. Each of those dogs placed quite high on their herding runs with clean flanks and precise stops. With my own young dog it was more of a struggle with her trying to lead the way both at the hotel and in the trial ring. Since then I have gone back to basics with a lot more on-leash walks than usual. I’ve also been reviewing a lot of the homework assignments from her own Ranch Dog Manners class last year to keep things positive and fun. Here are the homework assignments for the first week of class:

Homework for Week One

More details on the Concepts for Week One

1. Mark > Reward I’m not too fussy about which marker you use to for your dog. My current favorite is clucking (your tongue against the roof of your mouth). A club member sent me an article from 1882 and a hunter addressed clucking and rewarding with dried meat from his pocket when his hunting dogs checked in. Early clicker training? Maybe….. Using a clicker or saying “yes” are all the same, but you must be precise and quick. The most common mistake I see with beginner and advanced handlers is not rewarding enough. Bring your dog super hungry to class and all will go well. Just remember that every time you mark a behavior you must reward it. That is the power of positive training! With our herding dogs in this class that have done any herding think about how badly the dog wants their stock. They are getting a reward everytime they move the stock without being stopped or blocked. The reward rate in herding when things are going well is very very high!

2. Where are my 4 feet? Find a box that is at least as long as your dog’s back. Through positive reinforcement with food or toys ask your dog to stand in the box. It is important at this stage to reward the smallest thing. So once your dog offers to do anything with the box ( head over, one foot, two feet, etc) “mark” and reward, use your dogs next meal and when in doubt “mark” and reward.  This makes you not too stingy and your dog gets lots of reinforcement. Once your dog can go into a large box and remain standing start to find smaller and smaller boxes so that the dog is forced to think about their hind feet in a more precise way. Once this behavior is really strong we can start to play with our own body position and do a lot of rewarding with the dog in “heel” position.

3. 10 comes a day for something. What are your dog’s favorite things? They will likely vary from day to day, but find a way to reward your dog with something special at least 10 times a day. It might be a ball, a stick, or a special treat. You need to get creative and make coming to you super special. My own puppy Finn is really loving this game on walks. For this class bring the dog to heel position for the reward.

4. Where are my front two feet? Find a smaller box, or phone book and teach your dog to put their front two feet on it. Reward your dog by tossing their reward away from them so that don’t get stuck in position staring at you. It helps to have two boxes because then you can get them to move quickly from one box to the other.

5. Don’t stare at the reward! Dogs that work for food or toys can get quite obsessed. It is very easy to fall into allowing your dog to stare at the reward and follow it with their nose. If they get really fixated then it is hard to teach dogs to go through things or away from you. If you don’t work on not staring at the reward everytime you train then training progress goes very slow if at all.

If at anytime in your training you find your dog staring obsessively at the food/toy, then stop and wait for your dog to look somewhere else. Cluck and reward. This is part of the first homework for all my classes, but we go back to it for the rest of the dog’s life. With our herding breeds breaking their eye can be very important when we need to call them off stock.

For my herding students I have found that dogs that have been trained with positive rewards (food, toys, games) are more confident and relaxed. Herding is trained through pressure and release and dogs that have a lot of positive training in their past find it easier to take negative corrections when they come.
Nancy Creel
(406) 580-0122