A + B + _?_ + _?_ + _?_ = Z - IT'S NOT MAGIC
By Claudia Frank

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To get from a puppy to a fully trained stockdog takes many many steps both in teaching skills and in developing natural instincts. Sometimes the steps are even broken down further, if necessary, to make the requirements crystal clear to the dog. The exact steps vary from dog to dog with their initial socialization, basic training, natural instincts and knowledge of the trainer.

When a person has trained their first dog and then go on to train the next one they may have forgotten all the steps they took from A to Z if they were even fully aware of them all in the first place. What can happen, if we arenít careful, is that the second dog doesnít live up to the first because we are looking at the first dog that is now fully trained. Maybe we donít even give the second dog a chance to develop but just pass it off as lacking in what we want in a dog despite the amount of time we initially spent getting our desires clear to the first dog.

When we take obedience classes the weekly training is laid out in a proven progression of necessary skills building on what the dog knows all ready. In stockdog training it is rare to be able to work with the same instructor on a regular basis. Because we are working outdoors with livestock that has its own thoughts even lessons that are planned have to be flexible to take in what does happen with the weather and stock at a given time rather than what we really would like to focus upon. What then happens is a beginning trainer isnít able to get a clear picture of how the building blocks are set into place and how each small part of training is based on what has all ready been learned, hopefully, correctly.

Attending clinics is another way to learn the various parts of the whole training puzzle. However, if the instructor only works with each individual dog/handler team and doesnít address progressive steps that may need to be trained but which may not be demonstrated by dogs in the clinic the participant may not even realize that there are skills that have not been addressed.

Often a beginning trainer is aware that they need to do A and then B with the goal being Z. Not being aware of all the steps in between they may get impatient and the dog may be subject to unrealistic expectations. Repeating A and B repeatedly will not produce Z.

A good way to progress with your current dog and prepare for the next is to jot down the steps in the approximate order that they may be started and improved upon as you watch other trainers, take lessons, participate in discussions at trials, read, and attend clinics include new skills or training drills that you become aware would improve your dog. You can include alternative methods for teaching skills as your next dog may learn with a different approach. If you feel your dog shows a repeated lack in a specific area find a way to eliminate that hole so you are building on a solid base of well understood and performed actions.

If, as you watch top dogs working they perform an action that your dog doesnít perform try to find out what was done to encourage or train that action and then include that in your dogís training accomplishments. It is up to you to recognize what your dog needs to know and your responsibility to teach/encourage these needs. After all stockdog training isnít magic.

Page Updated 12/20/2010

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