Developing the "Correct" Image
By Claudia Frank

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To train a stockdog to perform correctly the first thing that must happen is that the new trainer needs to have an image in their mind of exactly how each and every move that a dog may need to take to perform a specific requirement or chore looks like. This filtering through all that one sees at a trial, while doing chores and training dogs slowly develops these images. Often these correct images need to be pointed out or discussed by other trainers or instructors for the new trainer to start developing their own images. Only with these correct images can a trainer hope to bring about a dog that demonstrates all these traits whether in work or trial situations.

When someone becomes interested in training and trialing stockdogs, what they initially SEE is a dog moving around with the end result being the stock going to the spot needed for the chore or competition. As time progresses and the person puts in more time watching and working dogs in the same situations the picture of what a dog needs to do to accomplish the specific requirement starts to be broken down into pieces that can be looked at individually. For a number of reasons dogs which perform certain moves get the desired result. The person begins to believe that to accomplish the desired result the dog needs to perform the moves he assumes are necessary.

A number of “things” may be happening which the new trainer is not yet aware. The consistency of a dog’s actions, causing specific results, may not be due to the dog necessarily performing correctly. However they DO result in the job getting done. An example of this is livestock that readily head through a gate to get to the barn, or livestock that travel very quietly and slowly when a dog behaves in a certain manner. Rather than have these desired results coming from the action of the dog they are coming from other sources. The first example may be generations of the same flock heading through the same gate and moving to the barn to their advantage for food and/or shelter. In the second example the flock could be of a breed or used to a management style that is very quiet and gentle leaving them even difficult to unsettle. What happens with this situation is the new trainer developed a picture of what he assumed were correct moves of the dog based on false situations.

So, it is important to develop the “correct” image from a wide variety of situations, locations, types of dogs and various dog working styles with the help of experienced and knowledgeable trainers.


Illustration by Amy Aitken

Page Updated 01/08/2011

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