By Denise Teal & Claudia Frank

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Now, you have decided to bring a clinician into your area whose reputation has led you to believe that his technique is a method you would like to learn. Or, you would like to bring into your area a clinician who you have taken helpful lessons from elsewhere in the past.

Some of the decisions necessary to get started were covered in the previous article. One important factor to keep in mind is that the fewer working spots the more time each person will have focused on them by the clinician. This includes YOU who wanted this special opportunity enough to host the event. Of course that means the cost per participant goes up but that may not be as important as the opportunity with this clinician. Some people even host very small events that involve only the host and a few fiends without even the need for advertising.


A lot of what is offered will depend on the physical situation of the host property and the stock available. Some ideas are…

1) Beginner Seminar – aimed at people either just getting started in herding or people that are at the beginning of training another dog. For this just a small pen will be necessary. Make sure various training aids (long lines, buggy whip, etc) are available if not provided by the clinician.
2) Advanced Seminar – aimed at people whose dogs have some training and that have an idea of how they would like to change their training methods to something more efficient. Though a larger field is good for a start most often any problems are actually a disconnect at the basic level and work on that can be just as readily addressed in the small training pen.
3) All Level Seminar – this provides the beginner with an idea of where the training will take them as time goes by… the whole picture. However, if a larger area is needed for some participants the order of participation must have which area will be used taken into account so extra time is not lost going back and forth between areas if not adjacent.
4) Private lessons – once a person is aware of a clinician’s basics and order of progress they may benefit from the clinician giving them a half hour of time spent directly with them without the interruption of outside spectators. A schedule for each day of private lessons must be provided ahead of time. The person organizing the event can take into account who will be in the area overnight, lives nearby, will be staying for several days, etc. when scheduling. Fourteen half hour lessons starting at 8:30am with an hour for lunch seems to work well for most clinicians.
5) Camps – vary greatly. Generally this is set up for the participant with whose dog is far enough along so that they can learn farm/ranch skills. Time is allowed for practicing on stock and the camps usually last for several couple of days.

Frequently a seminar or camp will run over a weekend with days for private lessons on either side of the weekend. The first private lesson with a clinician is often just spent evaluating where the dog is and what problems need to be addressed. Participants should plan on taking a lesson or multiple lessons each day for as many days as are offered. In this way the person and their dog can either make progress in learning something new or overcome bad habits that require time to work through. Ideally, it is very well appreciated by those participating if stock is available for them to work between their lessons so they can tryout what they learned, develop questions and then get the questions answered at the next lesson.


If the event is meant for all beginners only a small training pen is needed. The size may be a rectangle in the area of 50 x 80 or a circular pen. The clinician will usually indicate the size they find best for the way they work. Temporary pens can quickly be constructed out of cattle panels and Tposts. The fencing material must go to the ground and be about 42-48 inches high. Generally it is a good idea to have some sort of mesh attached to the fence so the surface appears more solid to the sheep and they would be less inclined to bump it if startled.

With a clinician that works with the philosophy that the dog should start all work correctly and that the sheep should be treated kindly only one set of sheep may be needed. The clinician will know what he requires by the way of useful sets of sheep. The sheep need to be comfortable with all types of dogs and with working fairly close to people as well as dogs. The management of the source flock would have a lot to do with how they want to be handled. I have a commercial flock of several breeds and find that two young wool Dorsets and three older hair Katahdin’s makes for a group that doesn’t get sour or over react either. The management of the flock rather than the breed is usually the best indicator as to how they will react. It is a good idea to put together the training groups in advance so they provide the best opportunity for training.

If several sets of sheep may be needed to rotate into the training pen thought must be given to getting these extra sets moved into usefulness. A panel covered with a tarp across the corner of the rectangular pen will provide you with a place for extra sheep that allow the used sheep to be placed behind the panel in one corner with food and water while another set is taken out from behind the panel in another corner. The tarps will need to be tightly fastened to the panel so the sheep being used cannot get behind it.

If there will be some participants that require a larger area the small training pen can be temporarily set up in a corner of the larger field. Again, only a couple groups of sheep may be needed if the clinician doesn’t allow any abuse.

An indoor riding arena makes an excellent location for a herding seminar. This keeps everyone out of the immediate hands of nature. Again make sure transition of sheep to and from the open training area is planned ahead. The spectators need to have some sort of barrier between them and the working person, dog and clinician for safety.


If the event is being held outside ome type of cover needs to be provided for the participants/auditors in case of inclimate weather. That cover can also house the person organizing the event to check people in, make sure waivers are signed, name tags are handed out, snacks made available, etc. This area may be under a simple framed tent or have the paperwork in a nearby building. A plan should have been decided upon ahead of time as to what course of action would be taken if the weather hampers the course of the event. This participant/auditor area should have nearby parking if possible so dogs that aren’t being trained can be crated in or near the vehicles so they are handy but not disruptive. Small tents are available at a very reasonable price however they are not very hardy when battered by wind and rain. For an event with lots of people tents can be rented and the rental company delivers the tent and sets it up and takes it down. If you plan to do this at a permanent location on a regular basis you can build a cover for the cost of losing a couple tents each year.


If the property is owned by the person hosting the event they should check with their property insurance company to see if it covers the type of event being hosting. An addition can be added to the property owners insurance if they are the host to cover the event at minimal fee. If hosted by a club the group probably has insurance to cover club hosted events. Some states require posted statements so it is best to make sure this part of the event is thoroughly thought out and fully covered.


Generally a clinician who frequently participates in training events has a “rate sheet” with the various cost breakdowns so the people considering hosting an event can see what they need to cover with the participant entry fees. There are many variations on how the clincian’s pay may be broken down but most include travel expense, housing and meals. It is a good idea to make sure both parties, clinician and hosts, fully understand how the money end of the event is to be handled. It would be a good idea to put it in writing. Some clinicians have a contract which states what they expect and by agreeing to that contract the host is obligated to what is agreed upon. Do not rely on memory as both parties may have gone over different options and they may not remember which one was the final deal.

Most clinicians prefer to receive their fee at the end of the event. They may have a form for you to complete. Or, you may need to create one that would show how much was made doing what in the same breakdown as in the contract. Generally checks are written out to the hosts. Cash is also collected. Then a single check can be issued to the clinician.

There are no “rules” to the paperwork portion of the event but both parties must agree and it needs to be in writing to reduce any friction.


Before beginning to take in any fees decide with the clinician what would constitute a “cancelled” event. You may decide that if you don’t have a certain number of participants at a set fee by a specified date you will cancel the event. Make sure you have a date for cancellation that is agreed upon by the clinician and hosts. If there is a core group of people that wanted the event to happen perhaps the charges required for the clinician can be spread over this core group which of course would mean a higher fee per participant.

Sometimes, if a clinician is new to an area and would like to become established, they may take fewer than normally would be considered a go just to introduce a new group to his method with the idea that he would return again on a regular basis. It never hurts to ask what the clinician would consider a go if few entries are received. The cancellation policy is also something that should be in writing as part of the contract with the clinician so both parties are on the same base and there aren’t any misunderstandings. The policy should also appear on the event flyer.


A very important feature, which is often overlooked, is the ability of the participants/auditors to HEAR what is going on during the event at ALL times. There is a myriad of electronic systems and gadgets from the most simple to the most complex. Make sure a head of time who is suppose to provide the equipment. Most clinicians have equipment that they provide with which they are very familiar. If not such equipment can be rented from a rental store or from another group which may have the equipment for some other sport. Of course it needs to be weather proof or you need to have materials handy that will make it useable during, wind, dampness or rain. Participants and auditors have come to hear how the clinician trains and they want to hear all that is said between the participant and the clinician when the training is actually in progress.


At the beginning of the event make sure someone informs the group as to any property rules such as where dogs can be walked off lead, pottied, when lunch will be taken, etc. This can be followed by each participant introducing themselves to the group so everyone knows a bit about the others background and breeds. Then of course an introduction of the clinician and what it was in his way of training which caused the individual or group to invite that person to share their training methods

With the internet it is very quick to communicate with a group attending an event such as a clinic. Keep everyone informed as to schedules, local motels, directions, and a follow-up when the event is complete.


If you would like to learn from a specific clinician give some thought to hosting a learning experience such as a seminar at your farm/ranch or at a nearby facility you may rent. Be sure to set up the event so you get the most benefit for your time and effort.

Page Updated 10/05/2010

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