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Working Sheep Dogs

Dick Roper, English National President shares some of his simple rules to help with handling skills

1 Keep your commands consistent

Consistency of the command is the number one priority for any
dog handler. You must always use the same commands and use
them in the right situations. Consistent commands are vital if a
dog is expected to work for multiple handlers.

2 Keep commands clear

Unclear commands can also confuse a dog. A dog will learn a
one syllable command much quicker than two or more
syllables, whether a whistle or voice is used.

Main Commands:
STOP: To stop
AWAY: To go right
COMEBYE: To go left

3 Don't apply human logic Handlers have the tendency to use commands that suit human
logic. The art of working well with a dog is to understand how
they think and to always train them with that in mind.
4 Do praise and correct Dogs will demonstrate reinforced behaviours, and therefore, must
know when they have performed well or not. Use specific
commands for when a dog makes a mistake and another for when
they get something right.
Always correct a dog to help it learn from mistakes to improve.
5 Tone of voice Pitch of whistle or tone of voice can be crucial to getting the most
out of your dog. Tone is a powerful tool that when used correctly
allows you to be in true control of your dog - e.g. giving a low
steady whistle can calm a dog whereas a high pitch can excite
a dog to move up quicker. Shouting in a loud and angry tone, even
if the command is STEADY! will not necessarily calm or steady a
dog in the most effective way.

Dick adds "A well-trained sheep dog is a valuable asset to a farm; it can be the equivalent of having another farm worker. With 3 or 4 dogs I can move a flock of sheep from one village to another unaided; the dogs will do everything except shut the gate!"