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Working Sheep Dogs

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

Consistent commands

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.

Clear commands 

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

WALK ON: Walk on to the sheep       THAT'LL DO: Recall

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.
Praise and correction 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.
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!"



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