Lessons from Herding Dog Trainers

star alisdair sharpter 2010

Ah, lucky me. Last week I had two half hour lessons with Alisdair McRae, who I used to call "the Tiger Woods of Herding," but well . . .  you know. Alisdair won Open on both Saturday and Sunday at the Portage Trial this weekend, which is pretty much par for the course with him. He is also a clear and kind teacher, and he understands herding dogs as well as anyone in the world. I write this because my lessons reminded me of the universal importance of creating a win for our dogs, and the universal difficulty in always knowing how to do that. I wanted to work on my timing; Willie and I are doing nice outruns and fetches, but our drives look like zig zags instead of the lovely straight lines we are all attempting to achieve. I felt like I was always one step behind, and never able to react Read More

Willie & Sushi (and Hope) Update

W play pool 6-10

A reader asked for an update about Will and Sushi, so I thought it was time to fill you in on how it is going. I'm happy to report that things are going extremely well. (Whew!) The entire story would be a chapter in a book (and probably will be!), but here's the summary: Problem: Willie stalking Sushi the cat. As I said in earlier posts, this is very different from "chasing the cat." Cat chasing can be a serious problem, don't get me wrong, especially if it is predatory and not initially motivated by play, but "strong-eyed" herding dogs who automatically go into a stalking posture around a cat are a real challenge. Using positive reinforcement for, say, looking at the cat and then turning to look at me for a treat or a toy wasn't working. The primary problem is that once a Read More