Training method

I was fortunate to use David Hart's Riana Glide as a sire in 2015/2016, and Glide stayed here in his retirement until he had to be put down when his heart failed. David visited to see Glide and he generously spent a day teaching me how he starts dogs. The most important thing I learned from David was about building a great relationship with your dog and it uses the "pack leader" type training, which I had also been learning from a New Zealand training site: "Doggy Dan".

I had also done a Neil McDonald school some 25 years ago and hosted a Greg Prince School here in 2015 and I have done a fair bit of clicker training too.

I specifically learned recall training from David which has been invaluable. I was lucky enough that one of his young dogs chose the day of his visit to decide not to come, so I didn't just get a lesson--I saw it first hand in action how David solved the problem.

That relationship and getting a recall once a youngster decides to challenge the puppy call, for me, have been the total key to progressing with some success with training.

There were significant instant changes from all my dogs once I implemented this, though the older dogs aren't turned around perfectly yet, due to a long time of bad habits.

The other major thing I have learned from having quite a lot of dogs, is how different they are. I have the whole spectrum of temperament from absolutely headstrong to totally compliant and biddable (as well as completely different styles of working). Genetics is incredibly important. I have quite a lot of litter mates here, but from some quite different bloodlines. The genetics is so obvious when I see all of a litter behave one way and all of a another litter another way. While headstrong dogs may have great keenness, I prefer a softer dog that I don't have to battle with constantly. From my experience, limited as it may be, I believe that keenness and biddability can be found in the one dog, though how many of these dogs there are I don't know. I had a dog here, bred by Tony Overton, Gwydir Dart (son of top-priced Casterton Kelpie muster dog, Saltpan Grompy), who I was minding for the new owner, and this dog was very tough, very keen, yet also very biddable.

I have a Karrawarra x Barru bitch who is at the extremely biddable end, who has pups to Riana Glide, and these pups are an absolute joy. At 6 months they are keen as mustard to work, but can be called off the sheep so easily. A friend of mine says, "a good dog almost trains itself", and I think these pups will show me that he is right.

Though I had a whole day of training with David Hart, based on what I have learned from him so far--and it is pretty easy to apply--I'm very keen to attend one of the schools he runs.

No doubt having read the above you want to know the recall method. It is Negative reinforcement. In laymens terms it's pressure and relief. It's what the horse whisperer people use. Positive reinforcement is giving food or praise when it does the right thing. Positive punishment is applying some sort of punishment when it does the wrong thing. Negative reinforcement means taking away something unpleasant (the pressuring) when it does the right thing.

Call the dog with come and here while it's a pup, and it will learn those. But the day will come when it will challenge you, and it won't come when asked. Be ready for that day. Apply pressure while ever it is not coming to you. Just keep after it, don't hurt it and don't yell at it--you just want it feeling uncomfortable and even a little scared. So if it runs further away, you keep following it so that where ever it goes it does not get relief. But DON'T use a scary voice. Your voice and your body must act differently. Call the dog with a soft welcoming voice, say good dog etc. With your actions keep bearing down on the dog and making it uncomfortable where ever it is. But as soon as it turns and makes a move to you become physically welcoming to it--remove all pressure and give it relief when it comes toward you. If you need to take hold of the dog for its own safety (or for the safety of the stock it was chasing), avoid the collar grab (it will try to pull away and that won't be seen as relief by the dog), try to hold the whole dog if needed. If it comes, pat it and let go, and do it again. This lesson may need to be repeated a couple of times for it to be convinced, and some more headstrong dogs may possibly need reminding.

Some planning makes this work better--if the dog can get into something and hide or you have it cornered it won't be able to get away from your pressure, so avoid that. If the dog is in a corner, approach tightly from one side and gently toss a branch or your hat or something that won't hurt it to pressure it out of the corner, but in a way that it has a choice not to come near you. Also a big area will be difficult. One pup thought it was a game when I kept bearing down on him--he could easily just stay out of reach, but when I tossed some poly pipe near him, he didn't like that and so changed his tune and ran off scared, but I kept coming. It may take half an hour or even a lot longer, but eventually the dog will figure out there is no relief anywhere except in coming to you. The other problem is when a dog gives up and just crouches on ground rather than runs off--what do you do then--after all the dog needs to decide to come to you, not you go to it. This was tricky, but I found that when I got to the dog I just pushed it a bit (no need to hurt it) to make it keep going, or you can wait it out a little distance away and encourage it to come to you, but if you do that, make sure you do a few more goes where it must actively make the choice to come to you in the face of you pressuring it, and you then provide relief.

Being the pack leader does not mean you need to be cruel to your dog. You can be the boss AND be gentle and kind with your dogs - it does not mean they can't sit on the lounge or your lap or be in bed with you. Just all these things must be when you say it's ok.