Home' Smart Farmer : March 2012 Contents March 2012
N February you taught your dog
the most important tone he will
ever learn, to stop while he is
working on stock.
You taught this by adopting the
off-balance position where you were
between your dog and the sheep so
that, from above, it looked like this:
If I'm right, by now your dog will
be trying to 'beat the rake'.
In other words, he will see you
start to raise the rake and he'll stop
before you say anything.
So, at this stage of his training, we
are going to change a few things,
such as longer duration, stop on-
balance, stop on the quarters, off-
balance and hand signals.
The longer duration
Last month, I emphasised that you
are not to hold him down in the stop
position as otherwise he will see it as
You are to make it fun and the
objective is to get to the clap posi-
tion with speed. We are now going
to gradually introduce him to a
longer duration while he is down in
the clap position.
You do this in the off-balance
position so that you can control the
Quietly say, 'Andy, stooop', and
then count 'one thousand, two thou-
sand, three thousand' and move
away. The dog should go straight
around to balance its sheep as soon
as you move.
Just let it go to work. Don't, I
repeat, don't say anything to him.
Word of warning. The dog is not
allowed to move from the clap posi-
tion until you move away. If it tries
to get up, lower your voice and
repeat 'Andy, Stooop' with your rake
up high in the air. It must stay there
until you move away.
Once you've got the dog comfort-
able with stopping for about three
seconds, stretch it out to five sec-
Gradually increase the time until it
will just stop there for up to about
30 seconds. Believe me, you are
going to need this skill later in your
How to stop on-balance
When you stop a dog on-balance
it means the sheep are between you
and the dog and you will lose the
advantage of being in the right posi-
tion to control the training. It looks
like this. You-sheep-dog. Check
your piece of paper with this draw-
ing if you want.
So, be very, very sure that your
dog is stopping every single time
before you attempt this and, as an
added confidence booster, your dog
should quietly stay in the clap posi-
tion for at least 30 seconds.
Here you go. Let your dog balance
the sheep to you while you walk
around the round yard. Turn and
look at it and then say, 'Andy (to
attract his attention) Stooop'.
At the same time, you will raise
your rake up high. Right up above
your head. Let the dog see it clearly.
Don't just wave it somewhere in
front of it.
Hopefully, the dog will clap down
immediately but if it doesn't, just
walk through the sheep with your
rake way up high and lower your
voice. 'Andy, Stoop'. He'll stop then.
Hold it in the clap position for
three seconds only and then step
sideways so the dog can go back to
work. Give it 30 seconds or so to
balance its sheep and repeat the
As the sheep gets better and better
at it, you can increase the duration
until you have it stopping and hold-
ing position for about 30 seconds.
Because you are on-balance and
therefore not in the best position to
control the situation, I'd like you to
remember that, if little Andy gets a
bit slow on his stops, then you can
always use the 'hard tone' you used
when you were training the dog on
the lead. Don't shout. Refer to the
smartfarmer (May 2011) edition.
Stopping on quarters
This skill is almost the same as
stopping on-balance except that you
need to picture that whichever
direction you face it is 12 o'clock.
You will use your rake to move
Andy either to your left, and stop
him at 9 o'clock. Or to your right,
and stop him at 3 o'clock. Or behind
you and stop him at 6 o'clock.
I call it stopping on the quarters.
Now you should be able to stop
him in any position, at any time, and
he will stay there until you move.
Until now you have always raised
your rake and raised it up high
above your head to clearly give the
signal for stop. But it can be a little
awkward if, for the rest of your dog's
career, you have to walk around
with a rake. So how can you
smoothly make the transition to
hand signals? It's easy really.
When you feel Andy has well and
truly got the message and will stop
anywhere in the clock-face then, as
you raise your rake with, say, your
right hand, raise your left hand and
give the hand signal for stop.
Gradually, test the dog out by
sometimes raising both the rake and
your hand, and sometimes by only
raising your hand, while saying
A little further into his training,
raise your hand and don't say any-
thing. Very soon you'll find that he
will stop with a hand signal only.
Now you've got a silent stop.
A little warning here. Make sure
he is looking at you when you raise
All the above stages of longer
duration, stop on-balance, stop on
the quarters, off-balance hand sig-
nals are done as individual training
Perfect skills one at a
time before moving
onto the next stage
Perfect clap position with a hand signal.
Gradually increase time
Ensure eye contact
Use hard tone for discipline
with BEN PAGE,
Working Dog Centre
sessions. Make sure the dog got each
one before you go onto the next skill
and, I'm sure that I don't have to
remind you not to exceed three min-
May I finish off this month by say-
ing that, if you have any questions
about your training, you can always
call me and leave a message. I'll call
Next month: Time to use the whis-
• Need to know more?
By CATHERINE MILLER
YARD dog trials are a pop-
ular weekend pastime for
many rural Australians,
with between 80 and 90
competitions held each
year across six states.
But Lucindale can lay
claim as the birthplace of
the sport -- the first trial
was conducted at the
South East Field Days in
To mark the 30th anniversary of
yard dog trials, the State competition
normally rotated between Lucindale
and the Karoonda Farm Fair will be
held for the second year in a row at
Lucindale on March 17.
Neil McDonald, Keith, who is
respected in working dog circles for his
stocking-handling schools, was the
inaugural winner at the field days.
Neil decided to take part in the
event by chance, after wet sheep pre-
vented him shearing that day.
In front of a large crowd, Neil and
his 2.5-year-old Kelpie-cross Max put
sheep on and off a tandem trailer,
down a drenching race and up a ramp
and came away with the highest num-
ber of points in a field of 22 handlers
and 25 dogs.
"He (Max) was my first dog and he
went everywhere with me -- he was
almost human," Neil said.
"I got over the line because I had
the voice control and he
just knew when to go left,
right, stop and sit."
After the win, the duo
were invited to compete at
the nationals in Tasmania
in mid 1982.
It was the start of more
than 15 years of trial
shows which saw Neil and
his wife Helen travel
One of Neil's proudest
trialling moment was a
State championships at Lucindale
which he won with Sherwood Anna, a
dog he had bred and trained from a
Neil and Helen only have the odd lit-
ter of pups now but their Sherwood
stud was selling about 200 pups and
dogs each year at its height in the
It was about the same time that Neil
switched focus from trialling to run-
ning stock-handling schools.
"The schools were more profitable
and made a difference to the indus-
"We were taking dogs which were
considered useless and non-contribut-
ing and turning them into ones that
were important contributors to proper-
Neil opened his first school at
Lameroo in 1989 and the momentum
quickly built up, with schools from
Victoria to northern Queensland.
SE yard dog trials turn 30
Neil McDonald won
the first trial at
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