I sure do love working with young dogs. Yesterday evening i worked Moss (16 months) and Billy (8 months). Moss has been off and on in training the last few months. I'll do a bit with him, then put him up for awhile, then do a bit more, then put him up again. Mostly now i'm waiting on him to mature into all the "mechanical" stuff he already knows. He has a rudimentary grasp of all the skills he'll need to be a fully trained sheepdog and i've been able to get all that training done without putting a lot of pressure on him. He runs out nicely, stops, calls off, is driving a bit, sheds, has a basic turnback, and is useful for most farm chores. His biggest problem has been that he's just a little less keen than i'd like, but that should come with age and maturity, and then because he's already got the skills, he should finish out his training in a snap. He's never once offered to quit work in his training and he's got no fear of sheep at all, he's just been a little lackadaisical about it. I found that males off of his greatgrandfather (Gael's sire actually) were *very* lackadaisical but i thought Moss' closer relatives plus the fact that that dog was so far back in Moss' pedigree would keep it from being a problem. But added to that, was the relatively slow maturing of another line in Moss' background, and well, i've had to be very patient with his training. I took him to a friend's last weekend and something clicked into place for him on his driving. Where before he was pretty tentative, now he's taking charge and actually driving sheep. And his keenness level does seem to be coming up a bit. I've been able to do a little bit of the kind of training that requires the dog to take some pressure - insisting he learn his flanks, take some off balance flanks, even flank to the heads a bit on fetches - and he's responding well to it. This isn't the path i'd recommend for most dogs or for novice trainers because there's a tremendous amount of reading the dog and evaluating what the dog is happy with and can take. But so far, putting the mechanics on first and waiting for the talent and ability to catch up is working for Moss. He's a pretty nice little dog and sheep really like his manner, which bodes well for his career as a trial dog. I've entered him in a couple of upcoming trials in ProNovice, in hopes that he'll be ready. We'll see! He's still pretty young at 16 months so i'll have to let him tell me if he's really ready for more.
Now Billy, is a whole 'nother kinda dog. I'm hoping to work him a bit more this weekend so should have a report on him soon. He seems to have tons of potential and i'm just itching to train him.