Here is a short video of Trevors
training after just a couple of months
Sheepdog training December 2012
Since moving to Grantham,
Lincolnshire I have been able to progress my interest in sheepdog
training. Over the last few years i have not had my own sheep to
practise on, so although i have learnt a lot its not like the regular
practise that you can do when you have your own sheep outside the
kitchen door so to speak. At present i have some Herdwick and Cheviot
sheep which are used to being herded by dogs. Unlike the Cheviot sheep
the Herdwicks didnt come from a flock that had been rounded up by dogs
so they have taken a lot longer to settle in with the dogs. Now all the
sheep are very well behaved which makes training the young dogs a lot
easier as the sheep are not running all over the place.
I am currently working with two
young Border Collies and each has their own strengths. Tikka has taken a
while to mature and her sheepdog training has not always been a easy
road. Trevor is very much at the start of his sheepdog work but is
showing some natural talent. At present he is still quite young but im
sure when he settles down and matures a bit he could be a useful dog.
Just as with the freestyle its great
to see the dogs learning and improving. For me the thrill of seeing a
dog making improvements and progressing on from their last session is
what dog training is all about.
Sky 1 Dogumentary / A different
Since the start of August me and the
dogs have been busy not only with the normal stuff but also doing some
filming for a forthcoming series on Sky one called A Different Breed. It is meant
to be a documentary style programme looking at people and their dogs so they
had asked me if they could follow us as we did various events. You never
quite know what you are letting yourself in for with TV filming as they can
film something and give it a different twist when they show it so its always
a risk. I spoke with various people about the programme included the series
producer as I was concerned about how they would show the sport. They tried
to reassure me by putting various clauses in my contract saying that the
sport will only be shown in a positive light but we will have to wait and
see if they are true to this.
They firstly came to a cabaret night I
did in Selsey where I was pleased that the dogs all behaved themselves. Then
this same crew followed me at a competition where I was working Whizzy in
intermediate freestyle. Im glad to say that she won her class and the
routine went ok even though Whizzy was a little energetic at times.
Paws in the park was the next event they
filmed me at and the dogs gave them some TV gold as the dogs decided during
our demo that the fresh horse dung was good enough to eat! Now I just know
that will be included but thatís dogs for you they are not robots.
The team behind Dogumentary / A
Different Breed wanted to
show how I developed a routine so in another session we did some filming of
the props, costumes that I use. Then we did some on how the moves go
together where they wanted me to show some of the training for a new
routine. I have to say that some of what you see for the ď new routineĒ
might be a bit of a red herring as this might be shown before the semi
finals in January.
Later in September I was asked if they
could use the dogs in the opening title sequence. So one Monday morning we
made our way to Snoopies grooming salon in Colchester for the filming. As
usual we filmed all day with my dogs plus another two for just a twenty
second piece of film. Watch out for Whizzys L'oreal moment where she was
wearing sunglasses whilst her hair was being blown with a hairdrier - it was
meant to show from normal dog to showbiz dog !
The last session of filming was on the
beach as I really wanted to show that it is not all work and no play for the
dogs. My dogs love going to the beach and I hope their enjoyment of being
there comes through in the programme.
I had some lovely directors and teams of
camera people during all the filming so thank you to Sam, Emma and Anoska
for making the filming fun. Now we have to wait and see if ďA Different
going to show us in a positive light or whether I will be cringing behind my
hands while watching it !
A Different Breed should be shown on Sky
1 sometime in the Spring.
that whenever I go abroad things donít always run smoothly and this time I
hoped as I got to Heathrow for my flight to Australia that this trip would
be different. Little did I know what was in store with a certain volcano
which kicked off the day after we got to Melbourne.
time I was invited to Australia to teach freestyle the sport was not
recognised so now that it has been I was interested to see how the handlers
had progressed. My first workshop was to be held in Melbourne where I had
taught before, so I knew many of the handlers from last time. Sue Cordwell
has done a lot in this area to promote the sport and has developed a nice
group of handlers who all train regularly with her.
with Sue for a few days before the workshop gave us a chance to do a little
bit of sightseeing. Iím not someone who is a great sightseer as I prefer to
do something but it was nice to see some more of the local area. The first
day dawned and many people had travelled for quite a few hours to the
workshop. There was a wide variety of breeds from a little Papillion who had
some brilliant attentive heelwork to various medium sized dogs like Golden
Retrievers and Belgian shepherd dogs. A breed which I have only seen in
Australia is a Koolie which is a merle coloured collie type dog which is
prevalent in this country, they look a bit like a collie crossed with a
the sport has been recognised last year in Australia some areas have had
shows but down in Melbourne they have their first later this year. This
meant that many of the handlers did not have any ring experience although
many compete in other disciplines. On the first day I needed to concentrate
on making sure their basic moves were being performed to a good standard and
that the handlers had a good knowledge of basic choreography work.
it took a while to get the handlers to relax and talk to their dogs but
after a while they got into the groove and really worked well. It was quite
warm in the building so some of the dogs and handlers were ready for a rest
by the time we got to lunch time.
of the weekend went well with handlers making real progress in the way that
they handled the dogs and put moves together. There were some lovely teams
who should do well when the competitions start and I look forward to seeing
some of the routines.
quite a busy weekend so it was nice to have a relaxing day at the Healsville
wildlife sanctuary on the Monday. This wildlife park concentrates on all the
native animals one of which is the dingo. Seeing the dingo up close you
could see where certain breeds could have originated from. We also had the
chance to see two of the free flying bird shows where the birds really flew
close to the audience.
Tuesday we said our goodbyes to Sue and boarded a flight to Brisbane which
was a new area for me as last time I taught in Sydney. We were greeted at
the airport by Gay Westmore with whom we were staying with before the
weekend workshop. For the rest of Tuesday we relaxed and it gave me a chance
to watch some DVDs of competitions that they have had recently in Brisbane.
next couple of days we visited Brisbane Zoo made famous by Steve Irwin who
would jump on the crocodiles and Sea world. Some of the shows at Sea world
were sketches just like we do with the dogs in freestyle except they were
using sea lions. I found myself not so much watching the show but looking
for the body signals that the trainers were giving for certain moves.
evening we were taken by Barbara and Colin Murfet to see the Outback
Spectacular which is a unique theatre show. Using film projected onto a huge
screen and real life horses, cattle and sheep they told some of the history
of Australia. This was all done while the audience sat and ate their dinner.
We had been booked into an apartment for that night which overlooked part of
the Gold Coast beach, I could not resist going to the beach and dipping my
toe in the sea.
Wednesday evening I had been asked to give an obedience talk on motivation
and positive training for a group in Brisbane. There was around a hundred
people in the audience most of which competed in obedience with some who
also competed in freestyle. Using video of my own dogs I tried to outline
how I start off a puppy and then progress the dogs training so that they are
working in a happy manner.
second half of the evening I had asked for several dogs and handlers to be
available so that I could work with them. One team was a high drive Malinois
who walked onto the field barking as it was so excited it might be doing
work. Having had a high drive Border Collie I used some of the techniques I
have learnt and I was delighted that this Malinois reacted so well. I was
later told that people had never seen this dog so quiet while it was
weekend workshop was being held at the Camp Tailwaggers venue which is run
by Ann Bulke. This is a purpose built venue for canine workshops and has
several chalets which handlers could stay. The chalets and training barn are
all set high up on a hill so the view over the Gold coast from there was
lovely and I think everyone who visits there would like the same set up for
welcoming meeting on the Friday evening it was time for a cabaret night
which Ann had organised. There were many different types of routines and
everyone was decked out in their sequined costumes. It was good to see Honey
the Great Dane at work as I have been in contact with her handler before and
Honey is somewhat of a star as she has her own blog which is written from
camp has a time schedule which they need to stick to for the caterers, the
workshop the first day started at 8.30am. There had been so many handlers
wanting to attend, Ann had split them into two so that the first day was for
handlers who were less experienced and the second day was for those who have
been doing freestyle for a while. The weekend was very busy with lots of
questions and it was nice to work with people who obviously have a passion
for the sport.
my trip of course there was much concern as to whether I was going to be
able to get back as all flights had been cancelled. I tried not to worry
about this and concentrated on teaching. As our Sunday night flight got
nearer I had my fingers crossed that we would be able to fly. Luckily in the
end there was no problem and both flights took off on time. So to say I was
slightly relieved to get back on UK soil was an understatement and Iím glad
that I will not now be flying again till later in the year.
like to thank all the organisers and handlers that made my trip to Australia
so memorable, it is a long way to go and teach but it was a lovely
Well it certainly was a busy Crufts
this year for myself and Pogo. This was the first year that she was in
both the freestyle and HTM finals as last year I took her from novice to
advanced in freestyle in just six months. The freestyle final was on the
Thursday and I had decided to perform a routine I brought out at the
start of last year. When Pogo made her debut in novice freestyle I
created a routine around the music Hawaii 50 with a surprise bit of Jaws
music in to just make it a bit more light hearted. At the time the
routine went down very well and I quickly realised I should put it to
bed for a while as people really liked it, so I put together another
routine to the A team theme for the next few shows with Pogo.
The routine is aided by the surfboards
and the shark fin which was well received the first time I performed it and
I think was most peopleís favourite part. On the Thursday at Crufts we had a
late running order which was great as I had an early display to do in one of
the other rings. The freestyle final was quite early in the ring which meant
there was not as many people in the audience as there could be, I do hope in
the future they move it to later in the day as the audience really makes the
The routine seemed to pass in a flash
and everything seemed to go mostly to plan. I was glad the titanic move came
off and I didnít realise so many people were reading the blog where I had
mentioned it as it seems people had been guessing what I had meant. I was
very pleased with Pogo as she worked well and came out on a good score. When
the competition had finished it became clear that we had won the Crufts
freestyle final and if I am honest it was all a bit emotional. This meant
that Pogo was the second dog I have won the freestyle final with at Crufts
as Disco had won it in 2006. Certainly now I hope Iím not classed as a ďone
dog wonderĒ which I have often heard when people talk about someone who has
won a competition once but never managed to do it again.
Later on in the day Pogo had to perform
the routine again which was not ideal as she is not a collie with loads of
energy and of course having won the freestyle final meant she would now have
to work in the international competition on the Saturday. The reaction to
the routine was great from people in the audience and I thought this would
be peopleís favourite routine compared to my HTM one I was going to perform
the next day.
Friday dawned and I had not had a lot of
sleep having been awake again at 4am with the routines going through my
head. I had chosen to perform a routine in HTM final which was a little out
my comfort zone. This was not an easy choice but the original routine I was
going to perform I couldnít seem to click with so made a late change in
October to Lets face the music and dance. I have never done a dancing
routine before and have not been to any dance classes so I really had to
work on myself for this routine. When I videoed the routine on the Friday
night before Crufts I could see that this routine might go oh so wrong if I
did not get myself together. So I created my own ballroom / Fred Astaire
type character and tried my best to act my way through the routine.
As Pogo had performed the day before
twice I could sense she was a little tired so I hardly did anything with her
before I went into the ring. Although I was nervous I didnít have too much
alcohol as I was worried I might get too drunk and fall over! The routine
went ok with just a few places which were more down to me that the dog, in
one case my mouth was so dry I couldnít get the command out. The scores were
rather different in some sections but thatís Crufts for you as you never
know what will happen. The reaction to this routine after the competition
was amazing and I have had several people say they actually preferred it to
the freestyle one which I find unbelievable. We ended up third but all the
first three were on twenty six points with just the decimal places
Onto the Saturday where Pogo had to
perform again in the international competition representing England. From
the start it was clear to see that this was going to be one of the best
internationals there has ever been at Crufts. Pogo performed well and
actually did some of the moves better than she did on the Thursday. We ended
up second in this very strong competition which was no disgrace as the
winner was a very good routine by Alena from the Czech republic. This was
just my type of routine which was packed with moves and some lovely touches
at the end, a very worthy winner. I think that some UK handlers better up
their game as there are many other teams like Alena in Europe so if the UK
still wants to be at the top of this sport they need to step up a level.
During all four days I was also doing
three displays in the Good citizen ring, two of these were with some invited
handlers. All the handlers did very well and the displays were of a good
standard every day, so many thanks to all the handlers that came along to
help me out. On the Sunday I also had a hour long demo to do on the Samsung
stand. It was the first year that I had been on the stand and was very
pleased with the way the display went. I was told later that there were over
200 people standing watching in the small space I performed which was the
most they had over the four days.
So the whole four days as you might be
able to tell went past in a flash and were very exhausting but enjoyable.
Now its back to the grindstone finding music for the next new routines and
attending a few shows to see if we can qualify again for the semis.
Back to Denmark
It was two years ago that I visited
Denmark to judge and teach so I was looking forward to seeing how the sport
had progressed. In the UK the sport has grown massively since the early
days, with entries now getting to the stage where they cannot be all worked
in one day. Denmark has not found there to be such a boom in the sport and
the entry for the show I was judging at was in the mid fifties.
After a relaxing dinner on the Friday
night I awoke early ready for a day of judging. The Denmark rules are
similar to those in the UK but they have one main difference in their
Heelwork to music classes. In Denmark they have all eight of the UK heelwork
positions plus another two which are where the dog is in between the
handlers legs facing forward and back.
There are three levels of classes and it
was the top class that kicked off the day. The first dog into the ring was a
black and tan Cavalier King Charles spaniel who performed a lovely routine
to The maid on the shore. It is very hard to get a small dog to do lovely
attentive heelwork but this handler has done brilliantly with this little
dog. This team flowed around the ring with a nice amount of drive and it is
probably the best small dog routine in HTM I have judged. They ended up
third in this class but as the handler has only been competing for a year I
think there is more to come from this team. The eventual winner was Helle
Larssen with her Border Collie Littlethorn Avensis who performed a ballet
type routine to a song from Billy Elliot.
With the advanced class over it was
straight onto intermediate HTM as the classes were being run in reverse
order. There were five entrants in this class and it was topped by another
Cavalier king Charles. It was another dog trained by the same handler that I
mentioned earlier in the advanced class. Renate with her Cavalier Frida
flowed around the ring with various HTM positions and the whole routine was
aided by the handlerís smooth movement. Handlers of small dogs I feel often
have a raw deal as judges get used to the preciseness of the Border Collies
so donít know how to judge the smaller dogs who cannot be as tight to the
handlers leg. Having trained small dogs myself I have tremendous respect for
anyone who gets smaller dogs to work as this handler has. When I am judging
HTM with small dogs I look for the same things that I would from one in the
obedience ring which means the dog holds a consistent position.
The last class in the HTM section was
the first class which would be equivalent to the starters / novice class in
the UK. Renate with her Cavaliers was obviously on a roll as she won this
class as well with a routine set to Jennifer Juniper. All three Cavaliers
Renate worked were a credit to her dedicated training as they all came out
with wagging tails and the same lovely attention.
a break it was the freestyle classes which started with the starters /
novice level. The first team was a little Pomeranian cross who was
performing to Pretty woman with her handler dressed in a complementary
outfit. This team had also worked in the HTM starter class where they had
achieved second place. Unfortunately this charismatic little dog got a bit
excited and started to bark so her handler broke off and turned her back so
as not to reward it. It was another Cavalier that followed but this time
with a young handler Camilla who did a great job in keeping her dogs
attention. Tarzan was the Cavaliers name and they moved around the ring with
various jumps etc and did enough to scoop first place.
Onto the intermediate freestyle class
where there were five entries with a mixture of breeds from a Welsh Terrier
to an Akita. The winner was what looked like a smooth Jack Russell cross but
is actually is a recognised breed which I think is called a Danish farm dog.
The last class was advanced freestyle
where there was the largest entry of the day with eight teams. First into
the ring were Annette and her lovely Border Collie Neo who is only two years
old but is already performing in the top class and had recently taken part
in the Nordic freestyle championships representing Denmark. This team
produced a fast and furious routine which was set around a boxing theme.
It is always nice to see different
breeds competing and I think freestyle is one where having a different breed
can set you apart from the others. The next dog was a standard wire haired
Dachshund called Addi who performed a flowing routine to a song from Zorro.
Addiís handler was dressed accordingly and she had done a great job of
teaching this charismatic dog. This team certainly had star quality and beat
off some good competition to win the advanced class with a score of 24.23
After a dayís judging it was nice to
relax with the organisers at one of their homes where we were treated to
meal which would not have been out of place in a top restaurant. Friends who
know me often say I donít eat enough so they would have been impressed here
as I went back for seconds which is almost unheard of for me.
The following two days I was teaching
workshops where we had great fun training the dogs and developing ideas. I
enjoy teaching when the handlers are so receptive and it also has the added
bonus of motivating me so when I got home I was even more fired up to get
out and train my dogs
here to visit Pogo's sheepdog blog page to find out how she is getting
on with her new hobby
USA Workshops, Displays and Sheepdog work
At the end of September 2009 after a very busy six weeks doing displays in
the UK I was up early ready for my flight to Albuquerque which was the
first of two locations I would be teaching at in the USA. Although I
donít like flying I do enjoy having some spare time just to sit and
think about routines working them through in my head. Sometimes when
flicking through the iPod you stumble upon a piece of music which
gives you a good idea and I was delighted to find a piece while I was
sitting there for ten hours.
of you who have read about my other foreign trips will know that sometimes
my luggage unfortunately goes astray. I always stand there hoping and
praying that it will appear on the carousel. So having got to Houston a
little late I didnít have a lot of time to get my luggage and go to the next
gate for the flight to Albuquerque. My worst nightmare happened when my
suitcase didnít appear and I was running out of time for the second flight.
Asking an official they said to get the next flight then report it lost.
This I did on the Friday but little did I know it would not be until the
Monday morning before I saw my suitcase again.
having a good nightís sleep it was straight into teaching the first day of
the workshop for the Rio Grande canine
freestylers. There were twenty four teams working in a very nice new venue
which has only just been opened. As usual when I teach in the USA there was
very few Border collies which I find refreshing. Many of the dogs were
rescue dogs with very mixed parentage but there were also Miniature poodles,
Aussies and a Chesapeake bay retriever to name just a few.
out in the desert this group have had to rely mainly on books and DVDs to
get started in freestyle. They had done a good job on getting started and
many of them had competed via video in various competitions. As usual we
started by making sure the foundations of the dogs training were good and
then moved onto developing moves which they had not done.
first day went well and it was then nice to relax in a local restaurant with
many of the participants from the workshop. On the second day the teams were
a little tired after doing so much on the first day so I made sure there
were different sections to the day where they didnít always work their dogs.
Very soon the workshop had finished and I was on a plane to Nashville to
visit my good friend Brigitte who has the B star poodles.
Whenever I am in the USA I try and visit Brigitte as itís nice to catch up
plus of course do a little freestyle with her many Poodles. She had a new
pup called Tibby a black miniature who is going to be a right little madam
and we had a laugh coming up with a nickname for her as she has such
days with Brigitte sped by all too quickly and I then found myself back at
the airport ready for the two flights to San Francisco where I would then be
going to Santa Rosa to teach another workshop. As I checked in my luggage I
had my fingers crossed that it would not disappear as it had done on the way
Greeting me at the airport was Chris from the Redwood dog dancing group who
took me back to her house for a rest after the flight. Then it was an early
start to get to the venue around an hourís drive from San Francisco. It was
great to meet some handlers that have attended other workshops I have taught
and catch up on their progress. The group was much smaller than the one the
previous weekend as they preferred to have a little more individual
instruction. The venue was set up for dog training and had plenty of room
for the teams to spread out.
were some very nice dogs in the group with one male Terverun from working
lines who really had great drive and a small Papillion who had a lovely
attention. I had a lovely two days teaching this group who all very eager to
learn and progress their own dogs. It was then off to the airport for the
long flight home.
home and of course having had only had little Betty for a couple of weeks
before I went I was eager to get on with some training. She is coming along
really well and proving a very popular addition to the team although she is
perhaps a little spoilt but you just cannot help it with her being so small.
end of October I taught a workshop for a RSPCA branch which was interesting
as the handlers were using dogs that were in the kennels at the time rather
than their own dogs. There was a very nice Staffie which was eager to learn
and could easily of come home with me. Later that week I found myself at the
airport this time to pick someone up, rather than go abroad myself. I had
met Eve from Brazil while I had been in the USA a few years ago and after
some emails earlier this year we arranged for her to come over to stay for a
while so that she can learn more about freestyle. At present there are only
a few people doing freestyle in Brazil and also very few people using
positive training. As well as doing lots of training it was nice to show Eve
around the local area and we had a good time over the week that she was
During October I did
something which I have always wanted to do which was to take part in a
sheepdog training day. To me this type of training is proper work and
although Pogo is over four years old I thought I would give it a go just to
see whether she had any ability. Attending a beginners day in Worcester I
was a little worried about what Pogo might do as she has never been off the
lead near the sheep. Being an older dog I was not expecting too much but
Pogo had other ideas. I never thought my freestyle/obedience training would
overlap with sheepdog work but of course I have taught Pogo to big circle
clockwise and anti clockwise plus of course lie down when told. I dont think
the other members of the course believed me that she has never seen sheep
before as she moved from side to side and controlled the sheep. I was
totally amazed and I suppose a little proud of my girl as she proved to be
quite good. So the next stage is to go back and have another go so that I
can film it to prove that I have a sheepdog !! Click
here to watch and read more about Pogo's sheepdog training
interesting event I had at the start of November was an afternoon cabaret
event with Mary Ray. We have in the past done events together but this was
the first time that we did the whole session together. Mary was on good form
and we had fun developing moves and routines which got some good laughs.
Some people had travelled a long way to see the event and I was amazed that
a couple of people had come over from Italy to watch.
its Discover Dogs where Pogo is performing a routine both days in the main
ring and the other dogs will be doing various training displays in the main
ring and the training ring. After that there are various cabaret evenings
and at the end of month I will be back to Denmark to judge plus teach a
couple of workshops so no rest for the wicked !!