Little did we know what was around the corner!
This photo of Dot and Glen in the boot of Gill's car, after a January training session, brought memories flooding back to us. Once Dot (left) and later Glen came along, our sheepdog training took on a much more serious and informed nature.
Gill and I had been living here at Kings Green Farm for a shade over a year. Dot had come into our lives at our previous home, and was an excellent farm dog, but as I was finding it hard to train her for sheepdog trials we bought Glen. He'd been successful in East of England nursery trials and we felt he'd help us to move things along in competitions.
He certainly did that. After a fairly lengthy settling-in period - he was four when we bought him, and older dogs take much longer to settle in with their new owners than puppies or young dogs do - Glen was quite successful in both novice and open trials.
He also proved that shortcuts in sheepdog training are of limited use. To get the best out of a sheepdog you really do need to understand dogs and how (and why) they work. You also need to know a surprising amount about sheep behaviour, and how they react to dogs. I wasn't aware of any it at the time, while Glen's experience and good nature were hiding my incompetence as a sheepdog handler.
Glen had a completely different nature to Dot. He was very steady and reserved, while Dot's approach could be fast and aggressive. Studying the two of them led me to realise that, although the basic principles are the same when you train a sheepdog, to get the very best out of your dog you need to understand your dog's nature. Every dog is different.
Once I understood this I learned to assess each dog's strong and weak points, and train them accordingly. A dog like Glen needed a gentle approach and lots of encouragement to increase his confidence, whereas Dot would interpret a polite, gentle word from me as license to carry on at top speed! I found that if I was firm though, she respected it. My ideas worked time and time again with other dogs, and they obviously work for others too because, quite soon, I gave up my work as a commercial photographer to concentrate on our growing pack of dogs and running the website.
Gill noticed that I had something to offer novice trainers, and encouraged me to make a DVD about training sheepdogs. First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training was born!
After I'd spent a year or two of running the website, while juggling with increasing DVD sales, training our own dogs, and holding regular training courses, Gill left her full-time job as editor of an industrial magazine, to work with the dogs too. Not long after we began uploading tutorial videos to the internet so that people could watch them online. The tutorials have proved to be popular too, so Gill and I have been able to work together ever since!
What a huge change Dot and Glen brought about!