The three basics of dogs’ obedience
By the time a pup is six or seven months old, he should be lively, confident, interested enough to chase sheep and should have learned the basics of ‘Come here’, ‘Lie down’ and ‘Stay there’.
These are simple and essential obedience requirements in the early stages of yard training and, of the three, the ‘Come here’ command is the all-important one in my book—it comes into so many areas of stock-handling, be it singling, shedding or driving, and the dog needs to learn very young that he must come to you when required to do so.
Always remember that you will want your dog to come straight to you so never teach him to come to heel—if you do, he will always try to come to your side and you do not want this when moving sheep.
To teach a pup to come to me, I work at very close quarters to him initially, bending down directly in front of the dog and holding his collar, ready to welcome him and meet him halfway.
I then give the command ‘Come here’, gently pulling on the collar, and he very soon gets the idea that he must come straight to me, quickly learning that this pleases me. Some people use food to get the pup to come to them but I have never found this to be necessary and I think that this type of reward system can lead to inappropriate behavior in the working dog.
It works very well for dogs trained specifically for obedience but not, in my opinion, for dogs that are going to have to work with stock, and I am firmly convinced that once the three ‘basics’ of obedience have been learned, training a dog for work and sheepdog trialing needs a very different approach to training a dog for more advanced obedience work. I think that we can learn a lot from the obedience world when teaching our pups to ‘Come here’, ‘Lie down’ and ‘Stay there’, but, once this is achieved, the two methods of training diverge towards their own particular specialist techniques.