I received my copy of Top Trainers Talk About Starting a Sheepdog yesterday. The book contains interviews with numerous top Border Collie handlers and trainers. Bill Berhow’s interview was first. What he had to say really resonated with me.
When asked how many outside dogs he takes in for training, he replied four or five dogs, no more than that. He said that if you take more than that, he did not feel that you can form the bond that needs to be formed. These dogs don’t work just because they’re keen and have the instinct to do so. They work for somebody, because of a relationship. He also said that if you keep more than about four dogs, he did not feel that you have the time to supply that relationship.
This brings to mind what someone once said about Gel’s work: he does what he does because you ask him to. If it were up to him, he’d be just as happy chasing a ball or swimming in the creek. This was a year or so ago and Gel’s keenness has increased dramatically and I don’t know that he’d rather chase a ball than work stock now (especially cattle!), but back then, that certainly was true.
Berhow also said that he doesn’t like his dogs running in a pack with each other because it makes them less responsive to people. That he wants them thinking about him, not each other.
That rings true to my ears. It is a lot more work exercising dogs individually and limiting the amount of time they have available to run with other dogs, but I believe it is important that you do it that way.
Berhow concluded his interview by telling the reader that Ralph Pulfer said he thought Berhow’s most valuable trait as a trainer was his persistence. That he believed that it was a very valuable trait for any trainer, don’t give up, be dogged. Any trainer is going to get frustrated, but if you are persistent and believe in the dog, it’ll make the dog. Persistence, sticking with it and listening, is really the key for any beginning trainer.
Bill Berhow, I love you!