Guild of Shepherds & Collies

5 Step Formula for a Winning Partnership with Your Herding Dog

There's nothing more magical than being apart of a good team. Learn how to create that magic with your herding dog!

There's only one thing more exhilarating than watching a truly connected herding team working together as one, moving sheep around a course quietly, smoothly and effortlessly...and that one thing is BEING that team! It's magical and it takes my breath away to see it and to experience it!

I believe that magic happens because of a heart-to-heart partnership. The kind of partnership that is built on trust. A deep trust that comes from learning how to be a good partner...and from working TOGETHER with my dog as we both learn.

Every practice or training session and every competition has a broad goal for me: to come away with an even BETTER partnership with my dogs than before. Whether we win or lose...Q or DQ...I intend to focus on our partnership.

This intention has served me well and has brought much success to me over the years. Not just in herding, and not just with dogs, but in all the

performance sports I've participated in with my horses and dogs for 30+ years. And, that success has extended out to my students and clients. It just works. And I'm eager to share it with you!

There are 5 key elements to a winning partnership. They each build upon the other and become fully integrated.

1. Clarity

It starts with having a clear purpose and a detailed vision of where you're going and what you want to accomplish in the big picture sense, but also in the moment-by-moment being fully present sense. You need clarity in who you are, what you want to do and how you want to get there.

Clarity is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Without clarity you have nothing but confusion, erratic results and probably frustration for you and your dog.

Before you go train your dog, and before you step to the clear to the most nuanced of details what you are aiming for.

2. Communication

This is the vehicle that allows you and your dog to engage in meaningful dialog. Establishing a common language allows you to teach your dog the lesson at hand and for your dog to give you feedback on whether or not he understands you.

The type of language I'm talking about builds trust between you and your dog. You feel good delivering your information and your dog feels good about the dialog. It's a language for partners who are dancing together. You are the leader of the dance and your dog willingly follows your lead, trusting you.

3. Competence

Once you are clear about your destination and you have a language that will allow you to dance with your dog, you then work and play at becoming competent with herding skills and their practical application. It's about really understanding all the steps necessary to reach your end goal. When you chunk things down into small parts, you are setting up you and your dog for success each step along the way. These successes string together into competence.

When your mindset is focused on learning, you will trust in your ability to find easy answers to any challenge and will simply try again when something doesn't work. Then you simply keep practicing and learning and adjusting and practicing some more. You will become competent, your dog will become competent and you have already achieved success.

4. Commitment 

To be honest, building a partnership initially takes longer than a 'quick-fix' of using trust-damaging methods like chasing dogs off with a stick, rake or bag...or jerking your dog with a rope or maybe shoving them to the ground when they don't lie down. But...building a trusting partnership is long lasting, it's the framework that allows your dog to learn quickly and its the most guaranteed path to sustained success.

Being willing to stick with your plan, even if it's hard. Being willing to learn new stuff, even though it's hard being a beginner again and staying disciplined to stay the course until the hard gets easy. That's commitment.

5. Coaching

Being a master of anything means being a student first. Being a good student means opening your mind and your heart to new ideas. It means using discernment in determining if the information you receive resonates with your heart and with your life purpose. And if it will resonate with your dogs, of course!

You want to learn from people who have already mastered the thing you want to learn and who have started from where you are. Equally important, you want to learn from someone who practices what they teach AND whose system employs methods that are aligned with how you want to train your dog. We all need the guidance of a coach when we start and the eyes of a mentor always. Choose wisely and you will be well on your way to reaching your goals.

Everyone Can Have a Winning Partnership

Whether you are a beginner or an expert...brand new to dogs or an experienced dog trainer, you and your dog will come away more connected, more successful and eager to master herding when you follow this 5 Step Formula for a Winning Herding Partnership!

Article by:
Kathy Kawalec

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