In 2011, hill farmers from Exmoor were treated to a taster course in Sheepdog Handling Skills. The event took place at Combeleigh Farm and was organised by the Exmoor Hill Farming Project.
The trainer was David Kennard from Borough Farm in North Devon, the home of Channel Five's Mist Sheepdog tales. Here we hear from David about this traditional skill, which still plays an important role in hill farming.
"I have been a sheep farmer and shepherd for 28 years and during that time have always trained my sheepdogs to a good working standard. I have competed in trials since the mid nineties and have represented England in sheepdog trialling. For the past 14 years we have held sheepdog displays at home on the farm, this year over 10,000 people visited our displays. I am also the creator of Channel Five's 'Mist-sheepdog tales' which is currently broadcast in 23 countries."
"Many people, who set out to train a dog to be a proficient worker, make a few early mistakes which can limit the level of their potential achievement. Breeding is so important, so the aim of the training day was to demonstrate how much can be achieved with very little effort, just by sourcing the right sort of puppy. Once the puppy is ready to start work, the early training is about harnessing the pup's natural instincts. By demonstrating seven month old pups, as well as a slightly older pup, it is possible to show the stages that go towards creating a proficient working sheepdog."
"Until you have experienced the benefits of a really good working sheepdog it is difficult to appreciate just how much a well trained dog can do for you. But in every day shepherding a well trained dog can gather the flock quickly and efficiently, over great distances, deal with stragglers during a gather, and prevent the breakers from leaving the flock. It will handle the sheep in the yards and drive them back to the field, shed off individuals for treatment and hold them to be caught. All of this for a bowl of dog food once a day! A well trained sheepdog is completely irreplaceable and any farmer who has owned such a dog would tell you that they wouldn't part with it for the world."
"My best advice for further development is to find a local trainer who can advise and help you through the training process. It takes years to train a sheepdog and there are lots of mistakes that can be made along the way, so having help close at hand is a great idea. Joining the International Sheepdog society provides access to trainers and training tips via the bi-monthly magazine. There are a series of training DVD's which have been made in recent years, which can be a great help. I would recommend those by Derek Scrimgeour, Aled Owen and Glyn Jones. All are available through the International Sheepdog Society web-site www.isds.org.uk"
<- What are these?
<- Back to news list