Both pups have been busy being pups. They have been to sheep a few times and both show a lot of promise. I've separated them so each get individual time with me. Mott is the "house pup". He sleeps, eats, and hangs out with the retired dogs and is a wonderful fellow. Smart, kind, and outgoing. I decided to raise him in the house because the two pups together are a dangerous duo. They were tag-team/divebombing the other dogs and get very rough in their play with each other so I put the kibosh on their games. Now, kept separately, they can deal with being appropriate with the other dogs and getting fair corrections from the grumpy older dogs.
Those first few introductions to sheep have been an opportunity for me to see what the pup’s gut response to sheep. I like to get a little peek into the future which is like going to the candy store. It's a treat to watch a young dog.
Jolene is built like a tank and I plan to work her weekly beginning mid January when she is 6 months old. Mott will need to wait until March or April when his body is more mature. He is very athletic but has a long lean body and I worry he might get tangled up in his own legs on the sheep. His body type and high drive to zip and nip are enough reason for me to be patient and start him this spring. I may wait later depending on his movement, structure, and attitude.
Much can change in a dog’s attitude and body between 6 months and one year. I can understand why many people wait to start a dog at one year. At one year (or older) the dog is generally ready to go to sheep, have a mature body, and has the aptitude to take the pressure of training.
That said, I prefer to start them a tad younger if possible. To start young--say, six months, the dog will need to be naturally clean and mindful in the flanks, have decent balance (or at least want to be on the other side of the sheep), and be open to hearing me to some degree. I want to be sure they aren’t getting into trouble and needing pressure or corrections. Yes, some pups are like that!
Why bother starting early? Two reasons: I enjoy the relationship building that occurs when I can start the dog earlier. Sometimes we can coast thru their adolescence and become a team even though the “real training” hasn’t started yet. We start doing little chores...baby chores. Little gathers, walkabouts with different terrain, and introduction to Down, and That’ll Do. Since the pups won't live in the house (Mott will probably be moved back into the kennel at 7 months or when he gets started) our time together is about sheep and listening in the context of sheepwork. I want the young dog to take our time together as important and focused time.
Starting a pup at one year or six month, either way, it is my job to watch and learn about the pup so I can develop them in a way that is beneficial to us as a team. To me that means building a happy and enthusiastic partnership.