Is the point of balance always in the same place?
You’ll often hear that the dog MUST stop at 12 o’clock, on the “point of balance”. The theory is that if you imagine the handler is standing at 6 o’clock on a clock face, the dog should be directly opposite the handler – at 12 o’clock.
In early training, when you’re both working close to the sheep, this is a good rule of thumb, and you’ll aim to have the sheep balanced between the two of you. In practise, the point of balance isn’t quite so straightforward.
Driving in a straight line
Sheepdog trials are all about straight lines, so the “fetch” is judged largely by the straightness of the line the sheep take to the handler. But take your eye off the sheep and watch the dog – you may be surprised to see where it is.
An experienced dog will assess the terrain, as well as the sheep and their inclination, and judge where it should be, in relation to the sheep, to keep them straight. Sheep will often pull towards the flock in the exhaust pen, or recognise a sheltered corner they could crowd into for safety. If the dog were always placed behind the sheep, at precisely 12 o’clock, it would have little power to direct the sheep, it could only chase them.
But rest assured that if the sheep are moving towards you, in a straight line, your dog (wherever it’s positioned) has found the point of balance. As its skill increases, your dog will often have a better idea of where the point of balance is, than you do!
To develop your own feel for balancing the sheep, try guiding a few around the field by yourself – it might be a revelation.
Online tutorials about balance
- Watch the Balance tutorial to understand the basics of balance.
- Watch Sending the Dog the Wrong Way to learn about working OFF balance,
- Watch Driving Part 2 to see that balance means more than just watching the clock!
The online tutorials are available to paid members who are logged in to their account.
Balance – what’s the point? and Sending your dog the wrong way can be found in the Flanks and Circling category in the tutorials library. If you prefer (or need) to watch on DVD Balance and Sending your dog the wrong way both appear on Volume 3 of the DVD tutorial collections. Driving (parts 1 to 3) are included on Training Tutorials Volume 1.
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