Elisabeth Røysland / Echuca Working Collies

My name is Elisabeth, and I live in Norway, Vestfold county, 80 km south of our capitol Oslo. At present time I have three Rough Collies, a beautiful female called Heike, Heike’s adorable son Tengel and a little crazy and wild lady Villemo.

I have been herding with my Rough Collies since 1985. It’s fascinating, it’s fun and a real teamwork. My Collies have to be able to cooperate and even work on their own initiative. I started herding with my Rough Collie Samantha (1984-1993, her mother was a super hen herder) in 1985, she was excellent in fetching the cows in for milking every morning and afternoon and to move the bull calves. She also worked together with a border collie in herding sheeps, they where a superb pair. When Samantha died Sammie (1993 -2006, which should in time be Norway’s Most All-round Meritated Collie) continued the work. I have also worked Sammie’s son Sheppegutt (1996 – 2009). Now Sammie’s granddaughter Heike (born 2002) and Heike’s son Tengel (born 2007) are keeping up the herding work. Tengel is my fourth generation’s sheepherders.

A well trained herding Collie has an enormous working capacity. There are several qualities that are required of a good herding Collie such as soundness of body and mind, agility, trainability, stamina and adaptability. A Collie which is sly and a coward are useless in herding. It must of course have herding instinct, take a look at the pups parents, herding instinct are hereditary. I think it’s easier to work with a Collie with great courage and perhaps a little “callous”, then a softer dog. Start early to let the Collie see sheeps/cows. I have started when my Collies have been 3 ½ to 4 months.

We now heard all year round, even in the winter time

Echuca Dynamite Delinquent Tengel is training fetch. The grass was a bit high so he didn't find the dumbbell at first

Tengel started today with training "jump-fetch" June 30 2013. Not perfect, but not bad either - it's a start  

Training SAR with Collies

What is a SAR dog?

SAR is a canine who is trained to search and find people in specifically chosen areas, based upon visual, olfactory, or auditory clues. When the dog has found the person, it can alert its handler in two different ways, either by picking up the "bringsel" hanging from his collar with his teeth and returning to the handler carrying the “bringsel” in his mouth, where as the handler will then follow the dog to the figurant, or by remaining in the immediate vicinity of the figurant and barking until the handler arrives to the figurant.

This training of search dogs is the same for either competition or rescue purposes. Even so, there are several different ways to reach ones goals (as with other kind of dog work). I have used different methods with my collies, and will mention a few of the things I have done.

As with many other fields of activity/work, the Collie, not surprisingly, is also a fantastic search dog. It must of course have the appropriate qualities of being approachable; being able to concentrate on the job on hand, being fast, having the will to hunt (prey-drive)/social-fight, and it must be willing to work and please its handler. And of course, be inquisitive, confident and outgoing. This may be unnecessary to mention, but the dog must be well built (it has to work) as well as be in good condition. Some dogs are late developers and will not play or be especially sociable while being young. Some need extra time, where one works on the playing and socializing. Let the dog/puppy meet many different people, men and women, with and without strange clothing etc. Do not give up, but be patient.

One uses different types of rewards according to what the dog thinks is "out of this world", such as treats, throwing a ball, a pulling game/tug-of-war or anything similar. It does not matter what one uses, only that it is a treat that the dog considers to be fantastic. As a handler one must also be a bit fit, and have imagination about the training, and also patience, patience and more patience.
One does not need much equipment to train for search. One must have a service dog vest as well as a lead and collar. We also need a “bringsel” (if one does not want a dog that is trained to bark) as well as a long leash 5 meters long. There are also different types of “bringsels”. I have had one sewn for my collies as the usual orange one I feel I can not adjust properly to my dogs - it was either too loose or too tight.

During the search we work on an imaginary centre line along which we move, and from which the dog move out 50-60 meters on both sided where we want the dog to search. It’s like an imaginary corridor of about 100-120 meters forward in the terrain. Figurants are placed on both sides, and later in the training backpacks will be laid out and a pair of pants hung in a tree for the dog to indicate. The dogs have to indicate visible figurants and figurants who are well hidden, and objects people could have lost.

One can start with search training very early. My youngest puppy, Villemo, started when she was about 3.5 months old. Before that she took part in a puppy obedience course, and I started training her to fetch/retrieve from the day she arrived at 8 weeks young. I have also worked very hard to teach her to come when called. Do not train with a dog that has eaten. The dog must be hungry and should be well walked before training (so they have peed and pooped). The first time Villemo was to attempt a search, the figurant gave her a lot of cuddling before going straight out. As soon as this person was about 40-50 meters away, she started going forward through the terrain while Villemo and I walked on the centre line about 20-25 meters. The figurant then sat down and I sent Villemo out. We move always forward in order to avoid a dog that uses tracks to find people (later on). We want the dogs to hold their heads high and sample the air currents. When Villemo reached the figurant, she was praised with cuddling and treats. I went towards her and praised her too, but it was up to the figurant to give the most praise. We then returned to the centre line with the figurant in front of us.

This was continued for a while; thereafter the figurant stood 30-40 meters out in the terrain before the dog came. The same procedure was then followed, Villemo and I, together with the figurant, moved forwards through the terrain, the figurant moving out at an angle so that it stayed about 50 – 60 meters out. The figurant lay down. Villemo circled me before being sent out. Plenty of praise from the figurant when she got there. I came along and praised her too, and the figurant returned with us. We use both men and women as figurants.

Another way is to let the dog watch a figurant go out on both sides. We the move back and walk forward after the figurants have hide themselves, and then send out the dog In the beginning one should to have an idea as to which direction the wind is coming from. It is much easier for the dog to catch the scent of the figurant if there is an upwind.
Very early in the process the figurant lies down under a camouflage rug so that the dog has to use its nose and not its eyes to find the figurant. It is very important that the dog learns not to search by tracking along the ground or using its eyes. One does this by taking care when placing the figurants.

A method for teaching to search that is popular nowadays is to use the “L”. The handler and figurant move 15-20 meters out into the terrain, breaks off to the left/right (always moving forward through the terrain) and then walks a further 15-20 meters. The figurant and dog have cuddle session here. The handler and dog then return the same way and when back at the centre line they move 15-20 meters forwards in the terrain, just past where the figurant is lying in the terrain. The dog is then sent out. The distance is increased quickly so the figurant is placed about 50 meters out. We do not want a dog that stays too close to the handler while working the search area, we will make sure that the dog is cover the terrain (50 – 60 meters out). At the same time I have consequently trained her to the bringsel by having her fetch it. I throw one bringsel, and as soon as she returns I throw the other one. I also train correct delivery after retrieving Training with the bringsel is done in the training field. A companion sits with the bringsel in his/her hand while one sends the dog out (the same way and with the same command as one uses in the woods). When the dog had taken hold of the bringsel, one move slightly forwards and calls the dog to come. The distance is later increased. One gradually works ones way into the woods in this manner until one finally has a dog that fetches the bit from a figurant in the terrain. This video shows Villemo’s tentative attempts to fetch a bringsel in the woods:

Villemo is being sent out, has fetched the bringsel and has then run back to me. One places the figurant with the bringsel in the woods when one has come so far that the dog can be sent out on a search without external influence and where the figurant is well hidden. One takes a step back in the training, and has a figurant who is very visual and with a bringsel that the figurant holds close to the ground so that the dog learns that it must reach down to take hold (that has we already worked with on the training field). This makes it easier for the dog to get hold of the bringsel hanging from the collar when the time comes. We make this gradually more difficult by having the figurants hide themselves well.

Heike fieldsearch April 5 2012. She was 10 years young April 20 2012. She lost her sniffer after a nasal bordatellea vaccination, and for months she hasn't been able to work with anything that include her nose. But it seem that her sniffer is fully back now

Heiki direct sendaway


You can see a lot more photos and videos on my website HERE

Elisabeth Røysland / Echuca Working Collies