I am currently training my girl Kessy towards an HGH title. We have been training for about a year and a half now, and I plan to title in October of this year. Kessy was about 3.5 years old when we started. With HGH training, things are done a bit differently than in other types of herding. Here are a few links about it...
German Shepherd Herding
Herding Style is Not a Fashion Statement
STARTING GERMAN SHEPHERD DOGS IN HERDING
I thought I'd share some of the videos of her progress from the start. I know a lot of this will be very boring to many
But hopefully it will be interesting to at least a few people!
First video: Instinct Test!
Basically - all the instinct test shows is that the dog has a sustained interest in the sheep, and that the dog has a solid temperament. A very spooky or aggressive or clingy dog will not be able to do this type of training.
The sheep are in a pen, and the dog is brought up and down the border to see how it will react to the sheep. Kessy was a little hampered by one thing...
She grew up doing Schh training, tracking in particular. She learned for most of her life that a long line and tall grass means...we're tracking! So she wasn't sure whether to be in tracking mode or not when we did the instinct test. I was told not to talk to her, but towards the end I was allowed to tell her she was good when she paid attention to the sheep, and as soon as she heard that it clicked and she showed a lot of interest. So, she passed her instinct test. But it doesn't mean she's guaranteed to be trainable...it was impossible to say whether her interest in the sheep was purely prey drive or if there was some herding drive in there. Obviously since we are still training it did turn out to be herding drive as well as prey, but at the start you just don't know, at least most of the time.
This instinct test is very different from tests where there are just a few sheep and the dog is brought in to see if it will "herd" them around the pen. I think a lot of dogs could herd small flocks, but it takes a pretty specific type of temperament to do HGH-style herding, and that temperament can't be seen right away.
In this video, she's been training for about a month. She is able to work off leash now, and the back and forth movement along the fenceline has been established. She is not trying to get through the fence at the sheep, except for moments when she gets overstimulated. She is not yet able to maintain a border on her own, and that was the most difficult part of training. She learned this between the video above and the next video I'm posting.
There are usually 2 methods for HGH trainers to teach the dog a border. One method is to create a gap in the fence, and have the dog run past it and then you gradually open up the gap so the dog is staying on the border. That did not work for Kessy - the fence got her more and more excited and it just wouldn't click. So we had to try the second method, which is where we walk up and down the border with her on a long line. She gets corrected when she tries to go into the graze. At first it didn't click with her and we didn't make much progress...but then it finally started sinking in and she progressed pretty well from there.