"Starting up a puppy to be your future Stockdog" is for myself very important and needs a lot of knowledge and the right feeling. My best dog is the one I´ve raised myself and started "on stock" with 6 weeks of age. Starting up a puppy doesn´t mean at all to me what is mainly known as "Herdingtraining". Many training methods are way to ruff for a puppy. So it makes sense that in social medias people warn again and again to start your puppy to early. Most common is around 1 year.
But where are dogs in that age? In puberty! … Tell a 13 year old kid that it´s world looks different now without going "bananas". For sure they can take more in this age, but this is not my path to follow anyhow (see Training).
I mean something else than this. First of all I raise my puppy from the first moment on with a certain way of bodylanguage as close as possible to the bodylanguage the puppies mother used. If I dislike things the puppy does, I growl to it and "raise my body" as a warning. When it stops it´s behavior I stop the growling, take immediately away the pressure from my body and praise the puppy (high voice, gentle touch, making myself small). If the puppy doesn´t show any reaction I´m consequent and make it happen. I already use this very important trainingsprinciple of "pressure and release" in daily life with the puppy. When it comes to stock we keep on talking the same language.
On stock I create safe situations for all animals and adapt the size of the area, the number and kind of stock, and the duration to the individual puppy (age, development). I start for example with my own puppies the first time with six weeks of age on 3 ducks in a very small area/pen they already know for 2-5 minutes. I just let the puppy be with the ducks and observe what happens. If it doesn´t show any interest I move the ducks to create attention. Only a few puppies show already some instinct in that age and it doesn´t mean when they are not ready for this that they will not be passionated herding dogs in the future. But you do learn a lot about every puppies character what may be very important to choose the right one for yourself.
During the puppies first year we meet as well goose and sheep in a big flock as soon as the puppy is fast enough (around 5 month). It is working off leash and on leash. All "lessons" on stock are set up to build up confidence in the puppy, to build up a good relationship between the owner and the pup and to observe the development of the puppies instinct. During this first year it will show it´s genetic setup on instinct for stockwork. What is visible is changing from time to time because of the puppies state of development. I´m looking in first case for "interest/motivation", "grouping instinct", "feeling for stock", "natural balance", "confidence" and later on "biddability" in a puppy. Due to collecting this knowledge I plan my future herdingtraining to build up my herding dog.