"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". Most 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).
We only create situations with the puppy and the stock that is:
1. not dangerous (for the puppy and the stock)
2. good for the puppies confidense
3.developing the puppies instincts
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.