That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, catches up with James P McGee to discuss his new online Glencregg Sheepdog Training Programme.
From his home soil in the hills of Donegal, James P McGee is teaching people about the art of sheepdog training throughout Ireland and the wider world.
His new novel, online sheepdog training programme, aims to make people can become more proficient and skilled and gain experience in training their own dogs.
The full-time farmer breeds sheepdogs under the Glencregg prefix and farms a 500-ewe flock and a herd of suckler cows with his wife, Karen, and three children: Rachel, Laura, and James, in the heart of Co. Donegal.
The renowned champion sheepdog breeder and trainer launched the programme at the beginning of May and says that he has been “overwhelmed by the response”.
Online sheepdog training videos
He told That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane:
“This training programme has been suggested to me in the past. I was always reluctant, as I prefer to do my teaching clinics face-to-face.”
“However, with Covid-19 restrictions over the last few years, I could not travel and had to cancel several training clinics.”
“The clinic organisers suggested I try to set up a virtual training programme. So, I posted on Facebook that I was considering launching an online sheepdog training programme.”
“I was overwhelmed with the amount of positive comments, likes and shares. I am very passionate about what I do with dogs and am delighted to share my experiences and help other people with their dogs.”
The programme, he says, is aimed at anyone with an interest in training sheepdogs from farmers or advanced trial standards.
Bronze and gold tiers
There are two tiers to the training programme: one for general training (bronze tier) and one for showing a higher standard of sheepdog trials onto international standard (gold tier), the latter of which he created just this month.
According to McGee, anyone can benefit from all training stages of a sheepdog, from pup stage, farm dog and right through to trial standard.
In the series of explainer videos, he outlines the dos and don’ts and how to avoid pitfalls in training a sheepdog.
Videos are mostly training demonstrations followed by an explanation at the end of each clip.
All training videos have subtitles to cater for non-English speaking subscribers.
Participants on the gold tier can submit one video per month of their own dog and receive informative feedback and guidance on where they can make improvements.
He says the training programmes are engaging as all participants can message in an open forum chat community.
The audience can ask questions and seek advice on issues regarding their own dogs, and McGee responds with constructive feedback and guidance.
New and advanced trainers
According to McGee, the programme is currently most popular among sheepdog enthusiasts from all over the world.
He said that some registered participants are new entrants to sheepdogs and trialling, while others are more advanced handlers seeking new ideas and tips.
Acknowledging that there are other virtual sheepdog dog training programmes available, he is keen to convey that his is “unique, as it caters for all levels, from beginners to advanced”.
“The uniqueness of the service is that all training videos are in their original format, in that there is no editing when something goes wrong.”
“Admittedly, in training, things can often go wrong. I show everything; warts and all. This lets the audience see they are not alone when things go wrong.”
Moreover, he also admits that there are challenges in training a sheepdog, even for the most experienced handlers.
In his view, it is about how you deal with the issues as they arise; that is, he reveals, one of the secrets of training a dog.
The videos give viewers a bird’s eye view of the handling, as McGee fits a camera on my head on occasions and has a stationary camera which captures a course view.
The videos also show and demonstrate how to read the body language of the dog. Each dog is different, as he explains, and handlers need to be able to read how much pressure to put on the dog.
“My ultimate aim is that all participants are enjoying the training, that all participants are learning and that their dogs are working well whether, at general farm work or on the trial field,” he adds.
The tiers vary in price, with the bronze package – which covers training young dogs through to basic farm work or nursey trial standard – costing €20/month.
Then the gold tier – which is €50/month – is for the advanced trialist. It covers starting young dogs right through to international standard trialling and open-class sheepdog training.
It corporates shedding, the look back, Penning, and redirecting dogs in the outrun.
Payment is a monthly fee through Patreon when you sign up. It is a monthly subscription, and the site automatically charges at the beginning of each month.
He releases videos per week on both the bronze and gold tiers. Gold tier subscribers have access to the standard bronze, plus two advanced videos on the gold tier.
McGee continues: “At the moment, most of all, training programmes are online. I travel to other countries to give one-to-one and group training sessions .”
“Also, I can arrange group sessions and individual sessions at home by appointment only.”
“I have been overwhelmed with the amount of interest so early. The business has grown very quickly, maybe faster than I ever anticipated. Long term, we hope to continue to grow the sharing of training programmes.
“Thank you to all who have signed up and supported the training programme and to everyone who shared the programme when I first launched it.”
“Thanks for all the positive feedback and support and to all patrons from all over the world who have signed up,” he concluded.
Interested parties can click this link and watch the introduction video and decide what tier is most suitable for them.
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