Lloyd Smith out in the hills with his team of dogs. Photo
by Darren Simmonds.
When it comes to training sheep dogs, Lloyd Smith reckons
it's all about the three Ps - purpose, precision and positive.
The Palmerston dog triallist and trainer has been passing on
his knowledge and training methods at training days
throughout the country.
In 2005, Mr Smith published a book, Pup Pen to Paddock,
described as a no-nonsense guide to rearing and training
better sheep dogs.
Now he and Rural TV have produced a DVD which describes and
demonstrates the system he uses for training both heading
dogs and huntaways.
The book was produced because of popular demand, people
wanting to know his training method, and to coincide with his
About 5500 copies have been printed, and it had sold much
better than he expected.
He had pages of notes when he addressed a training day, which
people kept asking for, and John Gordon, former presenter of
popular television series A Dog's Show, offered to put those
notes into book form.
Feedback on the book had been very positive and the DVD was a
natural progression, after some gentle persuasion from his
Mr Smith particularly wanted to help young people with their
dogs and, when he took training days, he could put himself in
the boots of those attending.
His father, he admitted, was not particularly good with dogs,
and, as a young man, he himself probably ruined some
potentially good dogs.
So when he met young people keen to learn at his training
days, he knew what they were going through and how they were
hungry for information.
He averaged between about 30 and 40 training days a year. In
the summer months, he tended to focus more on doing casual
farm work with his dogs.
Mr Smith's association with working dogs dated back to 1969,
when he left South Otago High School and went to work on a
property in the Clinton Gorge.
He learnt a lot from watching others train dogs and from
talking to people.
It was important for potential dog trainers to develop a
training system and the system he now used - a step-by-step
progression taking a pup through to a trained dog - was
While the methods and techniques he used had been "around for
years", it was how he brought them together that worked for
him, he said.
As for the three Ps, he believed a dog had to work with
purpose and show "real commitment" to the job, while
precision came back to its training, so it could be put in
the right position and, once there, it should be able to make
a positive move and get maximum results.
The three days of filming at his Palmerston property were a
"bit daunting", but he was pleased with the result and he
hoped people would find it informative and educational.
There had already been inquiries from the United States and
The DVD included an interview with the inspirational Grant
Calder from Lauder Station in Central Otago, who broke his
neck in a quad bike accident on his property in 2004, yet
went on to win the South Island zig-zag hunt championship
last year, directing his young dog Cramp from his wheelchair.
Training a dog was very rewarding and Mr Smith likened it to
coaching a sports team - "picking up a team of kids and
taking them to win a competition" - or, in the case of a pup,
taking the raw material and turning it into "something that's
Many people did not have the patience to train a dog
It was a long-term project and there was no rule saying it
had to be trained at 12 months.
Rather, it was better to take two or three years and get it
right, he said.
The importance of having well-trained dogs was something that
had not changed over the years in farming systems.
Farmers might have "all the modern technology in the world at
their disposal" yet they still had to "go out and get the
sheep out of the paddock and put them in the yards".
Mr Smith's focus was on training a dog to do stock work first
and foremost. If the dog showed it had the necessary ability,
then dog trialling could be the next step if desired.
He started attending New Zealand and North and South Island
sheep dog trial championships in 1982.
He has won five New Zealand titles with dogs he has trained -
the zig-zag hunt in 1983 and the straight hunt in 1986, both
with Oak; the straight hunt with Birch in 1988; the zig-zag
hunt with Cruz in 2002; and the short head and yard with Ace
in 2010 - as well as five island championships and nearly 50
He has also represented New Zealand in the transtasman
challenge and judged two New Zealand championships.
That first victory with Oak, where he won not only the New
Zealand title and the North Island championship in the
zig-zag hunt but was also second in the straight hunt,
started his trialling career "with a hiss and a roar".
While it was a big thrill, Mr Smith said he probably did not
appreciate at the time what it took to get there and he had
since appreciated his wins and placings much more.
Of all the dogs he had owned over the years, Oak was
Mr Smith did not have a preference for huntaways or heading
dogs, saying he enjoyed working with both.
While huntaways were usually the preference of young people,
he believed they were harder to train because of the noise
In the past couple of years, there had been more huntaway
entries at the New Zealand championships than heading dogs,
which delighted him.
There were concerns for a few years that there were not many
young people getting involved in the sport, but that had
It was pleasing to see the number of young people attending
his training days. At a recent day in Gisborne, there were
about 100 people there and he estimated about 60% were young
There were many young shepherds who were taking a genuine
interest in training their dogs and they were doing a very
good job of it.
His desire to win island or New Zealand championships had not
dimmed over the years - "there's nothing better" - and he was
always striving to win another.
But it was a tough sport and a great leveller. "As long as
you've got a dog, you stand to be made a fool of," he said.
Mr Smith has about 10 dogs, along with a couple of pups. With
the training days, he needed to have dogs at relevant ages
He was grateful for the support of his family who, over the
years, had helped rearing and handling countless pups and
young dogs. That had played a major part in the success many
of the dogs had achieved.
• The Pup Pen to Paddock DVD can be bought by
contacting Lloyd or Linda Smith, phone (03) 465-1311 or email