A remark frequently heard at a lot of trials is "It all comes down to Control" which refers to the handlers ability to completely control his dog at all times. The theory that you have to take all the initiative out of a dog and replace it with your own is commonly referred to as making a dog 'mechanical'. Many dogs that have a lot of inborn natural ability are 'blown-up' or have their self confidence completely destroyed by trainers who will not let a dog use its initiative.
Undoubtedly there are some dogs that have ability but are untrainable because they will not co-operate or will resent the fine tuning that is required in the top trial does of today. There is no denying that in all types of trials obedience to commands is a major factor in a dog's ability to be a successful competitor. It is very noticeable that most of the top handlers have realized that a dog Does have a Mind of it's Own and also the Ability to Work Out Situations and then Make the Correct Moves, and so finally end up with a much superior work mate or trial dog.
The mechanical dog is no doubt often successful in stereotyped trials particularly where quiet and predictable sheep are encountered. In the event of wild, erratic and unpredictable sheep a dog still retaining his own initiative reacts instantly through inborn anticipation of what the stock are going to do. Thus the handler with good control, that has left the 'Dog' in the 'Dog' is invariably the stronger team.
In general farm and station work with sheep or cattle a dog that is unable to carry out the work without constant commanding is more of a liability than an asset. Trainers should bare in mind that the inborn ability and initiative in a dog should be developed so that the finished product is a well balanced dog that has learned to co-operate at all times and whenever necessary, to work independently.
Kindness and affection shown to dogs serves to strengthen the bond and does not lessen obedience when a dog is working. In other words a trusting relationship should be developed so that a complete understanding between man and dog is always evident.