Clinics in Illinois

John and Connie Seraphine are happy to have Gordon Watt back at Heatherhope Farm, Sycamore, Illinois, and happy to invite sheepdog handlers for a clinic Thursday through Sunday, November 1-4, 2018 and again April 25-28, 2019.

Post by John Seraphine

We first had Gordon at Heatherhope in 2007, prior to his judging the Wisconsin Working Stock Dog Trial in Portage, Wisconsin, and for many years he has offered his expertise here both in early November and in April. It has been a wonder to watch him quickly get raw dogs comfortable with being in their “zone” for working sheep quietly and smoothly. It has also been a revelation to see him impart real skill and confidence to handlers—some of whom had become discouraged with past failures, only to be given new hope and motivation.

Of course, everyone has a good laugh as well. We develop thick skins as Gordon uses his Irish humor on us to keep us humble. And we even sometimes turn the tables on him and get to give him a rough time. Gordon assures us this is all a vital part of sheepdog handling.

We plan to open up 10 working slots a day for the clinic. If you get in touch via email we will keep track of you, but those slots are guaranteed on a first-come-first served basis for those who get their full $130 in for two times out with Gordon on that day. If you must pull out, refunds will be made if we can fill that slot with someone on the wait list or someone who begs for that slot at the clinic. In the past we have just about always been able to make those refunds.

The $130, or the cost for a one-time-out lesson, which is $75, or the cost of a day’s audit, which is $45, also covers the cost of a continental breakfast and a full lunch. Dinner is on your own, and a couple of nights we will go off to a restaurant with Gordon. Connie is well known for her down-home-friendly meals of breakfast and lunch. Speak up soon if you want to reserve one of a handful of camper spots on the farm, and consider slipping John a fiver for a day and night’s  electricity.

These are the most common questions asked about Clinic’s with Gordon. Here is how we handle it at Heather Hope Farm:

  • Do you have to sign up for all the days? No. You pick-em.
  • Is it a themed clinic? Only if “whatever you need to work on” is a theme.
  • How many work spots does a person get? For us a “working spot” entails two times out with Gordon. You can go out with two different dogs or one dog two times. Keep in mind that a very young, inexperienced dog may only be able to mentally handle one time out a day.
  • Welcome to Heatherhope

Please make contact with John Seraphine at, or 815-895-9736 for further information. But mail in your check payable to John Seraphine, 22417 Airport Road, Sycamore, IL 60178 to guarantee your spot. You can also see Heatherhope’s web site for directions to the farm.

We hope you can join us for the good doggy times this November and again in April.

Post Trial Lessons, June 18th

Monday, June 18th Gordon will be offering private lessons at Cedar Stone Farm in Cambridge, WI.  This is the Monday immediately following the Cedar Stone trial.

Handlers signing up for these lessons will have a unique opportunity with Gordon. He will watch your runs during the trial and provide valuable feedback during your private lesson times. Gordon has impeccable memory and a keen eye when watching runs. During your lesson, he will help break it all down to explain what went wrong at the trial.

Intently watching,

These lessons are perfect for handlers needing to brush up on trialing skills and to discuss how specific handling techniques can make all the difference in having a successful run.

Limited spots are available starting at noon on the 18th (morning times already taken.)

Gordon works with dogs and handlers at all stages from totally new to advanced skills. Private lessons are one-on-one sessions with Gordon where he helps guide you and your dog to the next steps.

Lessons are from 9-5 and cost $75. Several working areas including a 20 acre field.

Contact Kerry to set up your private lesson.
phone/text: 573-619-2393

Check the events calendar for other dates and locations for private lessons and clinics.

Lessons, June 8th @ Cedar Stone

Private Lessons

Gordon and Kate Ash with Wick

Friday, June 8th Gordon will be offering private lessons at Cedar Stone Farm in Cambridge, WI.  Gordon works with dogs and handlers at all stages from totally new to advanced skills. Private lessons are one-on-one sessions with Gordon where he helps guide you and your dog to the next steps. If you’re new and your dog has limited experience on sheep, Gordon is a master at starting a young dog. If you’re already trialing and you want some handling advice, Gordons shares his decades of experience. Perhaps you’re having trouble with aspects of the course: driving, penning, shedding, a private lesson is the perfect environment to get those things sorted out.

Merry Russell & Rob

The sheep at Cedar Stone Farm are a nice flock that are respectful of the movements of the dogs and being an expert stockman, Gordon keeps things quiet. This creates a calm environment where both dog and handler can learn more quickly.

Sheep at Cedar Stone Farm

Lessons are from 9-5 and cost $75. Several working areas including a 20 acre field.

Contact Kerry to set up your private lesson.
phone/text: 573-619-2393

Check the events calendar for other dates and locations for private lessons and clinics.

Last minute opening – Minnesota (5/12)

A last minute cancellation has made two lessons available with Gordon this Saturday, May 12th at Legacy Farm in Mora, MN.  The available time slots are 9:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Please contact Michelle at: 507-951-6783  if you an have interest.

Missouri Clinic, April 2018

Missouri Clinic, April 2018
By: Carol Wanta

The grass was green and the trees were beginning to bloom. The occasionally chilly breeze reminded us that winter was not long gone from here, but the coolness made it great weather for training dogs old and new with Gordon. Claire and Randy Sandbothe hosted a great clinic! Their wonderful hospitality and delicious food were enjoyed by all at their beautiful farm in mid-Missouri.

Rachel Ritland and Pepper getting instructions from Gordon

The April clinic provided handlers with an opportunity to work on whatever they needed to do in order to tune up their dogs and improve their skills for the upcoming trial season. We had a wide range of dogs and handlers attend. Some handlers were just beginning their journey with their dog while others worked on their precision as a team. Gordon was ready for all of our questions and problems. His skill at handling dogs combined with his knowledge, experience, and willingness to share all that with other handlers makes lessons with him priceless. I would not be where I am today without Gordon helping me. I know others from the clinic can say the same. Gordon is a gem!

Carol Wanta and Sadie as they begin their sheepdog journey

Handlers from Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, Iowa, and Tennessee traveled to Missouri for the clinic. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. And it was FUN! While I can’t go into details (what happens in at the Sandbothe’s stays at the Sandbothe’s), I can say the evenings were full of lively conversation, games of chance and skill (though the skill part degraded as the night grew old), and Irish dancing (oh, you had to see it to believe it)!

Gordon and Robin discussing handling

“What struck me about the clinic was how much fun it was. It was not just about sheep dogging, but also about building a community of great friends who support each other.”

BethAnn and her new partner, Spot

“The journey of what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the Dance of Life really takes place – Barbara DeAngelis”

Heatherhope Farm Clinic

April 26-29 Gordon Watt Clinic Part of a Rich Tradition
By: John Seraphine

Welcome to Heatherhope

Here at Heatherhope Farm, near Sycamore, Illinois, we have hosted Gordon Watt sheepdog clinics since 2007. The last several years we have hosted two four-day clinics a year, both in late April and early November. In all that time we have built a solid core of regulars, and we have welcomed newcomers to both the world of sheepdogs and to Gordon’s approach to training, and it has been a delight to see dogs and handlers improve, and everyone going away wanting more.

This year’s clinic, April 26-29 was no exception. Eighteen students, of every level of experience, gathered from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. We had two students whose dogs were practically raw to sheep work. Their owners soon discovered what all of Gordon’s regulars know, that it is essential to keep a dog away from a small round pen and into an open field—especially when they can start out with a master of sheep-dog-handler choreography such as Gordon. Dogs that were running helter-skelter and scattering the sheep one moment were soon finding themselves in a comfort zone where they could feel their sheep, listen and learn. These new students went away committed to following up with Gordon and helping their dogs rise to their potential.

Gordon and his flock

Another thing Gordon’s regulars have learned is that he is uniquely dedicated to seeing each of his students improve, and he is wonderfully gifted in helping people polish their more experienced dogs. Once students adjust to Gordon’s Irish ways of kidding, and his often colorful language, they understand that he is helping them see the big picture of where there dog is now, where it is going down the road, and what they need to do to help and not hinder the journey.

An obvious bonus with our clinics is that the community of students that has coalesced has developed a grand personality all its own. My wife Connie lays out the food for breakfasts, snacks, and lunch; and we do dinner together with Gordon most evenings. The banter is always laced with both laughter and genuine insight into dogs, shepherding, competition, and many other miscellaneous things. And the regulars among us are so comfortable and confident that they easily keep newcomers from being strangers for more than a few seconds. Time and again we hear, “Thank you for making me feel like I belong.”

Enter here for goodness

Dogs, sheep, learning, caring conversation: what more could you want? Thank you, Gordon, and thank you clinic participants, for helping to build a rich and rewarding clinic tradition at Heatherhope Farm.

Heatherhope Farm. 

Double Lift Clinic in Ohio: April 2018

Double Lift Clinic In Ohio

We arrived on Friday April 13th at the McNutt Family Farm in Blue Rock Ohio for a day of lessons. The weather was glorious, warm almost up in the 80s! It was a lovely day with a nice warm breeze which was just right for training dogs.  This day was a different variety of dogs from young ones and open dogs. Each handler/dog team floated in and out of their assigned time and it was a nice relaxing 😎 day.  It is always a great atmosphere at the McNutt Farm with plenty of banter and lots of fun.

Gordon and Priscilla discussing the start

Saturday was the first day of the double lift clinic. With a small number of handlers, we could fit plenty of time in for each working session. The weather was a little cooler in the morning and heavy rain forecast for late afternoon so we made the most of the nice weather with an early start. This clinic was mainly about having control of the dogs and getting them to take your advice to you when they were lost. If you have proper control, you can direct your dog to the unseen sheep. Micheal McNutt has the ideal field as you stood on a rise so the dog could see the first packet of sheep on a right hand outrun. The dog had to run down the hollow losing sight of his sheep as he come up the hill on the other side. It was a tricky right hand as you had to almost direct your dog down the hill before sending or your dog would go too wide and completely miss the sheep. For some dogs, it was confusing to be asked to walk on in front of the handler.  It just seemed unnatural for the dogs to do this.

Dink McNutt first set

You then had to pull your dog across before sending him right. This clinic was not for the faint hearted as you had to dig deep and really work WITH your dog. No time for mistakes! The dog then had to bring the sheep down into the hollow of the hill and have a blind turn back up the hollow to out of sight sheep. Gordon was on hand to help the less experienced dogs and handlers.  But most experienced open dogs had to listen very well and figure it out for themselves. It was tricky: one wrong command and there was trouble ahead.

Laird looking back

Handlers had to be quick to command and dogs really had to respond with the same quickness. For me, the most impressive dog of the clinic was Anne Spearman’s Ted.  He was the least experienced of all the dogs and tends to worry some if things don’t go to plan. He seemed to be a changed dog. He listened well and took every command that Anne gave him to get him to his sheep. What a star! He never faulted and the more Anne asked of him the better he went. Anne and Ted are becoming a real team.

Katy and Slate getting ready

Sharon Allswede’s Ben was the smoothest dog. Such a quiet way with sheep: his turn backs were with ease.  He soon picked up the routine of bringing his first packet and glancing across the field for his second packet. All the while being in full control of his first packet. Amazing little dog.


Patti Sumner and Shay

By the Sunday, Gordon made things a little more challenging with 3 packets of sheep. The weather was wet, very wet.  We had no stop heavy rain all day, but it never seemed to deter these handlers. The first packet was 20 yards in front of the dog to the right just down in the hollow dogs really couldn’t miss them. They had to fetch them in front of the handler down the hollow and drop them. Turn back was up the hollow for the second packet. The third packet were in the next field; meaning handlers had to direct their dog through a gate to get to the sheep. Everyone managed to stop their dogs and walk them through the gate where the sheep were right in front of them. This gave the dog a choice of either hand out run. But Gordon said the handler had to direct them right handed.  Almost everyone managed, it with little help from Gordon.

Priscilla’s Laird

This clinic was about getting your dogs to listen and becoming team players. From my view, everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  With less dogs, we had plenty of time at lunch with the white board and explaining things. Having this valuable time really helped handlers get the job done once on the field.  All handlers and dogs worked as a team. It was a joy to see happy faces and handlers realizing what their dogs where really capable of when questions were asked and dogs delivered. And that’s what it’s all about!

I’m looking forward to these guys running their dogs this Open season and gaining points for finals sometime in the near future.

It is always an enjoyable time at the McNutt Family Farm.  We would like to thank Micheal, Phyllis and Patti McNutt for having us . Especially thank you to Phyllis for her delicious cooking. It’s a real treat!

A different kind of peanut gallery

And to Claudia Frank (who couldn’t make it to the clinic) for her loan of the sheep for 3 days.  We couldn’t have done it without sheep of course. Sending well wishes to Claudia.

We hope to see you all soon at a clinic, day of lessons or at a trial!

Photos by Sharon Allswede. Check out the gallery here. 

Move Forward Clinic April 2018

The third “Move Forward” clinic is in the books.

The 2nd weekend in April provided us with a bright and sunny weekend but some bitter cold winds. The afternoons were pleasant with the dogs and sheep appreciating being out in the sun.

Bracing for the bitter wind

Gordon’s plan for the weekend was a variation on the theme: be prepared for anything to show up on the course.  This time, two drives!  Not only did this require the handler to be present and focused (which way around the post THIS time?) but it also gave the dog the chance to really get in the groove. A couple of dog-legged fetches, funky pens and there you have it.

There is always one (Marilyn and Olive)

The first time through, Gordon said he was timing us with a generous 12 minutes on the clock. This amount of time helped people relax and not feel rushed while working the components of the course. He also said he would be judging our runs, but not in the normal way. Gordon would be “judging” us on how well we were helping/working with our dog. Were we “asking the right questions” and did the dog give the right answer. Were we getting what we asked for? How well did we treat the sheep?  If something wasn’t right, did we fix it or just move on for the sake of finishing the course? These are all skills he’s teaching us so we can stay calm, focused and “in the game” when it comes to running our dogs at trials.

Patti & Shay

Gordon taught us some very handy tricks on how to turn the post and start the drive away. In the second round, he came out to help us get the hang of it. His methods helped keep the dog flexible, not bump the sheep and ease into the driving aspect of the course.

Eleanor and Lad perfecting turning the post

The first day, he gave us some very useful instruction on how to calmly prepare your sheep (and dog) to go to the pen. His method kept things calm and quiet. By the time everyone reached the pen, the sheep were more than willing to calmly walk in. With the odd group that didn’t want to go in, Gordon gave his expert tips on how to position the dog and handler to work it out. All the handlers that went through this learned a lot about what NOT to do at first, then saw the magic of correct handling.

Kate and Wick at the pen (notice – no gate!)

The second day gave us more sunshine and a less bitter wind. We continued more of the same with dog and handler teams showing much improvement each time. The second day courses showed more small tweaks requiring changes in handling to keep us on our toes. Strange how just one small change can fluster the handler and the dog. But Gordon’s plan of keeping everything changing help the handler/dog team remain flexible and thinking.

Vicki’s Gus

The second day also produced a chute for the “penning” component of the course. The first day practice of calmly lining things up, made the cute a rather easy task with handlers knowing which side to stand on, dogs understanding to calmly wait while the sheep when through the chute (versus race to stop them). It was great to see dog and handler thoroughly understand their job with this task.

Sharon and Ben

All the handlers and dogs were much improved at the end of the second day. Comments among handlers throughout the weekend were how lucky the group is to have such an expert as Gordon. His methods are to keep things calm, constantly evaluate the situation, respond with a plan (versus panic) and get your dog to “answer the questions you are asking.”  We all had fun while learning, so the stress was low. Even the most nervous/anxious handlers commented how their nerves improved after these Move Forward clinics.

Priscilla’s Sweet

Merry’s lunches provided some much-needed WARM nourishment each day. The desserts were lovely and the conversation among handlers created a nice atmosphere of learning, camaraderie and a collective desire to “MOVE FORWARD!”

For a gallery of other photos taken at the clinic, click here. If you’d like any of these files sent to you, contact Tresa.

Shoofly Farm Clinic & Lessons

March 20th, 2018, we all hit the road for a 4-day clinic at Shoofly Farm in beautiful North Carolina

Arriving at Shoofly Farm, we were greeted by beautiful, sunny weather. It was nice to feel warm sun on us again. Friday and Saturday were the clinic days which had a different variety of dogs on both days. Handlers and dogs improved over the two days. Throughout the whole clinic, we had all levels of dogs and covered all aspects of training: shedding, look backs, and blow outs. The clinic and lessons were available to all levels of handlers from very novice to open handlers. Almost everything handlers asked about was covered in this clinic.

For the Novice handlers, Gordon gave them more confidence on handling their dogs. He helped to reassure them that is was ok just to let their dogs have the sheep.  By handling their dogs this way it helped keep things moving rather than creating problems by trying to enforce a stop.

Lots of young dogs just starting with novice handlers are unsure of how to progress with them. By the end of the second day, the handlers had more of an idea of how to help their young dog move to the next stage of their training. It was nice to see very happy faces from these handlers.

Sunday and Monday were lesson days, with most handlers staying on from the clinic and some new handlers attending.  Lessons had more open handlers where they were working on the final touches for trialing. Over the four days, we just had one day of snow early morning by mid-afternoon the sun arrived and snow went home.  It was truly a most enjoyable clinic with a great setting and lovely people and dogs.

Every single handler went home very happy and with lots of home work.

Thank you to Robin French and all of the handlers that came out to the clinic and lessons. We hope to see you all again soon.


Move Forward Clinic March 2018

What a beautiful weekend for our March 2018 move forward clinic
The sun shined on us all weekend.

Kari Carney’s Devi

Most handlers arrived Friday with time for a lesson before the clinic.
This clinic was to designed to help handlers and dogs of all levels that have competed at trials. It was great for handlers which needed help with the finer details of getting around a course.

Kick off time was 8am Saturday morning.
With the morning session, Gordon set up a straight forward course for all handlers and dogs to run just like in a trial situation. Each run was timed.
We didn’t have a judge but a very observant clinician.

Five sheep was set on a tub of corn to keep them settled so each handler had a fair chance. Sophie was doing set out with Tic and they stayed with the sheep till the dogs had contact with the sheep just like at a trial . Gordon and other handlers watched closely.

What was strange was that even though it wasn’t an actual trial, most handlers seemed nervous and it showed a little on some runs with late commands, wrong commands and even no commands. As everyone took their turn at the post, Gordon and other handlers watched in silence until everyone had their first run of the morning.

When everyone had taken part on the course, Gordon went through each run in detail asking each handler where they thought mistakes were made.
Gordon has an unbelievable memory!  After 13 dogs ran, he remembered each run in great detail and pointed out what went wrong and of course most faults had to do with some handlers being a nervous. We adjourned for lunch giving each handler time to reflect on their faults. Of course the dogs hardly did anything wrong only by doing what their handlers told them.

Merry put on a lovely spread for lunch spaghetti and meatballs, salad and some handlers donated cakes for dessert.

The afternoon session started up again this time Gordon stepped to the post with each handler making some more nervous and some relieved. Gordon helped with the crucial timing of commands on the dogs making the handler react quicker to situations that came up. Most of the handlers had the same issues, timing on the lift and the first half of the fetch. The majority of handlers had decent drives but almost everyone had trouble at the pen. Gordon helped with smoothing the dogs out around the pen which helped keep the sheep calmer and making them easier to pen.

Sharon Allswede, Gordon and Liz at the pen

Sunday morning started again with the sun was shinning on us making it so nice to sit in the sun while watching.

A small course change with just a slight dog leg fetch. Nothing that challenging but causing a few problems for some handlers keeping sheep on line. Most dogs of course wanted to bring the sheep straight to the handler and it was up to the handler to tell the dogs which line they were taking without letting panic set in.

Sharon Allswede’s Ben

Gordon watched and stepped in if he felt anyone needed help. Almost everyone manage to get around without Gordon stepping out onto the field.
After everyone had ran, each run was discussed again, seeing much improvement in handling. Handlers seemed much more relaxed and their timing was better and therefore, dogs were much calmer with the sheep.

Sunday afternoon session saw big improvement. Handlers looked more confident walking to the post with much more purpose. The were making sure everything was in order before sending their dogs. Almost no one needed help until entering the shedding ring. Gordon stepping in to help most handlers at the shedding.

Gordon, Kate Ash and Wick setting up shed

Pens were much more relaxed and controlled handler and dogs working as a team. It was nice to watch.  It really was an enjoyable weekend.

I’m sensing everyone took home information about their dogs they never knew before and how to handle many different situations with them.  Please feel free to leave a comment on the comments page. It’s always nice to listen to what handlers take home from these clinics.

Looking forward to seeing most of you at the next move forward clinic April 7/8 weekend.

Our next clinic is the puppy/ young dog clinic March 31-April 1 weekend .
One of my favorite clinics. Love to see the young ones starting out and how they progress in just 2 days.


Check out the Gallery for more pictures from the clinic.