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    Professional Sheepdog Trainer - Producer of Sheepdog Training DVDs and Online Sheepdog Training Tutorials

lookback's Achievements


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  1. Wow! Over here in all but national and international trials each competitor is responsible for taking their own bunch of sheep off the field after their run. Occasionally, the course director will ask someone to assist and sometimes someone volunteers to do it - to give their young dog experience of working in a new place with new people around etc. Andy
  2. Here in the UK it's accepted you don't walk to the post or even as far as the judge's vehicle (or trailer etc) until the sheep from the previous run are safely in the exhaust pen. It's also understood over here that once you've sent the dog, you've accepted those sheep wherever they are and whatever they're doing at the time. To later complain about them is out of order. If you sent the dog, those sheep are your problem. As far as I'm aware, people don't normally get paid here for setting out sheep. Quite often the course director will ask someone who's already run, or someone who isn't running until much later to do the job - and sometimes, they're employees or friends of the organisers. Andy
  3. Let me make one thing crystal clear - I have every sympathy with those at the top of the field who let the sheep out and attempt to settle them at the peg. I too have done it so many times, and I been on the receiving end of abuse from frustrated competitors (who seem to think we get paid for doing it) when the setting out didn't meet their particular exacting standard. Just as Julie suggests, it can be a thankless, frustrating task to say the least - and that's why in our tutorial on sheepdog trials, I advise the competitor to consider the poor folks at the top of the field before they hang on for ages waiting for "perfection at the peg". Unnecessary delay before sending your dog rarely gets you a better run, it just makes life difficult for everyone - judge, organisers and those letting the sheep out too. In the run mentioned in my blog though, the sheep never did settle for a moment and were trotting purposefully to the left at the time I foolishly sent the dog (to the right). She crossed over and by the time I'd successfully redirected her, they were some distance away.
  4. Well, the outrun's amusing now of course, but it wasn't at the time!
  5. Surely this depends on the temperament of the dog? Some will be excited to see the sheep being handled at the top of the course, others will be relaxed. (I know which I prefer). Obviously, great care should be taken with the former, but calmer dogs can stand at the post and watch without a problem - especially if this has been part of their training. If the dog's going to get wound-up by watching the sheep being moved at the top while it's at the post, it's going to get just as wound-up by watching from a mere ten or twenty yards further back by the judge's vehicle or tent etc. I advise trainers to give their dog as much experience in new fields, with new sheep and new work situations as possible. This includes learning to watch calmly while someone else works the sheep. In an ideal world, the sheep would walk to the peg and stay there, but this isn't an ideal world, so the best must be made of each situation - and sometimes we get it wrong. (All of us do). Andy
  6. That's a coincidence - I posted a blog about this yesterday! http://www.workingsheepdog.co.uk/farm-dog-vs-trials-dog/ There's a (not great quality) video clip too if you're interested. Andy
  7. Firstly, depending how much of a novice the dog is, you may be expecting too much too soon. Once the dog's working with you as a team, it's a lot easier to get it to go back off the stock. You should teach the dog to keep out from the stock on command. What the command is, is irrelevant as long as it's clear, unique and you're consistent with its use. With sheep, you can walk through them and make it perfectly clear to the dog that you want it to go back. With a dog that's difficult to stop, I do this, and if the dog insists on creeping forward, I walk through the sheep and send the dog FURTHER back than it was originally. This way they soon learn that it's pointless to creep forward. This is much harder and possibly dangerous with cattle so I don't recommend it with anything bigger than sheep. Another way I know of is to have the dog on a very long line and send it out to the stock which should be located near a post or tree. The dog passes behind the post and as it comes forward onto the sheep you can now hold the rope (with gloved hands or you might get burns) and even pull the dog back to show it what you mean. It's not a technique I use because its very slow and clumsy but it can be effective if you can stop the rope getting tangled.
  8. If I understand you correctly, this is really unusual! As the driving distance increases, the vast majority of dogs will, of course, succumb to the temptation to flank around the sheep and bring them back to the handler. In your case, the dog works fine close at hand but when driving, as the distance increases she'll speed up and apply so much pressure that the sheep split? If this is the case, I think you should reduce the distance to that at which the dog works correctly then walk along behind the dog to maintain this distance. Give the dog whatever praise you normally use (if any) to impress upon it that you like it to work this way. When all's going well, drop back a couple of metres (yards). If the dog keeps it's steady pace, carry on at this distance for a little while, before increasing again - and so on. If the dog at any stage begins to speed up, stop it and reduce the distance again. (In other words, the dog will get the message that if it speeds up, you'll stop it). If the dog's harder to stop when working away from home, it suggests the dog's young(?) and excitable. You need to work it in new locations with unfamiliar sheep whenever possible so that it's no longer as excited when it goes somewhere new. On re-reading your first post though, I still think you need to work on the stop. Get some video of yourself working the dog - is she REALLY stopping as well as you think? Another big help is to give yourself and the dog tasks to do. Training lulls you into a false sense of security. If you give the dog a stop command, it doesn't really matter if the dog stops several yards later than you wanted. But if you're trying to get the sheep around some obstacles, the dog must stop in the right place - otherwise it all goes wrong.
  9. It's probably not my place to say Julie, but it's generally less confusing if you start a new topic when you want to ask about a trait as different as yours to the original question. Having said that, a "clappy" dog should be encouraged to keep moving at all times (where possible). Clapping down becomes a habit and can be very difficult to break as the dog gets older, so with your potential offender, I recommend you encourage it to keep moving as much as possible. If however, you can stop the dog and it's quick to respond when you give a new command, it's quite likely you don't have a problem, in which case, I'd train it normally.
  10. It sounds as though you need to improve the dog's stop. Keeping the dog well back then calling it forward again, using your voice tone to show the dog it should slow right down is a monotonous affair but will pay you dividends. If you're physically fit and prepared to (maybe) take a fall or two while you learn, spend lots of time walking backwards with the dog bringing the sheep up to you - but well back. Teach her to bring the sheep at the pace you move back at - steadily (not darting forward then stopping). I know of no shortcut for this.
  11. Whilst I agree with most of Patrick's views in the linked article (above) I have to say I disagree with shouting at the dog after it's gripped. In my experience (during the early stages of training) dogs which have an aggression problem dive in and grip, and then rush out wide (presumably to escape any reprisal from the prey they just attacked). I call it "dive bombing". Dogs can think many times more quickly than we mere humans, so I think shouting at the dog after the event is a mistake. After all, having dived in and gripped, and then rushed out wide, the dog is now in exactly the position I want it to be (nice and wide, away from the sheep) - so I praise it! I believe that a single (sharp) yell - immediately BEFORE the grip does wonders - and then when the dog's out wide, I praise it, and we carry on the session as though nothing happened. Repeated yelling is one of the most common mistakes made by beginners in our classes. They are so nervous of their dog doing something awful, the dog picks up on it and can get excited. Repeated excited commands, simply add to the dog's excitement (as Patrick rightly says). If you can talk softly to the dog it will be calmer - but have a sharp rebuke in reserve when you need it. The rarely used rebuke is far more effective than one which the dog hears all the time (they just get used to it). If your dog is gripping, it will do it to a pattern - usually when you make it change direction, or when you first send it off. There are too many occasions that might trigger it for me to list - but look for them. Find out what triggers the grip, and then be ready for it. If you correct the dog a millisecond (or more) before it grips, it will pay you dividends - as I said, the dog will go out wider, and then you'll use your soft "luvvy" voice to praise the little "cutie". Often the dog's body language will tell you it's going to grip - ears go back, determined look, speeding up, head going down - it could be any or more of these - look for them. Be CALM with your dog. Lastly - Is is possible to make the training ring smaller? Any ring over 60ft diameter is too big really (at first). You need to be close enough to control the dog and unless you can run as fast as the dog and the sheep, you need a smaller ring to keep the action close.
  12. If you really must send the dog away for training, Julie's words are very wise - but far better to train the dog yourself. Even if you make mistakes, you'll have a much better bond with the dog - and along the way you'll learn an awful lot about sheepdogs and how they work.
  13. If the pen is too small, the dog can feel trapped in there with the sheep, and might be aggressive (with the sheep) as a result - or if the dog lacks confidence, it might be intimidated and not want to work in there at all. If the pen's too large, the sheep (and dog) may be too far away from you when you need to be close-bye to control the situation. Over the years I find that between 28 and 30 panels of 6 ft each seems best. But if you only want to train one dog, before you spend your hard-earned cash, bear in mind that I like to get the dog and sheep out of the pen and into the open field as soon as I can. The pen (or ring) is wonderful for teaching the dog to keep the sheep together, but once this is more or less achieved, working out in the open is far better for most dogs. Even though the ring size I've mentioned seems large to us, dogs can still feel trapped in there with the "prey" and I notice time and again the dog improving once we get out into the field. If you can borrow some panels, or use a temporary structure - made from bales of straw or similar - or even use a large building with the corners blanked off, it could save you money.
  14. You have some good advisers here - all the above makes sense. I would try to find some younger sheep (5 - 12 months is good) that are used to being moved with dogs. By their very nature, dogs are easy to train. This means they get trained just as much by everyday life as they do in formal sessions - and your older (trials?) dog will have been used to trials sheep - which generally move fairly easily (often rather too easily here in the UK). No wonder the poor fella was confused when confronted with "Concrete" sheep. It sounds as though he saw no sheep for years, then suddenly met these horrors! Doubtless he approached with caution and they sussed him out. A few years ago, a friend asked me to bring a dog to help him move some particularly stubborn (Badger-Faced) sheep which his young dog was struggling with. I took three dogs - Maddie who was somewhat "agricultural" in her approach to sheep, Kay who was a bit of a gripper but very controllable. Kay would stand no nonsense from any sheep - but just in case, I took my old girl Mel (to me, the best sheepdog in the world). Mel was so laid-back she nearly fell over, but she never failed to get the job done. Having seen how aggressive the sheep were with my friend's dog, I decided to use the "Big Guns" first. Off Maddie went, up the field, but to my astonishment, she refused to get close to the stamping, head-lowering sheep. Even when I walked up the field to help her, Maddie would have none of it. I called to my partner Gill, and she released Kay who quickly came to help, but once the sheep threatened her, she turned away just at Maddie had. Somewhat embarrassed, I walked back down the field thinking I wouldn't bother poor Mel with the task. She was getting old, and I didn't think she'd cope, but Gill pointed out that Mel had never failed us, and surely no harm would come to her, so I sent Mel off on a left-hand outrun. She approached the hooligans calm, wide and steady - and would you believe it, they turned and trotted down the field as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. What Mel had that the others didn't (at the time) was supreme confidence. The sheep are not stupid. They see this, and pick-up on it immediately. So often I see situations where dogs which lack confidence cannot budge some stroppy sheep, but a well trained, confident dog approaches them steadily but purposefully, and they move easily As Debbie said, you CAN build up your dogs' confidence and train them to shift stubborn sheep, but it's not nice and it's a steep uphill climb. Far better to look for some free-moving sheep that won't panic when confronted with a dog, but equally, won't stand up to it. As the dog's confidence builds, you can move on to more testing sheep if you want to.
  15. Makes sense to me too - except that most beginners don't have a trained dog to position the sheep for them so they have to make-do with gathering the sheep from wherever they are (and sheep being sheep, this will be in the most awkward place they can find). Nearby is the critical word here - but unfortunately, beginners tend not to have quick reactions, and the dog may be much further away by the time they decide (let alone, manage) to stop it. Stopping the dog when it's well into its outrun, MIGHT give the dog an excuse to stop sometime when it's confidence is low on a long outrun somewhere (particularly away from home). Of course, it's a matter of opinion - but my advice is to grumble at the dog to show you're not happy with whatever it's done wrong on the outrun - but allow it to complete it. Then reduce the distance of the next outrun, set the dog up correctly, and send it off again, giving praise when it gets it right. I'm not saying stopping a dog on its outrun WILL encourage the dog to stop on a future outrun, I'm saying that there's a possibility, and I prefer not to take the risk.
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