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Everything posted by Ludi

  1. This may or may not help, since I can't see your situation in person, and my advice may change if you can show some video footage of an average lesson with your dog. I've had the chance to get involved with the training of quite a few young dogs now, ranging from 4 to 18 months, and your case isn't really that shocking or surprising. A cool customer turning into a pushy devil isn't new nor worrying. So fret not! You mentioned that his excitement hits the roof when the car rolls into the farmyard. Is he travelling in a crate in the car, or loose and able to see out of the windows? I assume you're putting him on a lead to go out to the training pen or field. How is his behaviour then? Is he scrabbling and pulling in all directions? If so, I'd work on getting him to snap out of that agitation and to focus back on you, your voice and physical presence. How you achieve that depends on your training philosophy - some people will use a physical aversive (lightly clipping the dog's nose with a stick), and others won't. I don't know your viewpoint on this, so I won't make any recommendations past the general advice of getting the dog to simmer down and walk nicely out to the training area. Tiring the dog out physically isn't what cases like this usually need. It's mental agitation and over-excitement, not physical, so once he's in the right mind frame, he may begin to resemble the dog you had at the beginning. I'd also recommend not getting at him for singling or gripping or chasing. I have seen young dogs feed off the excitement and rising agitation in their handler's voice. Stay in a small, enclosed area where no animal (sheep or dog) can bolt and make a run for it. You, as the handler, must stay with the sheep at all times for now. If you're with the sheep, you're in control of the highest reward and highest stimulus for your dog. Reward calm and methodical behaviour (even if it's there but for a second, like the dog briefly standing still) by letting the dog have the sheep. If he behaves and thinks, he gets the sheep. If he doesn't, you let him know that under no circumstances is he getting to those sheep without going through you. This relies on the right sheep, and the right training area! I do not recommend trying to tackle over-excitement in a young dog with flighty sheep in a massive field!
  2. Very nice to hear, Alchemist! Glad your lambing is going well. And yes, these Cheviots were like popcorn... what a terrifically descriptive term for them. I'm looking into getting some fairly notorious sheep breeds for myself (Soays and Hebrideans), but after handling these wily SCCs and Scottish Mules, I know Meg should be able to handle just about anything they'll throw at her. And truth be told, I like them light instead of heavy and stodgy!
  3. There are quite a few breeds of sheep that get that sun-bleached brown (Hebrideans and Ouessants spring to mind), perhaps you could get in touch with someone owning those? Although, I'm not sure how popular they are in your part of the world!
  4. Zwartbles. Fairly good carcass size, prolific, easy lambers. Downside (or upside, if you're not me) is that they're quite sociable with humans and gregarious. I do not like that, personally. I like sheep who are indifferent to humans, so "pet sheep" don't gel very well with me. The Zwartbles really liked human contact. Could just be the case for these, as they were reared in a very pet-orientated way, but it seems across the board that they're quite a friendly lot. Good for training, though, I suppose. They are fairly robust, and are light despite being sizeable animals.
  5. Oh dear, I quite like Cameroon sheep and was thinking of getting a couple! Maybe I'll rethink that. Mentalitis is a good way to put it. GentleLake, we were extremely lucky with our Cheviot girls. They just squirted their lambs out. We put a pure Texel to them, so I was prepared for some large heads getting in the way, but our Cheviots had nice, wide-set pelvises and the actual act of lambing was incredibly easy. Just goes to show that breeding for those traits is not to be overlooked!
  6. Probably similarly crazy, Smalahundur! I'm not sure if you put your mothers and lambs into pens ever, but we did, for 24 hours following lambing, so the pair could bond and be monitored in case of any difficulties following birth. Even when you would simply walk past a pen with an SCC in it, you could tell she was just a hair's breadth from charging. And indeed, it happened to me twice when trying to draw milk from a stuck teat on a new Cheviot mother. I usually pinned the mothers against a wall with the side of my body and one leg so I could hunch down and draw milk. Well, these girls weren't having it, and twice they simply decided to bolt towards the shut door of the pen, dragging me along with them. And they didn't have mastitis or anything painful! They were just mental.
  7. SCCs (Border Cheviots) are smaller than NCCs. The SCCs were flighty as hell. Derek had a good way to explain just how they behaved: If you gather a group of Blackies, then send the dog on a look-back to gather more, the Blackies will gradually spread out but stay in the same general area you left them. If you do that with SCCs, they will just disappear. And it's true. It's like they only have two settings - frozen in place, and actively bolting. We had to bring in 6 girls having triplets, and spray-mark them. They were in their own paddock and getting into the ram feed, which has some kind of special additive that isn't great for pregnant ewes. 3 mules, 3 SCCs. Once again, because it was last minute, the pen we shuttled them into was too big and let them manoeuvre. Big mistake. One SCC took a running leap at my head to try and get past me. I don't know what got into me, but I just sort of grabbed her out of the air and swung down with her. I yelled for someone else to come spray her. Definitely a two person job when handling these wily creatures! Pam, good to hear from you again! There'll be more clinics in the summer when Derek's back from his travels. We should meet up then, and it'd be fab if Sarah and Indy could be there too!
  8. Hey all, I've not been very good at updating on my young collie Meg's progress in work, but it has been going super well and a couple weeks ago, we came back from our first proper lambing. I drove from France to South Lanarkshire, in Scotland, and came back a better shepherd and sheepdog handler. Meg made huge progress with her in-bye work, and has shown she more than has what it takes to be a good lambing dog. The flock was a fairly mixed bag, with two separate lambings going on (of which we only worked one, next one is due to begin in a week or so). Our group was comprised of pedigree and pure Texels, Cheviot cross Texels, and a handful of pure South Country Cheviots. For those of you who have not had the joy of working with SCCs from Scotland proper, rest assured, you're only missing out on chaos and destruction. They are mad. Anyway, the experience cemented the idea in my head that if you really want to be good at this sheepdog thing, you've got to have some honest work to get stuck into. Gathering Mules scattered across a 7ha (17 acre) field with a dodgy hedge that sucks them in like a vacuum, drenching and jagging said Mules in a race with a too-big holding pen (what an adventure, I realised sheep could fly at your head), late night lambing, and turning out new mothers and lambs to the paddocks - you learn so much as you go. You might not need hundreds of sheep to do it, even a handful could teach you a lot. But get out there and work! Lambing is a great time for it, since it's all hands on deck and free help (provided it's good help!) never goes unwanted. It can test your patience, but you quickly realise that your worst enemy is usually yourself. Bad placement, slow reflexes, not reading the sheep... all these things stick out like sore thumbs when you're clinging on to your last shred of patience. So you get better! That's what I've learnt, and I look forward to doing another lambing next year to further improve.
  9. So good to see you again mum24dog! It was a pretty interesting course, the exhaust pen's location and the Shetlands proved to be a particularly potent combo for some of the less experienced dogs. I myself had to let Meg take the reins on the cross-drive since I had a Heb that fancied bolting for the exhaust, luckily, my dog knows what to do more than I do.
  10. Thank you! She's taking it all in stride.
  11. Meg is 14 months now; we've been doing a lot of yard work since she went through a brief phase of discomfort when near the livestock. She got over it within a few weeks. In this video, I work on keeping those flanks free, reward with some driving, and get her used to working sheep who don't necessarily like humans. It's all very well fetching sheep who just book it to a human's feet but it's another thing to move these awkward girls who don't really like me (and aren't used to dogs, either). We've been on holiday in England for the past 3 weeks. We saw the English National, we caught up with friends, we have had daily work to do on the lowland farm my friend owns. It's been really fun and I think Meg has come on leaps and bounds. We're headed back to France tomorrow, hopefully we can keep the momentum going!
  12. Saw your feature in the latest ISDS magazine! Congratulations! What a great journey you and Jack have been on. Best of luck with the new prospect.
  13. Bit of a random question. Anyone else heard of or experienced printing errors in their copy of "A Way of Life" by H. Glyn Jones? I'm missing entire pages' worth of text. The photos seem to have made it but the words do a vanishing act periodically throughout the second half of my (paperback) copy. I wanted to know if it was a known problem before ordering another copy. Great read otherwise.
  14. I have a similar issue! Away was/is my bitch's weaker/eye-heavy side, so to get her to give a better shape and breadth to her flanks, she was forced to disengage her eye when going that direction. It seems she's at an increased risk of flying into orbit. I'm going to try to introduce a check whistle near the top to slow her down - she's a speedy mover - but I'm afraid it might encourage her to draw in towards the sheep at the top. Any ideas how to get her to give the right space, but still check in on the sheep? Or is this just a matter of practice and maturity?
  15. Thanks! Yes, she loves driving. I use it as a sort of reward for nice shapes on her flanks, since I know this is something she loves to do, naturally!
  16. A little update on Meg. She's just turned 11 months and we've had a very difficult time getting started up until now! Between the sheep wintering in the shed, having to fly out of the country a few times, and then work piling on, Meg has just had to twiddle her thumbs for the most part. Anyway, it worked out for us in the end since I believe she is well and truly ready for training now. She's not an easy dog to stop, she's keen as mustard and it does take a bit of a strong presence to get her to take heed! But I'm thrilled to work with a dog who is honest and loves work as much as she.
  17. Hello all! It's been a while since I have updated. It's winter now, so that means it's fairly quiet on the training front. I had the opportunity to attend a sheepdog trial with Lady but sadly, life and work got in the way, and it was the last trial of the season in my region so that means we'll have to wait for 2016 to make our trialling debut. Lady is doing well now at 3.5 years old, is of great help on the farm, and recovered very well from her spay procedure. There is a new addition, Meg, from Northern Ireland. Meg is ISDS reg,, and her parents work cattle and sheep alike. She came to us at the start of December, at 6 months of age. I took Derek's advice and got a pup who had already been to sheep several times and was showing "the right stuff" to my tastes. I am so pleased with Meg. She is tenacious, stubborn, and essentially the polar opposite to Lady in terms of working personality. She takes corrections/body blocking-pressure really well. Nothing seems to faze this pup. The move from NI to France seems to have gone without a hitch for her. Just a short clip of our second time to the farm together. She is tight on Away and tends to do "fly-by" grips when going that direction. I have been reading Carol's blog entries on one-sidedness and will deal with Meg's with a combination of body blocking and working along the fenceline. I will try to encourage settling into the stop at balance after sending her out with good space on her favoured flank, and encouraging her to walk up positively towards the packet. I recognised Meg's qualities in some of the dogs Carol spoke of in her blog, almost to a T, so I am very thankful that the entries are there to be read and digested!
  18. I will proffer my very novice opinion on different trainers... I needed to be reassured that it was OK to not be 100% on-board with every method or system presented to me by much more experienced and titled handlers/trainers. Not everything works for everyone! I wasn't understanding that, and I felt badly when I would have my doubts about how one trainer problem solved things for my dog. At the time, I couldn't possibly realise it, but the approach was a poor fit for my bitch (it involved heavy corrections, a lot of unrelenting body pressure [chasing out]). In fact, it put her off working. It also left a very bitter taste in my mouth, because I thought my dog was solely to blame, not the way we had gone about training her. Luckily, dogs are resilient, forgiving, and bounce back eventually. A whole year later, she was ready to work again. And this time, I was determined to not do her a disservice and use methods of the square peg-round hole variety with her, again. It's gone very well. I'm also saving a lot of money because I'm not desperate to attend clinics of Big Hats whose systems wouldn't work in my specific case. At best I would audit a clinic of "big names", should they be within a reasonable driving distance. I've settled on just the one trainer to treat myself with.
  19. He is a great teacher. Not all great handlers make a great teacher for every type of student! But in my and my dog's case, he's been absolutely wonderful. I'm glad you enjoyed the clinic.
  20. That's awesome! I love following your story with Darine, both on here and on the FB group. I know what you mean about the trickling stream becoming an avalanche. I've felt the same with my own dog, once she passed 2.5 y/o it felt like she really came in to her own. Progress picked up, our working relationship improved further, and she shares very little in common with the dog I started. Will you be trialling at some point with her?
  21. Yeah, essentially my issue was that because the hill is quite a ways from the gate, I was hoping to be lazy (haha!) and prepare things whilst I sent my dog out to fetch every one from up the field. Unfortunately because of the hill, I can't keep one eye on the proceedings. I think I'll just have to reconcile myself with going up the field to the hill to practise with short gathers. We can't move fields for now unfortunately as the cattle are grazing and our rotations are controlled by the agricultural college for whom I work. I will say that for fields wherein she can actually survey the layout from the start (i.e. no awkward topography), she seems to have no problem scooping truculent stragglers out of the corners and bringing them all to me. The hill running through the middle seems to throw her for a loop. And I agree with not having to give a constant stream of instructions! I'd like to work up to that. I have a "check" whistle so I'm thinking that when I see her come in prematurely (if she still does it with me at the hill crest) then I'll give her a "check" and bend her out. Ideally one would be enough to send her towards the very top of the field, a known hiding spot with the thick, overgrown hedgerows.
  22. Hello, Lady's training is coming along well, we recently came back from another trip to the Lakes where we worked daily on a sheep farm and had a chance to attend another lesson with Derek Scrimgeour. He fixed up my whistles, as they had conflicting tones, and said Lady had made a lot of progress from our first visit. And indeed, based on what we were asked to show, I could tell he saw a lot of growth in the dog. We went from doing endless circles to get nice shapes, squaring up the flanks back in April, to being asked to do an OLF with away and cross driving. Considering our visits were merely 4 months apart, I'm very happy indeed. Right, so, now we work part-time on a sheep farm in a neighbouring county. When the ewes had lambs on the ground, it was tough work gathering the field. They were very heavily dispersed throughout and did NOT flock for anything. Now the lambs have been taken off the mothers and some very fresh, light shearlings have been added. On the whole, this flock will gather nicely, but are prone to moving in early because several other dogs do "use" these sheep, thus the latter have caught on to it. But there are stragglers. Quite a few, I may add. They stay in the hedgerows, or just in plain sight, but refuse to flock. The field is approx. 500m in depth, very rectangular in shape so it is a lot longer than wide. Lady's OR shape does change to accommodate it, but I am finding she is coming in early at the top. To gather the entire field, she'd need to religiously follow the fenceline, all the way to the end, then continue on that flank clear to the opposite side of the field, only coming in when the sheep are practically at my feet. They are REALLY spread out. Of course, she doesn't do that, and so we end up having some pretty decent Look Back practice. But I'd like to be able to gather the whole field for foot checkups and fly spray and so on, without having to send her on the LB. I've got to know the flock quite well so I do know when she's not gathered them all, and more importantly, WHO is missing. There's a hill running across the field, approx. 400m in, which adds to the problem. At this point if I want to encourage her to follow the fenceline and go to the end, I have to trudge up 400m of field to get to the hill, then send her from the gates, and hound her to make sure she doesn't come in early. I'm not sure if this is the best way to go about it, as I don't know if I'll be able to wean her off my presence at the top of the hill, telling her where to go. Any advice? She's clearly not one of those dogs who is a "nobody gets left behind" spirit, and isn't much of an independent thinker. While I understand that means she has some undesirable traits in a working dog, I'd like to think that having her and needing to deal with this will make me a better handler for it.
  23. It is indeed a slippery slope! I hadn't seen a sheep -ever- until I was 26 and on Instinct test day with Lady. And now I'm working part-time on a sheep farm! These silly beasts have a way of worming into one's heart.
  24. Derek is great, you will love the lessons. It's good that you're choosing to start with him given your youngster's personality. It'll be a good fit, hopefully! One thing Derek teaches in his videos is getting a dog to make a beeline for you when you crouch down and call it in with a "Here, here" command in a gentle voice. It can shave time off teaching the shed - you obviously won't start with that, but it's a good tool to have regardless. I end up using it in daily life when I need to call Lady off something and she ignores her name.
  25. It's a good thing there's footage of us shedding, because now I can see how my body language is sometimes confusing or unclear. I called Lady in to sheep on her right, but my body was facing those on the left. I think I'll need to reduce the groups even further (and maybe not have lambs present, but good luck with that...) to be able to practise calling her in on the heads of the "back" sheep. Right now, everyone's just sort of... everywhere. I called her in but wasn't quick enough to realise I should have turned to the shed group, and asked her around behind me to the heads of those closer to the camera. Again, I'm seeing things I definitely need to improve upon.
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