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About Riverpaws

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  1. Hello Amanda! Thank you for your time and answers on this forum. I always enjoy reading your posts. I have a question about two theories I've seen/heard from two different clinicians. They seem to contradict each other and maybe that's just because each methodology works for each type of dog that each clinican runs and their dogs are just very different, but I want to know what your experience has been. I hope to give you a succinct explanation of both in regard to starting a young dog, and see what you think. Hopefully I can describe it well enough you can "see" what is meant by both clinicians. Method 1: After initial exposure to stock, the dog is encouraged to go to balance. To this clinician, balance is the point at which the sheep change direction (so the dog goes to balance, and then the sheep "cross over" in front of the handler, and the dog changes again to hit the balance point that is now on the other side). The most emphasis is given to the dog covering the sheep on both sides, hitting balance, and not worrying about the dog's speed, not pushing the dog off the sheep ever. Eventually after the dog will consistently go to balance on both sides, the "steady" command is introduced to straighten the dog up behind the sheep. Very little, if any correction for anything is used unless the dog rushes in to bite the sheep. Otherwise they are left alone to find the point that stops/changes the direction of the sheep. The clinician says that this keeps the dog's enthusiasm for the work, and the more they hit balance the more they want balance. Method 2: This clinician says that even if balance isn't at 12 o' clock, pretend that it is anyway. The dog should ALWAYS be at 12 o' clock from the handler, even at the beginning. If the dog tries to flank back and forth, go to the side that they're on and correct them by slapping a rolled up bag on your thigh, until they stay behind the sheep. Once they're behind the sheep, if they speed up, correct them and if they don't listen, run through the sheep and chase them off of them. This changes the dog's mind and makes them careful because any time they try to speed up, they learn that pressure is put on them. There is much more correction, and insisting that the dog be in a certain place, at a certain speed, and it seemed to me much less emphasis on balance. So you can see the two methods don't have a lot in common. I suppose it could just be that method 2 has worked with dogs that are a lot more intense, with much more drive, and Method 1 would work with dogs that are much more easily "shut down"?? The Method 2 clinician carried these principles through with the open dogs they were working with too, not wanting the dog to go to balance as they said the dog should learn how to control the sheep from behind, instead of needing to flank all the way out and just "turn the heads", if that makes sense. This clinician insisted that balance was not just the point where the dog needs to be to make the sheep change direction, but moving the sheep actually toward you, which makes sense to me, but they did not seem to want the dogs far off to the side no matter where the pressure was in the field, which didn't make sense to me. If there's a heavy draw to the left, for instance, would the dog not need to be all the way over sometimes? This method also used a lot of "pushing the dog off the sheep when they're wrong" ie if they're coming in too hot at the top of the outrun or otherwise not respecting the sheep enough, even if it's just a little rushed. This clinician wants the dog to learn to be careful on its own, immediately, from a young age, and the other clinician seemed to feel that the dog should be given commands instead of corrected, when they're wrong. For example, if a young dog came in tight and fast at the top of the outrun, Method 1 clinician would let the dog go to balance and then blow a stop whistle. Then they would work on the "top" part of the outrun closer, anticipating that the dog was going to come in fast, give the steady command pre-emptively, and then stop it again on balance. Method 2 clinician would let the dog come in tight and fast, but then would run up and blow the dog off the sheep, pushing it back and not let it have the sheep until it was careful, then come back down with the dog and do the outrun again, blowing the dog off of the sheep at the top if it came in tight or fast again or as the clinician said "if there is anything in the dog's attitude I don't like." Thoughts? I've learned that there is usually something that you can take from each clinic, but sometimes things are just so different it's hard to know. Thank you, Amanda, for your time.
  2. Amanda, I wanted to thank you so much for your detailed and great answer! I'm sorry this thanks from me comes so late, but hopefully you will at least see it so I can thank you. It meant a lot to me, and was very helpful. Sometimes I think with a dog it's easy to get discouraged, and I love the way you put it: faith and compassion. I've never heard it put quite that way, and I like it. Very much appreciated!
  3. Very grateful for your insights, thank you!
  4. I apologise for the misunderstanding. I was not trying to give a formula for what you must do with your border collie. The car goes down a dirt road we have to drive and the dogs go out of it. They run in front, not behind, not chasing, I follow them. When it's time to come in, I stop, get out and call them and they all come. They are running in front of the car at about ten miles an hour and all stay on the dirt road so it's enjoyable for all of us.
  5. Yes of course. I was just trying to illustrate that in my experience it isn't always enough to have just physical exercise.
  6. I think a border collie would be fine for you if you're read for a high energy dog, but it isn't necessarily just physically high energy. They are busy little mathematicians that need problems to solve, or they will create them on their own so they can solve them. One day (on my dog's "day off" from working sheep), we did this: 1. Bikejoring (1 hr, 5 miles) 2. Swimming (throwing a ball from a dock into the water, 1 hr) 3. Following after a car, me in the car, him on foot (another couple of miles, probably about 45 minutes) So on that day, he got probably 2 and a half hours of hard exercise. He came home, and slept for about twenty minutes, then got up to ask if we needed to move the sheep. He hates his days off with a burning passion. Unless he's been mentally stimulated to his satisfaction (ie working, something that intensively uses his brain), the busy isn't taken out of him. I would say to own this breed, you have to realize there are demands that only physical exercise won't satisfy. That said, they are by far the best dogs you could ever own.
  7. Sounds like a yeast problem to me, if I had to make a guess. Biting and licking at paws IME has been yeast related. Is she itching anywhere else? Are the nail beds reddish, or are there reddish rust colors between the pads on the hairs? Also have you inspected her pads for cracking? Chuck licks at the tops of his paws when he has cracks on the bottom occasionally.
  8. Found with border collies a pickiness is often a food intolerance of some kind bothering their stomach. Took mine off of food with chicken in it and he stopped eating grass and itching more than normal. Now he eats like a horse, but if he gets chicken again, he goes off his feed for a few days. He refuses scrap too until his stomach calms down again. As long as no chicken in his diet, he'll eat anything.
  9. I've found that herding is what brings me closest to a dog. There's nothing that beats the total communication. It's eerie a lot of the time. I can see what he's thinking, and he seems to feel what I'm thinking. Herding is less about complete obedience as a working dialogue with your dog. Sometimes when the sheep are so far away you need binoculars, the dog can see what's going on a lot better than you can. The best dogs work on their own, respond to suggestions that you make instantly, adjust, and then continue with what they were doing. For instance, when I bring fresh yearlings into the big pasture, there are quite a few interesting draws that my dog knows about. I have a command "get back". It means go to balance, ie wherever he needs to be to keep the sheep going straight to me. Sometimes that can be directly behind them if I'm 200 yards in front of them, but most often that means that it's to one side or the other to block them (depending on which direction they think the main herd is and where they want to run). If "get back" just meant "go directly to the other side of the sheep and stay there" then we'd be losing sheep left and right. I love that I can communicate with him on that level--with a phrase, it means, "bring the sheep to me--however you think the best way to do that is." And he knows. And then he will accept my suggestion too, adding it to the work he's doing, and funneling information about the sheep back to me. Although, I understand not everyone has sheep, so what I've found they also like is feeling like they're doing a job with you no matter what you're doing, that you include them with little jobs. My dog comes out every morning and he knows he needs to go to the barn first, we have to get the hay out for the horses and the sheep. So he'll go there, and I tell him to get up onto the top of the stack and stay there. He has to stay, without moving, the whole time I'm in the barn. And I don't have to watch him anymore for this, he views it as his job. Then he waits for me to go out of the barn with the hay and I say either "horses" or "sheep" and he goes the right direction, either to the paddock, or to the sheep infield. He knows the difference, and seems to like that I include him. If it's the horses first, he checks on them, and waits while I throw the hay. Sometimes he'll go into the paddock with them, but he knows, "get out of that" and then we practice "stand" at the gate. Not one foot moving. I ask him to back away from it and then say "sheep" and he'll go to the gate of the infield. But "no barging!" if he tries to go through the gate himself (there is a space he can slide through sometimes). He will respect that now even if I'm slow bringing the wheelbarrow along and don't see this. Another "stand" or a "back" at the gate and I open it and move through, he knows that he can't barge (lest he bring down the dreaded "no barging!" from me again). I test him each morning, moving into the infield toward the herd with the hay and expecting him to stay at the gate. That's his job, and NOT ONE FOOT gets to move again. Then he can bring the whole herd away and push them down the field so I can set out hay and grain in peace, and enjoy the sunrise. Then it's off to the little goats, but that's a whole 'nother story. Border collies are the most happy when there are an obsessive set of small "jobs" to be had and they can do it with you. At least that's been my experience.
  10. I don't know if you have stock around your place, but letting them sit and stare at them all day can ruin a good herding dog. Building a run right by the pasture where they can see the stock all day, or letting them chase along a fenceline. Also I agree with not giving any commands for the first year you can't back up. If your pup is thirty feet away from you off leash and you decide to call him to you, and he doesn't come, he learns that it's possible to disobey you. Recall isn't something I like to skimp on so I keep my dogs in a crate when I'm not home, in the house with me, or on a leash for basically the first year of their life. They learn that coming is not an option and they earn their freedom off the leash when I trust them. If this sounds cumbersome it's because it is, especially during chores, but there I don't bring a pup out if I can't watch them. Every time you're with your dog it's a training experience whether you want it to be or not. It drives me crazy when people bring their pups out and just let them run all over unsupervised, learning bad habits right and left. I like to try to prevent bad habits where I can. If you say something, the dog had better do it, the first time, no exceptions. In my experience, dogs can't distinguish--it's either do a command all the time, or it's negotiable all the time. If even one out of ten times you tell them to do something you don't reinforce it, it's a "negotiable" command in their mind. Sit down can't mean "sit down when I really mean it, but if I'm having a conversation with another human it's okay to ignore it or get up without being told." Or if it's sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, and then on the fifth time my person gets mad at me, then the dog reasons it has four good commands before it actually has to do it. They learn that very quickly! How many times do you want to have to tell your dog to do something? I see at trials people giving the 'lie down' command and half the time they just mean slow down and the other half the time they get irritated because the dog doesn't stop exactly where they needed it to. I have no problem with the system if it works for them and they're happy giving their dog the leeway, but I don't feel they should get irritated then when the dog doesn't stop precisely. I try to remember with my pups also not to let them do anything I would find rude or unacceptable as an adult. Is it cute for an adult dog to jump up on you? Of course this has to be within reason, you wouldn't expect a 6 week old puppy to be able to hold even a thirty second stay. But it doesn't hurt to keep this in the back of your mind--what habits are going to be acceptable to me when this dog is an adult--and make sure you're not writing something off as 'awww, cute puppy, it doesn't hurt anything right now'. I haven't had any trouble with teaching a dog to heel and then putting it to sheep. Especially with my speeding bullet who is a hyper-keen dog and does everything at mach 10, it's been helpful to teach the heelwork and encourage focus and inner calm. I also have not had trouble with dogs and playing tug with them. The ones who like it, as long as they aren't hard-heads benefit from playing and then being told to drop it right in the middle of the game at the height of their excitement, and then giving it back to them. With a hard headed dog it might be different, I don't know. As long as they aren't tough nuts who are bucking for promotions constantly, I don't mind. It's a good house game occasionally. I like to teach games for control. I think learning control at an early age translates very nicely when they work sheep. Holding a sit down when there's something they want to chase, leave it when there's something they really want to eat. Reliability, for me, has been built within the first year of a dog's life. If they've learned to control themselves and listen, even when everything in them is screaming to chase, putting them to sheep is much easier. And then they aren't surprised by correction and don't know what to do with it. It's all just my own experience, so take that into consideration. Enjoy your pup!
  11. Thank you, Tea, that was very specific and I appreciate it. I was curious to see if what I like was different than what others liked, since I know everyone has their different opinions on what makes a dog.
  12. Thank you Smalahundur, that makes sense to me.
  13. Howdy everybody! Curious what you regard as serious enough faults to send a dog on. What would you say is something that you don't want to deal with in your dogs, and what do you regard as flaws you can work with. I know all dogs have strengths and weaknesses, just wondering what you would regard a serious enough weakness to send the dog packing. Obvious things aside: lack of interest, lack of focus, etc. More interested in working styles and traits you dislike and why. Thanks in advance for your time.
  14. Hi Amanda, Just wondering what sort of things are "deal breakers" in a dog for you. What sort of things constitute you sending the dog on (ie, you feel they are serious problems that you don't want to deal with), and what sorts of things do you not mind training through? Thank you for your time, I've loved reading your responses to questions!
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