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Diana A

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Posts posted by Diana A

  1. Even if there was the occasional breeder in one of the 'other' herding breeds who bred exclusively for working ability, without large numbers of similar-minded breeders, the gene pool of the dogs being bred for work would be extremely small and the number of dogs needed for a true viable breeding program is more than one person can realistically handle. I see a lot of the same as what Pam said - there are a handful of breeders in many breeds who really do work the dogs, but they also want to do other things (show champion or agility) so stock work isn't the only (or even primary) consideration. And again, even if those breeders have the best of intentions and even actually have some quality working dogs, if hardly any other breeders are focusing on work, who do these dedicated working-minded breeders have available to breed their dogs to? Once it's mostly gone from a breed, getting it back seems like an almost insurmountable, if not impossible, task.

  2. As others have said, the reward is getting to interact with the livestock; the reward for correct behavior does not come directly from you. You'll have a hard time not letting the dog have its reward (interacting with the sheep) every time it is wrong since you won't know it is wrong until after it has interacted with the sheep (already gotten its reward).

    This ^^

    Some of the best and most experienced trainers I've seen actually have to correct very little (and those with very minimal force) because they can read the situation and can see a mistake coming before it happens and position themselves in a way that will head off trouble with only a mild bit of pressure. This opposed to a less experienced handler who may find themselves correcting for the dog already having taken a dive at the sheep or sliced into them and scattered them.

     

    The sheep will do a lot of the teaching and the trainer is there to prevent trouble and to assist the dog in making better choices. Example: trainer sees dog is going around but getting a bit tense, so trainer puts a bit pressure at the right spot, dog bows out, dog sees sheep relax and slow down as a result, dog is rewarded by being able to get to the head of the sheep without losing them and seeing that he's in control, dog decides on his own that next time the situation comes up bowing out is what works and he'll do more and more of it. In this case, smart handler positioning or a bit of pressure is all the correction needed,and not something the dog sees as punitive or demotivating. It would be more demotivating and punitive for the dog to continually lose his sheep and keep chasing around and around getting more and more frantic because he's too tight and his trainer won't show him how to be correct.

     

    I'd say this is also another reason that you breed for good inborn abilities, because the naturally talented dog will more readily make the right choices on his own and will naturally recognize and seek out control of the stock. Some of the most punitive training situations I've witnessed are when the dog (often not a border collie) has little natural ability - to the point where the dog doesn't recognize 'control' as a reward but gets more reward out of chasing and gripping than from proper work. That situation is not fair to either the dog or the sheep.

     

    More advanced training with a dog that wants to work with the handler also doesn't require much (if any) more punitive type corrections. My current dog is very biddable and simply stopping her when she's making a wrong choice is usually all the correction needed - she then makes a better choice and is allowed to continue working.

  3. If you're interested in a sport dog, the best bet is to go to working bred lines that other people have purchased sport dogs from. They'll have all the best traits of the working dog (especially impulse control as noted above, and biddability) but having some relatives doing sports will give you an idea of what type of sport dog they are and if they meet your preferences. I'd say any of them would be great fun agility dogs, but someone with Nationals or World Team aspirations may be pickier as far as things like jumping and turning ability and a particular body type that suits their handling preferences. One thing I see more and more in the sport bred dogs is they seem to often be very soft-tempered and get stressed or over-stimulated easily, or to quit too easily if they can't figure something out. I also know some that have no 'off switch', which would drive me crazy to have around the house.

  4. I like this discussion. I think there is a fine line between "mechanical" and "biddable" and that it would be difficult to tell only by watching a dog at a trial. .......To make things more complicated, there are dogs like my Livy: she has lots of natural talent but actually prefers to be mechanical. She is a bit of a worrier and is very concerned with making me happy. It's not my preference to work her mechanically, but we compromise in that regard because it makes her much happier. For her, when she is left to work on her own she is very capable, but she simply doesn't prefer that. As Donald said, "love the one you're with"...

     

    I have one like that too. She prefers to know she's right and be told what to do, but when I leave her alone she does have the skills to handle it herself (after an initial period of confusion when the input stops). It gets way too easy to fall into the trap of just always telling he what to do at a trial. Sometimes not providing enough input leads to what Julie mentioned - dog looking around the sheep for input from the handler. We do work a lot on 'figure it out yourself' but at a new place on strange sheep she still seems happier to have help from me - maybe a confidence thing or just the dog's temperament. I think that's different from a trainer who forces their will on the dog and corrects it for thinking for itself to the point where it stops using it's brain.

  5. D'Elle, I'm curious what microchip company this was, if you don't mind saying. I read it on Facebook all the time about how a dog is found, has a chip, but the number 'isn't working' and now I'm wondering . . . I have all of mine registered on PetLink.net, even those whose chips were from another company. It's free and you can put in picture, medical information, etc. I had a Home Again chip in one of the one older dogs and when I tried to look it up it kept saying no such number.

  6. I ordered and my one year has started, but all I'm getting is the 'handlers at the post' video. Am I doing something wrong or are the videos of the actual runs just not ready yet? No problem if they aren't (I imagine it takes some work to get them ready) but if they are and I'm missing out on seeing them, I just wanted to check.

  7. I picture myself being in the middle of the sheep and the dog moving around me as I was lunging a horse. If I'd be pushing the dog on around from left side, it's a come bye. If on my right, it's an away. That has always worked for me even with sheep and dog coming towards me.

  8. A system is just the language you have developed between you and your dog, that you have a certain consistent way of asking him to do a certain thing, so he can be confident of what you're asking and you can be confident that he'll respond in a predictable way to a particular cue. I follow quite a bit of Mecklenburg's system as she didn't just go out and make it up, but actually looked at how dogs naturally react to certain handler movements - more like learning the dog's system. I continue to experiment with it - "if I do X, what does my dog do, and does she do it every time?". If I find a cue that gets a predictable response, then every time I want that response I know that cue is one way to get it. So then that cue has become a piece of my system. If it doesn't work, find out what does. No one, no matter how successful or " big name" knows everything. An example with my dog - deceleration should make the dog collect. Does not consistently work for my dog - I do get a turn but not necessarily a good one. I was told to train my dog to respond better to that cue. However I found a cue that she responds quite naturally to, which is instead of just slowing myself down, I dramatically shorten my stride (almost like a stutter step) and then I get extreme and instant collection every time. So now that stutter step is a new piece of my system. The beauty of this - because I learned it from my dog (instead of me teaching it to her) it works on all my other dogs too, with no training needed. So yes, some of the more training based systems (like Derrett) with all kinds of "never do X" rules, I totally don't get. But a system truly based on the dog's natural tendencies makes total sense to me.

  9. I would approach this cautiously. Yes, agility can be taught with all verbals and the handler not using movement. I guess the question to seriously consider is why would a new agility handler want to go that route when the vast majority of the masters in the sport choose to go with the more traditional (and more competitive not to mention simpler) method of using motion. You need to take into consideration you're taking the much more difficult approach as far as much more training needed, and therefore needing to wait a lot longer before the dog can trial, and going into this knowing that the end result, competitively speaking, will be inferior to a more traditional approach. Most people using an extreme distance/verbal based style do so because they either have a physical condition that prevents the handler from handling in a more traditional manner, or because they participate in a particular class or organization whose rules require it.

     

    There is definitely a place in the traditional handling style for distance work. However, this typically consists of the dog learning commitment to where he was originally sent (for example, handler motion cues next jump 20 feet ahead, as soon as dog shows commitment, handler may head off elsewhere, leaving the dog to cover the last 15 or 20 feet on his own) and the dog's natural tendency to parallel the handler's line (if dog is 30 feet out and handler moves straight alongside the dog's current path, the dog will follow the same line and maintain the 30 foot separation, a deceleration or collection/convergence cue would be needed to pull the dog off that line). All of that tends to be very natural for BCs - they still are following motion even when working at a distance. So the handler still needs to understand the natural motion cues as that is the dog's default. To untrain that natural method of communication and go to all verbals can take quite a bit of work. BCs are smart and can certainly learn it. Again, it just comes back to making sure that's what you really want to do. Because once you decondition the dog's natural responsive to body language, that may be a hard thing to fix later if you change your mind.

  10. One of the beauties of a motion based system is you don't absolutely need all those extra verbals (or all the time spent training them). I teach my dogs the basic cues (much of it is actually natural and takes very little teaching) and I can combine and vary those cues to get the exact response I want. I can run the dog completely silent. I can run my youngsters on some very complex sequences (using wings in place of bars if dog is too young to jump) and they will read it all and perform well with very little training. Once I learned how to "speak dog" with my body, I have the basic alphabet needed to explain complex movements to my dog on the fly. It is so cool to see them master some fancy maneuver on the first try because the way it's communicated just makes sense to them. As far as telling the dog you want a quarter turn vs a full turn - the easiest way is you cue the direction of turn with body language and show the intended direction after the turn with your movement and location, and the dog connects the dots and does the turn needed to get from Point A to Point B.

  11. Find a good class. No substitute for an experienced eye to catch the details and explain how to do something correctly. As far as backside (go out and come back) vs front side of a jump - it's all in the line you set for the dog with your body language. A very helpful book is Linda Mecklenburg's handling book - it does a very thorough job of explaining all the cues and how to combine them to get the desired response from the dog.

  12. One thing to consider too is if different sheep might help. My last dog, starting at a clinic, went in on really dog broke sheep that ran right to my knees. She was tight and fast and very excited and I could see a possible confrontation developing to "push the dog out". The clinician requested less broke sheep. Totally different dog with different sheep. The previous sheep left the dog frustrated with nothing to do except run in tight circles. With the less broke sheep she had room to head them and get a response, and the sheep being farther from me also resulted in the dog being farther from the sheep. The original frantic mess calmed right down and the dog did some pretty nice work without having to be pushed on.

  13. I train position on a practice plank, then add a tunnel before it to increase the dog's speed. Use a curved tunnel so you can send the dog in and be ahead for the contact. Then I get ahead in a recall position. The dog needs to learn what to with his body to stop from that kind of speed and having you there gives a little more incentive to figure it out (unless the dog is willing to run into you). Note that you don't TEACH position this way, but are simply using it as a temporary aid to help the dog figure out body mechanics. Increase distance and speed on plank and get it solid before putting it on a real contact. The dog has to also develop some strength to do this coming down a steeper ramp.

     

    Edited to add a link showing on of my pups learning 2on2off. The recall/speed part is near the end of it.

  14. Yes, that 'partner up' attitude is rolled into what I think of as biddability. Being biddable doesn't necessarily mean the dog blindly does whatever is asked all of the time. Or that it has no other urges to do other than what you say. It's not a specific moment in time of 'I'll do whatever you tell me without question". It's more of an attitude, that the dog acknowledges we are a TEAM and we are doing a JOB together and that job is every bit as important to the dog as it is to me and that the dog has things to contribute to that partnership and will do so honestly and freely in support of our combined goal and the give and take that goes on between us as the dog works out what specific thing we're doing. It's the dog that once you've given a few flank commands and it's worked out where you want the sheep headed, will help you out and make adjustments of its own, even if the sheep are headed somewhere they want to go, even if the dog wasn't particularly comfortable with that plan at first, but the dog trusts you that together the two of you are doing something important. This is opposed to a dog who will keep fighting you the whole way and will only keep that line because past experience has taught it you'll run up the field and make a correction if the dog doesn't comply, and if you ever get in a situation where the dog thinks you won't enforce what you're asking, then it will do its own thing. There is a smart, thinking, responsible quality to that sort of biddability, vs as was stated more of a golden retriever blind-obedience type of personality. It's having a partner vs an employee or a servant. The dogs I've had that I'd rate as very biddable, I have loved that feeling of connection with them and the mutual trust that we could count on each other.

     

    There's a high degree of biddability in the border collie population as a whole. But what happens as generations go along and this trait, which is still important, isn't really tested - you start to lower the overall average biddability and over time you get a population shift towards less biddable dogs. At some point that's going to start affecting how the dog does at sports. I'm sure trainers will adjust their methods to deal with it and maybe they won't even notice so much at first, but a fundamental quality of what made these dogs so great at sports right from the start will start to fade out of the population.

  15. Mum24dog writes:


    "If I'm honest I don't want an especially biddable dog for agility, or anything else for that matter. I want one with fire to run and jump because it gets such a rush from it. Control can be gained but true enthusiasm comes from within. I don't want a dog that is only capable of a moderate performance because it has to be coaxed and rewarded all the time nor do I want a dog that constantly has a "What next boss?" look in its eye. Give me a naughty, in it for itself dog any time. That's the sort I can work with and have fun. I find biddability (whichever definition you use) boring and much prefer a free spirit. I've had dogs that hardly leave my heel and have been so willing to comply with whatever I've asked but, much as I've loved them , I've still found them a bit annoying at times. I feel so guilty for saying that as if I'm betraying their devotion."



    I find it intereseting that you equate biddability with lack of enthusiasm and needing to be coaxed and bribed with rewards to work That is maybe a perfect example of what I'm talking about. A good dog with true biddability should have a lot of drive and enthusiasm for whatever its doing, and in the absence of specific direction, be able to think for itself and want to go do things and get a rush from it and do the work for the sake of doing the work because it's fun. But that biddable dog can also work reliably with direction when direction is applied. You get the best of both worlds; the gas pedal is in full forward mode, but the brakes still work extremely well when you wan to use them. You must have had some bad experiences with exactly the type of 'fake biddable' dog I'm talking about - the type that listens well because it doesn't particularly care enough to do anything wrong or think for itself. I have a working bred dog I'm doing agility with right now. She also is a great stock dog and I trial her in USBCHA. She would turn herself inside out to please me, listens very well on stock despite being extremely keen and controlling with the sheep, but has plenty of 'fire' in agility and if I'm not clear she'll go grab obstacles or decide for herself what she should be doing. She's perfectly capable of being naughty. But if I'm clear on what I want, she'll do it for me and I can count on her to be reliable without having to go through all kinds of tricks (ie, training in the ring type stuff) to keep her behaviors consistent. She does them because she knows it's what I want and that makes it what she wants. She is a blast to work with. I can't stand a lot of the 'mush' type sport dogs I'm seeing in the area. I'd rather have the 'real deal'.


  16. A couple of things.

     

    First, regarding 'failed' sheepdogs or poor quality sheepdogs going to sport homes. Most sport homes want a puppy. Many working breeders will sell puppies to pet or sport homes. They have no idea when they let that puppy go if it's a 'failed' sheepdog, or if they might have just let the next Wiston Cap out of their hands. But if working breeders know that sport homes will buy puppies ,then they can breed more often, so maybe if that litter produces 6 pups and 4 go on to be outstanding workers and 2 go into sport homes and you have no clue how they would have been as stockdogs, the person can still repeat that breeding and know they'll have homes for some more working dogs and probably some more dogs to sport homes. So maybe you lose some good ones, but you also probably end up with more good ones in the long run. So I think it's wrong to give newbies the impression that they should buy a working dog but they'll only get the rejects. They're going to very likely get a good quality dog with the complete package of awesome working traits that make a great working dog or great sport dog and it likely will be every bit as good as the dog the breeder keeps and goes on to win Open trials with.

     

    Also regarding the post of mine quoted from 2011 on this topic, I wanted to add a bit to that, as I've been thinking about it a lot lately and now I've had another 2-3 years watching all these sport breedings escalate. That part about how the pressure of the work keeps things in balance is SO important.

     

    One good example - it is imperative for a good working sheepdog to be biddable at least to some degree. You can't breed a dog with a strong work drive, tons of natural talent and desire to be in control, and then not have a handle on it through the biddability. And that dog with all the talent and drive needs to have TRUE biddability - a real and honest desire to 'partner up' and please a handler because they have a whole lot of other stuff going on in their minds that can go against that biddability.

     

    Now look at what sport breeding allows to happen. You can easily get what LOOKS like biddability but is in fact something else altogether. I'm seeing a lot of sport dogs with very soft, sensitive temperaments. They appear to be very biddable, but how much of that is the 'real' form of biddability and how much of it is self-serving 'poor me, I feel emotionally crushed when my handler is upset with me so I will try very very hard not to make a mistake'. And them some element of that is also with all the positive training used these days, you have a whole lot of incentive to work besides just wanting to please the handler and not a whole lot counteracting that urge where the biddability needs to be strong enough to out-weight other factors. So basically, sports aren't a strong selective force for the biddability trait. The agility dog who stops on the contact when he could go launching off isn't necessarily thinking "I'd really like to launch but I won't since I know my handler really wants me to stop." What more likely is going on is he's been taught in careful steps since puppy hood to be in that position and to associate it with good things and to build a very strong habit of performing that behavior in that context, to the point where he has no other thought in his mind and no concept of another possible way to behave than what he has been taught. So when he stops instead of jumping off, is he being biddable or not? How can you tell? The training methods have gotten so good that they work for just about any dog, so how does agility then select for a high degree of biddability in a border collie if those same methods produce pretty similar results with a hound or a terrier? And if you lost that trait, would you even notice at first?

     

    So maybe you lose that 'real' biddability because you can't tell the difference in an agility setting between a sensitive dog, a self-serving dog, and the real deal biddability. In a working stockdog, that overly sensitive dog would be a marshmallow on the stock and back down to pressure and would be weeded out. Equally the hard headed 'I'm in in for myself' type of dog would likely be weeded out or at least bred to counter those traits. And the "I'll do it as long as it's fun and I'm getting rewarded for it" dog or the "I never even thought of doing it another way" dog maybe would be a massive failure when it came to releasing pressure when asked or working off balance or trying to start driving if the dog really wanted to fetch. Without that weeding out process, the basic character of the dog would change and a truly great quality of the breed could be lost.

     

    My very first border collie was an amazing combination of tough-as-nails on the sensitivity scale and totally OFF The scale (in a good way) on biddability. He'd move heaven and earth to do what I wanted but if I ever lost my temper with him or used a physical correction on him, I'd get pretty much no reaction at all, just a 'so what' look and then let's get on with what we were doing. He got taken out by a ram one time early in his training and just got up, shook himself off, and went right back to what he was doing. He did change his approach a bit to avoid a repeat of the take-down, but he sure didn't fall apart over it or quit or get a weird complex about working in tight spaces. That was an awesome combination to work with, vs some I've worked since then that you have to be so careful to avoid offending them or shutting them down if they think they've made a mistake, or the flip side, you have to escalate to heavy pressure tactics to get them to comply with what you want.

     

    You also know that genetics is a complex thing. Look at that Russian fox experiment where they bred for a difference in tameness and ended up with physical changes (odd colors and floppy ears, more doglike bahavior, etc). So what subtle changes are starting in these sport dogs that may lead to unknown consequences?

  17. My border collies have by far been the easiest dogs to live with of several different breeds I've owned. A good border collie should have a good off switch - ready to go when you are but equally ready to chill out when you're home. That is provided they get adequate exercise and mental stimulation, which it sounds you are in a good situation to provide. Don't let anyone feed you that hokum about them needing to play ball six hours a day or whatever - they WILL if you encourage it but they don't need to. Some of the sport lines have lost that off switch - ask about the parents and what they're like to live with.

  18. Exactly. There is no one type of "ideal" working dog in salukis and I think not for border collies either. You need to maintain a wide range of variation due to the need to have the type of dog for the type of job. The idea of achieving uniformity should never be the ideal.

     

    I thought the beginning part about the dog who was really good at spotting hares was interesting. We check for eye defects in our dogs but is an innate ability to see sheep at a distance anything that's noted in certain lines? I also loved the part about the one who always knew where the hare would be or where it would turn. "Stock sense" in a sight hound - who knew?

  19. Bryna, it means the dog passes the jump without taking it, then turns and takes it from the opposite side. It's challenging because dogs typically will want to take the obvious side they can see, so the handler must position himself such as to push the dog past the jump wing or standard, then cue the dog to turn and take the jump from the new side.

  20. Around here (US, IL) it's pretty much leash laws everywhere. The rule in my neighborhood is dogs must be leashed if off your property and no leash longer than 6 ft and it must be in your hand, not dragging on the ground. A lot of the playgrounds and parks don't allow dogs period, not even on a leash. And we have these stupid rules all over for how many dogs, how big, what breeds, etc. And aside from laws, homeowners insurance sometimes will dump people for certain breeds, or raise rates, as they think it's too much of a liability. It's sad. Sounds like England has a much better attitude about dogs, I wish the US was more like that.

     

    Speaking of the general dog situation, what is the shelter situation like in England? I know it is much less common to spay/neuter over there (whereas some areas in the US have mandatory spay/neuter and i have to pay a ridiculous amount extra for rabies certificates on my intact dogs). I have always contended the real problem is stupid owners leading to all of the other evils (laws, limits, etc). They ruin it for the responsible people.

  21. Oh yes, I have read that before and the dog in question had her issues, but in the incident I related, she really just wanted to say hi. Note that this was in an off-leash dog park and dogs do just want to go up and greet everyone.

     

    And this is only okay if your dog can take a hint when the other dog isn't interested and leave them alone. A polite dog would 'greet' from a few feet away and the response of the other dog would indicate if that other dog wished to interact or wasn't interested, was afraid, etc. Many dogs take offense at a strange dog just barreling up into their space. I really would have no problem at dog parks if a dog approached mine, mine said 'not interested' and the other dog left. Other dogs may not be like mine however and most dog park dogs I've run across just cannot take a hint.

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