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Diana A

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Posts posted by Diana A

  1. Please do read this before your dogs get into real trouble -




    I totally agree with those who have pointed out that dogs that are allowed to approach others without permission are not under control. If you cannot call the dog off then it should not be off lead. If you can call it off then you should do so while you establish whether it is OK for it to approach another.


    Our dogs are taught not to approach others unless told it's OK. We mostly meet dogs that have been taught the same but just lately our collie (that doesn't like his space invaded by strange dogs) has been subjected to the attentions of various dogs whose owners thought it was fine to let theirs be so rude - dogs ranging in size from a greyhound to a couple of dachshunds. He behaved with considerable restraint which has taken years to achieve and I don't want it ruined by unthinking owners.


    And this is one of the reasons I rarely go to dog parks. I get annoyed at people assuming if you brought your dog to a dog park, of course you want your dog to socialize with every other dog there and therefore it's okay for their unmannered dog to run up to yours. The only times I've ever gone to dogparks I've tried to do it at times when few other people would be there, because I have absolutely no interest in the social aspect and neither do most of my dogs. The Belgians enjoy a playmate now and then, but the border collies are pretty much all about me and aren't even interested in playing with each other. One of them will get pretty snarky if some lab-type dog keeps trying to instigate an interaction, and then of course my dog is the 'bad' dog for saying 'buzz off sucker' no matter how appropriate she is. The others just try to avoid the interaction and I can see them getting stressed when the other dog just won't quit bothering them, and then I have to be the bad guy and ask the other owner to call their dog (if they're even in sight) which forces me into a social interaction I didn't want - or if no owner is in sight then I have to threaten that dog to get it to leave (which worries my dogs too, and kind of worries me if it's some shepherd or pit bull type). There is no way to win and it just takes one stupid owner to ruin it. I just wanted the space for my dogs to run freely instead of being on leash or even off leash but having to stay within a couple feet of me. I used to live in an apartment (before my first border collie) and now I have a small yard and crappy neighbors with dogs that fence run and bark, so the yard is mostly for potty duty and a bit of wandering around, not real exercise. They get a lot of exercise with training and walks, but nothing beats a nice relaxed off leash walk where they can roam freely around me and not be restricted to my pace and my exact path. They can run ahead, run back, loop around behind me, sniff things, range to the side, cross back and forth in front of me, etc. If I did that on a typical neighborhood sidewalk they'd be in the street half the time, and if I'm going to make them walk right next to me on a narrow sidewalk, then they might as well just have a leash on anyway. I'd trust them to stick with me off leash, but given the fact that anything more than four feet away puts them into a road, there just doesn't seem to be a benefit to ignore the local leash laws and risk getting into trouble for it.

  2. I think it is a shame to assume that one who uses food rewards in training is failing to work by building rapport with the dog.

    My opinion is that the relationship with the dog is the most important thing to establish in training. .


    I use food rewards to train my dogs in agility. The food is just a tool, not the whole picture. Relationship is important too. None of my adult dogs would go off and run agility with anyone else when I was around, not even someone they knew and liked and no matter how many treats or toys were offered. They'd rather stay by me in anticipation of doing something with me than go work with someone else, even doing something they love.


    The food is an attitude-enhancing part of the 'figure out what I want you to do' game. But I'm sure a large part of the training enjoyment comes from us doing something together. The thing is, we are still working together even when the dog is wrong - "relationship" can't be turned on and off to identify the exact second a paw moves the right direction. Praise is nice, but I pet and praise my dogs quite often for no reason at all, whereas the training treats only come out for training time. The prospect of something special increases the dog's enthusiasm for the task, especially when sometimes the dog may really be having to work hard to figure out what is wanted.


    My dogs will also work for play, which is very intense interaction with me (not just "oh here have a toy and go amuse yourself" but that I enthusiastically join in the play). It does not necessarily always involve a toy, but I've found a toy is a really good idea when training my schutzhund-line Belgians - it's very hard for them to totally get involved in play without wanting to grab and bite something. I suppose you could call that praise, if a somewhat over-the-top version of it. Just 'good dog' and a pat on the head doesn't measure up to a more physical, exciting level of praise, like tug, wrestling, or chase. Play is just not appropriate for some training situations, such as stationary work or precise positioning of body parts. That is where the treats work really well because the dog can get a treat while still maintaining position whereas play would disturb the very activity that you're trying to teach.


    Now I have seen people come through training classes with a poor relationship with the dog and they think the food will do the work for them. Just dispense treats like a robot at the specified time. Those student rarely do well and they often end up with a dog who may learn tasks, but would just as soon go sniff dust bunnies in the corner as work with the handler. Treats can also be used wrong - just lure the dog into doing things, which gives the appearance that you're teaching something, when really nothing is going on in the dog's head except to follow the treat when presented, so obviously when the treat isn't there, neither is the behavior. I guess I could see that as one way treats can be detrimental (when used wrong) because they can give the APPEARANCE of productive training, which will fall apart as soon as the food goes away either because there's no underlying relationship, or because the food wasn't being used properly and therefore nothing was actually taught.

  3. Just found this article online - they did a study comparing the effectiveness of petting, verbal praise, and food.





    Regarding Koehler, I trained my first dog (a german shepherd) that way. She did learn to work pretty well. I think she often didn't like me very much though . . . it got the job done good enough to go for a walk without being pulled around and get some obedience titles with halfway decent scores, but nowhere near the precision or enthusiasm of my later dogs trained with more positive methods. One problem I always had with it was that for a lot of the teaching, there was no 'showing' phase - even the most biddable compliant eager-to-please dog on the planet would still get a few corrections using Koehler. Mainly on the heeling part of it (my memory is a bit rusty on the rest). For example, instead of showing the dog a certain position to be in, they get jerked, bumped into, or tripped over any time they're out of position. Through trial and error they eventually learn the 'right' place. Once they know what is right, I saw some quite happy and reliable (if not incredibly precise) workers. But the process of getting there bothered me a lot because unless your dog was a mind reader, they were guaranteed a lot physically unpleasant failures.

  4. Breeding a border collie to be just a pet - that's a bit like saying you want to breed a particular type of horse, and starting by trying to breed down from an elephant. I want an elephant but i want it to weigh only 1000 pounds, I want to breed out the trunk, I want to breed in a pretty coat, and a longer neck, and smaller ears, etc etc. Why not start with something close to what you already want, like another type of horse? If you want a 'pet' why not start with a breed that is already meant for a pet and just breed really good ones (health, temperament, etc). Why take a border collie and try to breed it into something it's not, when there are other breeds out there that are much more suitable starting material.


    In theory I have no problem if someone wants to create a new breed specifically meant for agility or some other sport. Maybe you'd even use border collies as some of the starting material. But you'd be calling it something else and you'd need to work several generations to set in the type and get the traits you want, and those genes would never cross back over into the border collie gene pool. In this day and age I doubt anyone would stand for the culling and number of litters that would be necessary to actually accomplish the creation of a true new breed. Just think of what would need to be done to ensure a big enough gene pool - no one could possibly own that many dogs - you'd need special contracts with buyers, breedings on sold dogs, to keep contact with the majority of dogs produced, track health information on every pup produced, track traits throughout a huge family tree, etc. A huge undertaking, but maybe feasible if there's a market for an ideal sport dog.


    But to do all that for a pet? That just seems silly. First of all, the job of 'pet' is way too diverse for one breeding program to ever cover it all. Everyone wants something different - one person might want a nice lap dog who never needs walking and another might want a play companion for the kids and jogging companion for mom and dad. Some people find short faces cute and others might find them repugnant, some like short coats, others like a different look, or pretty fur, or a particular color or body type. For 'just a pet' it's better for each person to pick a suitable breed, get a rescue, whatever. I see absolutely no sense whatsoever in taking a working breed and trying to change it to be a 'pet' when there first of all is no need to create a 'pet' breed and secondly even if you did decide to create a pet breed, there is much better starting material out there than to start with a working breed.

  5. What I find interesting is how many "treat-trainers" are walking around with treat pouches on their belts and their 9 year old dog in tow. Usually their dog is looking for treats from anyone they happen to pass, and the dog ignores them unless the squeak "cookie".


    The most common rationale I hear for the use of treats is that it's easier to mold behavior by using them. What people seem to disregard is how long it takes to decondition the dog from needing a treat to perform the behavior reliably. No matter how much you "randomize the treat reward, if you create a behavior using treats, your dog will always expect a treat for performing that behavior. That creates two negatives, imo, 1) a dependence on always having food, and 2) a WTF moment for the dog when he doesn't get the reward. I don't understand the "random" reward model in general. I want my dog to know every time that its done the right thing.


    I also question the "it works" rationale. My training philosophy is based on an honest realationship with my dog. You can pay your child every time you want them to do something, and they probably will, but does that really work in the context of life? I see treating in the same light. It maybe "works" to solve an immediate issue, but does it create an honest and well rounded dog that can be trusted in any situation? Not in my experience.


    I'd say those people are doing it wrong then, and it's not fair to judge a method based on those doing it incorrectly. I've seen just as poor results with non-food trained dogs, if the basic training is not done well.


    As far as "if you create a behavior using treats, your dog will always expect a treat" - that has not been my experience with my own dog or with the many dogs that have come through classes. I see the opposite, that we get quite strong, resilient behaviors this way.


    I trained one dog through to an OTCH using food-based methods, including tournament placements against some of the best in the country. The only reason there was only the one is that I moved on to other activities as I found I didn't care for the atmosphere. I have trained multiple dogs through to the top levels of agility, including nationals competitions and winning so many ribbons at local competitions that I don't even bother to pick them up anymore. All with food, toys, etc. I've never had a problem with transitioning behaviors taught with food to real competition performance with no food. Nor have I seen this to be a problem with students in our training classes.


    For example one of the behaviors they learn is to take up the correct position at the end of a practice board (pre-training for contacts 2on2off position). It is taught with lots of food. In no time at all, those contact boards come to have very high value, to the point that the dogs go through a stage where they repeatedly want to get on even when they're not rewarded for it and even sometimes told 'no' and corrected for it by pulling them off because the trainer didn't ask for it. That behavior becomes so ingrained it can stand many many reps of no food reward and not fall apart. I've trained my last four dogs this way and never had a failure in the ring, despite the fact that the dogs learn pretty quickly they won't get food in the ring.


    Once they learn the concept with food, there is a second part, that performing this behavior earns you the right to go on to the next thing, so that going on becomes the ultimate reward in the ring. In the beginning, trying to get understanding of all the nit-picky nuances of the behavior, using a big-movement 'going on' reward (with a dog who has also not learned that 'go on' has any value) to train a stopped behavior with a duration component would have been much less clear to the dog and taken longer. The food was quick and precise and a reward that could be repeated multiple times while the dog maintained the behavior. It's a tool to communicate and a way to increase the fun and motivation in an activity that by itself is not intrinsically fun (standing still on a board, yeah, big yawn there). I've found it to work far more quickly than toys, praise, or any other method. I've had 8 week old puppies literally pick up the complete behavior within a handful of sessions with total training time of under 10 minutes, and with a terrific attitude. And that puppy will even stand there when I drop a treat on the ground out of his reach or run away from him with a toy. You try getting an 8 week old puppy to stand stock still on a board in the face of temptation for more than a few seconds with just praise and see how long it takes. My definition of 'it works' includes the initial training and also the long term - what do I get in the ring and what do I get years after the initial training - how does it hold up? By that definition, treats have totally 100% worked for me, as I've gotten dogs that learn very quickly and are having fun learning, and behaviors that stand up for the long haul.


    My training, like yours, is based on an honest relationship with the dog. I have a deal with my dogs that I'll be fair and show them what's wanted and they won't get corrected or scared for making a mistake if they're honestly making an effort, and I make the learning experience itself fun for the dog. And once they learn a skill, we perform it as a team, together, based on our relationship with each other, not because the dog just thinks he'll get a treat. If I ended up with a dog who truly was just in it for the food and wouldn't play the game with me as soon as the food went away, then I really would have screwed up my training somewhere. I use the treats as a tool, but it is ultimately really not about treats.

  6. Basic manners, I could see treats as being not necessary (although not necessarily detrimental if used correctly). For complex activities though, like agility, obedience, or tricks, it's hard to train effectively and efficiently without the use of treats. Agility especially, if you interviewed all of the top people in the sport, I wouldn't be at all surprised if 100% of them use treats to train their top-winning agility dogs. For stockwork, of course, absolutely not, no treats. You have to consider the dog and the activity being trained.


    Stockwork - the work itself is a reward. Release of pressure is a reward. Seeing the sheep respond in a way that appeals to the dog's instincts (preventing escape, calming the stock, turning the stock, bringing stock to handler, etc) is a reward. It's an extremely powerful reward that causes the dog to put all his effort into figuring out how to keep working even if things get frustrating at times, handler gets upset and scary, etc.


    Manners - usually related to NOT doing things (don't jump up, don't pull, don't steal food, etc).Recall, sit, stay, etc, are of course some important ones that involved doing something on command. All of these are relatively imprecise behaviors that can be reinforced with life rewards (have to sit and wait to go through the door, not allowed to move forward if pulling, etc) or backed up with aversives. You either have something the dog wants to gain so he learns to comply, or something the dog wants to avoid (leash jerk, etc) so again, he learns to comply.


    Sport training you not only want a behavior, but you want a precise and often complex behavior offered in a variety of distracting and often highly exciting circumstances, and you want it reproducibly and reliably, and you want a certain attitude to go along with it (drive, enthusiasms, happiness, etc) so that it's done at top speed and with utmost confidence. Food and toys are both important. Toys bring out the drive and transfer value to what at first to the dog is a nonsensical human game. Food rewards the more static behaviors, where playing with a toy might counteract the behavior being taught (like stay, wait on a contact, etc).Placement of reward is a critical component in training agility behaviors, as much of the work is done away from the handler. You can't 'place' praise in a precise location. A treat provides a physical entity that can be placed/thrown, etc to the desired location for the desired effect.


    If you want the dog to weave 12 poles with his back to you while you run diagonally across the ring, that reward better show up straight ahead of where he's going in the poles and not after he's run 30 feet across the ring towards you looking for a pat on the head. Otherwise I can guarantee he'll be pulling out of the poles every time you leave his side.


    Also consider that while stock work has it's own incredibly strong inherent reward that is immediately satisfying to the dog's basic nature, agility does not, so you have to create that strong reward artificially. And while most dogs appreciate praise and a good petting, most of them won't work that hard to get those things, not when the learning situation gets stressful or potentially scary. Much of the early obstacle learning can be quite dull and even scary if not trained properly. The teeter moves when the dog walks on it, the tunnel is dark and feels funny underfoot, the collapsed chute can make a dog feel trapped, and weave poles are a lot of detailed physical movements that probably make no sense to a dog at all and have no inherent value in and of themselves. There are way more ways to do weave poles wrong than to do them right and it can get quite frustrating for the dog at times. They have to want to keep trying and really make an effort to figure out what is wanted, and it can even get to be mildly stressful at times. Once all the pieces come together and the dog starts sequencing, then it can get quite exciting and become rewarding by itself, but in the beginning, it's not the same thing at all and you need very high value rewards to keep the dog engaged in our silly game until they get far enough along to figure out how much fun it is.


    I've had people come into beginner class with the attitude of 'my dog doesn't need treats'. They don't tend to get very far. I've also seen dogs come in that were scared of the other dogs and people, scared of equipment, and with the proper use of treats, they turn into incredibly enthusiastic workers who have to be peeled away from the equipment at the end of the session because they've grown to love it so much. Meanwhile their 'no treats' counterparts have dropped out of class weeks ago or are sluggishly going through the motions.


    Bottom line for me, even if I could invent some non-treat way to train for sports, using food is easy and quick and makes it more fun for the dog, so why not? Why knock what works?

  7. Regarding health checks and rehoming dogs - I agree that I get frustrated with some out there who think clean health checks is all they need as the green light to breed. I guess you can have that attitude when your other breeding requirements are pretty minimal (able to run agility or pets, obedience, appearance, etc). But I also get frustrated that it seems there are still a lot of working breeders out there who don't do health checks. I know many do, but I still seem to come across quite a few who don't, and even some who belittle it as something only sport dog breeders worry about. Health checks aren't THE most important thing, and in and of themselves aren't a reason to breed, but they do have some importance and need to be factored into the decision-making process, whether breeding or buying.


    All decisions should be based on the work FIRST, yes, but the health checks are just added information that may make someone think twice about an otherwise good breeding if that information points out the potential for real problems. What you don't know CAN hurt you, so why not check? If the dog is SO fantastic that you decide the breeding would benefit future generations despite the health problems, you can still make that choice (and factor that knowledge into how future generations are bred), but at least you're making it with both eyes open instead of blindly out of ignorance.


    Let's say you know about an awesome dog who would be perfect for your bitch in every way, but you find out he has seizures - would you rethink your decision on that breeding, based on health information? With so many good dogs out there, would you be likely to look for another stud that worked equally well but without a known health issue? I think most would. No point in breeding fantastic working dogs who turn 3 or 4 years old and suddenly can't work due to a medical problem. Assuming you get anyone to buy them in the first place, knowing there's an issue. So if it makes sense to take into account a known, obvious health issue like seizing that you can detect without a test, why is it okay to choose to stay in the dark about other potential health issues that could easily be detected with a test?


    Let's say Dog A is mildly dsyplastic but it doesn't affect his work too obviously, and Bitch B is also in the same condition. Individually you could say 'well the dog works okay so he/she must be fine'. But if you do the test and realize both have a mild issue, you may think twice about crossing them. Maybe they're both really good dogs and you decide to breed them each anyway, but not necessarily to each other. You can make informed choices with that additional information - knowing is better than being totally in the dark and getting a nasty surprise a few generations down the road.


    I know as a buyer I would want to know - because no matter how good a breeding is, there are a lot of good ones out there, and if I know there's the potential for health problems I'll wait for another litter. Maybe someone with the ability to keep more dogs would make a different choice and take the chance - it's all just more information so that each person can make the decision that makes sense for their own situation. Working ability comes first, of course, but once I find a cross I like the looks of based on work, that's when I'd start asking the health questions. I don't rehome dogs and can only have so many, plus it's heartbreaking to put several years into a dog, just start to get things going on a good track with a young dog, and then have some health issue rear its ugly head that prevents that dog from fulfilling its potential. Not only am I emotionally invested in the dog at that point, but there aren't a lot of homes out there that will take on a dog with known medical issues; it's a little different than just rehoming a dog who doesn't suit me but who would be perfect for someone else.

  8. The whole point of knowing the genotype (assuming someday we have the technology to do it and the knowledge to know what we're looking at) is to predict what a particular pairing of dogs will produce. If the stud has a track record of consistently producing a certain quality of pups when used with different bitches, then that to me would be the important thing if was planning to breed and making decisions about what stud to use. With any breeding you're trying to predict - if I put these two dogs together, what will I get in the pups? Will it be what I want? You can start with phenotype - wondering if the stud will produce what he is. Even better is after he's produced some pups, see what he actually produces (it may not match his phenotype). To me a stud who consistently produces traits I like even when put to different bitches with different traits would absolutely win out over a stud who was himself very nice but didn't consistently produce what I wanted. Somewhere way down the road when we've isolated genes for eye, balance, power, etc you may be able to sequence sire and dam and make a good prediction of what you may see in the pups, but given that all of those traits are likely controlled by multiple genes, that day is a long way off. I got my last pup from a third-time repeat breeding for just this reason - I had a pretty good idea exactly what I was getting based on the previous two litters - no trying to guess how they might turn out. I didn't need to know the genotype, and didn't even know the phenotype of the dam that well, but I did know what that pairing was producing and that was the piece I cared about. So if you already know a stud is producing well, trying to figure out actual genotype is secondary, in my opinion.


    Edited to add: I am not a breeder but I consider these things when looking at a potential breeding to get a pup from. Since you can't tell from a pup what they will be as an adult, the best you can do is look at the parents and try to guess what you'll be getting.

  9. The person using the quote on their website is obviously taking it out of context and twisting it for their own uses. Glyn Jones assumed, without it needing to be said (because it was so obvious to him) that of course the dog is also a good worker. I'm sure he never meant to promote breeding 'for looks' without consideration of working ability. Also 'good looks' is not the same as conformation appearance. To me, a dog who is sound and well-put together and moves smoothly and with power and efficiency is what I consider 'good looks' and that dog is never more beautiful than when you actually see them at work. Any dog with a body that routinely and easily handles the kind of work a good working border collie does will look good by that definition. A poorly structured dog (not determined by a human standard, but by physics of a demanding job and the body mechanics required to get it done) won't look good working. For example, a barbie collie who bounces after sheep and can't outrun them (rather than the smooth, fast, and powerful run of a working bred dog) doesn't look good to me at all.


    The way I read the quote, is that "there has never been a first-class dog yet which did not look good" is that if you breed a good working dog who can work efficiently and smoothly and has a body that effortlessly gets the job done, the demands of the work itself will produce a beautiful dog. So there is no point in breeding for beauty by itself because breeding for the work produces both.

  10. So the consensus seems to be that this isn't unusual and the answer is lots of experience finding sheep. What is the best way to give the dog experience? Do you just let them thrash around until they figure it out? Does that become counter-productive at some point and hurt the dog's confidence? Or is there a more systematic approach to help them develop a good method for finding sheep? That is assuming there even is such a thing as an 'ideal method'.


    I've had both ends of the spectrum in my current dog. Sometimes she's very wide and deep and misses the sheep that way (not checking in as she goes - just running). Other times she thinks she's passed them and starts to come in or cut across, looking inward. I can redirect her in either case, but I'd like her to be able to do it on her own and not waste so much energy guessing and then having to fix it.

  11. I had an older dog (I think he was about 13 or 14) start to lose weight and it was bad kidneys. Apparently he was peeing out most of the protein he was eating because his kidneys were over-taxed and just dumping it all instead of filtering like they should. The vet put him on blood pressure medication and a low-protein prescription food and the weight came right back on. i just had a similar problem with my 12 year old - losing weight, and peeing a bit more than normal. I changed his food to lower protein (non-prescription Wysong Senior Diet) and he bounced right back. Of course there could be many other causes, but kidney issues are a common one in older dogs. I don't think 8 is that old though. Even though he's doing better now, doing blood work might not be a bad idea just to head off any future problems.

  12. Watching runs at a trial this weekend reminded me of a topic that I've been wondering about for some time - regarding how a border collie finds sheep.


    Back when I was just starting this with my first novice dog, I was in awe of the open dogs, thinking they just had some magical ability to always know where the sheep were. The more trials I watch, the more I realize that is not always the case. This weekend I watched many dogs (including quite a few open dogs) having trouble finding the sheep (and I have seen the same at pretty much every trial I've been to). Some crossed over, some ran too big, some started to come in too soon, some started narrow (and came close to crossing) then kicked out once they spotted the sheep, some seemed to think they saw sheep in another direction and ended up with lopsided odd-shaped outruns, a few locked onto the exhaust sheep (or, not this trial, but others, they lock onto sheep in the set out area). And this was a relatively simple, flat field. I've been at trials where the dogs had to cross a creek or go through an opening in a fence or through brush or a gully to reach the sheep - some dogs did it no problem, others were redirected all over and never did find them.


    Given what we know about dog eyesight and that fact that *I* can often barely see the open sheep at some trials, I doubt the dogs are actually seeing them from the post, especially if the sheep are set before you get there. So are some dogs just better at finding sheep than others (inborn trait)? Do they learn strategies for finding the sheep as they gain experience? Is there a way to train better sheep finding skills? Does the handler somehow convey this information to the dog? Is it pretty typical to use redirects to help the dog find the sheep (knowing you'll be losing points for it) and unrealistic to just expect the dog to figure it out every time on their own?


    I always walk my dog in directly towards where the sheep are so she at least knows the direction, but it doesn't always help, especially if there are objects out on the field that could be mistaken for sheep (such as one trial where there's a road behind the trial field, the moving cars in the background fool many of the dogs). And I've heard about how if you set the dog up farther from you they know the sheep are farther out. But I see handlers do this and the dogs still have trouble, and I've seen dogs with consistently quite good outruns whose handlers don't appear to do this. My dog is in pronovice/open ranch and this is one thing (among others) we need to improve before I'd think of moving her up so I'm curious how I would go about improving her sheep finding skills.

  13. Is it possible that she's worried about the sound of the clicker? I had a dog who was scared of the noise. I was trying to clicker train something when she was a puppy and pretty soon I had a dog who wanted nothing to do with me or taking treats or even going into the room we were working in. I thought she was just being standoffish and unfocused. I found out later she was very sound sensitive and I was actually punishing her every time I clicked. I switched to using a word instead of a click (and moving our training to another room without the bad associations from the clicker) and suddenly she was the smartest and most cooperative little pup on the planet.

  14. I know without the Novice/Novice and pronovice levels, I would probably still be playing in AKC trials and thinking I was accomplishing something of merit. I think it's hard for the 'old hats' in the sheepdog game to understand how intimidating and impossible that Open course looks to a newbie, and your average newbie doesn't have the connections or knowledge to get there in one big step or to even imagine how they could work their way up to that point. Back when I started with my suburbanite dog and once-weekly lessons and no stock experience whatsoever, I thought even N/N looked really hard. But we did it, and in the process got to watch the other classes and meet up with people who could help us and little by little I started thinking maybe Pronovice wasn't quite so intimidating and maybe something we could do. Now that I've run in PN a number of years, I have a dog who I think could be my first Open dog, and it looks like a very possible step for us to take and one that I'm excited about. I never would have reached this point without all the ups and downs and experiences at the lower levels. A few wins to set the addiction hook, a few embarrassing defeats to keep the ego in check and keep me always looking for more answers, and finally I feel ready to take that big step into Open. And I notice that even the Open handlers frequently enter dogs in PN for their first trial experiences as a way of preparing for Open. I think those lower classes are very valuable and I'm glad that most places offer them.

  15. It's hard to see what happened since the aframe was in the way of the camera, but I have seen that sort of thing before when the dog comes off the contact ahead of the handler. It's natural for the dog to turn their head a little bit to keep you in their peripheral vision, and where the head points the body will follow - in the dog's mind they're going straight because they're going where they're looking. You being on that side and also behind is a strong combination of cues to turn, with nothing telling her to kick out away from you for the other end of the tunnel. I can tell from the rest of the run that she's a confident 'forward' type of dog and likes to see a line and just go, so she might have had that line to the wrong end of the tunnel already picked out even as she came over the top of the aframe, based on your position at that time, and it was too late for you running up there to change her mind once she was on her way down.


    When there's a discrimination like this, I use the dog's name with the obstacle command for the near obstacle and an 'out' with the name for the far end if I don't feel I can make it absolutely clear on body language alone. That is assuming I've set a path for the dog where both ends appear to a possibility. For this set up, if the dog didn't have a stopped contact or a solid enough start line for a longer lead out (either of which would help me to get ahead to push to the correct tunnel end), I would run it from the other side so the correct tunnel end is more obvious and I'm working with my dog's natural inclinations instead of against them. I don't know if any trained verbal would have worked in this situation where the dog was already turned away from the correct obstacle so that it wasn't even an obvious possibility. The handling needs to put the dog in a good location to make the right decision, and then a trained verbal is just back-up to make it more clear which of two possible options is the correct one.

  16. I had a dog like that, my first female border collie, so I thought it was a girl thing at first (I have had other girls since who were not like that at all). It felt like I was watching someone else's puppy for the first couple of months I had her and that she wasn't my dog at all. She was very independent and not the type to just tag along with me like all my previous puppies.


    We were doing agility back then (I hadn't been introduced to sheep yet) and as she got older and we started more training, the 'job' bonded us. She was always very serious about her work - I used to swear she was someone's world team dog reincarnated, as she picked up the agility skills so quickly and took them so seriously. I became an integral part of the work she loved so much, and we quickly developed a special 'team mate' bond that was just different from the touchy-feely 'pet' bond I had always had with my boys.


    As she got older she got quite affectionate and snuggly and we ended up being very bonded. I think it took her a while to decide that I was really her person and was around for the long haul. And the relationship we developed doing agility, where we each had mutual trust in the other holding up their end of things, was phenomenal. Even when she wasn't 'in your face' affectionate, we just had a comfortable trusting 'I know you have my back' kind of relationship, which eventually ended up feeling stronger than any of my boys' automatic and more overt displays of affection. Almost like the boys were hard-wired to adore me and I could take it for granted, but my girl made a conscious decision about it and would show me in little ways each day 'I've decided you're actually pretty cool and I like being around you'.

  17. The person is allowed to walk with the sheep in the lower levels of both AKC and AHBA - the idea being the dog has not had enough training yet to drive. The higher levels require more handler restrictions and that the dog do more of the work on its own. Below is a link to a couple of advanced runs - A course (arena course) first and then B course (sort of like a mini-USBCHA course without fetch panels).


    A Course


    B Course


    and here is Advanced A course with ducks:



    I think most of what you'll find on YouTube is the beginning levels just because that's all the further a lot of dogs get.


    Edited to add a link to a level 3 (top level) AHBA HTD run. I had a heck of a time finding anything AHBA that wasn't beginning levels. It must not be as popular as AKC.


  18. Okay, I re-watched it and I see it now. The pen being open already and the handler being allowed to exhaust their own sheep (not typically seen in AKC) really threw me, plus I thought it was an arena course it was so small . . .the typical pattern just didn't register the first time. For any who aren't familiar with AKC courses, that video is AKC's version of the USBCHA course (as opposed to A course which is an arena course with obstacles on the fenceline). No comparison to your link of Scott's run, not by a mile. . .

  19. I don't have a video link, but have seen a few of the conformation-bred type of dogs working. Main things I notice are almost complete lack of eye and they have a weird bouncy way of running that seems to disturb the sheep more than a normal border collie (so much for 'conformation preserves working structure, eh?). They also don't seem to be able to cover the ground as effectively (maybe it's the bouncing, gee another ding at that whole 'structure' thing) so that if sheep get a head start on escaping, chances are they will outrun the dog. I also see a lot less keenness and work ethic - a good example is the video Chesney's Girl posted, where the dog went out for the sheep then stopped to sniff around the cone while the sheep were running away. What self-respecting working bred border collie would waste time sniffing a cone while sheep were only a few feet away and running????? A couple of the other videos the handler had to wave the stick around to help the dog stay in the correct place to fetch the sheep - something any well-bred dog should be able to do on their own over that short of a distance.


    The video Chesney's Girl posted didn't look like AKC to me - more like AHBA maybe? I didn't recognize the course (arena course but with a pen?) so knee-knocker type sheep following the handler isn't exclusive to AKC. I think that's just a natural down side of any organization that allows wearing at the lower levels and has sheep that have been used too much - they learn if they stay near the person, the person will protect them from the dog so it turns into a contest of who can keep their dog back off the sheep the best so the sheep follow the person and the person walks the course lines. In that type of run, you'll see the calmest work when the dog is least involved . . . sad.


    One of my first border collies was half sport lines and half conformation lines. He worked a lot like a conformation dog. He didn't turn on to sheep until almost 18 months old and he was never was very confident or very keen. He had a great outrun though, I think mainly because he avoided pressure so he never cut in on the top. If sheep went offline on the fetch though we were sunk because he never had the nerve to get in front of running sheep and turn them unless he could get WAY ahead of them, and with his bouncy running style he never could outrun sheep enough to get a comfortable distance ahead once they got any kind of a head start.

  20. That just sounds like a green dog to me. They go through an initial stage usually where they're still thinking one thing at a time and haven't put together the big picture yet. Then somewhere along the line they realize it's all about running and doing a whole bunch of things in a row, and it goes to their heads a bit because the game just took a major step up in excitement potential. All of mine have gone through a stage like that.


    I've found it helpful to set up contrasting situations. For example, straight line of two jumps, then have the option to go forward to a tunnel or turn to another jump or a tunnel. One time, show all forward cues - run fast, give an early verbal for that third obstacle, arm signal, etc and reward the dog for going out ahead and going the obvious obstacle. Then repeat but this time show the dog totally different cues (name, deceleration, lateral motion, a change of arm, etc) and if the dog reads it and turns to the obstacle that isn't straight ahead, reward the turn. If the dog doesn't read it, just stop and say oops what happened, and try again. Keep mixing it up until the dog learns to pay attention to the cues to learn what will earn the reward. Sometimes reward for turning off the obvious obstacle to another obstacle, and other times reward for turning back to your side when asked. Coming to you needs to be just as much fun as doing equipment.


    Also, depending on your experience level, see if you can get an experienced pair of eyes to watch when you're sequencing and make sure your cues are timely and correct. It's possible that if the dog was previously not as inclined to go into complete obstacle focus mode, that you had to use more forward 'go go go' cues just to get the next thing in line. Now that the dog gets it that it's often the next thing and is looking for that next thing, cues that worked previously may now be overkill. What used to send him to just the next jump now has him looking past that next jump to the next one behind it. It's typical of green newbie dogs to need a little more push from the handler as they're unsure of the big picture yet. But as they gain experience, brakes and the fine tuning of the steering becomes more and more critical.

  21. A friend of a friend is looking for a stockdog trainer for a newbie border collie owner located near Springfield IL. The owner of the dog is an agility person interested in seeing what it's all about. I didn't know off the top of my head of who in that area does lessons so I wasn't able to help her out. But if there is someone in that area you'd recommend for a newbie I can pass the information along. The dog in question is only 4 months right now so not a big rush to find someone. I don't know how far the owner will want to go with training(depends on if they get bit by the bug LOL)so for now someone who could just give a pup a decent start and not scare off a new owner with overly harsh methods would be fine.

  22. I used vetericyn for a pressure sore on a dog's elbow (really deep, down through several layers of skin to the point where his vet wanted to do surgery to close it up) and it sped up healing quite a bit, so that we ended up not needing any surgery. It went from pretty much no progress at all and a MRSA infection we couldn't seem to get rid of, to visible improvement each day and no more infection. Also important was to keep pressure off the sore - I bought a new dog bed for his crate that was 2" thick foam with a fleece cover. Honey is an interesting idea - I'll have to remember that one if we ever get into a situation like that again.

  23. My current pup (who is a Belgian and not a border collie, but same principle basically) got sit and come almost right away, but like your pup, had a heck of a time with lie down with no body language. I'll admit, he's 10 months old and still sometimes look at me like I have 2 heads when I say 'down'. His latest interpretation is 'down' means to put his head behind my leg and go into a down by crawling over my foot (how do they come up with this stuff???). I do admit I've been a bit lazy about the down as I'm not at a point with him yet that we actually use it for anything. But I agree with what others have said - this is a fundamentally harder concept for a pup than sit or come.


    One last comment - I wouldn't be phasing out food just yet, not on something he hasn't learned. It will just make it harder for him to make the connection and figure out what you want. For example the one time he's brilliant and thinks 'lets lie down and see if that earns the treat' and you decide it's one of the times he should't get one . . . then he'll think 'wrong answer' and it may be forever before he tries that response again. I wouldn't phase it out until he's pretty sure of what it means and the behavior linked to the command is strong enough that it can survive a few times of no reward.

  24. One thing to consider also with her reaction to the clicker training is potential sound sensitivity. I owned a border collie who reacted passively to fearful situations; she would just freeze or mentally withdraw from the situation and not give any obvious typical sign of being fearful. I was trying to train her with a clicker in the living room and she basically just went very passive and quit on me after only a couple times. The next time I tried to train she wouldn't even go in that room, nor would she take a treat from my hand anywhere in the house. It wasn't until some time later, once I got to know her better and learned about her sensitivity to certain sounds, that I looked back on that incident and realized what had really happened. So for her I used a verbal marker instead and suddenly she became the most unbelieveable enthusiastic training partner.

  25. One thing to be careful of is don't mistake interest as a sign that the pup is ready to train. My last couple dogs all got very interested around 4-5 months. My most recent one when I took her out around 5 months was keen on the sheep but showed no sign of wanting to circle, so we had about 30 seconds of yeehaw and then we were done. I tried again at 6-7 months and she was circling but too close, too excited. Waited for around 9 months old and she was a totally different dog - much more thoughtful, nice square turns when switching directions, and calm enough to include me in the picture. It would have been so easy to screw up a lot of nice natural stuff in her by trying to 'fix' a lot of the stuff she was doing wrong at 6 months old; when I just let her grow up a bit all the good stuff just started magically appearing :-).


    Now the dog right before her was also keen at a young age, and with her I didn't know any better and started working her once a week or so. And we were constantly fighting due to her being too close or too fast or too excited to respond to my pressure. It all started getting better around a year old, and I never was entirely sure what I did to fix it. Now looking back I think it wasn't anything I did, but the pup finally grew up a bit. I still fight with that dog to this day (she is almost 8 years old now). Now she's a different personality, so I'm not saying starting her early was necessarily the cause of all of our problems, but I can't help but wonder what she would be like now if I'd just put her away for a few months and not had all that bad experience in the beginning with the two of us butting heads all the time. In my opinion better to be safe and just wait a bit.

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