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teaching a grip

Guest elayne

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Guest elayne

Hi Sam-

Is there a certain age that you teach a grip, how do you teach it, is there a way to do it without actually having the dog make physical contact (like just getting in its face?)My dog was just 3yrs old and was recently confronted by a ram. He did not turn tail to run but it was a Mexican standoff with the dog not knowing really what to do.I don't want him to lose his confidence. I want to be able to provide the tools for him to take care of himself in these situations. Am I wrong in my thinking??


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Guest tucknjill

Hi Elayne!

Well lets see...there is no certain age I teach this it just depends on the dog and the situation. For instance, a shy timid dog, I might teach early on in training with the situation rigged so I could control it so I could give them some confidence (see below) or if the dog was a tension gripper, I might work them in a small pen to get them comfortable with sheep and teach the grip in a seperate instance so they learn to do it correctly. Or like last year when my nursery dogs were young and I was lambing..they had to learn to do it then. They were very young, say 14 months or so but very bold. Anyway, short answer is it depends on the dog. I NEVER let a sheep win a confrontation with a dog at home in training. My dog ALWAYS gets to win even if I have to come in and help. Some things I do to help teach a grip is either hold a sheep to begin with and have the dog come forward and get it on the nose. (watch what you are doing, they can get you too) or you can get your sheep backed into a chute so the dog has to come forward and back it thru and hopefully get it on the face. BE CAREFUL NOT TO LET THE SHEEP CHARGE AND RUN THE DOG OVER! I must be honest though, most times I dont practice dry or set up situations like that. I wait until I have a problem such as you describe and catch the sheep in question and let my dog have a piece of him. Get your dog good and worked up and tap the sheeps face etc and praise the dog for hitting on the nose. I really dont like doing this as I feel it doesnt give the sheep a fighting shot, but I also have to get the dog trained so I try to set it up as humanely as possible and I dont do it very much. Most dogs get the idea of that in short order. You can also try backing sheep into a corner or in a stall and have the dog come forward and bite. Thats all I can think of for now but I will think on it some more while I am away at the Bluegrass. Back next Monday! Nite!


PS In my opinion, you are absolutely correct in your thinking. I come down on my dogs for sheep abuse, but they are absolutely allowed to take care of themselves and retaliate if a sheep challenges them or attacks them. I would be pretty disappointed in them if they didnt actually.


<small>[ May 12, 2003, 10:19 PM: Message edited by: Sam Furman ]</small>

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Guest Lori



I learned a big lesson on the need for a good grip command last summer while running a not yet two y.o. nursery dog in Canada on some very nasty sheep. My dog had a good bit of confidence & push and had gripped appropriately at home when he needed to so I never properly taught a grip on command. While working set out at this trial, he was confronted time & again by sheep who felt the need to fight. He ended up in a standoff with a ewe...who hit him HARD. Actually, she hit him so hard that his teeth came thru his cheek. His face was swollen. I thought his jaw was broken. Bottom line was that he really got hurt and his confidence was seriously shaken. I was convinced I ruined my nice young dog. I swore I wouldn't take him on a trial field again until I had a reliable grip command.


I returned home to a bunch of summer lambs & ewes who wanted to protect their babies. My pup was very reluctant to confront the ewes. Who could blame him? However, after working for a few weeks on teaching a grip, much like Sam explained, his old confidence returned. This experience taught me that I was really wrong to allow him to go up against strange sheep without having a solid grip command. I should have been in control of telling him that it was OK to defend himself. He's two now & running Open. This past weekend at Oatlands, he had sheep turn to fight & I knew I could tell him to defend himself if need be. Really important lesson learned for me.


Good luck.



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Guest Outcast Ranch

Hi Elayne,


Sam's advice is exactly as I do it with one exception: I usually wait until I'm sufficiently angry about a standoff before i take action (this is not an easy job and you need some adrenaline!).


The first time I taught a grip I didn't know I was teaching it.... All I knew is that an ugly sheep chased my dog. The three of us went to the pen for a session. Before I went in I was angry at the sheep, angry at my dog, and angry at myself for putting my dog in that situation.


After the session my dog had a grip command, the sheep knew better, and I needed oxygen (but felt better for relieving my frustration).

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