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Guest SoloRiver

Calm down and read the sheep, already

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Guest SoloRiver

In another thread, I described my dog who likes to work tight, to push, and unfortunately, to grip. He likes to push push push, and enjoys nothing more than fighting sheep who really don't want to go somewhere. His favorite things to do are chores like shoving sheep through chutes, pulling them out of dark little sheds, and holding them off feeders. He is not afraid to muscle his way between packed sheep and a solid metal wall. He is a big, fairly upright red dog with medium eye.

 

On the other hand, he seems quite often to lose it when sheep are moving freely away from him, and he feels they might get away. Since he scares the crap out of sheep, they are often moving away from them as fast as they can possibly go. When he loses it, he slices in and often grips, cheap shots to the butt and hock. He is, however, capable of delivering measured and appropriate grips in closer situations. I think this is a confidence issue, but it's hard to say. I don't think he's afraid of sheep because of how much he likes tight situations as I've described above.

 

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that he doesn't get to work very often, so he is always very excited when he gets to see sheep.

 

He is a very different dog when working for our trainer and last summer, when he was working every day while I was abroad, he learned to work nicely and widely and calmly, but since then he has forgotten pretty much everything he learned and I have never been able to handle him as well as our trainer does, at any rate, which I'm sure also affects his confidence.

 

I am looking for exercises we can do that will make the most of the limited sheep time that we have. What he really needs is more work, but right now I can't give that. One thing that has been suggested to me is to have him push the sheep into a corner or hold them on a fence, because this is supposed to give him a "warm up" that will allow him to calm down, start thinking, and start reading the sheep instead of just saying "gotta get to them gotta get to them gotta push them CHOMP." Do you think this is a good idea, and are there other things that would be useful? Right now I am only working him in small paddocks so, hopefully, he knows the sheep can't really get away. We've also done packed pen stuff, but since I don't think that his problem is fear of sheep, I don't know that this helps him other than that he really enjoys it.

 

Sorry to be windy, but I wanted to be thorough. Thanks!

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Guest Carol Campion

Hi Melanie

 

Sorry not to respond before now. I have been away for the last 4 days. I can't write now, but will address this later today. Wanted you to know I got your question today.

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Guest Carol Campion

Hi Melanie

 

Again, without seeing your dog I can really only be guessing as to why he is behaving this way. If your trainer can get him settled, it is in him to be that way. So let's take it from there.

 

Does he settle for you when you take him out dfor a sessin?

 

Is his first move when you enter the field to brake away from you towards the sheep and get in a little chase before he settles down

 

Has he ever been hit by a sheep when in close quarters?

 

Have you tries the suggestion of hold sheep to a fence and if so what happened?

 

Let me know about these things and it will help me form a picture off him.

 

Also, if you ever want to come for a day this fall and help me paint picket fence sections, I would happily exchange it for sheep time!!!

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Guest SoloRiver

Hi Carol,

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions when you are very busy!

 

Sometimes Solo will relax and work nicely for me, but most of the time he gets progressively hopped up when I work him. I think that I inadvertently put him into bad positions because I am inexperienced, and that he senses it when I get frustrated. Or it could be that he just likes to grab them and becomes progressively more tempted to do so, I don't know. He does not take off after the sheep when we first enter the field; actually, he tends to be quieter and more under control at that time than at any other time. What normally happens is that we'll work on wearing and little outruns and at some point he'll slice in and grab something, usually at 10 or 2. The other time he will try to grab is when I call him off, although I have gotten better at keeping him from doing this.

 

He has been rammed by a sheep once, but he was like this before that happened. It didn't seem to do much of anything to him. He didn't want to work that particular ewe right afterward, but he wouldn't leave the sheep and just tried to work around her.

 

If I ask him to hold them to me on a fence he sits or lies down quietly and watches them, and balances to keep them on the fence. He looks pretty casual when he does this. If I have him do this for too long, sometimes he dives into them when I ask him to flank around and take them off the fence.

 

I would love to come up and paint the fence for sheep time. :rolleyes:

 

<small>[ August 21, 2003, 11:11 PM: Message edited by: SoloRiver ]</small>

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Guest Carol Campion

<If I have him do this for too long, sometimes he dives into them when I ask him to flank around and take them off the fence.>

 

This is probably the most significant peice of info for me to work with. If this is something he has a problem with, tackle it! That's how I approach it. I always work on the thing they do worst.

 

Get him to bring the sheep to a fence and see if you can walk him up just close enough to make the sheep break get him to cover them. You may need to actually flank him at forst but try and get his reaction time quicker. If he's a bit late, they will get ahead of him and he might grab. Work with him to the point where he is able to calmly and cleanly take a flank from this position without grabbing. Flanks him til he is between the sheep & the fence—the most precarious position, and lie him down there. This gts him comfortable close to them and also seeing sheep pulling away from him—up close. Then flank him from there back to the front.

 

When you can do this from a fetching position, then ask him up as though you wre driving—with him on the same side of the sheep as you. Then lie him down before the sheep start to break and flank him. Start stopping him in different positions around the sheep in and between the fence & sheep.

 

All this will probably make him tense and he will have an opportunity to work through it.

 

You need to be calm and authoritative. Don't rile him up with shouting. If he gets buzzy, lie him down.

 

As for the other behaviors, I would want to see what the dynamics are between the two of you. If he starts out calmly and then gets worked up, it could be you are asking him to work counter to some pressure in the training area. It could be your timing is off. It could be you are doing nothing wrong, but that he has a bit of eye which makes him late in reacting to situations.

 

Have him wwear a long line and don't let him take off back after sheep. You will be surprised how much more authority you will have with him on everything when you get this permanently licked.

 

Try walking him to many different areas of the field and calling him to you before working him. Then go somewhere else, a different distance from the sheep, in the field and keep doing this. If after a few times, he comes off everytime, then let him gather the sheep. If he takes off on you when you are calling him off, go back to the "that'll do " exercise. What you are doing is establishing, "You must show me you can come off properly BEFORE we work. If he does well, let him work. If not, go back to schooling it. Move him lots of different proximities to the sheep.

 

Also, try to watch what is happening with the sheep and the field and you when he grabs them and tell me what is happening.

 

Watch the tiop side of his flanks and outrun. Probably they are tightr than they should be and short. If so, he is pushing the sheep off line and is probably then reacting to being in the wrong place.

 

Again, I would have to see it to tell exactly.

 

Let me know how it goes if you try any of these.

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Guest Carol Campion

<If I have him do this for too long, sometimes he dives into them when I ask him to flank around and take them off the fence.>

 

This is probably the most significant peice of info for me to work with. If this is something he has a problem with, tackle it! That's how I approach it. I always work on the thing they do worst.

 

Get him to bring the sheep to a fence and see if you can walk him up just close enough to make the sheep break get him to cover them. You may need to actually flank him at first but try and get him to react on his own thereby geting his reaction time quicker. If he's a bit late, they will get ahead of him and he might grab. Work with him to the point where he is able to calmly and cleanly take a flank from this position without grabbing. Flank him til he is between the sheep & the fence—the most precarious position, and lie him down there. This gets him comfortable close to them and also seeing sheep pulling away from him—up close. Then flank him from there back to the front.

 

When you can do this from a fetching position, then ask him up as though you wre driving—with him on the same side of the sheep as you. Then lie him down before the sheep start to break and flank him. Start stopping him in different positions around the sheep in and between the fence & sheep.

 

All this will probably make him tense and he will have an opportunity to work through it.

 

You need to be calm and authoritative. Don't rile him up with shouting. If he gets buzzy, lie him down.

 

As for the other behaviors, I would want to see what the dynamics are between the two of you. If he starts out calmly and then gets worked up, it could be you are asking him to work counter to some pressure in the training area. It could be your timing is off. It could be you are doing nothing wrong, but that he has a bit of eye which makes him late in reacting to situations.

 

Have him wear a long line and don't let him take off back after sheep. You will be surprised how much more authority you will have with him on everything when you get this permanently licked.

 

Try walking him to many different areas of the field, lyng him down and calling him off to you, then go somewhere else a different distance from the sheep and keep doing this. If after a few times, he comes off everytime, then let him work—maybe gather the sheep or something. If he takes off on you when you are calling him off, go back to this "that'll do " exercise. What you are doing is establishing, "You must show me you can come off properly BEFORE we work. If he does well, let him work. If not, go back to schooling it. Move him lots of different proximities to the sheep.

 

Also, try to watch what is happening with the sheep and the field and you when he grabs them and tell me what is happening.

 

Watch the top side of his flanks and outrun. Probably they are tighter than they should be and short. If so, he is pushing the sheep off line and is probably then reacting to being in the wrong place.

 

Again, I would have to see it to tell exactly.

 

Let me know how it goes if you try any of these.

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Guest Carol Campion

<If I have him do this for too long, sometimes he dives into them when I ask him to flank around and take them off the fence.>

 

This is probably the most significant peice of info for me to work with. If this is something he has a problem with, tackle it! That's how I approach it. I always work on the thing they do worst.

 

Get him to bring the sheep to a fence and see if you can walk him up just close enough to make the sheep break get him to cover them. You may need to actually flank him at first but try and get him to react on his own thereby geting his reaction time quicker. If he's a bit late, they will get ahead of him and he might grab. Work with him to the point where he is able to calmly and cleanly take a flank from this position without grabbing. Flank him til he is between the sheep & the fence—the most precarious position, and lie him down there. This gets him comfortable close to them and also seeing sheep pulling away from him—up close. Then flank him from there back to the front.

 

When you can do this from a fetching position, then ask him up as though you wre driving—with him on the same side of the sheep as you. Then lie him down before the sheep start to break and flank him. Start stopping him in different positions around the sheep in and between the fence & sheep.

 

All this will probably make him tense and he will have an opportunity to work through it.

 

You need to be calm and authoritative. Don't rile him up with shouting. If he gets buzzy, lie him down.

 

As for the other behaviors, I would want to see what the dynamics are between the two of you. If he starts out calmly and then gets worked up, it could be you are asking him to work counter to some pressure in the training area. It could be your timing is off. It could be you are doing nothing wrong, but that he has a bit of eye which makes him late in reacting to situations.

 

Have him wear a long line and don't let him take off back after sheep. You will be surprised how much more authority you will have with him on everything when you get this permanently licked.

 

Try walking him to many different areas of the field, lyng him down and calling him off to you, then go somewhere else a different distance from the sheep and keep doing this. If after a few times, he comes off everytime, then let him work—maybe gather the sheep or something. If he takes off on you when you are calling him off, go back to this "that'll do " exercise. What you are doing is establishing, "You must show me you can come off properly BEFORE we work. If he does well, let him work. If not, go back to schooling it. Move him lots of different proximities to the sheep.

 

Also, try to watch what is happening with the sheep and the field and you when he grabs them and tell me what is happening.

 

Watch the top side of his flanks and outrun. Probably they are tighter than they should be and short. If so, he is pushing the sheep off line and is probably then reacting to being in the wrong place.

 

Again, I would have to see it to tell exactly.

 

Let me know how it goes if you try any of these.

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Guest Carol Campion

Whoops!

 

Sorry I sent this reply twice. I spell checked the second one!! Also rephrased stuff on that one!

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Guest SoloRiver

Hi Carol,

 

Wow -- thanks very much! I will try these suggestions and let you know how it goes.

 

Have a good trip to Scotland.

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Guest SoloRiver

Hi Carol,

 

I just wanted to let you know how Solo and I are doing with his "gotta get 'em" problem.

 

Recently I had the opportunity to do some farm-sitting, and work Solo briefly a couple of times a day for a few days. I have to admit that I wimped out of doing the fence exercises you described, because I was too scared of him getting very tense and then grabbing, and I didn't want him frightening or injuring these sheep. I did try them once with Solo in a muzzle (a greyhound muzzle that allows him to pant easily) but quickly realized that the muzzle was making him worse. His normal grips are cheap shots to the butt or hocks, but with the muzzle on he was trying for necks instead. At other times that I have tried to work him in a muzzle, he has become very tentative and reluctant around sheep so all around, the muzzle seems to be bad for him, which is unfortunate because it helps me relax so much.

 

So instead, I put Solo on a long line (50 feet) and worked on relaxation exercises that were very low-adrenaline. Solo likes to drive, so using the entire flock to keep the sheep calm and slow, I had him drive them quietly at a walk, and lie down when he pushed on them too hard and they started to jog. I did what you suggested and practiced calling him off the sheep until he was coming off easily and happily. After a bit of quiet driving, I had him do some short gathers and only asked him to go the way he prefers to go (come bye) so that I wouldn't have to correct him for coming in too tight, as he tends to on the side he's worse on. At this point he was nice and relaxed, staying nicely off his sheep and taking his downs easily once behind them instead of pushing them toward me at 65 mph. Having the long line on him helped a great deal so that the couple of times he attempted to take off after the sheep or slice, I was able to stop him easily. I have never used a line this long or thick (it's like thick cotton lunge line, and easy to grab or step on) and now I'm kicking myself for not always having a line like this on him before. It really took a lot of pressure off both of us.

 

I got these exercises, by the way, from Gene, who told me they were working pretty well for Donald!

 

If I were able to continue working Solo on this schedule, I think I'd keep doing these sorts of exercises for a couple of weeks and then stepping things up and asking him to do things he is less comfortable with. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so, so I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope some of what Solo learned sticks with him until the next time we get to see sheep.

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Guest Carol Campion

Melanie writes: I have never used a line this long or thick it's like thick cotton lunge line, and easy to grab or step on and now I'm kicking myself for not always having a line like this on him before. It really took a lot of pressure off both of us.

 

Carol writes: I always start my dogs on a line and I have no problem putting them on one when they are trying to either take off after the sheep when asked to wquit or when they are chasing and that sort of thing. It gives you a chance to stop a dog from doing wrong without screaming at it. Sometimes yelling only makes them worse and can even become a command for them in itself.

 

I have observd that many dogs will change their behavior by merely not allowing them to carry it out—like slicing or running back to the sheep when n you say "that'll do". Other times you might need to give a correction while you hang onto the line. That way the correction has to be taken by the dog and can be more effective. They cannot outrun it and continue with their bad behavior so they stop doing it.

 

I always start my sessions with having the dog do what it can do well. I don't have an agenda of my own but rather follow an adgenda based on whatthe dog can do well and gradually add in the harder stuff. That way it's more positive than negative. If you have a preconceived idea of what you think your dog should do, rather than have him do what he has mastered, you often have expectations that put a lot of pressure on him. His reaction might just be to "bust"

 

So f your sessions of "relaxing" him are working—go for it. There is no rule book of how you have to proceed. I believe the dog always shows you what it needs next!

 

PS: I am working on the fence painting plan for early November while th days are stil warm.

 

PPSS: Tell Gene I brought Donald's dad home from Scotland!!

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Guest SoloRiver

Mark -- we did have fun! Not to mention the hiking and the swimming in the river (the dogs, not me).

 

Carol -- thanks for the advice. Did you bring other dogs home from Scotland? If I went to Scotland, I would definitely come home with at least a puppy in my carry-on bags.

 

I can come up in November if I can make it a weekend. It's between a 6 and 8 hour drive for me depending on how the traffic is. I am a very neat painter. :rolleyes:

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