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flopping fetch

Guest Linda

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My dog is going out nicely on the outrun, and is usually quite deep at the lift, but as he comes in on the fetch, he begins to flop from side to side, instead of lining nicely behind the sheep. If the pressure is strong on one side he will hold a good line, but if the sheep are coming along without any problem he flops side to side.

Training exercises to help us line up and hold it nicely?


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Hi Linda-


Does your dog start the side to side flopping as he approaches the set out person before he actually lifts the sheep? How does he react if the sheep don't readily move off as he approaches?


It's always hard to give suggestions without being able to see the dog work in different situations and not knowing his age & training level, but here are a few thoughts:


Dogs that flop back and forth behind sheep may do it to relieve the pressure they feel when they have to walk directly into the sheep. In effect, it's "easier" for them to move the sheep by flopping back and forth, just catching the sheeps' attention at the sides, then flipping over to correct the line they started to mess up, repeat, repeat, repeat. You may have noticed that your dog tends to do it more when he's closer to the sheep than when he's backed off on his fetch?


If your dog is still young and just starting out, it may be that he hasn't yet learned to use his eye properly and still thinks he has to use his body movements, instead of just his eye, to manage the sheep.


It's a good thing that you've noticed the problem and want to manage it. Sheep, esp those that are dog-savvy or just plain ornery, will often assess a dog who flops back and forth as lacking in authority and may test that dog way more than one who comes on to his sheep directly.


Either way, I would start by making sure your dog stays a good distance off his sheep. Do you see the same behavior when the dog is driving? If so, do ALOT of walking with your dog as he drives, and continue to keep him well off. He will be less likely to flop if you're in the picture and he's not on the sheeps' butts.


I'd also make sure you do alot of close up work...i.e. pushing alot of sheep around a small pen and doing a lot of corner/fence work. Make sure he gets comfortable going both ways. You will likely see that he hesitates more or tries to flop over when he's sent a direction which seems to allow the sheep to start to escape. There are prob. some "sheep escaping" anxiety issues wrapped up in the flopping thing, esp. since you note your dog holds a line much better when there is clear pressure he can cover. Gaining confidence in knowing he can cover sheep in different situations is always a good thing. Also, when you're working in a situation where your dog is holding a good line against pressure on a fetch, practice flanking him off the pressure and releasing the sheep, even driving them towards the pressure draw. Then, let him go & pick them up again.


Hope some of this helps!


Good luck!

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Hello Lori and Thank You! for taking the time to talk with us about these issues.

This is a young dog, just started, with a lot of natural. he seems to have a good bit of power, or at least quiet confidence - will walk straight in to sheep that are facing him and calmly and solidly move them on. When driving he holds a nice line, uses eye, and looks good. (have only just started, but he is doing well)

The flopping starts after the lift - he will walk (creep) right in on heavy sheep to lift them - but if he has to get too close to lift them, the flopping starts as he then fetches. Anytime he gets too close, he flops, and at least I can see that part of it and help him stay back. But when the sheep are really heavy and he needs to be close - flop flop.

How do young dogs learn to use eye instead of body to move heavier sheep? On ligth (hair) sheep he stays back and it isnt' as much of a problem, plus I can see it and help him if he's back.

I have to think about the last part of your advice, about working in close pens. We have had to work calm and quiet on the taking-sheep-out-of-corner thing, and he gets a little anxious (thinks of gripping) - but with a quiet voice from me he settles. We need more of this!


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