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Guest kimkathan

Knocking the edges off

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Guest kimkathan

Ellen -

I was wondering if you had any advice on how to get some enthusiam out of a young dog, so that the true finished product can show through at a trial. I have a 3 year old female who is a absoultly wonderful farm ranch dog, who works all kind of stock (sheep/cattle/goats/ducks), but is only trialing on sheep) She still has alot of youthful exuberance and just wants to work constantly. She can do a 150+yd gather, take inside flanks, will drive forever, and is starting to shed( I can call her through, turning her onto a specific group is taking a bit of time, as she thinks that they need to be regathered) and takes a correction well when she's thinking On cattle, she's OK, will head and heel, and things aren't too much of a catastrophe, as the stock need the extra push. On sheep however, she's so ready to work that she's in a rush to start, and doesn't seem as though she's thinking for the first 30 seconds, only reacting, also, she's too afraid that they are going to get away or will not lie down until she's within in a range where she thinks that I'm close enough to get to her. I have been doing more up close work with her, pushing her to the point of slightly turning her off when she doesn't(she's the kind of dog that it would take ALOT to turn her off) I've also started recently, really shaking things up with training(changing the times, not working for a couple of days if it's possible, different things in a familiar routein area(gathering in the allies, where she'd normally drive)just trying to not give her a routien that she can predict) I'd like to trial her more, but with the ever constant possibility of her totally not in mental contact for the first 30 seconds, it seems to be a waste of time to me.

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Guest ellen

Hi Kim,

Sorry to be so long in getting back to you. It sounds as if you are working hard to get more control. I do wonder what the specific behavior is that you are having difficulty with. When she takes off from your feet on an outrun I would hope she would be very enthusiastic; the question becomes for me: "Is my dog tight?" "Is she slicing the top?" "Are her lifts hard?" "Can I get her to lie down anywhere on a short cast, say 25-50 yards?" "Will she gear down and maintain distance and flank balance?"

It sounds to me as if it would be worthwhile to going back to doing walk-abouts, closely observing her flanks, distance, and pace close at hand without excessive command to see the specific bits that are causing problems.

There are exercises you can do to improve her moves and her mind, but it is important to break the problem down into solvable bits.

It sounds like she has become very good at recognizing when she is 'beyond your reach.'To be effective at trials the dog needs to want to work with you not be trying to beat you. When you say, 'she won't lie down until she's within range...." It makes me think she is either not eager to please, or she hasn't learned to work correctly without direct supervision. I would suggest that you go back to working close at hand, and achieve reliable, patterned responses before considering trialing again. She sounds as if she is carrying a lot of tension. I would agree with you that spending your money on trialing with a dog you can't trust is a waste of time. It is difficult to offer specific suggestions without knowing the training set-up you have. Do you have a lot of stock or just a few head; are they wild or calm? In any case I am going to suggest the same thing I did for the driving problem. Make sure you can stop her anywhere on the circle, and that you can do walk-abouts and be able to stop her with a quiet, calm lie down at any point i.e. 7 o'clock, 8, 10 etc, and that you can ask her past balance with a flank command.

Once you can lie her down without fuss or correction, anywhere at hand, then you should make sure the 'getting up' is correct. If she tries bolting up and slicing to get to the head, immediately lie her down again. She should have smooth round shapes any time she gets up. She should be maintaining her distance from the sheep, and that distance should be such that she isn't putting pressure on the sheep as she is going around.

This work close at hand should be very calmly under-taken. You needn't push her back off her sheep. Avoid putting pressure directly on the dog. Look away from her, focusing on the space you want her to avoid, when you ask her to get up and flank. If you must do this in a small space at first so the sheep don't bolt off then that is what you must do. You will find that as your dog becomes more relaxed in her work the sheep will relax too. The sheep will begin to 'tell' you when your dog is working correctly. Have you read Derek Scrimgeour's book? It describes this method in detail. I have found the method useful for all types of dogs and for re-training as well as training.

I think what is often difficult to remember is that all a dog's work consists of a few simple moves, go right, go left, stop, walk-up. The reason a good outrunning dog bends out is because it has learned how to release pressure on the sheep. Some dogs seem to have this bred into them, while some need to be 'taught'. Well shepherded sheep will watch a dog as it is coming toward them. They will consider moving away; if the dog is attending to the sheep it will essentially 'give ground' at this point, widening out so that the sheep relax again. This is the 'feel' I want the dog to begin to develop close at hand. I want the 'moves' to be correct right at my feet and for the dog to be making good decisions right at my feet, before setting a more difficult task before it like an 'out run'. At hand it should be giving enough ground that the sheep stand relatively still at the center of the clock unless I ask the dog to move in closer. Some dogs do this naturally as little pups and some need a lot of patterning on the circle, and during walk-abouts before they are thinking correctly enough for me to lengthen the outrun. Often really good driving dogs are the ones that need the most of this kind of work. The part that makes them good drivers is the contact they want to maintain with stock. It is a beautiful thing, but it needs to be balanced with an ability to release pressure too, and too maintain 'distance' balance.

I've rambled on enough. Good luck and let me know how things work out.

Cheers,

Ellen

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Guest Empress

Hi Ellen,

 

You mentioned "walkabouts" in your "edges" response and I want to make sure I'm clear what you mean. Do you mean just open 'wandering' with the dog balancing to meandering turns? (I've called it 'tacking' to myself).

 

I'm trying to relax my very tense dog. I don't have great sheep for this I can use except occaisionally. The sheep I can work are either so dog broke that they move to me instantly so my dog can't recognize distance to settledness equation, or they are so 'draw smart' that they won't hold to me, but bolt.

 

I think the bolting ones are actually better for the dog, but they create some awful 'rodeo' scenes I don't like, and the "DOWN" is moot when the sheep are getting away.

 

Thanks,

 

Nancy & Earl

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Guest kimkathan

Here's a bit more information on this little dog...when we first go out, she can be tight at the top, and quite often is not deep enough. There are also times when if the sheep seem flighty she will walk straight in on them and not bend out til she's very close. After the first outrun, she will bend out as she reads the stock, and quite often will be deep enough. The problem is that it can take a couple of outruns. She needs to be able to start off correctly. Her lifts very as the stock does. It almost seems that she's reacting rather than listening, but this goes the same as the outrun, after the first, I can either down her, or steady her on to keep moving straight on at the top. If she's tight and the stock bolts down the field, she gets a very paniced look on her face(erect ears and large eyes)it almost seems that she feels they are getting away. When she's like this, I can't down her til things have quieted down. I can get her to lie down anywhere on a circle flank up to around 50 yds, however on an outrun over 50 yds there are times that she can be downed til around 3 & 9 past that point, it can be hit or miss. She used to want to flank in (45 degrees) and then bend out from a stop, but now will bend out nicely (square or more so) on the right had side, and is still a bit tight and then out on the left, but we are working on correcting that. She's also the kind of dog that can think out a problem(for example, sheep packed tightly in a corner, she will go under them and pop up in the back if she can't pull in the side)She has good natural balance and does much better the less I open my mouth.

 

As far as stock and training facilities, I personally have 30 head of sheep(some Katadins and Border X that tend to be on the lighter side and some heavier woolies. None are knee knockers, but will stay together and work nicely if the dog is correct), and have access and work with several hundred head of cattle(young calves, heiffers and dog worked). We have a smaller oval pen 70x40 and a training pen of 100x100 at home with the sheep and several large fields of varying terrain. On the cattle we have a 100x60 pen and the allies and barns as well as the fields and pastures.

 

She has the working mentality of jumping off the earth if you asked, and takes corrections well. She will take inside and off balance flanks, drives very nice and is starting to come straight through when called on a split. She also has a nice look back, but will not bring back the straggler if it appears that another dog has it( We learned this, this past weekend at a trial, she went back up the field several times, but Warren Mick and Glen were helping keep the one sheep on the field and she thought that they had it and wouldn't take and bring it back down the field) It appears that the vast majority of her tenision is on the sheep and not the cattle. When she was younger she was a bit of a gripper on the sheep, she'd be too close the sheep would bolt and she felt that she couldn't get to the head to stop them, so she'd grip. I got after her, and probably put the tension into her. There also is the fact that I go out expecting the worst every time and need to work on "authority vs. yelling" On cattle she's fine, doesn't fly in and will head and heel, but only when necessary. There's also the fact that she can push more on them and they won't run as hard, and the fact that I'm more relaxed working them(this goes the same at home working vs. a trial)

 

Anyone can work this little girl. What's frustrating for me is that she looks real good when working with other people and can for me, and then there's the times when I'm ready to give up. What I need is consistancy in what I know can be done with her, but it usually takes a minute to get her to that point to blow off steam and feel in control. There's also the fact that she may just be an incredible ranch dog, and we just wern't made to trial together.

 

My insight to this is that much of the problem is ME. If I can control myself, so that I don't yell, and "carry on a conversation" with her she does much better and isin't as tense. My problem is that I know what she can do, and when she's not I get extreamly frustrated and it comes out.

 

We are going for a lesson with Cheryl Jagger Williams tomorrow and see what insight she may be able to shed on the situation.

See I too can ramble>

Thanks.

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Guest ellen

Hi Kim,

Your insight into your own role in the dynamic is admirable. She sounds like a terrific little dog.If you really think she may be useless on the trial field you could send her on to me :wink: Seriously, three is still a young dog. I find that these dogs can be great teachers and character builders. We human beings tend to have a difficult time seperating out our own emotions from our dogs (or kid's, or significant other's behavior) It sounds as if she needs to learn a little more about her effect on the sheep. Try and take a step back, look at what she is doing that isn't working, break it down into component parts and begin working on them. Don't trial her until you are fairly certain you have these things worked out; you will only contribute to your own frustration and the dog's bad behavior. There are excercises you can do to get her to relax about running sheep. 1st exercise. Take a few light sheep into the pen (any large-ish area.) Try the 100 foot pen. Let her approach the sheep, take them off the fence etc. As soon as the sheep move away from her lie her down. Do not let her get up until the sheep are stopped again. At first they may be plastered on the opposite side of the pen. When they are settled repeat the exercise. Do this until the sheep stop running to the opposite end of the pen. Trust me. If the sheep haven't been spoiled they will eventually begin responding to the dog's movement. They will stop worrying and begin to watch to see what the dog is doing. When the sheep start settling when the dog stops ask her to 'walk up'. When the sheep move, stop her. Flank her around if the sheep move when she flanks she is not correct. Stop her. Wait till the sheep settle again. Flank again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Change sheep. The point of this is to get the dog to understand that a good response to running sheep in some situations may be to just stop. The sheep can't get away.

Part 2 of this would be to create a strong draw in the same pen. Put more sheep on the other side of the fence etc. Go to the opposite end. Start by having her stop anywhere on the way to the sheep, wait, and then continue on. When you can get her to stop anywhere with the sheep settled on the fence, let her finish the 'gather' and bring the sheep to you. Call her off, lie her down, let the sheep go. Make her wait until they are settled again on the fence. Repeat until she is comfortable waiting. Then start letting the sheep go and send her before they reach the other end. Stop her on her cast before she gets the sheep. When they are settled let her gather them. Do this until you can stop her anywhere on her cast.

Part three. (you can start the early parts of this exercise while you are still working on the above.)

Take her out in the field and drive. As the sheep move away, stop her let them drift until they settle on their own. Walk her up again. When they move stop her. You need to have responsive, not terribly wild sheep for this. Continue this till she understands, then begin varying the routine. Have her push on hard. Stop her. Throw flanks in. Her flanks should not give the sheep any forward momentum. If they do, stop her let the sheep drift until they settle. Flank again.

Do not correct her for anything but her disobedience to your stop commands. You are trying to develop her distance balance. You do not want to take away the good positive contact she has with sheep, you just want to relax her and give her more tools in her toolkit.

Hope this helps

Ellen

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Guest ellen

You can do a similar kind of exercise as I recommended to Kim on walkabouts. BTW yes I do mean the same thing I think as your tacking. I would think that the 'bolting' sheep would be better for this. I would never recommend that you allow the sheep to 'get away' in a way that causes a rodeo. If you use your bolting sheep always make sure that the place you stop your dog is at pressure. Knee knoockers are not good for this because they aren't responding to the dog, but if your others are too 'barn sour' and disrespectful of the dog and you know they will cause a rodeo that would be bad too. As your bolting sheep learn that they don't have to run for their lives they may stop bolting and wait to see the dog's moves.

When you are 'walking about', the sheep between you and the dog, and you negotiate to get the dog to the control point between the sheep and the place(s) they tend to draw to, lie the dog down and keep walking away, let the sheep drift to a stop as long as they don't get to a position where they will 'beat the dog'.Once they settle walk the dog up. If she rushes, lie her down again. Walk her up till she affects the sheep, stop her again, flank her to a position of control. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

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Guest kimkathan

Ellen -

Thanks for the reply and advice. As far as sending her out to you, sorry, she's here to stay, even if she dosen't cut it as a trial dog. I have seen her ability on the farm and that's what really counts to me, everything else is just icining on the cake(Yesterday, she helped move 150 heiffers to new pasture and her reacting to breaking was MUCH appreciated :wink: ) I'll work on the exercises that you recommended. I guess the other problem I'm having with her is that she's soooo different in many ways from any of my other dogs that I've trained, that there are just times that I don't know what to do with her. There's so much potential there, and I just don't know how to engrain it.

Thanks again

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Guest kimkathan

UPDATE:

 

the lesson on Tuesday wasn't exactly encouraging in the matter. By the end of the lesson, she just came out and said that maybe the best thing to do is either sell her, or get another dog and work with that and maybe some would rub off on the dog. We both agreed that she is tense, I'm going to really work on some of the stuff you recommended (She didn't recommend much) I have also gone back to working in a smaller pen (built a 80x40 out of pannels) and putting a line back on her and getting her to flank quietly rather than running. I think that I'll give her a flank and in in such a small area there is no reason to run, trot is OK. If she does start to pick up, give a "time" and then correction tug.

 

She also noted (and I knew as well) that part of the problem is my tone of voice, and the anxity that I bring along. I'll have to find some way of working on that.

 

All in all I got a definitive answer to "yes, it's tension in the dog, and coming from me" and "she's a strong eyed dog" I wasn't thrilled, due to the fact that she's telling me to "cut my losses" by only seeing the dog for around 40 min. I don't want to give up on the dog, but also want to be fair to her as I have seen her true potential.

 

Thanks again for all your help

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Guest ellen

Hi Kim,

I am sorry your lesson was so discouraging. Good luck with the exercises. Let me know how things go.

Ellen

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Guest Empress

Hi Ellen (and Kim)

I wanted to report back some instant success! I had someone wonderful help me in a large field (and it took a lot of shirtgrabbing to get me in the right place). We downed Earl near the draw and had another dog hold them off a bit and then we walked waaaaaaaay out. Then we asked Earl to walk up (as opposed to requesting an outrun which will cause him to walk straight in anyway in these situations). He was lovely. Even when the group (about 11) started to split and try to return, he calmly made small moves to regroup and keep them moving toward us. Only after we were way out did we start to turn which required some short flanks and it only took a couple "eh, EHs" to keep him out and relaxed. The amazing thing was that these were the flighty sheep and they looked like a totally relaxed group after he had worked them. What a change!

 

I took him back into the smaller pen yesterday with the "bookers" and the tension was back. So I just downed him near the draw and walked around with the sheep. He seemed content to keep the down. But, I made a mistake (as usual) and then went to the draw and asked a quarter flank on the outside (fine) and then a down. He stayed down, but my training partner said she could she the bustup in his eyes as he stayed there. He didn't blast into them,, but he did not stop until he had scooped them off the fence. I, like an idiot, did not walk away from the draw and ask him to down there. No wonder he's tense, those sheep are plotting continuously even when they appear to stand still.

 

Thanks for the help. It's amazing how much info comes from reading.

 

Nancy & Ear

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