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Liz P

teaching a grip?

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OK, I will be the sacrificial lamb and ask these questions. :rolleyes:

 

Can you teach a dog to grip? If so, how do you go about doing it?

 

Would it be bad to put a grip command on a dog that lacks power and confidence?

 

When and how do you decide that the sheep need to be gripped vs the dog needs more confidence?

 

Here are some theoretical dogs...

 

Dog A: used to grip but was trained heavily for trials, not allowed to grip and now thinks that it can't use gripping as a tool.

 

Dog B: not very powerful and needs to grip to get the sheep to respect it.

 

Dog C: has just never encountered sheep that challenge it so is unsure of what to do when it happens.

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Oh, please, I'm waiting for the answer to this one. I have a "Dog B" but modified to say "has all good intent but no power, and needs a grip occasionally for the cattle".

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OK, I will be the sacrificial lamb and ask these questions. :rolleyes:

 

Can you teach a dog to grip? If so, how do you go about doing it?

 

Would it be bad to put a grip command on a dog that lacks power and confidence?

 

When and how do you decide that the sheep need to be gripped vs the dog needs more confidence?

 

Here are some theoretical dogs...

 

Dog A: used to grip but was trained heavily for trials, not allowed to grip and now thinks that it can't use gripping as a tool.

 

Dog B: not very powerful and needs to grip to get the sheep to respect it.

 

Dog C: has just never encountered sheep that challenge it so is unsure of what to do when it happens.

 

This is a difficult subject to answer. There are many different reasons that cause a dog to grip. I'm not talking about cow dogs here, although a lot of this pertains to them also. I'll try to tackle that subject when I answer Sue's post.

As you probably already know, the most confident dogs rarely have need to grip. Most inappropriate gripping stems from either inexperience or lack of confidence or just plain fear. There are many types of "grips". The very confident dog will hold his/her ground and lock eyes with the challenger. If the challenger persists, he will meet the challenge with a quick nip on the nose. This is the kind of dog we all want to own. I have seen some very confident and intelligent dogs effectively remove pressure by holding ground, but looking away at just the right time. This almost always works with ewes and baby lambs. The ewe will invariably turn and move away. I would never correct or punish a dog for either of these behaviors!

 

Many young, inexperienced dogs will grip wherever they can get ahold, sometimes hanging on for dear life. Often they feel the need to control but don't yet have a clue about how. Keeping them off the sheep so that they don't get a chance to grip inappropriately, while allowing them to learn the right way to control sheep will usually see that type of gripping recede pretty quickly. I try not to get too excited about this, while trying to be in the right place at the right time to avoid it. You must not allow the gripping to become a habit, but at the same time you don't want to destroy any budding or inborn confidence.

We all know that sheep are pretty quick to read and take advantage of a dog who lacks confidence. This is the point at which a dog can be either built up or destroyed. Always back up/help your dog!! All good dogs aren't born knowing that they are capable of bossing sheepl Some need to have lots of success at it. Some very useful dogs never really get the hang of gripping properly, but they can be built up to where they THINK they rule the world. If they think they can move anything, they will convey this to the sheep, thereby rarely being challenged. If your dog is this type, don't worry if they grip in strange places when challenged (notice I said "when challenged"). In fact you might encourage it, because the more sure of themselves they become, the less often they will have a need to grip.

If you have a dog who has had the grip/confidence taken out by a heavy handed trainer, all I can suggest is build him/her up as much as you can by always backing him up and letting him boss the sheep however he can, even if inappropriatly in the beginning.

 

I know some people are quite good at it, but I haven't had a lot of success teaching a dog to grip properly(on the nose when challenged). I think it's genetic. If it's there, it'll come out with proper training.

 

Jeanne

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Oh, please, I'm waiting for the answer to this one. I have a "Dog B" but modified to say "has all good intent but no power, and needs a grip occasionally for the cattle".

 

Good cow dogs are awesome to watch. They know how and when to hit heads and heels, and when to take pressure off so that the cow can move away with some dignity still intact :rolleyes: They are bossy, but calm and sensible. Here again, I strongly feel that the ability to time a low heel so that they are in and out before the cow can kick is genetic. You all feel free to correct me here, but I have yet to see this trait successfully taught to a dog who wasn't born with it. The ability to get in, bite a nose and get out before the cow knows what hit her is genetic and the sign of a truly confident dog. I know that these great cow dogs didn't all start out with such a cool head. A good trainer can bring out all these good traits if they are there. If they aren't there, then as I said in my answer to Liz, it's up to the trainer to develop as much confidence as possible by always backing up your dog and putting up with inappropriate grips while trying not to get your dog hurt. There are lots of adequite dogs who are quite useful on dog broke, or dairy type cattle, but in order to get your cattle broke, I think you need a dog as described above.

 

So, as with starting a sheep dog, the type of cattle used to start training is extremely important. Of course you would never think of starting a dog on pairs, unless you want a useless or dead dog . A few well dogged steers or weaned calves are ideal and provide the opportunity for the trainer to build lots of confidence and technique before asking a young dog to handle rougher stuff.

 

I guess if I had a dog who just needed confidence building, I would start by first having the right cattle and then walking the dog into the heads until they turned. I would make sure that the cattle turned without challenging the dog, by whatever means necessary, like a wave of my hat or a pop on the nose with a stick. The dog will think he turned them, thereby learning that he can boss them and be effective, and the cattle are learning that when the dog approaches they should turn away or they'll be punished. Then, when the dog is walking into their heads with confidence I would start short gathers, making sure that the dog doesn't harrass the cattle if they move away from him, and that if challenged, you get yourself to a place where you can back the dog up, with your stick if need be.

 

Jeanne

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Thank you, Jeanne, and I didn't mean to hijack this thread from LizP's excellent questions (thanks, Liz!). The topic is something I have been quite concerned about although I only have cattle, not sheep.

 

I may have contributed to my dog's reluctance/inability to use his grip when appropriate. As a "first dog", he always got the "NO, CELT" yell when diving or seeming to grip as a youngster, which reaction I've had to struggle to overcome. Plus, I don't believe it's in his nature really to grip - this is one dog that's never grabbed wool and never even shows an inclination to grip when diving (and he does dive occasionally when the tension gets too much or he feels he's losing control). He's best on light stock and that's not what our cattle are.

 

I understand that gripping is not power but that a powerful dog can grip when needed, doesn't grip when not needed, and knows the difference. My dog is not powerful and, also lacking a grip, can have times when he's quite ineffectual on the cows. Fortunately, our cows are generally good-tempered and dog-broke. Prior to the movement into our area of coyotes, they were very easily worked with a dog. Now, particularly when younger calves are at foot, several of them can be a bit testy towards the dog. However, if he works right (as you pointed out, putting on pressure and taking it off, reading his stock and responding appropriately), he can generally move all but the most recalcitrant.

 

I have been making a real effort to help him out and build his confidence, instead of getting frustrated when he's not doing what I believe he could do. We do have a problem in that, when I use my stick to prod or tap a cow, it gets him very excited and he tends to blow up into a flurry, or flip back and away from myself and that cow. This is not a dog that's been hit by the stick or abused in any other way. I can't tell if it's fear of the stick or just too much excitement for him to handle. He is a rather "anxiously engaged" dog in his work.

 

Because he lacks confidence, the calves in particular "get his number" and disrespect him, as they start out being rather silly and then develop into bratty adolescents. They will tend to run right over top of him and he has nothing to back up his intentions. Our younger dog, who is just beginning training, isn't afraid to get in a well-placed nip (and not a cheap shot or diving nip), and gets the respect of the calves right away. But he isn't ready to do much with the cattle and so we only bring him out when we are rather desperate for his back-up help.

 

My dog is a terrific dog and has a great deal of instinct, but is not tempermentally the best choice for a cattledog - but he's the dog I have and I have cattle, not sheep. The majority of the time, he gets the job done, even if he needs some help from me. I just wish I could build up his confidence and get him to "understand" that he has an ability (a grip) that he could use when and if it's needed. Since I've heard some folks talk about "teaching a grip", I wondered if that was something I could do to help him out, but I don't have a clue how to do it.

 

Thank you again for your time and effort in addressing my questions.

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I am certainly not the expert here, but will add my 2 cents' worth on hitting calves' noses. One thing that has worked pretty well (with young dogs that don't necessarily lack confidence, but are just young and don't know what's OK or not)...if you have a feed bunk (low to the gound), you can walk past as the calves are eating, and let the dog nip at noses as you walk by. If your younger dog might do this readily, let the older one see it, and maybe he will join in. It's pretty non-threatening, as the calves can't get to the dog. Or, I have a flatbed trailer that I use to haul hay out to the feeder . The calves gather round trying to eat the hay before I can get it into the feeder (this is a taller horse type feeder). I get the dog up on top of the bales, on the trailer right at calf-nose height, and encourage the dog to play "keep away"--keeping the calves from eating the hay. This also works with bales in the bed of the pickup. The pup think it's a game, but they get used to a face-to-face confrontation. I'm always there to back the pup up, but they really aren't in a position to get hurt. They learn that hitting a nose is an OK thing to do, and that they are capable. Now, when working, the pup might start off by doing "fly-by" nose shots, which I think is OK, as over time, they develop the confidence to just walk right up on the nose, and then calmly hit only if needed.

 

I had a pup who was born looking for a heel to hit, and it was effective, but she really wanted nothing to do with hitting a nose. We did this exercise (over a period of a year or so), and she was very slow to develop a nose hit, but as she matured, it came. She's now three, and winning every cattle trial she goes to. Too bad I sold her :rolleyes: So it may also have to do with maturity and confidence built over time...

Anna

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I don't have a feed bunk arrangement like that but the idea of keeping stock off is interesting. So far, in the limited times I've tried it with my dog at the gate to the feeding area, it's been a dismal failure. They keep coming and he retreats as he won't grip.

 

My poorly-bred, adopted little bitch will grip a nose without hesitation when it's called for but she isn't into heels. Celt, on the other hand, makes a show at head or heel but doesn't contact, and they know it. The youngster, Bute, is interested in nipping heels/hocks (he's learned to grip lower!) but hasn't been in the position to take them on by the head - he's just starting lessons (on sheep, and only once a month, and an occasional clinic on sheep) and I am very careful what I expose him to in terms of our cattle as we do have calves now.

 

Thank you, Anna, for the ideas.

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Oh no, now I feel like a real jerk :rolleyes: I have seen my bitch do that, stand her ground but lower her eyes and turn her head to the side. I was taking that action to mean she needed some confidence building and was encouraging her to walk up more. When she is lowering her eyes like that she does grip if the sheep come at her. I hope I didn't screw her up too much. She has been frustrated with me lately because she is very patient and I am not. BAD HANDLER!

 

So, basically what you are saying is that I make sure the dog always wins a challenge, even if I have to step in and help, and the dog will learn that it can move anything and naturally learn to grip if that is what it takes to succeed?

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Oh no, now I feel like a real jerk :rolleyes: I have seen my bitch do that, stand her ground but lower her eyes and turn her head to the side. I was taking that action to mean she needed some confidence building and was encouraging her to walk up more. When she is lowering her eyes like that she does grip if the sheep come at her. I hope I didn't screw her up too much. She has been frustrated with me lately because she is very patient and I am not. BAD HANDLER!

 

So, basically what you are saying is that I make sure the dog always wins a challenge, even if I have to step in and help, and the dog will learn that it can move anything and naturally learn to grip if that is what it takes to succeed?

 

 

I know what you mean about patience. Same problem here.

 

I was mostly trying to get across the importance of doing whatever you can to build confidence, especially in a young dog. When training, try not to discourage a dog from bossing sheep or feeling like it is powerless to defend itself. Your statement is correct, except that some dogs never learn to grip properly, but if they have enough confidence in themselves, they will rarely need to.

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I am certainly not the expert here, but will add my 2 cents' worth on hitting calves' noses. One thing that has worked pretty well (with young dogs that don't necessarily lack confidence, but are just young and don't know what's OK or not)...if you have a feed bunk (low to the gound), you can walk past as the calves are eating, and let the dog nip at noses as you walk by. If your younger dog might do this readily, let the older one see it, and maybe he will join in. It's pretty non-threatening, as the calves can't get to the dog. Or, I have a flatbed trailer that I use to haul hay out to the feeder . The calves gather round trying to eat the hay before I can get it into the feeder (this is a taller horse type feeder). I get the dog up on top of the bales, on the trailer right at calf-nose height, and encourage the dog to play "keep away"--keeping the calves from eating the hay. This also works with bales in the bed of the pickup. The pup think it's a game, but they get used to a face-to-face confrontation. I'm always there to back the pup up, but they really aren't in a position to get hurt. They learn that hitting a nose is an OK thing to do, and that they are capable. Now, when working, the pup might start off by doing "fly-by" nose shots, which I think is OK, as over time, they develop the confidence to just walk right up on the nose, and then calmly hit only if needed.

 

I had a pup who was born looking for a heel to hit, and it was effective, but she really wanted nothing to do with hitting a nose. We did this exercise (over a period of a year or so), and she was very slow to develop a nose hit, but as she matured, it came. She's now three, and winning every cattle trial she goes to. Too bad I sold her :rolleyes: So it may also have to do with maturity and confidence built over time...

Anna

 

Thanks Anna, this is great advice.

You sound like you have the same problem I do. When my dogs hit two they are usually for sale. Fortunately for me, they usually aren't sold by the time they start to make a turnaround. Some day I'll learn to give them a chance to grow up and show me what they're made of before getting discouraged with them.

 

Jeanne

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I hated to sell that one, as I knew she was maturing into a really nice dog, but she refused to believe my older bitch was the top girl. It wasn't fair to the younger one, since she deserved to be a top bitch, too. Now she is :rolleyes:

Anna

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