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Nancy Bovee

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I have a pup (14 months) who has been described as "easy to train" "the next champ" "you won't be able to screw him up" and also as "it's in his breeding" "I don't know if it can ever be fixed" and "I saw this early on."

 

My pup only deomonstrates problems in open fields - he is a dream pup in smaller venues: downs when I ask, gathers, and drives a little (as I have asked).

 

But he has also shown a tendency to separate sheep - drive sheep off if there is no fence - and not gather or down when in the open and to absolutely stick and not flank if he feels he is on the pressure point.

 

I need a lot of psychotherapy!!!! How does a relative novice determine if a pup is "unfixable"? How do experienced trainers pass judgement and do they really know? Isn't there some middle ground road which could work???

 

Help, please!!!!

 

Nancy B.

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I have a pup (14 months) who has been described as "easy to train" "the next champ" "you won't be able to screw him up" and also as "it's in his breeding" "I don't know if it can ever be fixed" and "I saw this early on."

 

My pup only deomonstrates problems in open fields - he is a dream pup in smaller venues: downs when I ask, gathers, and drives a little (as I have asked).

 

But he has also shown a tendency to separate sheep - drive sheep off if there is no fence - and not gather or down when in the open and to absolutely stick and not flank if he feels he is on the pressure point.

 

I need a lot of psychotherapy!!!! How does a relative novice determine if a pup is "unfixable"? How do experienced trainers pass judgement and do they really know? Isn't there some middle ground road which could work???

 

Help, please!!!!

 

Nancy B.

 

Hi Nancy,

 

 

Who are these people with all the opinions? Are any of them capable of helping you get started? If so, take advantage. If not, tell them to mind their own business.

If you're working with dog broke sheep, your job will be a lot easier. If not, you need to get somewhere where the sheep are broke, and ideally where a pro can help you.

Work in a big field. You can only do so much in a small pen. Staying there too long will develop bad habits and hinder good habits in your dog.

 

It sounds like your dog isn't yet seeing you as the focal point. He is attempting to control the sheep, but doesn't yet know to bring/ hold them to you. This is the foundation from which all else is learned, so it's very important. From your description, it sounds like your dog has a bit of eye, which makes it important to keep him flanking at this stage. You need to go for a walk with sheep and dog. Let your dog flank around to the point where he has the sheep looking at you. As soon as this happens, change your direction and let the dog flank to cover again. Work in a zig zag path, not making your turns too abruptly, more like quarter turns. Make sure to let him cover the sheep before changing directions. You must keep yourself moving and try not to let the sheep overtake you before changing directions. Move yourself in a direction away from the sheep's heads. Use a training stick or anything long and fairly flexible to help block your dog and to keep him from running too tight. If he is working too tight, pop your stick on the ground as you step directly toward his head and ask him to get out. When he gives ground, move yourself back(take pressure off) to reward him for doing what you want. This is kind of difficult to describe, so I hope you can understand. Don't worry about stops or flank commands, just keep walking and keep him flanking. You probably shouldn't try any driving until your dog understands to work to you. This continuous flanking will help loosen your dog up and make him less prone to stick.

 

Try this for a few sessions and let me know how if goes. When you've got him working with you, I'll try to help you progress to the next stage.

 

Jeanne

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Hi Nancy,

 

 

JW: Who are these people with all the opinions? Are any of them capable of helping you get started? If so, take advantage. If not, tell them to mind their own business.

If you're working with dog broke sheep, your job will be a lot easier. If not, you need to get somewhere where the sheep are broke, and ideally where a pro can help you.

Work in a big field. You can only do so much in a small pen. Staying there too long will develop bad habits and hinder good habits in your dog.

 

NB: This is one person - a great trainer and trialer who has said all these things - but the "unfixable" comment came at our last session in his open field.

 

If you don't mind, I'll give a rather long tale of what I saw developing: The pup does seem to have a lot of eye and his first indication was wanting to go to the heads all the time, and he downed easily because that's how he felt in control.

 

The lessons I've had with this trainer have all been in a huge field and at first there was no problem except for an occaisional "stick" which we dealt with by my walking with him to initiate the flank. He said he'd never seen such an instant response to that method. All's well.

 

The sheep in this field are NOT quiet. Quite the contrary, they are looing to book back almost all the time. But in a larger group away from their pens they seemed to be okay. The first time they escaped we sent the pup (10 months?) and he cast long and wide and managed to turn them almost all the way back (about 200 yards) and brought them with the help of a trained dog. But this is the only place we have for these lessons which are infrequent. Otherwise I work in a small pasture which seems fine.

 

Well, the nightmare begins.

 

The next time out in that large field we are working far away from the pens and coming around on a flank my pup suddenly takes off like he's been stung by a bee booking for the pens where he turns and drops into a down. The sheep haven't moved and they are with me about 200 yards off.

 

This has now become ingrained when he feels too much sheep pressure. The first couple times I was not anticipating it so didn't call or try to down him until he was well into the "speed zone."

 

Next problem: Now he has added to that move by refusing to flank when he is at that pressure spot and I found this out by attempting to flank him, he took the flank but cut in front of me and began wearing madly driving the sheep away, again refusing to stop or down.

 

I think he thinks that the entire job there is to keep those sheep away from those pens at any cost!

 

Well, I did have the sense to say no more working out there. But now the tendencies are showing up elsewhere. Out at my trainers huge pasture where he and the sheep disappeared over the hills (he eventually came back) Then he wouldn't even wear in that field. I became irrelevant.

 

So, I am back to a couple pastures where I can keep control. I returned to simple circling, wearing and downing anywhere on the circle with only a little fetching (this has been in the last week) to see if I can get some sense of the job back before we venture on. Once again he works like my dream puppy.

 

I don't know how to transition though. I certainly don't want to "test" him with anything other than increments. It sounds as if we are on the same page. I haven't done any work on getting him "out" because if anything he worries me about working a bit too wide for being so young.

 

Thanks for these and any more comments! (I'm out of my abject grief stage and onto the challenge mode).

 

Nancy

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Nancy,

 

Your pup sounds a lot like a pup I just started. Very pressure sensitive and oblivious to all except the sheep and keeping them under control and away from where they want to go. I started in the pasture, but about the second time he took the sheep to the other end and held them on the fence, I moved to a 60x60 pen. We worked a few sessions in there, until I felt like he was aware of me and willing to give to my pressure. We've now had about six sessions back in the pasture. At first he was unwilling to flank off the pressure and did what your pup did, crossing and splitting when I insisted. I persevered, growling "knock if off" while using the stick to block whenever he tried to beat me. Letting him know with praise whenever he does the right thing, like flanking off pressure. He is responding well and I am now working at letting him take a few steps when at balance before making a turn. Your pup might or might not be ready for this. Also working on getting a reasonable stop. I won't stop him often, though. I want him to learn to trust me that I won't let the sheep get away and to get very comfortable with working to me before I start putting any more pressure on him. I also want him flanking freely.

 

What size are your pastures? What type of sheep do you have? If you have the room and the sheep, give this a try. If not, try to get your trainer to let you try it. Don't worry if you have to work right up next to the pressure area.

 

Jeanne

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Oh thank you for having a pup like this just when I need good advice!!!

 

Gus is now 14 months. He has a very good stop (from the outset). But sometimes he likes to try to 'slip' by on the away side.

 

I'm now working in a 60x120 pen with nice sheep and also in a150x300 (I'm guessing, my distance approximation is horrid) with very quiet sheep. He is working quite nicely - flanking appropriately, doing a little fetching and balancing. We've been doing some wearing and he's responding to me nicely - especially if I lengthen my arm with a stick. I'm tempted to start a little driving so that he can see he can have control from behind with these nice cooperative sheep.

 

He's actually starting to flank and work a little too close (because of the sheep I think) and previously he'd been working so wide I was quite worried about it and didn't want to ever push him out. So I'm also tempted to make sure he understands the 'out' command.

 

He's pretty soft, actually, his littermate shut down almost entirely when corrected very harshly (not by me), but another littermate is apparently progressing extremely well (owned by a breeder/handler who does this for a living).

 

What I need is a plan to transition him from the enclosures to the open without re-inserting that drving/splitting and/or sticking at pressure. I realized that the sheep booking off in the open field occurred just at one of his "fear" places in maturing, so it's understandable he's afraid of that reoccurring. I have a video of his first lesson where he first did this and then worked nicely but I don't know how to upload it here.

 

Thank you for your help, and thank your puppy for being my helper.

What's his breeding? Gus is by Hap (Suzy Applegate) and Molly (Dave Mason, California lines)

 

Nancy

 

 

Nancy,

 

Your pup sounds a lot like a pup I just started. Very pressure sensitive and oblivious to all except the sheep and keeping them under control and away from where they want to go. I started in the pasture, but about the second time he took the sheep to the other end and held them on the fence, I moved to a 60x60 pen. We worked a few sessions in there, until I felt like he was aware of me and willing to give to my pressure. We've now had about six sessions back in the pasture. At first he was unwilling to flank off the pressure and did what your pup did, crossing and splitting when I insisted. I persevered, growling "knock if off" while using the stick to block whenever he tried to beat me. Letting him know with praise whenever he does the right thing, like flanking off pressure. He is responding well and I am now working at letting him take a few steps when at balance before making a turn. Your pup might or might not be ready for this. Also working on getting a reasonable stop. I won't stop him often, though. I want him to learn to trust me that I won't let the sheep get away and to get very comfortable with working to me before I start putting any more pressure on him. I also want him flanking freely.

 

What size are your pastures? What type of sheep do you have? If you have the room and the sheep, give this a try. If not, try to get your trainer to let you try it. Don't worry if you have to work right up next to the pressure area.

 

Jeanne

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Oh thank you for having a pup like this just when I need good advice!!!

 

Gus is now 14 months. He has a very good stop (from the outset). But sometimes he likes to try to 'slip' by on the away side.

 

I'm now working in a 60x120 pen with nice sheep and also in a150x300 (I'm guessing, my distance approximation is horrid) with very quiet sheep. He is working quite nicely - flanking appropriately, doing a little fetching and balancing. We've been doing some wearing and he's responding to me nicely - especially if I lengthen my arm with a stick. I'm tempted to start a little driving so that he can see he can have control from behind with these nice cooperative sheep.

 

He's actually starting to flank and work a little too close (because of the sheep I think) and previously he'd been working so wide I was quite worried about it and didn't want to ever push him out. So I'm also tempted to make sure he understands the 'out' command.

 

He's pretty soft, actually, his littermate shut down almost entirely when corrected very harshly (not by me), but another littermate is apparently progressing extremely well (owned by a breeder/handler who does this for a living).

 

What I need is a plan to transition him from the enclosures to the open without re-inserting that drving/splitting and/or sticking at pressure. I realized that the sheep booking off in the open field occurred just at one of his "fear" places in maturing, so it's understandable he's afraid of that reoccurring. I have a video of his first lesson where he first did this and then worked nicely but I don't know how to upload it here.

 

Thank you for your help, and thank your puppy for being my helper.

What's his breeding? Gus is by Hap (Suzy Applegate) and Molly (Dave Mason, California lines)

 

Nancy

 

He really needs to be in a larger field. Why don't you let someone you trust put a month on him for you. This would be good for both of you.

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He really needs to be in a larger field. Why don't you let someone you trust put a month on him for you. This would be good for both of you.

 

That's why I posted in the first place. The two trainers I trust most each have "issues" with this litter. I trust them (the trainers) in general, but not with this pup. That's the desperation which drove me to the expert and the decision to try to work out of this myself for a bit!

 

Besides, no one I know wants to take on any project during the full heat of summer. There just isn't enough time to work. Luckily, I live in a naturally air-conditioned climate which cools off at least every few days.

 

The only big field I can use has the wrong sheep, so I'm forced to improvise.

 

Thanks,

 

Nancy

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That's why I posted in the first place. The two trainers I trust most each have "issues" with this litter. I trust them (the trainers) in general, but not with this pup. That's the desperation which drove me to the expert and the decision to try to work out of this myself for a bit!

 

Nancy, Jeanne and list members,

 

 

I apologize in advance for posting in this section, but I am doing so because I too could have been in Nancy's place , so I do relate.

 

Sorry to barge in as I am certainly not an expert! That said I learned many years ago with regards to horses--go to a trainer who is at the very least open minded and able to change their training approach for each animal. Too many preconceived ideas on how an animal should work may not be a good thing.

I never sent a horse to a trainer who "had issues" with particular bloodline or the people involved with that bloodline. My breeding program was based on particular cowhorse bloodlines , so we do "expect" them to be a certain way, however we modify the the training to fit that horse, no matter the pedigree.

 

I have seen a litter mate to your pup work many times and I am impressed, even through these novice eyes.

 

I also have a Hap pup, one I bought from a trainer, sent off to training, now take weekly lessons and she is "packing" me around a Pro/Novice course this year, allowing me to learn up to her level.

She is most definately the Pro in this pair, with me being the Novice!

 

Again I apologize for posting her in the expert section--just wanted to possibly lend some support to Nancy.

 

Good luck with your pup.

 

Carolyn

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Dear Expert,

 

I had an idea. I uploaded my last training session to YOUTUBE which might give you a better idea of where we are (although I didn't encourage the problems!) It's 4 minutes. Any feedback will be appreciated.

 

Nancy

 

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Dear Expert,

 

I had an idea. I uploaded my last training session to YOUTUBE which might give you a better idea of where we are (although I didn't encourage the problems!) It's 4 minutes. Any feedback will be appreciated.

 

Nancy

 

 

Nancy,

 

Good idea! He looks like a very nice but very bored young dog.

To make a long story, short, here's what I see. You need more movement, more flanking, much less stopping. Let the dog find balance before stopping him. Let him cover his sheep. Don't expect perfection. You don't even want perfection at this stage. Make training fun and exciting. He is showing signs of frustration and boredom.

Is this video taken at the trainer's or at your own place. The sheep are great for starting a pup, but you need to have this dog on something a bit lighter and more challenging.

I'm leaving for the weekend tomorrow, so if you don't hear from me till Monday, you'll know why.

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Nancy,

 

Good idea! He looks like a very nice but very bored young dog.

To make a long story, short, here's what I see. You need more movement, more flanking, much less stopping. Let the dog find balance before stopping him. Let him cover his sheep. Don't expect perfection. You don't even want perfection at this stage. Make training fun and exciting. He is showing signs of frustration and boredom.

Is this video taken at the trainer's or at your own place. The sheep are great for starting a pup, but you need to have this dog on something a bit lighter and more challenging.

I'm leaving for the weekend tomorrow, so if you don't hear from me till Monday, you'll know why.

 

I really want opinion. Some seem in conflict, but I'll try to sort it out according to my dog. That previous video was at a leaser/trainers who I really just rent the sheep and time from (the opinions are free!).

 

I've uploaded another video - this at the trainer who owns his father and brother. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this approach, but you can clearly see the pup's difficulty under pressure. She thinks he ought to learn to stop in uncomfortable places. Hmmmm, let me know what you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8VPuhdqJW0

 

Nancy

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I really want opinion. Some seem in conflict, but I'll try to sort it out according to my dog. That previous video was at a leaser/trainers who I really just rent the sheep and time from (the opinions are free!).

 

I've uploaded another video - this at the trainer who owns his father and brother. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this approach, but you can clearly see the pup's difficulty under pressure. She thinks he ought to learn to stop in uncomfortable places. Hmmmm, let me know what you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8VPuhdqJW0

 

Nancy

 

Nancy,

 

I want to answer this when I have more time. I'll be home Monday.

 

Jeanne

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Nancy,

 

I want to answer this when I have more time. I'll be home Monday.

 

Jeanne

 

Getting help was the right move. You don't want the current issues to become habits. These dogs learn so fast and bad habits are just as easily learned as good ones. Your dog looks to be a good one. Keep getting good help.

 

Jeanne

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