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Invisible Sheep

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I have a fiber flock that consists of BFL, Cheviot and Shetland. Those of you that have or know Shetlands, will probably understand my pain here. They are just a different kinda sheep. They tend to flock fairly well together (mine do anyway) but not with the rest of the flock. When I bring my dog, Nora, in, they seperate out into their own little group and can be pretty darned fiesty and at times will face off with the dog. Nora is not the most confident dog so this is very disconcerting to her and she tends to deem them invisible most of the time. Her siblings usually do the same but they're not my dogs and I NEED Nora to get them. I've tried pushing her back towards them but she just gets more and more adamant that they simply do not exist and her confidence threshold begins to disolve, my temper flares and well, there you have it, she shuts down. I've told myself I got this dog for a reason, to soften ME because I can loose my patience pretty easily and she is forcing me to develop more. Thankfully she rebounds pretty quickly as long as I check my impatience and regain my composure. During our chores, I ask her to push the flock to the shed while I fill the troughs with grain. This has been a good excercise for her and is, I think, helping build her confidence. However, if one of the "shets" slips past her to the outside, she simply ignores it and focuses harder on the ones in front of her like she could use the excuse that, "geez sorry, didn't see her slip past!" Yeah right.


I will mention that Nora sometimes has power and isn't afraid to use it but she usually has to get POed for that to happen and I"m not exactly sure what the criteria is for that (and she holds a grudge...currently against my ram). I"m trying to teach her a "look back" command but if she doesn't WANT to look back...its pretty hard to teach her to. Its as though if she does look back she'll turn to stone. I believe this is related to the previous "pressure" question as she also is repelled by other pressures and I often have trouble getting her to complete a flank close to a fence (or near shets).


I know this little dog has potential, I've seen her do great things. I have more potential to screw her up than properly train her but at this point I need her help so she'll have to make do with me. She is 3 yrs old btw.



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Interesting. I suspect this is the same sort of thing that you see with dogs that ignore lambs and just work sheep.


If this were my situation I think I would take the dog out just on the Shetlands and not try to work the two groups together. Then if one of them breaks off there is less activity with other sheep and you can more easily concentrate on her going for that one. Try to get her to enjoy working the Shetlands with a change of attitude on both or your parts. This is best done in short doses when you aren't in a hurry or trying to get something else accomplished (but you knew that :-).


So far as the turn back goes I would work on that with the other sheep that she enjoys working. Once she is comfortable with the principle and you are confident she knows what you are asking for when you turn her back you can use this command on the Shetlands.


I suspect you are not going to change her mind on this subject. She just doesn't like these sheep and doesn't want to work them. However, while you can't make her like it with work you should be able to increase the number of commands you have to the extent that you can put her where you need her to be and keep her on the stock she needs to be working.


I haven't seen much of dogs choosing to work one breed of sheep over another. But it is not all that uncommon for a dog to choose to ignore a particularly troublesome individual ewe or ram or as I mention lambs. The dog will decide that a particular sheep just isn't worth the trouble and routinely leave it behind.


This is annoying but by working on your dogs over all obedience you can "force" them to keep the group together and work all of the sheep by simply putting them where you need them. This "obedience" solution is not a elegant as just sending the dog for the sheep and having all of them brought nicely to your feet but it does work. With sufficient repetition of the action of bringing all of the sheep your dog will resign herself to the need to bring everyone and I suspect in time will need considerably less chiding to do so.


Sorry there isn't a magic bullet here (except if you choose to use it on the Shetlands) but this will work.



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Excellent advice Beverly, I appreciate it! Especially the part about going out with a change in attitude on BOTH our parts. I know its me that I have to fix as much as it is her confidence. My loss of patience doesn't help matters but thankfully as quickly as she shuts down, she forgives me and starts work again.


I will do what you've suggested and let you know how it goes!



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