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It strikes me that it's well timed enough for the dog to understand. These dogs are smart enough to know that the opportunity to try again will be coming - even if it's 20 minutes later.


Nope, you're wrong. In that particular situation, the reward is not stockwork.


Yes, I want my dog to do something other than bark, but whatever it is, I want it to be a calm response. The dog can look across the room, look at the dog, look at the ceiling, lie down and take a nap, sniff, look at me - there is more than one "right" response, but I am looking for more than the absence of barking in this example. So, I set out to teach a dog like this what a calm response is and how to have one.


Okay, so again, how is achieving "calm" or "not excited" different than achieving "don't sneak off"? You give a directive to stop the excitement, i give a directive to stop the sneaking off. Your dog calms down, he gets a cookie. My dog stops trying to sneak off and i talk sweet to him.


I must have misunderstood because it did seem as if you were saying that using a process that utilizes a replacement behavior to help a dog who is behavior inappropriately learn how to act appropriately would cause a dog to offer less behaviors and lose initiative.


I said, using a specific concrete replacement behavior to *avoid* a problem (keeping a dog at a firm heel around sheep so he doesn't sneak off to work) might impact his initiative. I'm pretty sure you're saying the same thing about your barker. You aren't training a behavior, you're training an attitude, same as i am. When we each see the attitude we like, we let our dogs know we like it.

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That's where we differ in vocabulary. I don't consider the "HEY! That'll do" a correction. It's a directive that the puppy understands.


I think you need to put this in capital letters every time this conversation comes up. When we talk about corrections, we are referring to what you call a "directive". See, i even used "directive" in the last post for you. :rolleyes:

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Kristine - have you ever tried working your dogs on sheep much? I suspect you'd really enjoy it since it's obvious you enjoy thinking and puzzling on the way dogs learn and the interactions between dogs and people. I think you'd be in 7th heaven if you got into stockwork and added in another species and the interactions going on there.


I took lessons for a while with Speedy, and I enjoyed them.


I got hit from behind by a sheep, though, and I couldn't get over being afraid of them after that. I never saw it coming - one second my feet were on the ground and all was good, and then suddenly I was in the air and next thing on the ground. I think if I had seen it coming, I could have gotten past it, but I never could shake the worry because there was no warning.


I got along OK with Speedy because he and I have such a bond that I trusted him, even after that. I really did enjoy it with him. But he had to quit because working made his arthritis act up and he would be stiff for days after a lesson.


I hated that because he loved it.


I tried then with Dean, but I found that I was too worried about the sheep.


Last summer at Glen Highland Farm, Warren Mick worked with him, and it was so amazing to watch! But even when I went out with him there, I couldn't stop worrying about the sheep.


I like sheep fine when there is a fence between them and me, but I don't like to be in with them. And being in there with sheep and Dean was just way too much.


After that, I stopped Dean's lessons. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it justice, so that was the end of that. He is far too much dog to be trained on sheep by a newbie handler.


He can't do it without a handler who can be out there with him!


One thing i find truly fascinating to watch is the dogs training the sheep to act certain ways, especially at trials where the sheep and dogs are strangers to each other. Some dogs are better sheep trainers than others, the same as some people are better dog trainers than others. It takes my breath away to watch a dog kindly training sheep with a cool power. You can almost hear the dog say "okay girls, move off nicely and behave yourselves, and i'll lean back and take some pressure off so you're more comfortable". And the sheep are almost saying "that dog says i have to do this so i better do it. Ahh that feels better, he's a nice dog and treats us nicely, so we can relax and amble along where he says to go, we can trust him".


That must be really cool to see!


Of course there are lots of dogs that aren't such good trainers and you'll hear the sheep almost saying "run for your lives girls!" or "i don't trust that dog one bit and darned if i'll turn my defenseless rump to HIM". :rolleyes:


HA! That's what Dean was like!

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Regarding barking:


If it was my well socialized adult, and they started rantically barking at a Lab on a walk.


I would remind "hey hush", enforce "be quiet!" - with a collar pop, a tap on the head, a boot bop to the butt.


Once they are quiet it's their choice what to do - they can sit, stand, lay down, or keep walking with me (if I'm moving, the last is the most comfortable, but that's their choice :rolleyes: ).


once they stop yelling "STRANGER STRANGER" because I remind them I'm in control it opens up lots of options. You can't teach a dog another way to act while he's acting out. To me correction stops the action so you can either teach, or allow the dog to teach himself, an option. Being a living being with a good mind usually if allowed most dogs will come up with a suitable alternative. You just set the boundaries of your choice - for example no lunging, no barking, no growling, no balking.


To me correction/punishment sets boundaries. Something we all need that makes us feel safe (or keep others safe) and allows us to expand on the other stuff. That is very much shown in sheepdog training, but it is also part of life with all dogs, in all situations. People who tell you it doesn't...well, often it's not lying, its just that they live in situations where they don't have to put the leash down and really control the dog as sheepdogers do. No, agility is not the same, because that a 30 second continous interaction over inantimate objects. Trying that for several hours, with the jumps doing their own thing like sheep do, and it's a whole 'nother ball game.


Where training becomes an art is if you aren't dealing with a well socialized adult dog. If it's pup, it may need to go up and greet (if safe). A shy dog may need the same. But no matter what, all dogs benefit form the safety boundaries - which to me are best taught with pressure/release give/take correction/reward. The training has to give and take with the dog.....but never forget to let the dog have some autonomy within the rules.


Remind me of friend dealing with her daughter's normal childhood fears. This week she's decide that strange dogs are screaming offenses, but the rule is "no screaming, no yelling, no running". Period. You don't have to pet the dog or interact with it. The rules keep her safe, the choice to like or dislike her own. That's autonomy within boundaries

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How old was Dean when you tried it? Sounds like you needed some different sheep!


He was almost a year and a half old. That's very young, I know. Sometimes I think I'll try again when he's older, but then I wonder if it's worth it if it is something that I would only do with him on an occasional basis - and that's assuming I could muster up the guts to go in there with him with the sheep.


What I really needed, I think, was to learn something of what I needed to do on a trained dog first, before even attempting to work with such a green dog.


I kind of felt like I was trying to drive the car and build it at the same time while I didn't really know how to do either, if you know what I mean!

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This is an area where we differ. What I do is:


Train skills


Condition attitude


That's just semantics. We're both directing attitude and setting behavior boundaries.


Wendy - yep, i'd agree with that. I'd also add that we're trying to encourage the dog to train us. For example...i want my dog to look up the field towards the sheep instead of at me before i'll send him on an outrun. So i might stand there until the dog looks away from me, towards the sheep, and send him just the split second that happens. I think i'm training the dog. The dog, on the other hand, thinks he's training me to give him that send command. You can bet he'll try it a lot sooner next time to see if i catch his cue and offer the behavior he's looking for. :rolleyes:

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Why condition attitude? why not define boundaries of what you will and will not tolerate, and let the dog develop his own attitude? We all condition to a degree, by not allow dogs to be in situations where the wrong attitude is enforced. In the end however, I feel the dog that is out in the world is just like us - all you can control is your attitude. I (the dog) can't make the street Lab free, the sheep want to go left to the barn, the calves to cooperate at the chute...but I can control my attitude about my responses.


It seems as if the non-sheepdog trainers worry a lot about the small stuff. Does it matter if he likes the Lab for example? Most sheepdoggers will shrug and say "no" and just insist the dog act within the boundaries they set (be quiet, walk nicely). Most non-sd will start talking about conditioning him to like the Lab and rearrange their whole walk to condition that.


of the 2 groups you will find most stockdogs will be better behaved and happily well adjusted though - when compared to pet dogs of stockdog breeding. I'm inclined to think dogs are as unhappy as being micromanaged as we are. Some will do fine with it (as we do) but oh the growth that occurs when a Knox is put in charge is just a devine feeling!

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Okay, so again, how is achieving "calm" or "not excited" different than achieving "don't sneak off"? You give a directive to stop the excitement, i give a directive to stop the sneaking off. Your dog calms down, he gets a cookie. My dog stops trying to sneak off and i talk sweet to him.


It's not so much that the dog gets a food reward for calming down. The food reward is used in the process of teaching the dog to remain calm in the first place. By the time the dog is fully trained, a food reward is no longer needed. It can be given if the handler has food and wants to reward the dog, but the dog is no longer responding to get food - the new attitude is now conditioned. At this point, praise is usually given, but it's not always necessary at this point.


It would be like getting your dog to the point where you aren't even worried about him sneaking off - you know he knows his job and he will wait until he is given permission. He doesn't even need to be told.


In the case of the dog with the barking problem, the idea is to condition a new response to the trigger (the dog in the crate) so that when the dog encounters dogs in crates, she doesn't need to be told not to bark. That's the goal of the replacement behavior in the long run. It is no longer "don't bark" because barking is no longer an issue.


What differs here really is the process that gets the dog to the end behavior.



You aren't training a behavior, you're training an attitude, same as i am. When we each see the attitude we like, we let our dogs know we like it.




What differs to some extent, in some situations, is how each of us would choose to get our dogs to that point in the training process. And that is, I think, a result, for a large part, of the fact that we are training our dogs in very different disciplines.

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Dogs are individuals and the fact that some individuals react differently than others to training methods has to be taken into account here.


Some dogs are so poor at reading context and so unconfident that expecting them to "figure out" what they should do, other than the inappropriate behavior (which may seem like a normal behavior to them -- a bit more about that in a second) is highly stressful and ultimately unsuccessful.


Let's take the example of a dog that is genetically predisposed to fearful behavior who also did not get socialized during the appropriate periods (hmmm, sounds like a dog I know). If he has problematic behaviors they may tend to be defensive behaviors -- behaviors that, in another context, are totally normal for dogs. Basically, this dog's problem is that he cannot read context or environmental cues (having neither the inborn temperament nor the life experience to be able to do so) and so he perceives threats where none exist. If I punish him for his inappropriate behavior, the odds that he is going to be able to come up with a suitable replacement behavior on his own are pretty low, and the process of trying may completely scramble him. For this dog, I would much prefer to give him more guidance. There are dogs out there that you simply cannot trust to make the correct decisions when you say, "no, don't do that, come up with something else" -- in an ideal world we'd all love that -- and trying to make them into something they are not results not only in unnecessary wear and tear on the dog, but a whole lot of headaches for the people around him.


In my case, teaching an alternative behavior was a bridge to letting Solo figure things out on his own. He now rarely reacts in situations he used to react in and I can trust him not to do stupid shit in most situations, but he didn't start out that way. At the beginning he needed all the help he could get, and I gave it to him, and it paid off. He has lived in the middle of two major metropolitan areas and has injured exactly no one -- in fact, most of my neighbors have never thought there was anything weird about him. Only someone who has seen the entire process from beginning to end (and there are a few) could understand what it took to get him here. Would most people bother? Maybe not -- and yes, it was slow and sometimes painful -- but for a dog like him, it was the appropriate choice.


I think with a more normal dog that is simply untrained or unruly, a person can be much more laissez faire and get away with it.


I have actually spent a fair amount of time pondering these questions. When you have a dog like Solo, your ultimate goal is not necessarily to have the dog look to you for all cues to behavior (although that can be an important technique to rely on, particularly if you must take the dog out in public frequently) but to have the dog eventually learn to read context and environmental cues by himself and to have the wherewithal to make the correct choices. I train occasionally with a group of reward-based trainers who all have problem dogs (compassionate trainers often end up owning dogs like this because they are the only people who are willing to take them on), and we have spent a lot of time discussing this very issue: how do you get from "watch me" to a dog that can figure it out by himself? There isn't an easy answer, and I think it's because some dogs will never get there. Solo is what I would consider halfway there; I trust him in a lot more situations than I did when I first got him, but there are certain situations I will never trust him in, any more than I would trust a toddler to be able to save himself if he fell into a backyard pool and hadn't had any swimming lessons. There might be some toddlers who could do it, but it's not worth it to me to take the chance that mine might not be one of them. The consequences are just too high. I'm OK with that, and his quality of life is excellent, so it works for us.


Part of the misunderstanding here may be because pet owners and sheepdog owners often do have different working environments, and I don't mean only in the obvious ways. I do not have the luxury of not caring whether or not my dog is friendly with Labs because I do not live on a farm of several dozen or hundred acres that I control access to. I cannot dictate the environment my dog functions and lives in beyond a very basic level because I live in a city and I have no choice but to interact with my neighbors and their dogs on a regular basis. That means that yes, I have to try harder. Soon I will be moving to a house with a yard and consequently Solo and I will be able to relax a LOT. Whether a dog's behavior is "good" or "bad" depends an AWFUL lot on context. Solo can be problematically protective as well, and there have been a lot of folks who have opined that this is a very GOOD thing, even though I personally consider it a headache. (And then of course there were the times that Solo had read the situation right and I DID need protecting...)


Ultimately, the disagreements in this thread stem from the fact that we are all working with different dogs, in different environments, and what you can get away with training some will not fly with others. One thing I will say is that in my experience, people who advocate a primarily punishment-based method for dealing with things like aggression tend to be the same people who will not keep a dog with aggression problems (in other words, if they did the "let the dog figure it out" method and it didn't work, they'd dump the dog), and that if they ever did have a pathological dog in their past more often than not their story about the dog ends with the death of the dog (in other words, their methods did not work and they ultimately had to put the dog to sleep). (Whether some dogs really ARE better off dead or not is the subject of another discussion I guess.) Something to think about.

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I was just thinking what Melanie took the trouble to post. Specifically, within the contexts of my life and my dog's life, we do have to worry about behaviors and/or attitudes that sheep-trained dogs don't have to worry about.


Also... I took my dog to sheep exactly once. The workshop had been sold to me as appropriate for trying out a 2-year-old, never-exposed-to-sheep dog. When I got there, it was really clear that the workshop was for serious people and dogs who would work regularly. My dog and I didn't belong. Thanks for taking my $95, though! :rolleyes:


But, I did speak to the trainer early on, explaining Buddy's early life, his reactivity, etc.. The trainer, who is considered good at his job, I think, kind of sighed and said, "I could never take on a dog who had any problems. It's enough work training up a normal pup to be good with sheep." He honestly didn't understand the point of my taking in a dog who came with baggage.


I think that's a big part of the different point of views being offered here - where we all started with our dogs, how well-balanced our dogs are, and where we're trying to go with them.


My "work" with my dog for the past three years has been to get Buddy to integrate into the world with some degree of calm and happiness. And believe me, early on, just putting Buddy near a stressor and having him NOT break down was a lot of work for him. Telling him, "No, don't jump out of your skin when a bike goes by you" wouldn't have helped him, because the terror reaction wasn't really a "decision" he was making.


Reconditioning Buddy was probably more like intensive behavioral therapy than sheepdog training. Not to mention that when I brought him home, he had NO trust or relationship with me - and I probably looked just like the other humans who had not been trustworthy or kind to him. So... giving him alternative behaviors (walking off the path when a bike came by) to replace the extreme fear behaviors allowed him to gain confidence in his environment and in me. (To support the other side: Buddy began making his own decision to move off the bike path really early on; he saw that that specific behavior resulted in his safety, and decided to choose it without being asked. But I had to show him, early on, some safe alternative.)


Until I had trust from Buddy, I couldn't "ask" him to do (or not do) anything for me. After I had his trust, I could ask him just about anything.



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Wow I must be oversensative, but I find the idea that most of us on this thread under the label "punishers" are successful because we kill off/get rid of the dogs that don't suit our methods a little offensive.


I will agree that if you have enough dogs, long enough, you will find you have to make a choice between life and death, my home or yours, because not all dogs are fixable with "reasonable" methods. That's in quotes because that word has different connotations in this to everyone - nobody being wrong, just different.


We are talking here about normal dogs, with normal problems. Solo exceeded that long ago and you made a decision to work with the dog you have. That's great. Personal decision.


It does not change the points made here regarding the success of pressure/release and correction/reward method trainers.


Both of the last posts make me ponder. Is it that sheepdog people won't take the baggage on? or are they good at preventing the baggage? I know a lot of sheepdog people who raise their own pups from various genetics (and as we all know, if you play in the genepool long enough you will find both the fruit and the nuts) yet you rarely see highly off kilter dogs.


Interesting too, that the trainers I work with first response to Buddy's problems would be to wave them off and say "lets just work him". I find as a trainer myself a lot of what my student's dwell on with their dogs doesn't exist when we put him to work for real. And to add to that, a lot of what is "wrong" changes as they get better on the sheep.


It doesn't solve everything, but it is interesting to see what concentrating on a mutual task will do for an owner/dog relationship.

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I don't think it's productive to say "we're only talking about normal dogs here" because (1) there's a continuum of behavior in dogs, not a dichotomy (although I will admit I fostered a dichotomous model in my own post) and (2) to get back to the original topic, not all of the dogs you see on a certain TV show are normal. But the real point is that there isn't a one-size-fits-all way to train dogs, regardless of your personal perspective or which methods you like.


I think that it is not offensive to say that there are a lot of owners and trainers who will not take on or keep baggage. This goes for pet owners as well as sheepdog owners (and those of us who sort of straddle the camps -- or try). It's simply true. It's also true that people who need serious working dogs are generally less likely to end up with weird dogs because (1) they start off with better material (well bred dogs -- as I believe that breeding for a good working dog tends also to select for stable temperament -- anxious dogs have deficits that also cause problems around stock) and (2) they are not averse to moving a dog on if it does not suit them. Hell, I moved a dog on myself (my Papillon, Skeeter) because he didn't fit in and yeah, some of the reasons he didn't fit in had to do with pathological behaviors (in his case, resource guarding). I am not making value judgments and I don't expect everyone to make the same decisions I made.


Aggression is one of those behaviors that a decision has to be made about. If you have a dog that is just as fearful but chooses to hide and shiver instead of "defend" himself, you can get away with ignoring that behavior to a certain extent (although the dog herself is likely quite distressed). You can't ignore aggression; that's why I used it as my example of behavior that owners ultimately find intolerable. When they find the behavior intolerable they are more likely to make a decision such as euthanasia or getting rid of the dog, rather than saying "I'll live with it" or "I'll keep trying different things until I find the solution." I could have used house soiling as an example as well, although I think house soiling less often involves true pathology (unless there is a medical cause) and more often involves a lack of training.


I was happy to have the "let's just work him" approach used with Solo and it was great, on sheep. Working involves rule structures that are easy for the dog to understand (at least, at the beginning levels) and elicits instinctive reactions that a working-bred Border Collie will automatically respond to situations with. In civilian life, this is not so much the case, as the environment is far too varied and changing. This is also the case for higher levels of stock work or in practical working situations, which is why (I think) dogs with anxiety problems tend to wash out when you try to train them beyond the basics. A fearful or anxious dog may not have the confidence to sail out on a 600 yard outrun alone, and a dog that has trouble reading context will not make the right decisions when you need him to while you're trying to get the ewes off the road during a storm.


I see these limitations in Solo. Still, I work him because as you point out, concentrating on a mutual task with a clear rule structure is WONDERFUL for any dog, especially dogs like him. I fiercely believe that working helped remold his mind such that he COULD become a good citizen and not a menace to those around him -- it taught him to be able to think his way through problems and sticky situations in a context that was clear to him and that he found enjoyable, and much, much contributed to our sense of teamwork.


I think that the reason you rarely see highly off-kilter sheepdogs is threefold: (1) less are born, (2) few are kept, and (3) those who are kept are not out in public for the most part. Many, many many people I have met through sheepdog trialing have confided to me that they do or did in fact have a dog like Solo, but that that particular dog does not come out for trials, or even leave the farm. And within the contexts those dogs live in, they are probably quite normal, the way Solo is when he is in his comfort zone. To see truly wacky behavior from Solo these days you have to put him in fairly extreme situations or under serious duress. If he lived on a farm, with a more stable daily routine and no strange people or dogs around him, no one would think there was anything strange about him. The real test occurs when you take him on the road, in different situations, on different fields -- just like the real test of a sheepdog. Taking a dog outside his comfort zone is a great way to see what you've really got whether it be in terms of overall mental status, or more specifically, working ability.

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We're going to have to agree to differ on the normal dog issue. I find the longer I do this, the more "normal" dogs I see and the more "abnormal" owners.


To me that brings us back to point one: it's not the method thats bad, its the interpretation. If the rules are clear the "normal" dog should and will thrive. Correction/punishment does not have to abusive, reward/praise does not have to be coddling. Telling a dog to "knock it off" and letting him figure out what to do instead is not beating him senseless, and if it's effective can be equal or better to conditioning him to the same situation with the clicker/food/praise. I include "better" because for the dog intended to be used for work that revolving around "figure it out within these limits" it may be a helpful part of the learning process. I've seen that happen repeatedly. I've also seen now that a clicker <gasp> can be used to work through a herding issue. (more on that later, it's a work in progress). I think though the latter is much less useful than the former.


I straddle both worlds as well, sort of multi legged/multi world spraddle because it's between breeding, working, pet, sport :rolleyes: I find it enlightening to see all sides. I see not need to vilify any of them- going immediately from leash pop to beatings, and intolerant of certain behaviors to killing/rehoming.

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Both of the last posts make me ponder. Is it that sheepdog people won't take the baggage on? or are they good at preventing the baggage?


Well, I can't speak to that generally, but I'd guess that most people who need a working dog wouldn't go to a shelter and adopt a highly fearful, 18-month-old dog - at least not to work sheep. I probably shouldn't have adopted Buddy either, as ignorant as I was about how to work with him, but that's the beauty of ignorance, and why people walk open-eyed into marriage and parenthood!


Had my dog been born and raised with a sheepdog trainer, he might have had his baggage "prevented." However, had my dog been born and raised by ME, he might also! I refuse to take responsibility for what happened before I got Buddy, and I will happily take credit for the good boy he is now, thank you very much! :rolleyes:


On a farm, with tons of room to run, aquirrels to chase freely, a stable and familiar group of dogs to run around with, and none of the weird leash-law/pooper-scooper/snooty-owner/no-barking/parade-of-strangers nonsense we have to contend with in the city, I'm pretty sure I would be much less worried about Buddy's behavior and reactivity. He wouldn't feel like a "difficult" dog - just a dog with a certain personality. Conversely, in the city it doesn't matter one bit if Buddy is by nature terribly frightened of sheep, or highly skilled at killing chickens. But I would think those behaviors (genetics?) would spell real trouble for a farmer. I guess that whatever environment our dogs end up in, there are some things that are unforgivable.


I honestly don't think there's that much difference in philosophy between me and any other "camp" here. I gave big corrections (directives?) the other night when Buddy went into the garbage for the first time ever and pulled out chicken bones. I didn't try to teach him a replacement behavior. I just growled and made a big fuss to show him that was NOT OK.


On the other hand, since this isn't the stock forum, but a general discussion of Cesar and training - I think it's worthwhile talking about how teaching replacement behaviors has been successful for many of us. I don't think it has to be an either/or thing. I did a lot of redirecting training early on, and now have to do almost none at all.



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As you pointed out, there is lots of common ground.


I have to address this though:


On a farm, with tons of room to run, aquirrels to chase freely, a stable and familiar group of dogs to run around with, and none of the weird leash-law/pooper-scooper/snooty-owner/no-barking/parade-of-strangers nonsense we have to contend with in the city, I'm pretty sure I would be much less worried about Buddy's behavior and reactivity.


To start with a working farm is not "room to run" in the sense of the word you present it. Most working farms are highly structured environemnts. Granted, more acerage, but that acerage has other uses and dogs don't get to run willy nilly about to relieve stress any more than city dogs. In fact I daresay my dogs get less "free" running time than many of my city dog friends. In fact when I do take thse guys running they need to understand how to ignore "critters" and people in the fields - in the middle of rural Dakota we are not!


I don't let my dogs randomly chase prey - squirrels or otherwise. Crud happens, squirrels happen, but random reinforcement is something is don't care to encourage. Most working dog owners are the same. The only difference is that when my country dog hits a trail and won't come back it could be hours until I see him again - and he could be shot by people who don't appreciate stray "hunting dog" plowing through their fields and property. Cars and animal control in the city seem pale in comparison.


I have neighbors who don't want to hear my dogs barking all night, and regular guests (from students, to lamb buyers, to the same salemen and religious promoters I suspect stalk city area as well) who would object to stepping into dog poop as much as the next person. Hunters have rights to come into our fields in certain seasons. None of these people want to be threatend by an aggressive or out of control dog for coming onto the property in a legitimate way.


The myth of "room to roam" and the "home in the country" where reactivity and unstable behavior is not a problem is just that- a myth. At least for most of us.

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Eh, I think this is going to be a "ne'er the twain shall meet" kind of conversation.


I don't think anyone is saying that a farm is a hermetically sealed environment -- but I also think it is not a big stretch to say that it is easier to protect a weird dog from things that set him off if you live on a farm than it is if you live in the middle of a major city, if for no other reason than the population density in rural areas is much, much lower than it is in urban or suburban environments. The environment is also usually much more predictable and easier for the owner to control. Unless you have some kind of really, really major problem with trespassers, exercising a dog on your own farm is going to be a less fraught experience than, say, exercising your dog in Golden Gate Park. I never know when some dumbass is going to show up and launch a pitbull or GSD or Silken Windhound (there are a lot of them in my neighborhood for some reason; none of them come when called and their owners are particularly clueless) at my dogs. If I lived on a farm, probably that would not happen.


Also, if what people tell me is true, neighbors in rural areas tend to be much less neurotic than urban neighbors (or so I would also gather from the many discussions on this board glorifying rural life). I've had neighbors call the cops because my dogs snarked at each other over a rawhide: the cops came to the door saying my neighbor "thought the dogs were killing each other" when they'd been snarling for less than thirty seconds (I know because it was during a commercial). If I lived on a farm, probably that would not have happened. Explaining yourself to the cops is not fun no matter what the reason (or non-reason) is. Multiply that by all the other things a neighbor with a grudge might decide to give you trouble about, by the number of people you live in close proximity with when you live in an urban area, and you end up with a situation in which the margin of error is much, much narrower than it is in a more rural environment.


There's also the fact that I think many urban or suburban dwellers have not grown up around animals and do not really understand normal dog behavior, nor do they understand the fact that dogs are "only dogs" (the way we are "only human") and have a bad day occasionally, or aren't always friendly, or maybe don't want to play with every other dog they meet, even if they aren't "bad" dogs. Here in San Francisco the problem is especially acute: everyone thinks they are educated about dog training, but they also all expect dogs to act like Lassie. If your dog so much as raises its hackles at another dog (no matter how rude or pushy that dog is being) they think your dog is Dangerously Aggressive and Not Socialized (the caps are on purpose). Again, the margin of error is much narrower than it would be if we did not live in this environment.


All this is only to say that environment does make a difference. I am not saying that there are never problems in a rural environment -- I know that there are. But I also think that the terms "urban" and "rural" exist for a reason and that they signify a real difference in context that can have an effect on how owners perceive and deal with canine behavioral problems. If some of us seem like we worry an awful lot about things our dogs do, keep in mind that it might be because we have no choice. Living in a place like this can seem like a minefield even if you have a normal dog, much less one that isn't entirely normal.


I for one cannot WAIT to move to where my dogs have their own yard and I don't have to watch my back every time I take them out to potty. Imagine thinking this is a luxury! Well, for me it is! Do you realize, Solo has never had a patch of grass that he can just lie down on and enjoy the sun at his leisure? Without having to worry that, say, someone else's floppy yellow dog is going to run over and flop around on his head, or some toddler is going to run over and try to ride him like a pony? Well, he hasn't. Yeah, that's sad, but it's a fact of life and it reflects the fact that reality for us isn't what it might be if we had our 40 acres and a sheep. Anyway, I'm counting down the days.

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I agree with Melanie. I was typing a responce but didn't like it, looked again and there's Melanie's response.

For us it is much easier to keep Raven my fearfull/reactive dog happy. She doesn't like to go places and she doesn't have too. She gets all the activity she could ever want here and if people comes over she just puts herself out of reach. We also don't have interior fencing, the dogs have free roam(unless I'm out they roam all of about 100 yds). So do the sheep. It was training like someone mentioned earlier, no working sheep unless I say. Even Dew who's just turning 2 in a few months has been trustworthy for almost a year now. It's amazing to see sheep 20 feet from the liv. room window and Dew laying on her perch outside right in front of the window, not even looking at sheep. But let me walk out the front door and she's ready.


I'm sure if my dogs were off hassling the neighbors cattle that they might not be coming home but I make sure that doesn't happen and all's well. Same with wandering dogs here. If they wander on to the place and don't take the LGD's hints to move along or if they happen to even make it to the house the BC's tell them to go. IF that doens't work, then I'd be forced to use harsher methods. I've been here 2 years and haven't had any incidents more than shooting over a freindly cattle dog pups head to get the message across he's not welcome. He's not been back.


I love our rural life. BUt I do long for a park with humans around that I could chat with once in a great while. But after listening to Melanie's description I think I'll just stick to walks on the farm. Melanie, If your ever in our area, Solo can have a patch of grass or even more for as long as he would like to lay around in. I'll even put all the dogs up so he can really relax. Thanks for reminding me to count my blessings.



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I've been here 2 years and haven't had any incidents more than shooting over a freindly cattle dog pups head to get the message across he's not welcome. He's not been back.


LOL! See... you illustrated my point perfectly! If I shot a gun over anybody's dog's head, I'd be arrested AND my photo would be plastered the front page of my local newspaper, AND I'd be out of a teaching job. I could put a link on my BC sig for contributions to my PayPal Legal Defense Fund! (Yes, the ACLU would probably get me my job back, but it would be the crummy job no one wants, because the superintendent would be highly POed. It's simply not worth it.)


I'm not saying the country is perfect (learning what a Burdizzo does ruined my day!) or that farm-dwellers don't have to control their dogs. But I do think that rural life must exacerbate fearful or neurotic behaviors way less than city life. My front windows are less than 8' from a busy road. My dog watches strangers walk by, basically in his yard, day and night. Around the 4th of July, we are constantly bombarded by fireworks from the houses that border mine on all sides. Strange Floppy Yellow Dogs seem to be a de rigeur fashion accessory at the park. A drunk 300-lb neighbor once marched at my dog yelling "SPIKE! SPIKE! SPIKE!" because he thought it was funny to make the reactive dog react. (Multiply the local population by 3,000 or 10,000 and you multiply the number of idiots by the same amount.) There are simply fewer minutes in a day here when my dog isn't being bombarded by things that used to set him off.


And as Melanie said, it's a rare city person who sees my dog snark in a normal dog way and says, in a relaxed voice, "You gotta let them work it out." (Those people are my best friends!) Mothers and dog owners around here are Very Tightly Wound, and normal behavior is often perceived as abnormal. Thank heavens I'm not trying to raise a rambunctious toddler.


I'm lucky in that I can get to a couple local parks with long, wooded trails where people are seldom seen. That was my dog's salvation early on - being able to be a dog in a place where he wasn't constantly bombarded by bikes and drunks and human chaos.



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Ok Mary You and your dog are welcome to a spot on the grass too! :D

We follow the 3S rule out here. It's a rough one but with livestock around it is the only answer. I've never had to go past shooting over a dogs head but wouldn't hesitate to do more if I had to.


Since living in the country I've forgotten the "bad" parts of the city. Life out here can be a bit lonely but sounds like city life isnt a bed of roses either.


OMT....I'll contribute to your paypal fund if need be! :rolleyes:



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people who advocate a primarily punishment-based method for dealing with things like aggression tend to be the same people who will not keep a dog with aggression problems (in other words, if they did the "let the dog figure it out" method and it didn't work, they'd dump the dog), and that if they ever did have a pathological dog in their past more often than not their story about the dog ends with the death of the dog


I think you know, Melanie, that neither the first nor the second part of this statement is true about me. I actually work with problematic dogs in a work focused setting, and have found it very effective to help almost every dog work through a wide range of difficult problems. I've only failed two thus far in recent times, and that's because I have to draw the line at multiple deliberate bite incidents, particularly ones that involve my kids. My own Trim (severely fear aggressive) I raised in an 800 sq ft house downtown with the only outlet available to us for training, being formal environments - classes, competitions, herding lessons. Her placement was not rooted in her failings, but in my own failure to provide enough work for her at that time (with a toddler and an infant and ill a lot).


The more I work with these dogs, the more I drift towards a "correct it and leave the rest" philosophy. As I say, the focus of such training shouldn't be on the corrections, but on the freedom and the building of trust. I continue to be amazed and grateful to have the opportunity to see what all kinds of dogs do with that trust.


Yes, the fact that I have a quiet place here to give these dogs a "clean slate" to work with, helps somewhat. It helps me more than them, though - it makes me feel more secure. It's empowering. I'm starting to think, more and more, that that's in my mind pretty much. The majority of my initial training occurs on the thirty feet of sidewalk outside my back door.


If a dog isn't safe to walk off leash, through crowds or among other dogs at a dog park, he isn't safe to run loose on my sixty acres. We need to develop the dog's sense of what's expected of him, a bit more. The problem isn't in the dog's environment, it's in his head.

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Well yeah, the problem is in the dog's head in the sense that you're working with the same dog wherever you're working with him, for better or worse. But, just like people, dogs are different in different environments, the weird ones even more so. Part of the definition of a stable temperament is that the dog is predictable across a wide range of environments, like Fly, who is the same wherever you take her; the problem with weird dogs is often that their comfort zones are so narrow.


The folks who live in rural areas here have posted over and over again about how wonderful and quiet it is and how they could never live in a a city as they'd be stressed out and miserable -- is it so hard to believe the same could be true of our dogs? (For my part, if I had to live in a rural area I'd end up throwing myself under a bus most likely... individual differences, again... but I digress...)


I think your example underscores the importance of environment and how it affects how we perceive these dogs and their problems. I don't have kids and have never lived with any; therefore, whether my dogs are good with kids or not has never mattered.


I think it IS possible to remove a dog's initiative and ability to evaluate situations by himself by always telling him to look to you for guidance, yes. I don't think any of us wants to perform a personality lobotomy on our dogs (well, actually, a lot of the dog sports people I've seen appear to actually want that, and their dogs turn into clicker robots that just throw trained behaviors over and over again, and it's creepy and I don't like it) but I don't think there is an either/or solution to the problem. Some dogs need more help than others and I don't see a problem with taking these dogs and saying, "Don't do that, why don't you try this instead?"

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