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Trying to improve confidence

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Vergil - I have a dog that has problems with a lack of confidence (or a lot of fear, however you look at it). The problem is at least partly genetic if not primarily due to breeding (and this is not my opinion alone but also that of the top trainer who worked with his father).

 

How can I work with a dog like this to improve his confidence, at least to the point of which he is capable? I realize that, if it is genetic, there will be a limit to what can be done with him and for him, but what would you suggest in the way of "confidence-building" exercises or approaches that might be helpful for him (or any dog with confidence issues)?

 

In addition, this dog is having a real hard time with driving (also, according to his father's trainer, an issue that that trainer could not overcome in the father - trust me, I know he should never have been used for stud but that's another issue and wasn't my decision). He's a dog with an almost fanatic "need" to get to the heads and is very uncomfortable otherwise, although I have made some small progress in this with the help of a couple of good trainers.

 

Thanks, and I hope you had a great weekend! It was nice working with you as a scribe at the Bluegrass.

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Vergil - I have a dog that has problems with a lack of confidence (or a lot of fear, however you look at it). The problem is at least partly genetic if not primarily due to breeding (and this is not my opinion alone but also that of the top trainer who worked with his father).

 

How can I work with a dog like this to improve his confidence, at least to the point of which he is capable? I realize that, if it is genetic, there will be a limit to what can be done with him and for him, but what would you suggest in the way of "confidence-building" exercises or approaches that might be helpful for him (or any dog with confidence issues)?

 

In addition, this dog is having a real hard time with driving (also, according to his father's trainer, an issue that that trainer could not overcome in the father - trust me, I know he should never have been used for stud but that's another issue and wasn't my decision). He's a dog with an almost fanatic "need" to get to the heads and is very uncomfortable otherwise, although I have made some small progress in this with the help of a couple of good trainers.

 

Thanks, and I hope you had a great weekend! It was nice working with you as a scribe at the Bluegrass.

 

THanks!

 

Ok - let's cover the confidence building. You can try backing up to the fence ,hissing to get him excited and gripping the sheep. You can try putting a lot of sheep in a small area( packing them in), go in with him and walk with him as he flanks around the group, helping him if need be, so he learns they will move away from him. You can also work him pushing sheep through the chutes with another experienced dog.

 

Hope one or all of these will help with confidence as well as the driving!

 

Good Luck -

Vergil

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Thanks for taking the time to help those of us on this forum!

 

Along this same line..

Once a dog has built up the confidence (or has had it all along) how would one go about working on confidence on the drive? I'd say I have a similar problem with a 4yo dog who is not lacking in confidence anywhere EXCEPT driving. She'll pull out of corners, go under stock to get there, work in small areas, and pull cattle out of a trailer, ect. Driving however evokes alot of tension, or what I see as anxity. She'll start to graze for grass/manure as she's walking and loosing contact with stock, until she has to pick up the pace to catch back up (one of my biggest pet peeves, which if I don't watch it will get me growling get out of it as she's doing it, which causes more grazing) She too has a tendency to want to go to the head, but a low AHH, will pull her back in line. She can have a tendency to do this kind of behavior too when walking up and things are slow and "controled". Her personality is pushy and fast, and when things are slowed, she almost pouts. When she was a young pup, driving came quite naturally, but somewhere along the line I must have screwed her down too much or something.

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Thank you, Vergil, for your reply.

 

At my trainer's, we have done a little packed pen (very small pen, packed with sheep and only enough room for the dog and a little space for the sheep to move - he was quite enthused about the concept that he could nip a hind leg, and he is not a grippy dog at all) and small pen (8x16' pen with about 10 sheep) work with my dog. He never seemed to relax much and become more calm but perhaps we need to do this more. He would be very anxious at first, maybe seem to relax just a tiny bit, and then become more anxious again. He is very pressure-sensitive - closeness to the stock, nearness of fencing, strong draws, etc.

 

Yesterday at the trainer's, we did some driving in a small paddock (maybe 50' square), along the fencelines and through the corners. While it started out very sloppy and laughably zig-zaggy, he began to get the idea as the trainer directed him and then I began to direct him better and in a more timely fashion, and then he did continue similar work outside in the larger field and did much better than we expected (based on past performance).

 

I am quite convinced that some of his issues are temperment (genetic) based and therefore don't expect to overcome them, but would like to be able to manage/handle him to minimize the problems. Being my first dog, he has the disadvantage of lots of poor handling on my part to overcome, also.

 

I think that his anxiety also results in some mental "burn-out" as he works - he may start out well or a bit anxious, does a bit better as he warms up and the edge wears off, and then he begins to get tense again (even when he isn't really getting physically tired) - I think he gets mentally tired fast, probably because of the anxiety/fear.

 

Thank you for the suggestions and I hope to do some more close-up work with him to help this (on our monthly excursions for training).

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Thanks for taking the time to help those of us on this forum!

 

Along this same line..

Once a dog has built up the confidence (or has had it all along) how would one go about working on confidence on the drive? I'd say I have a similar problem with a 4yo dog who is not lacking in confidence anywhere EXCEPT driving. She'll pull out of corners, go under stock to get there, work in small areas, and pull cattle out of a trailer, ect. Driving however evokes alot of tension, or what I see as anxity. She'll start to graze for grass/manure as she's walking and loosing contact with stock, until she has to pick up the pace to catch back up (one of my biggest pet peeves, which if I don't watch it will get me growling get out of it as she's doing it, which causes more grazing) She too has a tendency to want to go to the head, but a low AHH, will pull her back in line. She can have a tendency to do this kind of behavior too when walking up and things are slow and "controled". Her personality is pushy and fast, and when things are slowed, she almost pouts. When she was a young pup, driving came quite naturally, but somewhere along the line I must have screwed her down too much or something.

 

Well, grazing or picking up manure is almost always from too much pressure, so that being said what can be done about it?!...I would put her on a light long line and with her to your side, walk with her while she starts to drive, then drop the line and ease away from her, staying to her side. If she starts to pick at manure, hiss her a little to get her attention back on the sheep. Next, with you walking beside her (but not close to her), walk her in 20-30 feet, give a flank, 20-30 feet, give her a flank, 20 -30 feet give an inside flank then again so you are making a hexagon type shape. Do this in both directions. This exercise should help to keep her mind occupied.

 

Good luck - Vergil

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Thank you, Vergil, for your reply.

 

At my trainer's, we have done a little packed pen (very small pen, packed with sheep and only enough room for the dog and a little space for the sheep to move - he was quite enthused about the concept that he could nip a hind leg, and he is not a grippy dog at all) and small pen (8x16' pen with about 10 sheep) work with my dog. He never seemed to relax much and become more calm but perhaps we need to do this more. He would be very anxious at first, maybe seem to relax just a tiny bit, and then become more anxious again. He is very pressure-sensitive - closeness to the stock, nearness of fencing, strong draws, etc.

 

Yesterday at the trainer's, we did some driving in a small paddock (maybe 50' square), along the fencelines and through the corners. While it started out very sloppy and laughably zig-zaggy, he began to get the idea as the trainer directed him and then I began to direct him better and in a more timely fashion, and then he did continue similar work outside in the larger field and did much better than we expected (based on past performance).

 

I am quite convinced that some of his issues are temperment (genetic) based and therefore don't expect to overcome them, but would like to be able to manage/handle him to minimize the problems. Being my first dog, he has the disadvantage of lots of poor handling on my part to overcome, also.

 

I think that his anxiety also results in some mental "burn-out" as he works - he may start out well or a bit anxious, does a bit better as he warms up and the edge wears off, and then he begins to get tense again (even when he isn't really getting physically tired) - I think he gets mentally tired fast, probably because of the anxiety/fear.

 

Thank you for the suggestions and I hope to do some more close-up work with him to help this (on our monthly excursions for training).

 

 

Glad the fence driving exercise went well. More short workouts will help. At the time he is feeling good, quit, rather than letting it get to the point where he is anxious again. Keep sessions short and as often as possible.

 

Vergil

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I wanted to chime in here. My dog's number one issue is confidence or lack-there-of. Everything mentioned here, my trainer has done with my dog and me. Also, short lessons on lambs has done wonders. I am already seeing vast improvements after a few months of doing this.

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Glad the fence driving exercise went well. More short workouts will help. At the time he is feeling good, quit, rather than letting it get to the point where he is anxious again. Keep sessions short and as often as possible.

 

Vergil

 

I have been very pleased to read your replies. They are quite in line with what my trainer advocates and add a few ideas to what we have been doing.

 

As I am only able to go to train (or work on sheep at all, as we just have cattle) about once a month (it's almost three hours each way), we do wind up doing more training in one day than I would do otherwise. However, she usually breaks it up into several short sessions, keeps a real close eye on his tension levels, and ends each short session on a positive note. In fact, I often "quit" pretty quickly when things are going well because I know, with him, that the tension will begin to build again as he gets mentally tired, and I try to avoid that happening.

 

Again, thank you!

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I have been very pleased to read your replies. They are quite in line with what my trainer advocates and add a few ideas to what we have been doing.

 

As I am only able to go to train (or work on sheep at all, as we just have cattle) about once a month (it's almost three hours each way), we do wind up doing more training in one day than I would do otherwise. However, she usually breaks it up into several short sessions, keeps a real close eye on his tension levels, and ends each short session on a positive note. In fact, I often "quit" pretty quickly when things are going well because I know, with him, that the tension will begin to build again as he gets mentally tired, and I try to avoid that happening.

 

Again, thank you!

 

Glad to be of help -

Vergil

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Along the same lines our Aussie lacks confidence too. She shut down at this weekend's ASCA trial. The trainer could not get her to do the standing pen. (She already has one leg in open sheep.) Then in the afternoon they successfully completed the AHBA HRTD Level 1 with few commands from the trainer. Seems she doesn't like being told what to do. Now the trainer wants us to take over training as she feels we will do better with her (so she can see us). I need to re read your book and start from scratch. How does one gain confidence in ones self to train their own dog? N

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Along the same lines our Aussie lacks confidence too. She shut down at this weekend's ASCA trial. The trainer could not get her to do the standing pen. (She already has one leg in open sheep.) Then in the afternoon they successfully completed the AHBA HRTD Level 1 with few commands from the trainer. Seems she doesn't like being told what to do. Now the trainer wants us to take over training as she feels we will do better with her (so she can see us). I need to re read your book and start from scratch. How does one gain confidence in ones self to train their own dog? N

 

Just get in there and do it! Dogs are very forgiving!

 

Take as many lessons as you can. You may want to do some lessons where you work at a distance from the trainer with a radio on. The trainer can quietly direct you which should help you gain confidence.

 

Good luck!

 

Vergil

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