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As most of you know, Jake and I are taking herding lessons. Jake definitely knows more about herding than I do so the training is mostly for me. IMO, Jake is such a natural, he just needs to be 'molded". Me.....Well, I need to learn everything.

 

Jake hasn't left the round pen yet but that's my fault. I'm somewhat soft spoken and don't exert enough vocal/physical authority. OTOH, by the time Robin tells Jake something by (approximately) the 3rd time, he gets it and no longer pushes the envelope. I'm under the impression Jake listens to Robin quicker because #1-he knows she knows what she's 'talking' about and respects her and #2-Robin has a more authoritive presence (and #3-Jake is so in love with Robin, if I wasn't confident in his love for me, I would be jealous :D ). I feel sooooo blessed Jake is the dog I have to help me learn herding. He is so patient! He has shown no frustration at all so far and he tries so hard to please. He's excited when he goes into the round pen but at the same time, he still exercises a certain self-control if that makes any sense (no gripping/no shutting down). So my question is...

 

Do you think it's possible, when a dog know more about herding than the handler, that the dog will help the instructor teach the handler?? I know this sounds nuts but on the way home from his last lesson, I wondered when Jake pushed the envelope with me if he was actually 'telling' me "Watch mom, when I move this way, the sheep are going to move that way. What are you going to do?" and I should also listen to him as well or am I reading too much into it? Can a dog deliberately make it's owner think or am I humanizing my dog too much?? (At one time I thought I was 'getting it' but that didn't last long. I ended up stopping and saying "I'm losing control here" and had to rethink what I was doing.)

 

If my questions sound crazy, I apologize but so far I just think Jake is amazing (as if you couldn't tell :rolleyes: ).

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Hello,

 

It sounds like Jake is a nice dog and is trying to make sense of things himself. I do think once they get to a certain level ( especially once they understand what their job is), that you can learn quite a bit from them, but I don't know that it is intentional on their part. The reason Jake listens you your instructor is probably not only that she has better confidence and presence in the pen, but that what she is asking him to do "makes sense" to him. When you are starting out, and don't know where to be or what to do, that really is confusing to the dogs and they tend to go to their default "ok....I'll just start throwing stuff at this situation until someone tells me what makes sense". If you are not doing so already- try to be in the pen while your instructor is working, stay with her- let her drag you around and pay attention to where she is asking your dog to come in, stop, get out, etc. Watch the sheep and try to make sense of where they should be.

 

My first dog Rhett was was very biddable (to a point, she was also a little opinionated, but not in a rebellious way) and she taught me alot just because she had enough eye and talent to keep things controlled while I figured things out. The next dog I had was very fast and not as intuitive and I really had to step up my game in order to get my timing right and show her what I wanted. They all teach us something important- but we have to remember with young dogs that they are still trying to figure it out and need to be handled in a way that makes sense to them.

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"Watch mom, when I move this way, the sheep are going to move that way. What are you going to do?" and I should also listen to him as well or am I reading too much into it?

 

At the beginning, this may be true (when the dog is working entirely on instinct). But at a certain point, you're going to need to ask them to do things that "don't feel right" in order to move the sheep where/how you want them moved. So, while I think you should "listen" to your dog, your dog also has to learn to listen to you. It's through this trial and error process that you both will learn to work as a team.

 

The key is not overreacting or crossing the line where you undermine your dog's trust and confidence. I think you are less likely to make this error when you are paired with a skilled instructor.

 

Kim

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You are so lucky to start fresh, both of you. At this point you and Jake are trying to figure out what is going on and that is a wonderful place to be. I started with a trained dog and a very experienced handler. I was in the same situation. My dog would listen to the handler and both of them knew what they were doing. When I started to take over of course I made a lot of mistakes and much of it came down to timing and expectation. I do believe that a new dog and I work with them as well have some sort of instinct for timing and some sort of instinct to make choices.

The handler I worked with with prepare a lesson and map it put for me then watch me through the session and stop things to make key points. At first one of the mistakes I was making was timing. I was not responding soon enough to direct my dog so the dog would often make choices for himself. My trainer would point out how and why the dog made the choices he did and I learned so much from that. The dog was experienced so more times than not he would make a correct move or simply default. The dog in fact was directing the session entirely but I learned from this and of course the many other things but this one little point in the whole big picture I am trying to make is that I did not respond quickly enough to direct the dog. At first I could not but after some time and a lot of practice I started to get it and we began working together very well. I do not think the dog was making choices but if the dog was thinking through the process he was most often deciding to do what came naturally to him based on what he was seeing at the moment. By watching the dog and being directed I very quickly learned what the dog would want to do. It was frustrating at first but looking back on it I would not have missed a single moment. Good luck and have fun.

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At first one of the mistakes I was making was timing. I was not responding soon enough to direct my dog so the dog would often make choices for himself.

My timing is definitely off. We had a lamb in the round pen with us that preferred to be with her mom. Not only was that was a nice change of pace but it made me see how when it comes to herding, nothing is ever the same and I need to become a quicker thinker.

 

The reason Jake listens you your instructor is probably not only that she has better confidence and presence in the pen, but that what she is asking him to do "makes sense" to him. When you are starting out, and don't know where to be or what to do, that really is confusing to the dogs and they tend to go to their default "ok....I'll just start throwing stuff at this situation until someone tells me what makes sense".

I think you're right. Jake is already showing a big difference between his 1st time in the round pen and yesterday with Robin and it's probably because what she asks him to do does make more sense to him. But then again, when I try doing the same thing (Robin makes it look so easy), it takes Jake a little longer to listen to me which tells me I need to become more confident and show more authority in my voice. Jake enjoys moving the sheep. Sometimes I wonder if he's thinking to himself, "Until I believe you mean what you say, I'm going to keep moving these sheep" vs what I'm doing isn't making any sense to him.

 

It's through this trial and error process that you both will learn to work as a team.

I'll be so glad when we get there. I get very frustrated with myself when I stop and think about how much I don't know. And it's during those times I'm even more proud and appreciative of Jake.

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Brenda, reading your posts sounds so much like being in my head! We are at the same stage :D I hope it's ok if I give my take with the caveat that no one knows less than I do here.

 

Jake sounds like a wonderful dog, and the way you describe him is exactly how I feel about Odin. I don't know anything about herding either, but it is clear to me he *does*. From what some people have told me, it's clear to others as well. I've handled him once. After I got I realized that not only did my timing suck, and I didn't know what to do, but I actually felt really embarrassed, knowing what Odin can already do compared to me. I kept getting "behind" the push of the sheep and doing this crazy pirouette maneuver (why?? your guess is as good as mine...goes to show how good *my* herding instincts are!!) Every time I did the body language that told Odin to come by, I forced an away side flank. He had only been handled by 3 excellent handlers at that point, so within a couple of minutes, his confusion was palpable. Like Jake, he didn't give up. But he started just stopping dead in his tracks instead of taking a flank when I did that. And flicking me this look over the sheep that I swear was like PLEASE WAKE UP AND MAKE SENSE. Yes, that's me anthropomorphizing his expression, and I only would see it for a second because as you well know eyes must be on sheep, but still: that *was* the expression.

 

Then, I kind of got it. (OH, my other left, and don't pirouette. Right.) Immediately, he "rewarded" me by becoming responsive and a complete team player. I wrote here about having to fix one flank, even that felt like we were nothing but a team working together to get something right. And watching his speed, timing, balance point, and distance really teaches me more about the sheep, which is the point of the whole endeavor so that's priceless.

 

But when I think about it I don't think he was trying to teach me, really. I think it was unpleasant for him when I didn't know what I was doing, as it was for me. Part of biddability must be reading the handler; I think biddability must have something to do with empathy. And, at least right now, if I am distressed or confused, he's going to be too. When someone handles him who is confident and relaxed, he's going to be, too. The upside of this is that when I "got it" enough that I was actually having a good time, he was having a great time. I believe the sheep were appreciative too. ;P And *that* 3-way feedback loop is something I can't wait to experience again.

 

Odin has left the round pen with another handler with no problems but I've only been in the pen, once. I can't believe it's been a month since we last went. Various illnesses, uncooperative parental houseguests (my mom thinks I've literally gone insane :rolleyes:), and work has kept me away - but I've got a written-in-stone plan to go this weekend and am attending a weekend clinic at the end of August too. Like Jake, Odin has gotten so much better since his first try with every single exposure. But what floored (and cheered) me is that I think Odin visibly progressed even when working with lousy me - but *only* when I relaxed and took charge so we could work like a team. I bet Jake is the same! Looking forward to hearing more Jake updates soon :D

 

-Kelly

 

My timing is definitely off. We had a lamb in the round pen with us that preferred to be with her mom. Not only was that was a nice change of pace but it made me see how when it comes to herding, nothing is ever the same and I need to become a quicker thinker.

I think you're right. Jake is already showing a big difference between his 1st time in the round pen and yesterday with Robin and it's probably because what she asks him to do does make more sense to him. But then again, when I try doing the same thing (Robin makes it look so easy), it takes Jake a little longer to listen to me which tells me I need to become more confident and show more authority in my voice. Jake enjoys moving the sheep. Sometimes I wonder if he's thinking to himself, "Until I believe you mean what you say, I'm going to keep moving these sheep" vs what I'm doing isn't making any sense to him.

I'll be so glad when we get there. I get very frustrated with myself when I stop and think about how much I don't know. And it's during those times I'm even more proud and appreciative of Jake.

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You guys crack me up! Oh I so remember when most of my herding training I was a step behind and couldn't think fast enough. No - years later mind you- I am finally feeling good about things - almost every training session anyway. There is always something to learn from these great dogs. Luckily each dog is different and has something different to teach me. I was/am so blessed to learn from a great dog. Lad come to me trained, very fast, pushy and passionate. At 10 he is still that way. When I started with him and would ask him to do something he "knew" wasn't right - he would look back at me and say " You really are not serious are you?" "You want me to do What??" Ok so it was just this look in his eyes, he really didn't talk - Thank goodness or who knows what he would have really said It may have been more like " Come on woman, what do you mean you don't get it? I have to explain it again?? weren't you watching?...

We all need a Lad to teach us. I must be getting better since I rarely get The Look anymore. :rolleyes:

 

Enjoy the journey,

 

Denice

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Thanks, Ooky and Denice!

 

Robin and I did discuss pressure last Saturday. I'm sure now that's the reason I started noticing Jake's movements more. The vet had called me the day before to tell me Jake was suffering from "kidney failure" and I didn't hear anything back from them until today (turns out he just needs to drink more water) and I think I was just being too emotional. We've just had a few lessons and Jake's turning out to be a great dog and I was wondering/worrying if his time was going to be cut short and I was reading something that wasn't there.

 

I doubt I will ever be as good as most, if not all, of you guys but you know what??? That's ok. I'm going to go out there, learn the best I can and have fun. I have to admit....it's going to be interesting to look back to this day 10 years from now to see how far I've come! Because some days I wonder if I'm ever going to 'get it'. Right now, I don't think Jake cares. No matter how bad I screw up, he still smiles for days afterwards and he's more velcro than usual.

 

I do know The Look though! JJ is our 1st border collie and he gave us that look many times in our early days. I call it his "stupid human" look. :rolleyes: I don't know why dh didn't like the t-shirts I had made up with JJ's picture on it saying that........

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