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Shut up and let the dog work


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We needed to bring cattle closer to the house in preparation for vaccinations and weaning that we have to do shortly. While I was at work one day, Ed used Celt to move the cattle from one pasture to another, via one or two others (we rotationally graze and so our fields are broken into smaller units).

 

We went out Thursday evening to bring the cattle from one field through two more, across the road and into the hayfield, and a sharp turn into the house field (which isn't always easy as the hayfield is quite lush and appealing right now, and the neighbor's cattle are sometimes in their field at the top of ours, and provide a great distraction for our cattle (as I've mentioned before).

 

What can I say about Celt's work that night? He was job-oriented and not just instinct-driven. That's a big advance because with his anxious nature and my anxious nature that doesn't give him much help, he has tended to respond to what his instincts tell him even if it's counterproductive to what we need to do.

 

For example, a consistent problem has been that when the cattle go through a gate, he feels he has to rush around and head them to keep control - which defeats the purpose of putting them through the gate to move them somewhere. And my reacting by yelling hasn't helped one bit and has simply made things worse.

 

It was hot and muggy and, at first, they did not want to move. But, with Ed calling and their knowing that he is the source of all forage new and verdant, they began to shift as Celt applied his gentle pressure behind. This time, he moved the cattle quietly along a fenceline and then, when the leaders and middle of the herd made the sharp right turn and sped up as they knew they were going "somewhere new and delicious", he never made a step to head them. He stayed right back at the rear, gently quartering when needed to keep the stragglers going where they needed to go (because, of course, when they saw the rest of the herd heading perpendicular to them, they tended to want to stop along the fence and fuss, instead of moving "away" from the leaders to get to and through the gateway.

 

Then, when we moved them across fields, he never broke and headed them - except (I thought) once, when I realized that he was just placing himself to pressure them to turn through the next gate (all the while, Ed was leading the cattle and so Celt had someone to balance to, while I was essentially the "second dog in the brace" working at the rear). Once they were where they needed to be to be prepared to cross the road, he put pressure on the lower end of the group while I held the upper end, always just reading the stock, balancing off Ed, balancing with me, and getting the job done with almost no verbal input from me.

 

When the cattle entered the hayfield, Celt went right across with the last of the group as I led my mare across (as an "only horse", she considers the cow herd to be her herd), and I saw him blast out and around. I was thinking that, after all that good, quiet, productive work, he was blowing it. I was wrong again - he just headed them off and placed himself to push them into the next field where Ed was waiting and calling them. He understood the job and did it.

 

An old hand who knows the dogs once said that he "really, really liked" Celt but that Celt had a lot of fear and that I (and my handling) was his worst problem. Celt may be seven in November but I kind of feel like I am finally beginning to understand just a little bit, and that my dog is finally able to bloom because I'm letting him and not hindering him quite so much.

 

Did I ever tell you just how much I love this dog? I only hope I can use the lessons I've begun to learn with Celt and Bute to benefit Dan in his training as he grows up to be a working stockdog, a farm hand, and a companion.

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I'm sorry! This got attached to the wrong thread! Please ignore.

 

=========

 

 

I'm coming into the thread late, but I've had my share of thunderphobic dogs (two right now) and have struggled to find an answer myself. One possible aid might be something called the "Storm Defender" cape, which is said to dissipate static electricity from the dogs coat. It might also function a little bit like the Anxiety Wrap. Nicholas Dodman studied the cape and showed some positive results, but concluded that the study included too few dogs to be statistically significant. Although the journal article appears to not be online at the moment (Elsevier is looking into it), there's a news article that describes it: http://www.sapaws.com/Thunderwear_among_re...obic_dogs_.html.

 

I'd love to hear if anyone has tried anything like this.

 

Ann

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I have a long list of " best advise " that I have put together over the years that I try to refer to when I can and need to. I have had the great pleasure of working with some top handlers and when I first started I got some advise from a man who has proven to be tops and I have never forgotten it, I frequently take his advise. I was working with my new dog Pete who was fully trained and working beside me to help me along was a good friend " Handler One ". He watched and listened while I worked Pete for some time and then stopped me. I put Pete down and anticipating some words of wisdom I turned to him and said, yes ? Shut up and let Pete work, he said. He knows what he is doing and he is doing just fine, help him but don't direct him. We talked about this for some time after the session. The next morning I wanted to move our sheep from a pasture across a road to another pasture and then split the flock and move several of them into a large pen. The sheep were some distance from me so I send Pete on an out-run and I headed for the first gate. Without me saying a word Pete brought the sheep to the gate. I opened the second gate and went back to the first and opened it. I had not said a word to Pete. When I opened the first gate Pete took them through across the road and through the second gate. Only then did I realize that I had not said a word and Pete did exactly without a single error what I wanted him to do OR, what he knew he needed to do. Now this sounds simple but to somebody new this was a revelation. This was a different situation. I was new and you are an old hand. It is refreshing to read your post. Unless I am practicing for my benefit, something I enjoy and it seems Pete does to I find most of the time Pete does exactly what needs to be done without much input from me. This gives me plenty of time to talk to Pete about other things like sports, nature, fishing, cows, horses and sheep along with a little gossip. Thanks for the reminder.

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Thanks, DTrain. I am not really an old hand at all. As a perceptive friend (and hubby of my trainer) has said, my dog and I are "young in training". So, while neither of us are young and have some lessons, clinics, and farmwork under our belts, we are really pretty young in terms of experiences, both practical and training-wise.

 

My dog would have done much better under a more experienced and more perceptive handler/trainer than I have been, starting with him as a pup and me as a virtually total novice.

 

But, we're coming along - slow as it may be. Thanks!

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Yay! for Celt! Great post, Sue. One thing I have learned over the years is that once the dog understands *what* the job is, it's often best to let the dog figure out *how* to accomplish that job,

A

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Is it not wonderful Sue to be able to grow with your dog. I visited the ranch where my Pete was born raised and trained and saw him work. The rancher took Pete out to the field where the sheep were. Pete headed for the sheep and the rancher headed for the barn. In a few minutes Pete showed up with the sheep and the rancher had not said a word. Pete knew his work.

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Hi Sue,

 

Congrats to both you & Celt on a job well-done.

 

Celt is still a young dog & these dogs are very adaptive and resilient. Have faith & confidence in him - he has years more of working with you ahead of him!

 

Good luck, gail

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Thank you for your support, guys!

 

Today was the day to actually round up the herd, push them into the working pens, then put the dog up and get the vax and so on done. The cows were not so cooperative as they were the other day, having reasonably good feed at their feet and a general suspicion of the working pens.

 

One dear old "pet" cow has been very dog-cranky this year as she has a hind foot that is bothering her. She gave Celt quite a time this morning and he needed to keep his distance and stay calm or get right back into her face, depending on the circumstances. He's a dog without a grip but he can come oh-so-close. That's enough for most cows here, most of the time. And a good show is plenty for the calves.

 

He did get the herd gathered up and to the pens with Ed calling and me being the second dog, and he did it quite nicely with little input from me. But there we hit a snag as Ed had not gotten everything quite set up right. The pens and guiding gates form a rough, reversed figure 6. The cattle come to the tail of the six, walk clockwise all around the pens, and then are guided into the pen by the inner-side of the tail of the six. But, we forgot to get the end of the tail up against the fence and so some cattle went initially counterclockwise, some went clockwise, some entered the pen, and some squirted out the opening.

 

The group that squired back out the opening (we quickly gated in the ones that made it into the pen) were a group of rowdy calves and some cows, including a couple that are more dog-aggressive (and more calf-protective) than our run-of-the-mill cow. They all headed down toward the spring and the gate to a fresh field. Why did they? Because they knew, and we didn't that some calves had broken the gate into that field and were stuffing themselves on very lush growth.

 

Celt rounded those renegades up but I could not open the partially-broken gate without risking all the cows and calves heading into that field. With such lush feed, it would have taken a real effort to get them back out. Meanwhile, as Celt kept them to the fence, heading off those trying to make a break in one direction or the other, I propped the gate just so they could slip back out and he managed to work them, one or two at a time, through the gate, with none of the others getting in with us.

 

Since calves are critters that Celt has a particular problem with (thanks to old MacLeod, who let Celt and Megan both know years ago that calves were under his protection), I was extremely pleased with his work. It took finesse, some of the mothers were just on the other side of a two-wire electric fence and loudly protesting, and he managed to keep his calm and his wits about him and get the job done.

 

He and I got them all headed up and where they needed to be, Ed had fixed the gap in the guiding gates, and we pushed them in in two bunches as a couple of pair gave us a bit of trouble. Then it was time for a good cool-off in the stock tank and a nap in the house for Celt, and several hours of work for Ed and myself. But it went well.

 

There were just some times today that I was very pleased - situations that have given Celt fits before, where he (and probably me) could not keep ourselves calm and focussed. He was working, thinkiing, and (usually) not needing much encouragement from me to see what to do and that he could do it.

 

Now, if Dan has Celt's talent, some self-confidence, and maybe a grip...

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if Dan has...maybe a grip...

:rolleyes::D:D HAHAHA!!!! MAYBE a grip?!?! You have to remember, Dan is littermate to The Landshark

 

A

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[quote name=stockdogranch'

Yay! for Celt! Great post, Sue. One thing I have learned over the years is that once the dog understands *what* the job is, it's often best to let the dog figure out *how* to accomplish that job,

A

 

 

"Shut up and let the dog work" Great advice. HARD TO DO. I think the toughest lesson is knowing when to let go of the control! The best work I have seen from my dogs is ranch work. Usually I am too busy to watch them and they are handling everything on their own. I think they develop a real "feel" for their stock when we are able to step out of the picture. :0)

Suzanne

http://walkupbcs.blogspot.com/

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It continues to be a learning experience for us from day to day. Celt has had to help move mama cows (just three days from weaning separation) away from the pens where the calves were confined, down a long field, through a gateway, hard left turn and across the road, another left turn and through another gateway and across a driveway and, finally, into new pasture.

 

It would have been an easy go except that several of the cows are what you might call "more persistent" mothers (almost one week from weaning, one is still fussing over losing her baby). Most of the cows followed Ed - as I told him, some are "forage whores". But the four that didn't gave us a challenge. The way things are set up, they could circle around the pen and so, if we got them heading clockwise towards the general direction I wanted them, they just kept on going clockwise instead of making it easy for us by peeling off and heading after the other cows.

 

But, Celt worked hard, I helped all I could, and persistence paid off and the cows reluctantly took off after their herdmates (also, something that didn't help was that the cows and bull that were being sold were also penned, so not all the herd had gone down the field). He worked well the rest of the job, with little input from me, because he understood the job. For a dog that has been so instinct-driven for years that he would not grasp the job, this has been a real bit of progress. I think he learned it from Bute, who was much less instinctive but much more job-oriented as a dog.

 

One of the best times of our year is now - the calves are supplemented twice a day. Now, once they get the routine down, they will tend to show up at the feeding area on their own, which is a real disappointment for Celt and myself - not much training or work opportunity there. But, sometimes we work to put them in the pen or so some other small job. And then, we do get to take them back out to the field, as their grazing is a field or two away. Good driving practice.

 

For the first days, though, it's real work - the calves don't know the routine, are away from their mothers who would lead them previously, and they are a mix-up of personalities. Some are a bit flighty and scared of the dog, some are challenging, some are matter-of-fact. Celt has to calm the nervous ones, stand up to the challenging and curious ones, and handle the easy ones gently. And, while they are herd animals, they certainly do work differently from sheep in general. There are always lessons to be learned, for Celt and certainly for me.

 

We had to bring in the calves twice yesterday evening - a couple needed their electronic eartags (we were shorted the first time we got them and so they had their old tags only) and one needed to be checked as Ed felt he wasn't quite right. While we worked them, everyone else decided to go back to the pasture, and so Celt had to round them up and bring them in again. Not that Celt suffered - he was tired after a lot of work, but I have hardly seen him so happy and content afterwards.

 

Why am I rambling on about all this? Just a way to put my thoughts down and share with anyone who might be interested.

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Ramble on Sue! I love reading about yours and Celt's progress. Be justifiably proud of you both! It is so amazing how these dogs can really step up when they are really tested. Keep the updates coming!

 

Amy

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Thank you, Amy! Compared to the training and handling that so many good farmers/ranchers/trialists do, what we do is small beans - but having a dog that is useful is an enormous help, even for a small operation like ours. In fact, for something like we have that can't justify a four-wheeler or fancy equipment of any sort, a dog becomes even more essential. We are not big enough to justify using horses, either, and our set-up would not be conducive to them. A dog is the perfect answer, but it certainly takes learning on our part and training on the dog's part to make him/her really helpful.

 

Celt has some temperment limitations - lack of confidence, fear issues, no power. Sometimes I really have to step in and help him because he just can't do something alone. But, with my help and support, he does it. That's why I sometimes call myself "the second dog" because we are working more like two dogs in a brace than a handler and a dog. We get strength from each other - he's more mobile and quick, and I lend him support. He readily forgives me my mistakes, and I try to not get stupid and yell when I'm frustrated.

 

I think I will always be slow on learning and understanding what it takes to bring a dog along to suit the work at hand, and we've only had a very few - well, really just Celt and Bute so far, and now Dan to be started sometime in the next few months if he's ready. Lessons and clinics are few and far between, so we just make do with trying to learn and do things right, and realizing how very many things I have managed to do wrong, and the dog still tries and gives me his all.

 

I guess that's what's so impressive about these dogs - no matter what their limitations, if you treat them fairly and with respect, they will give you everything they have and be glad to do it. Heck, there are lots of dogs that are not treated fairly and with respect, and they still do all they can to do the job. I'd like to be the kind of person my dog deserves. In some ways and on many days, he's more than I deserve and I'm grateful for him every day. I have a pillow in my camper that says, "My goal is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am".

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