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Correct placement behind when lifting sheep off a fence

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With the way our pastures are set up (long and narrow), Nick has to lift sheep off a fence more often than not. He has no trouble going between the sheep and the fence, but it seems to me like he'll over run, then have to flank back to balance one the sheep lift. This is on a group of sheep rarely less than 10, usually more like 30. The sheep all lift as soon as Nick gets behind the first few, but he keeps going until he's off-balance, then flanks around (on his own, no commands) to balance behind the sheep.

 

Does that make sense? Should I be stopping Nick earlier?

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If you stop him where you think the balance point is, will the sheep on the other side (the side opposite of the one he was sent on) of the group still lift straight? He may either be incorrectly over running or may need to cover the other side of the group to control those sheep.

 

Mark

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I am the last person to be giving advice on anything to do with sheep and with handling, as well, but I tend to trust my dog more than I trust myself - at least when I am doing some of my better handling.

 

I wonder if he is simply gathering up a group that large, kind of going past balance to see they are "tucked in" on that side, and then back to the side where he approached to do the same if necessary, and then going to balance. One other thought is that balance isn't always (or often) 12 o'clock. Is he maybe really balancing when you (or I) might think he's not based on position, because he's balancing based on all sorts of factors - the sheep, the fence, the field, the draws, and you or where he needs to take them?

 

I hope you get a good discussion started on this one because my Bute, who was good at scooping stock out of tight spots, did this also but with fewer sheep generally. Celt tends to do something like this with the cattle, who need a bit more "gathering up" than many sheep seem to need.

 

ETA - What Mark said, only much more succinctly.

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From what you describe, your dog is getting between, and then to the heads, to stop, and then back to cover- basically, covering all his bases, so to speak. I would work on seeing what the sheep are doing, and then stopping him once you are sure they are all lifted clear (and toward you off the fence). If he is running, I would give him a steady, so he can think more clearly.

 

My dog will do this, but sometimes she has to with previously undogged sheep that don't come off fences. Some dogs (like my Lucy) just really like to head too :rolleyes:

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Just going to share what Vicki just did in the same situation, on a fenceline with 38 head of ewes and lambs, the sheep all began to lift but she too went past balance then came back. This was on a comebye direction, by going past balance she moved the sheep on my far right toward center (center being what I thought the balance point was). I guess I was looking at it as a way for her to make sure they were gathered together with limited space before she actually began to fetch them to me.

 

Seeing that she was trained by a handler that is well respected by some I figure that she must be right....but following Mark's suggestion and stopping him at what you think is the balance point and then watching to see what the sheep beyond that point do would be a good idea, I'll have to see what happens next time I use Vicki for that job and try it, provided that I can stop her. She's going to hate me for questioning her, as far as she is concerned she is always right, even when she comes up with a mouthful of wool after running a ewe into the fence :rolleyes: .

 

This is opposite of what Jake would have done, he gets stuck when the sheep begin to move and has a tendency to come up short, so I have been giving him a correction and a redirect so that he begins to learn to cover the entire flock. He's coming up short less often.

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Another viewpoint: Is he speeding up as he goes between sheep and fence? Going in such a tight spot is an uncomfortable position for many dogs, and they will often fly through there, maybe to avoid that trapped feeling against the fence. If you work with them on a fence and get them comfortable in that space, then they will no longer race through, resulting in an overflank, and instead will stop on balance between the sheep and the fence and still lift them properly. You can see the same thing with young dogs, even not on a fence--where the run past balance and then have to come back. In that case it's more a result of overnethusiasm and lack of experience, but the end result (overshooting balance) is the same. JMO.

 

J.

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I just have questions. First off, defining the "lift"? I have a dog who moves sheep from a distance (looks like a wild coyote) so when they're up against a fence (and that's what I've been practicing somewhat) the sheep naturally start to move at a right angle and not towaards me as soon as the "bubble" of comfort is pierced. I don't see how a dog could ever lift at 180 degrees unless the sheep were well off the fence, or didn't react to the dog at all as he was moving along the fence. Thanks for any comments, Nancy

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The lift begins when the dog enters the flight zone. In this circumstance it will likely be somewhere on the fence line to the side of the sheep. The point of balance - where the dog needs to be to move the sheep to you is probably somewhere behind the sheep (between them and the fence).

 

It takes experience and time in the saddle for a dog to be able to understand how to manage the lift when the point of balance isn't the same.

 

My point of reference for how I want fences handled is my old imported dog. She go bttw until the perimeter of the flight zone, then pull up and her body would go all quiet and liquid, like she was melting into the fence. Typically she between the sheep and fence before they could object.

 

If they were really spooky she could get in there and down so flat they just sort of slide away from her. Even with aggresive ewes with lambs.

 

I didn't teach her this, so no credit here. She taught me!

 

 

 

I just have questions. First off, defining the "lift"? I have a dog who moves sheep from a distance (looks like a wild coyote) so when they're up against a fence (and that's what I've been practicing somewhat) the sheep naturally start to move at a right angle and not towaards me as soon as the "bubble" of comfort is pierced. I don't see how a dog could ever lift at 180 degrees unless the sheep were well off the fence, or didn't react to the dog at all as he was moving along the fence. Thanks for any comments, Nancy

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With Nick I wondered too like Julie whether or not he sped up as he got behind the sheep causing him to over flank. That's the MO for many dogs and stopping them on balance helps them to relax in that tight situation.

 

As to Nancy's question it sounds to me the dog is tight and fast coming into the corner causing the sheep to lift off to the side. Of course, the dog can only get out so far because of the fence and it sounds like the dog has a lot of presence. Slowing the dog may allow the sheep to remain in place longer and lift correctly.

 

JMO

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Speed is not so much the issue as the control the dog has over itself. A dog that is flanking out - leaning away from the sheep, etc, can come in very fast and sheep and bother the sheep much less than a slow dog that is coming in from the side like a bull. Each dog has it's own way to do it right - just takes time and experience to help them figure it out.

 

One question on the "overflank". If the sheep are very heavy, or widely spead down the fence, they can require a dog come all the way through and then tuck back in. The answer to whether the dog was right is how - what direction and what speed - the sheep move off.

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This may or not be related...when a young dog first encounters cattle on the fenceline and needs to learn to take them off the fence: dog goes out on the gather, comes up along the fenceline, next to the calves. The pup, of course, does NOT want to go in behind them, and who can blame it? That's a pretty scary place for a little pup! Most pups will then come back out to the head--keeping/holding the calves up against the fence--just where you don't want them. And, of course, after a pup does this a time or two, the calves learn that they can just hug the fence and the little pup can't get them--haha. So you have to stay right in there to keep the pup along the fenceline, slow it down, and help it keep the pressure on the heels. With help, the pup soon learns that if they will hug that fenceline on the heels, eventually there will be the slightest bit of an opening between the stock and the fence, enough for the pup to squeeze in, and voila! the calves come off the fence!

 

Not sure that this was really relevant to the OP, but it's something I deal with regularly with each new pup I start.

 

I agree with Julie--I would look at the dog's body language as it comes through behind the stock. It may just be that the dog is in a hurry to get through there, as that's a scary place to be. So rather than get "stuck" in that scary place, it rushes through. Then, once the stock are off the fence and there is room back there, it can come back to center.

A

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The lift begins when the dog enters the flight zone. In this circumstance it will likely be somewhere on the fence line to the side of the sheep. The point of balance - where the dog needs to be to move the sheep to you is probably somewhere behind the sheep (between them and the fence).

The balance point (the point where the dog first moves into the bubble or flight zone and the sheep move directly towards the handler) is really on the other side of the fence when the sheep are on the fence. Depending upon the sheep there may be no way of really getting a straight lift; the best that can be accomplished is fixing the line once the sheep have left the fence.

 

The issue is whether or not Ben's dog is fixing the line after the lift (because there is no room inside the fence to do it correctly) or over running (for various reasons).

 

 

Mark

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I've seen dogs that could work a huge flight zone in the open, reduce the flight zone by changing their demeanor towards the same sheep in pens. (coincidentally the same dogs seem to be good lambing dogs - more adaptable maybe?).

 

I'm aware there may be impossible situations, and some dogs can't/won't adapt for various reasons. Just don't agree on a static flight zone.

 

When on the fence the dog will break the flight zone before it can get to the balance point. At a clinic last year I finally got that pounded into my head LOL...understanding the dog I was working didn't have bad balance or even bad lifting skills on the fence, but that he was not respecting the flight zone and the sheep response/comfort level when he broke it.

 

When we gave him a bit of a verbal correct at the fz break, he softened his demeanor, angled his wieght away from the sheep. That didn't change his balance or even lift speed, but the sheep changed their reponse to him to the better. Very interesting.

 

The balance point (the point where the dog first moves into the bubble or flight zone and the sheep move directly towards the handler) is really on the other side of the fence when the sheep are on the fence. Depending upon the sheep there may be no way of really getting a straight lift; the best that can be accomplished is fixing the line once the sheep have left the fence.

 

The issue is whether or not Ben's dog is fixing the line after the lift (because there is no room inside the fence to do it correctly) or over running (for various reasons).

Mark

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I'm aware there may be impossible situations, and some dogs can't/won't adapt for various reasons. Just don't agree on a static flight zone.
I never said fz is static; only that if the sheep are REALLY on the fence the fz would have to be reduced to inches by the dog in order to get to the balance point without affecting the sheep.

 

Sheep in pens often have a reduction in fz because they realize there is very little flight available to them; a few exceptions to this are Barbados and (Cheviot) lambs. The same thing can happen to sheep in the open when they are constantly headed; eventually they give up flight and become very difficult to move.

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Sheep in pens often have a reduction in fz because they realize there is very little flight available to them; a few exceptions to this are Barbados and (Cheviot) lambs.

 

Hey now...not all Barbados are like that, it's all in how they are used to being handled.

 

Deb

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Hey now...not all Barbados are like that, it's all in how they are used to being handled.

 

Deb

I guess Ethel Conrad's barbs never got that memo since they were well known for leaving the farm ("fence, what fence?") when the open handlers starting showing up for Blue Ridge Classic.

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I guess Ethel Conrad's barbs never got that memo since they were well known for leaving the farm ("fence, what fence?") when the open handlers starting showing up for Blue Ridge Classic.

 

 

I can just imagine.... That explains why all the disbelief when people hear about me taking the barbs out in the open with no fences. Honestly though, at the fair this past summer I had a barb ewe and her lamb in the petting zoo, each morning and evening I would have Jake drive them down the midway through all the people to get back and forth to the barns on the opposite side of the grounds. If they get chased a bunch they will get nerotic, but if they are handled quietly and calmly with a fair and careful dog they are not a problem.

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Had both scenarios in a week (fast, overflank) vs. good, just very good.

 

The first one was the good one. Sent Lucy away. The 4 sheep were up against the e-net, near another flock. She went wide, and came up, slowed herself up, got very intense looking, sheep saw dog, dog stayed along fence, until balance, and stayed calm and nice and fetched them no help from me. AND I did have a witness!

 

Second one: Sent her Come by. This time no other sheep, and to get to balance she went down a hill along the fence. She went wide, but came in too fast, just to, apparently, prove her point (as the pressure was up the hill). Then, she over flanked, and then back. Wind shield washer movement for sure. Yick.

 

How do you get two different scenarios from the same dog? Wish I knew.

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Barb sheep are like Brahma cattle. You see many people handling them like circus lions (whip and a chair) and other people keep them like big dogs and lead them with strings. Who knows? LOL

 

I got rid of the last of the pure Barbs because the ram fell in love with the billy goat and was beating down the fences to get to him. The high percentage Barbs that remain are easy to deal with with good dogs. Boy are they protective moms though - a dog learns to give some space!

 

 

I can just imagine.... That explains why all the disbelief when people hear about me taking the barbs out in the open with no fences. Honestly though, at the fair this past summer I had a barb ewe and her lamb in the petting zoo, each morning and evening I would have Jake drive them down the midway through all the people to get back and forth to the barns on the opposite side of the grounds. If they get chased a bunch they will get nerotic, but if they are handled quietly and calmly with a fair and careful dog they are not a problem.

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Dog somewhat uncomfortable in tight spaces = check (we've been working on this- he's actually becoming a decent pen dog)

Dog very fast regardless of comfort level = check

Dog likes to head, hates losing sheep = check

 

Looks like I'll have to pay close attention to the position of dog & sheep and what the sheep are doing. I'm laid up with a back injury at the moment, but should be back to working in a day or so.

 

Thanks, everyone!

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Boy are they protective moms though - a dog learns to give some space!

 

You ain't kidding there.

 

Our original flock came from a guy that treated them like circus lions, if they were out in the middle of the pasture and you walked around the house they would take flight and run behind the barn, crazy!!! Had a ewe with a lamb chase a dog out under the fence running full bore after her, the dog slipped under, the ewe hit the fence head on full tilt. We can always tell when that ewe is 30 days out from lambing, she spits and snorts at the dogs like a llama. At that time we would not think of letting them outside a good sturdy enclosure, now I can let them free range, use the dogs to move them to different areas and in some cases hold them out when they decide that they want to go home. They know where home is.

 

The moulfons we have are actually lighter and harder for a dog to handle then the barbados. They also were good at playing the trick of going motionless along a fenceline in an effort to get missed by the dog.

 

Boy, kinda funny thinking back, when we first got the barbados it was not unusual for the lambs to drop to the ground and play dead when the dog put too much pressure on them. It's been a few years since I've seen that happen, we really have changed how we allow our dogs to treat sheep.

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Another viewpoint: Is he speeding up as he goes between sheep and fence? Going in such a tight spot is an uncomfortable position for many dogs, and they will often fly through there, maybe to avoid that trapped feeling against the fence. If you work with them on a fence and get them comfortable in that space, then they will no longer race through, resulting in an overflank, and instead will stop on balance between the sheep and the fence and still lift them properly. You can see the same thing with young dogs, even not on a fence--where the run past balance and then have to come back. In that case it's more a result of overnethusiasm and lack of experience, but the end result (overshooting balance) is the same. JMO.

 

J.

Thats what I was thinking too. Sounds just like what we worked hard to help Chris overcome.

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Thats what I was thinking too. Sounds just like what we worked hard to help Chris overcome.

 

I would love to hear some exercises for helping the dog overcome the fear. I think my dog is very uncomfortable in that tight spot between the fence & sheep. She tries to shoot the gap instead of getting in on balance and has recently tried crossing over rather than running up between the sheep & the fence.

 

We have done a little taking them off the fence up close and scooping them out of corners. We even put her in a pen packed with sheep once. Are there other exercises that folks would recommend to get her more comfortable getting in there & standing her ground? I am a novice & have only once weekly opportunities to get to sheep. We have some structured lesson time but have some independent working time where I can work on things like this. I just don't want to make things worse by damaging her confidence.

 

Thanks for any advice you can provide,

 

Cindy

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JMHO

 

Putting the dog in a packed pen is good. Just keep yourself calm and cool to help the dog relax. One guru I extremely admire also had me calmly pick my dog up and rest her on the backs of the sheep while calmly praising the dog. Of course, the sheep need to be somewhat calm too. Keep the time in the packed pen short so there's no overload from either dog or sheep.

 

Putting the sheep in a small area then sitting in there with your dog can also help. You're doing nothing but sitting there watching them graze, if they will. After awhile calmly call your dog and leave the area.

 

Lie the dog down in the corner when taking sheep out of the corner. Let the dog lie there a moment to relax then either let the dog gather the sheep and put them back in the corner to do it again or call the dog off. The calmer you are the better. Quit after a short time again so there's no overload and when the dog seems to be relaxing.

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Update:

 

I've been working on getting Nick to come in correctly behind the sheep out in the open. He tends to slice at the top of his outruns. I learned this past week that I've been correcting him too late. Correct him early, and he kicks out and stays there. I've also been working on Nick's confidence on challenging sheep. We've been doing this in a small space. He's a strong dog, but sometimes he backs off a ewe that's challenging him, almost like he's not sure he's allowed to push the sheep. If I ask him to walk into the sheep, he will.

 

So, basically, Nick is coming in better in the open, and his confidence is up in general.

 

Yesterday, we were sorting my friend's sheep (two people, two dogs, fun!), and I sent Nick to lift them off a fence. He moved between the sheep and the fence much slower than he ever has before, and he didn't over run. These sheep are lighter than ours, but not super-light.

 

So, I'm guessing that Nick's over-running was (is) a result of being uncomfortable in a tight spot, and just not being correct behind in general.

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