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Beginning to Drive


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Jade is beginning to learn to drive. So far I think it's going alright, though I have several questions... we've been developing the drive by pushing sheep along the fence line, so far only about 20-30 feet. She has a hard time pushing them, her walk-up for the drive is agonizingly slow (although for the most part she doesn't back down) with "Walk up! Good girl! Walk up! Walk up!" every step of the way... is that just because she's young/inexperienced?


In the area of the pen we've been working on the drive, the 20-30 foot limit is where the sheep break to run to the barn. I need to practice in another area (haven't tried it yet), but when the sheep break, do I let Jade cover them (she ends up fetching every time) the way she wants to? Or do I down her and let the sheep get away?


I find I tend to be frying Jade's brain a bit working on the walk-up (at least I think I am!) because she's so slow and (maybe?) locking up, so I do some fetching to break the cycle. At what point should I end the session with a 'that'll do'? Is it when she's walking up and the sheep haven't moved? Is it when the sheep move when Jade is walking up? Or is it when the sheep have moved a little, then they break, at which point Jade wants to fetch?


Lastly, I'm having a hard time getting her to flank in where and when I want her to- if the fence is twelve o'clock and the sheep are in the middle, she always stops either at 8:00/8:30 or 6:30/7:00, when I want her to stop at 7:00/7:30. If she's stuck on a walk up I'll call her off then flank away or go-bye and try to 'there' where I want her to stop and turn in, but she usually carries over more than I want her to. What should I be doing differently? Should I try hooking her up to a line?


Thanks for listening to the uncertainty of a n00b :rolleyes:


This past weekend, working in the small pen with the large group


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Here's my opinion, which isn't worth a lot as I am (in spite of some time spent at this) pretty ignorant.


First, I have had a major problem with Celt racing around to the heads when he should be driving. If I were you, I would really avoid a training situation that sets Jade up to either have to fly around to head her sheep or lie down and lose her sheep. Try driving in the other direction, perhaps, so they aren't breaking towards the draw (barn) but rather that she is pushing them away from the draw. Teaching her that she's either going to lose the sheep (lying down) or have to head the sheep all the time or frequently is going to be counterproductive, I think.


I wouldn't call her off when the sheep haven't moved for her but rather when she's moved them a bit but before they break - but, again, I'd suggest working away from the draw if you can. Try calling her off (that'll do) multiple times in a session so that she doesn't associate it with everything is over but rather that often it's really just a prelude to some more (desirable) work. Another alternative is to go and help her when she isn't moving up on the sheep or they aren't moving for her.


When you want her to flank, with you at 12 and the sheep in the middle of the clock, balance won't always be 6 for Jade. Balance will depend on your position, the sheep's position, and the draw. So, if the barn if off towards 3, Jade might even need to be towards 3 herself to be in balance and to bring them straight to you. If she is bringing the sheep straight, then she is in balance and often that will mean she won't be at 6 but rather a bit towards 7 or 8, or 5 or 4, because she is feeling that the sheep are drawn towards the barn or any other draw.


Others with much more experience and with know-how (and stock sense) can give you better advice. By the way, Jade looks like Celt but with Dan's type of tail. Very pretty as she works! Best wishes!

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I agree, try to drive her where the draws are not as strong and are the sheep she's driving fairly light (of course, still reasonable/not wild-if they are too heavy, that may be why she's having trouble walking into them). I would try to talk less , if you can- move towards the sheep or kiss to her a little, but I've found that the more I talk to them, the more anxious/looking back they might get.


Not an expert... just what I do.

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I agree with Jaime that if you talk to her too much you're going to create a problem where she keeps looking to you for direction. As Jaime and Sue both said, try to drive in areas where there isn't a super strong draw. It's a natural inclination of young/newbie dogs to want to flank around to the heads when learning to drive. If the sheep are always racing to the barn and you always let her flank to catch them, then you're exacerbating that problem. It might be easier to drive away from the barn. Are walking with her? If she's that hesitant walking up, I think I'd be right in there with her helping her to move the sheep forward, not necessarily giving commands, but just pushing behind the sheep myself and encouraging her to walk along with me. Until she's got some confidence pushing from behind, I wouldn't even worry about flanks of any sort--if you've got the sheep in an area without draws, you can just let her follow the sheep, work on keeping her behind and let her gain confidence in that pushing position. If you can set up a draw that's a little more controlled (i.e., they're not running like maniacs to whatever the draw is), then she can follow them and gain confidence that way. (For example, one of my young dogs was introduced to "driving" by being allowed to push/follow the sheep in a direction they wanted to go, but to which they weren't drawn so strongly that they moved really fast.) But really I think I'd break it down right now and just concentrate on helping her gain confidence pushing from behind, with your help. Another thing you can do is put some feed down and teach her to push the sheep away from the feed (with your help). Sometimes just understanding a task will become a lightbulb moment and help them progress. My Pip was a very unconfident driver last year and so I used him exclusively to push the entire flock off the feed bunks on a daily basis last winter. He's now running in open, and although sometimes he shows a little lack of confidence, the difference between this year and last just from spending a season doing that particular job made all the difference in the world.


ETA: Sometimes if a dog gets stuck, just moving forward a few steps yourself (say, if you're off to the side and either in line with the dog or behind her) will be enough to get her started forward again (you don't need to say anything, just start moving yourself).



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