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Donald McCaig
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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

At the vets yesterday I took Peg out of the examination room into the back where they keep their scale. A vet tech remarked, "This is the first time I've seen you with one of your dogs on a leash."

 

Took me aback. Peg is a too timid, too shy three year old unregistered Border Collie uninterested in sheepwork - perhaps because of timidity. Anyway, I wanted to place her in a pet home but my wife really liked her and I lose most marital struggles. We've also got three sheepdogs - two 9 year olds and a 3 year old in our house (plus a retired ten year old sheep guarding dog that sleeps indoors).

 

Since Peg wasn't to be a sheepdog, I never expected much of her. Come when called and the usual series of "don'ts" (no countersurfing, get off the bed when bid, no barking, no pestering etc - all those things that an orderly sheepdog household/dog pack teaches its members less by "training" than by "that's the way we do things".

 

So, three year old Peg is fine here on the farm but . . .

 

That vet tech's remark showed me how I train manners beyond my pack requirements. I train on stock and while sheepdog trialing.:

 

On stock they learn a "down" and a "stay". On the road they learn "load up" and "In the room" and trial ground and travel expectations; they cannot pester other dogs, when called they must come off bitches in heat, no barking on the trial grounds or motel rooms, no exploring enroute to the room s, zone out in the vehicle, etc.

 

In May I'm going out to the Dakotas for two trials and Anne is joining me which pretty much means little Peg has to accompany the trial dogs - and Peg doesn't know beans.

 

Our farm is remote and first opportunity I deliberately introduce my trial dogs to non-sheepdogs. I worry they'll think some purse dog is a groundhog and kill it.

 

None of which Peg has been exposed to. For the first time I must train a pet dog.

 

Peg is biddable. Last night I asked Peg to sit. Took about five minutes. I expect a stay won't be hard. She may already know "Get behind". Hardest will be the motel parking lot - cars and lights and dangerous noises and smells - very high stress for a timid dog. I guess she'll get it with practice.

 

Donald McCaig

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Donald; that sounds so familiar; The first times taking the young dogs off the farm to a trial; Their first sighting of a big exuberant lab, first time in a hotel with people walking by etc.;

 

I just spent 3 days at a hotel with the dogs while visiting Vergil Holland. I was impressed with the manners my girls displayed even though we don't live in the city..they put up with the city stuff fairly easily

 

Good luck with Peg; I'm sure she will impress you.

 

Cynthia

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If she's around the other dogs at all she'll learn something. Even Abby who is a house dog was never formally trained but she learned from the BCs so the first time we ever took her out she had basic manners.

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

For the first time I must train a pet dog.

 

Peg is biddable. Last night I asked Peg to sit. Took about five minutes. I expect a stay won't be hard. She may already know "Get behind". Hardest will be the motel parking lot - cars and lights and dangerous noises and smells - very high stress for a timid dog. I guess she'll get it with practice.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Time you got yourself a clicker, Mr. McCaig. :rolleyes:

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My Alfie is great with people but she doesn't like other dogs. I've taken her to trials since she was a pup but she still doesn't like other dogs and we never know until we experience them. We usually keep the problem dogs in their crates to avoid any problems. Good luck and let us know what you did to make her comfortable. I'm still learning this as we live in the boonies too.

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Dear Mr. McCaig -

 

I remember emailing you some years ago and asking if I could bring my dog along to your trial if he was not a competitor (and neither was I). I have always remembered your reply - "All mannerly dogs are welcome." I've always enjoyed that expression because it says so much.

 

How about taking Miss Peg along on trips to town to let her get acquainted with new sights and sounds? Feed store, hardware store (Lowe's is dog-friendly around here), pet store (if you've got one that you can go to), rail trail (good for meeting all sorts of new things - strollers, bicyclists, skateboarders, in-line skaters, kids of all ages), or just sitting on a bench somewhere in town and letting her meet all and sundry who pass by?

 

Just remember that for many dogs who aren't acquainted with them, tall men with hats and facial hair can be quite disturbing. She's already got that one covered and can move on to other novelties.

 

Very best wishes!

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Dear Doggers,

Sue suggested:

 

"How about taking Miss Peg along on trips to town to let her get acquainted with new sights and sounds? Feed store, hardware store (Lowe's is dog-friendly around here), pet store (if you've got one that you can go to), rail trail (good for meeting all sorts of new things - strollers, bicyclists, skateboarders, in-line skaters, kids of all ages), or just sitting on a bench somewhere in town and letting her meet all and sundry who pass by? "

 

Good suggestions. Cautious approach. It won't do to bring Peg into our bookstore and have her pee submissively. This isone of those training/experience situations where she has to win every time. I do plan to take her with me to my next trial - it'll be best an easiest if her first mobofstrangedogs experience is with mannerly dogs and dog savvy owners.

 

Donald McCaig

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I always read your posts with much enjoyment. This one is no different.

I find myself in much the same position with not just my dogs but also my horses.

There is a term that I use with my students that illustrates it well.

Peg will do the same thing as your sheepdogs do. She will learn as she goes. When she goes.

It will not happen overnight. But neither did the work on the sheepdogs.

As far as the bookstore, where is a book store that will allow dogs? I am moving. Right now! LOL

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One thing I have done with a dog like that is to make sure I have treats and anyone who stops to look, admire, or pet the dog, is asked to first ignore the dog (if she's timid) while they talk with you. It doesn't hurt if a treat is forthcoming when the dog has relaxed and feels comfortable sniffing and being near the stranger. It the dog is too timid to take a treat, let the stranger toss it on the ground and turn their back to remove the pressure. Dogs that find out that strangers are treat-dispensers are more likely to become comfortable with strangers than dogs that don't - generally. It's a good time for treats in training...

 

I'm hoping to hear that Miss Peg becomes a bit of a social butterfly in her adventures and travels. And give my best to your Mrs!

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Dear Doggers,

 

Sue wrote:

 

"One thing I have done with a dog like that is to make sure I have treats and anyone who stops to look, admire, or pet the dog, is asked to first ignore the dog (if she's timid) while they talk with you. It doesn't hurt if a treat is forthcoming when the dog has relaxed and feels comfortable sniffing and being near the stranger. It the dog is too timid to take a treat, let the stranger toss it on the ground and turn their back to remove the pressure. Dogs that find out that strangers are treat-dispensers are more likely to become comfortable with strangers than dogs that don't - generally. It's a good time for treats in training..."

 

This is probably a good idea - and the earlier notion of a clicker isn't a bad idea either. I've seen skittish pet dogs understand with ecollars too.

 

But, I don't have those moves. I'm much more results-proud than method-proud but I think I'll bring Peg along in much the same way I've brought the others. To quote Jack Knox "Allow the Right, Coprrect the Wrong."

 

I've been invited to visit a dog trainers' camp run by obedience friends and I think I'll bring my two wickeds: Danny needs to be around lots of non-Border Collies and Peg needs to be more in the world.

 

I'll keep you posted.

 

Donald McCaig

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Well, Donald, I use treats for some things at some times when it's convenient for me - and I'm a firm believer in using what works for you, the dog, and the situation as long as it's humane - and I know that, with you, it will be. A method won't work for you if you're not comfy with it, and the zen of Jack (make the right easy; and the wrong hard) is always a valid approach to many issues.

 

Best wishes for you and Miss Peg!

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Well, Donald, I use treats for some things at some times when it's convenient for me - and I'm a firm believer in using what works for you, the dog, and the situation as long as it's humane - and I know that, with you, it will be. A method won't work for you if you're not comfy with it, and the zen of Jack (make the right easy; and the wrong hard) is always a valid approach to many issues.

 

 

I gave myself a treat last night (chocolate caramels) for doing something unpleasant (calling all 40 people on my dog class list). It worked like a charm.

Lisa

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The only practical suggestion I'd make (when you're out with your inexperienced shy dog in the unpredictable real world) would be to make sure you have (1) a collar that a panicked dog *cannot* writhe out of; and (2) a sturdy tether which is easy for you to keep hold of. There are many solutions to both and neither has to be fancy. It's not permanent gear, it's a safety precaution.

 

Most of the time, I myself vastly prefer either having no collars on my dogs, or else flat plain leather buckle collars. But you just can't keep any buckle collar tight enough to truly prevent a moderate-size headed dog from eeling free, especially if you and the dog are both taken off guard and the dog hits the line going backward at top speed in all-out pure reflexive escape mode. Nothing like having a passing heavy hauler hit the jake brake to turn a sensitive dog into a 30+ pound furry lobster. (Been there, and was glad I had a slip collar and stout leash on my bitch at the time. And that bitch is generally quite level-headed, she just lacked mileage and hadn't heard anything like that up close before.)

 

Same thing with the leash/string/tether of your choice. Something thick enough to take hold of easily and not too painful on the hands if yanked hard. Old fat cotton lead ropes with a stop-knot tied in the end can work just fine. Find something cheap and keep several around in handy places so you don't have to go looking when you're on a mission.

 

And finally, if the dog does have a panicky moment, just be matter-of-fact as far as possible. If you have a more seasoned dog you can bring along (and manage simultaneously) the additional "good example" will likely help.

 

If you have to take her somewhere that's likely to bring on a submissive peeing incident, perhaps consider putting her in a diaper. I use kids' disposables for my bitches in season when needed; just take scissors and cut a hole for the tail, a little off-center toward one end of the diaper or the other. As far as size, I've found that for some reason, matching weight ranges for kids and dogs works. (30-35 pound child size is right size for 30-35 lb dog.)

 

Just pragmatic, common sense stuff which is probably so engrained in your habits you haven't had to think about it consciously for years.

 

Good luck acclimatizing your bitch to the wide world. She's in good hands and she'll do fine.

 

Liz S in South Central PA

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Dear Doggers,

 

It's a good time for treats in training..."

 

This is probably a good idea - and the earlier notion of a clicker isn't a bad idea either. I've seen skittish pet dogs understand with ecollars too.

 

 

Donald McCaig

 

I was just joshing you about the clicker, you being a stock dog trainer of some reknown, though it is an excellent communication tool and can provide a familiar focus for a timid dog in an unsure situation if primed first at home. I can certainly vouch for lots of counter conditioning with treats as Sue R mentioned. Worked for my shy guy.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Ms. Liz writes: "The only practical suggestion I'd make (when you're out with your inexperienced shy dog in the unpredictable real world) would be to make sure you have (1) a collar that a panicked dog *cannot* writhe out of; and (2) a sturdy tether which is easy for you to keep hold of."

 

Evocativeng suggestion. Only time I can remember my Border Collie bucking against the lead was June - age 2 - in Chinatown at the approach of a firecracker/cymbal chinese parade. Don't remember what lead I was using, probably a string lead.

 

Since I don't train on lead or - usually - walk dogs on lead, I buy light nylon line, cut it into six foot lengths, attach a brass clip to one end and a loop on the other. When I travel I've got as many leads in my pocket as I have loose dogs.

 

Occasionally back of the motel in the wee hours I've been scoped by patrol cars . (Couple times I've been hit up by lost-in-the-wee-hours hustler/muggers too). Dogs deter the hustler/muggers and usually my flashlight and dogs reassure the cops but if the cops were bored and had had a real BAD evening I'd want to leash three or four dogs real quick.

 

Ms. Liz's suggestion - and the mental image that it provoked - made me realize how lucky I am that my dogs have been so cooperative.

 

Donald McCaig

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Been enjoying this thread. As I just recently had my young dog go through a stage where everyone and everything caused her to go into lunging barking panic mode.

 

Now with 30 some horses in my care, a flock of sheep, 6 dogs, and family I'm lucky to leave the house with my clothes on right side out let alone with clicker, treats and whatever else is needed. Besides this dog could careless about treats/food/toys. It's sheep only for her and its hard to carry a sheep around for reward with you.

 

I found the go to town/stores a joke. 1/3 of the people avoided her like the swine flu. The others thought they were the dog whispered and no matter how much I requested they ignore her they would procede to tell me that ALL dogs like them and keep coming at her.

 

But once trial season rolled around...magic happened. When she would go into barking mode..I would calmly ask her to sit, down stay etc. And best of all NO ONE seemed to take notice of her. Even the other dogs. It was if she wasn't there. Let me tell you that was like putting water on the fire. By the third trial she was acting like a dog...a well mannered at ease dog.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Ms. Rose-Amy wrote:

 

"But once trial season rolled around...magic happened. When she would go into barking mode..I would calmly ask her to sit, down stay etc. And best of all NO ONE seemed to take notice of her. Even the other dogs. It was if she wasn't there. Let me tell you that was like putting water on the fire. By the third trial she was acting like a dog...a well mannered at ease dog."

 

 

The lady is right. Nothing - absolutely NOTHING - is more reassuring to a dog than paying no mind to it. You are saying: "Your move if you want to make one. If not: okay."

 

Donald McCaig

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My barely one-year-old pup attended his first sheepdog trial today - purely to accompany us as spectators. He's never been introduced to sheep (though his parents both work).

 

I had some trepidations about bringing him with us. Because of health problems (and accompanying exercise restrictions), he hasn't had as many chances over much of his life to socialize with other dogs as he'd experienced while he was a young puppy, with the result being that he gets very excited around other dogs. (He LOVES other dogs). He also gets VERY excited in the face of lots of activity - which in his experience translates to kids running, balls bouncing, and so forth. He's currently taking a class, called "Control Unleashed", to help us learn to get him to relax in the face of things that might trigger an "excited" response. But yesterday, after watching him thrum like a taut piano wire throughout our older son's lacrosse game, followed by seeing him whine uncontrollably when he saw another dog racing through a tunnel at the other end of an agility field (from the other side of a fence, no less), I almost decided to leave him at home.

 

We took him with us today, but we made contingency plans. We had a portable crate that we figured we could put him in (away from the field), should he become disruptive. And if he was truly unhappy, we figured we could just turn around and go home.

 

But some sort of magic occurred. He did whine a bit when we first got there, but we told him he was being "rude" and he apologized (and soon became quiet). He stared attentively at the sheep, and glued himself to the fence when they were near (relaxing when they were no longer in sight). The other dogs (normally a trigger) drew very little attention from him. Sure, they captured his interest if they ran over to say "hi!", or if some pups were playing a few feet from him, but he was always willing to listen to us and lie down quietly when we asked it of him. There was no need to invoke the "Control Unleashed" exercises - it was as if these existed in a different domain. He forgot his manners a few times when he was soliciting our attention (and placed a paw in our laps). But this was so distant from my worst fears as to make me think a miracle had occurred in coming to the trial.

 

Now if I can only get him to be similarly relaxed at the boys' lacrosse or soccer games...

 

(ps: DH and I had a blast at the Open trial - it was truly inspiring to see how brilliantly these dogs ran, and how they teamed with their human handlers!)

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Dear Doggers,

 

Weekly, I help some novice sheepdoggers with their dogs and a couple dogs are ready to start driving (which is contra instinctual and all the dog's training up to this point). The sheep are overdogged and using a fence to make heading less appealing to the dog doesn't work (sheep run off). Usually I prefer letting the handlers work their own dogs but for this I intervened. I'd setup the dog and ask it to walk straight on to its sheep until it got a few feet ahead of me. Each dog was first reluctant then puzzled: "Shouldn't I flank? Head them? What are you asking of me?" Puzzlement was step one. Afterward, each dog would slowly take a few hesitant steps and after they gave me a small clear success, end of lesson, its handler would leash the dog and put the dog up to think about it.

 

This morning I was thinking about Peg and my reluctance to rewarding her with treats or a conditioned replacement for treats (clicker). After no more than ten one minute lessons, Peg will down a hundred feet away. She'll stay when I'm walking past her for maybe forty five seconds. During this training she has never been on a leash and her reward "Good dog" doesn't seem to matter much to her.

 

Please note: I am no pet dog trainer and make no expertise claims nor claims about dog breeds I've never trained. What I've seen with Peg's few lessons and those novice dogs learning to drive convinced me: Border Collies want to be trained.

 

The novice sheepdogs I was working with got no, or not much reward for those few contra-instinctual steps. The afterpraise was less reward than information: "You are doing the right thing". They were WORKING; and indifferent to my affection. "Just show me what you want me to do!!!"

 

I've been studying the history of pet dog training every branch of which - behaviorism, Koehler, Drive theory - assumes that the dog, on his own, prefers disobedience or, at best, indifference to human desires. Hence one should reward them or (in Koehler's paraphrased words) "Show them they are responsible for their own actions" (which responsibility turns out to be - surprise - the exacting requirements of the human designed and no dog instinctual obedience ring).

 

But all that seems bad evolutionary theory - "Did uncooperative dogs survive to breed - or was it the cooperative dogs?" And the "uncooperative dog needs rewards" theory flies in a face of what I see all the time: Dopes train dogs. People whose check you wouldn't take on a dare DO train dogs.

 

Some dopes train to an OTCH or Master Agility or win open sheepdog trials. One can argue these dopes are idiot savants or have some rare gift with dogs and I think that is half-true. The other (and more fundamental) half of the truth is "Border Collies want to be trained".

 

Donald McCaig

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The other (and more fundamental) half of the truth is "Border Collies want to be trained".

 

Donald McCaig

I think this is quite true but also believe that there is a great deal of variability in the biddability (is that the same as "wanting to be trained"?) among Border Collies. I think the majority of problems people have with their dogs is a lack of training or, perhaps more so, a lack of understanding to allow them to train reasonably well and effectively. And, sometimes, a lack of training due to laziness on the handler/owner's part (world's smartest dog - should practically train itself).

 

I do truly believe that, beyond perhaps an occasional dog that isn't quite "right", that Border Collies are more content and happy when trained and trained well, when given a "job" that gives them mental and physical activity - but most importantly, mental challenge and activity. Knowing what is expected, knowing what to do, and having an apparent purpose in life (stockwork, performance, companionship) help to make a happy, better-adjusted dog.

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One thing that I think many people miss that in order for a dog to be "trained" it must understand what the "trainer" wants. So many times when I see dogs "misbehaving", the owner is not giving clear signals. For example, I was in a pet store the other day when I saw a middle-aged man with a GSD. He was rapidly firing different commands at his dog as I approached, "sit, stay, lie down, heel", etc. and jerking on the dog's leash after each command. The poor dog was slunk down, obviously confused, overwhelmed and trying to be a "good boy". As I got closer he said to me, "don't worry, he won't bite." (It was SO obvious that this dog wouldn't bite.) The dog siddled up to me and licked my face when I bent down to him (Probably saying, "thank you, Lady"). Next the owner said, "I don't know why he's doing this. He never does this at home; he only pulls for my daughter and my wife." Then went on to explain how he got the dog from a friend, yada, yada, yada. (Letting me know what a good guy he is for taking this obviously bad dog in.)

 

Three things came to mind after the incident:

1) it was all about him - the dog was embarrassing him because it wasn't obeying. Owner didn't need to learn anything.

2) he was missing all the dog's communications/signals

3) he wasn't communicating clearly to the dog

 

Consequently, a clearly "biddable" dog was "bad" (or at last its owner thinks it's bad) because the owner can't speak/read dog. This dog wanted to work for his person. No treating would have been required.

 

Kim

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I've been transcribing market research for several companies including a pet food study regarding packaging. It was amazing to me not only how many participants depended on treats just to interact with their pets but also the tone of some of the questions.

 

For example: How bad do you feel when you forget your dog's treats before you go for a walk, or a dog park?

 

Most of the participants, while they often treated quite a bit a home, hooked onto that idea immediately. Oh yeah, they did feel bad and they liked packaging that would hang off a door or sit on a counter as a "reminder". It was obvious that they never considered bringing treats with them, especially for walks because wasn't a walk enough? But the marketing wants them to think they are obligated to bring treats.

 

Another lady used her treat box, she even made a faux rattle-y Milk-Bone box as her recall. Otherwise, her two little beasts would never come to her with the promise of a treat. Some mentioned that certain packaging, if it was too visible to the dog, would cause them to "whine" all day and they wouldn't leave them alone. Another mentioned that she was training a puppy and therefore must have a bowl of treats available around every corner. Granted, these people were selected because they want to know how to attract heavy treat buyers, but it was still amazing to me to hear them describing relationships with their dogs that had so much to do with treats being the foundation. I'm not talking about clicker trainiing, most of these folks were not that sophisticated in their terminology and I think they just thought that's what was required. These were out and out bribes.

 

I'm just rambling, and it really doesn't have much to do with this thread, but with 7 dogs living in the house,routine treats would be chaos. Occasional treats might be a bit of people food (safe food like chicken or a little bread) and they are "treats"; I only require that no one takes my fingers off or rushes their turn. For some reason, no purchased treat in the world beats ice cubes. I've found that just taking them to trials, or out to work sheep where there are several other people, teaches them manners pretty quickly.

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