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power and/or presence


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Well, lets see, symantics 101. To me, presence describes the effect the dog has on the stock, where power describes the dogs ability to do work (sorry, the physicist came out). In answer to your question about presence and no power, I think my male qualifies. Everytime he steps thru the gate the sheep seem to say "I'm out'a here!" and scatter, he doesn't have to be anywhere near them. As you can imagine, getting any work done with him is nigh on impossible. My female on the otherhand is just about the opposite. When she comes thru the gate, all the sheep look at her, as she gets closer they flock together, wherever she directs, the sheep go. Needless to say, most of the work gets done by Bet. I'd say you can have pressence without power, but not power without presence.



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Dave has definitions I'd essentially agree with. I see presence as how the sheep perceive the dog and power as attitude and confidence of the dog. They often go hand-in -hand, but not always. Dave gave a good example of presence; sheep fearful of the dog. Presence dictates how far off that dog must work from those sheep. I view power as confidence and attitude of the dog as it approaches the sheep. Sheep know a powerful dog means business and move off, but a powerful dog might work closer to sheep than a dog with lots of presence.


Hopefully this makes sense.

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A powerful dog is one which has the authority to make a bunch of sheep do what it wants.

It has the ability to tansmit this authority to a bunch of sheep from a distance commensurate with his eye and his innate understanding about what the lead ewe is thinking and doing.

A weak dog is one which can move flighty sheep but becomes worried if one looks back it.

Best test...get a dog to back a bunch of sheep into a fenced corner. The most powerful dogs force the sheep so that some climb onto the others. The weak dogs stay back five to ten feet and discuss the weather.

Presence is a confounding of a basic principle born of trainers who like the sound of their own complications.

One of the best trainers/handlers in GB once said to me..training dogs is easy.Just keep it simple. That's all the dogs understand and all you have to understand.

Psychology 101 is not applicble here.



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I'm confused as to why we would need 2 different words here -- "presence" & "power". What's put forth here as "power" -- the confidence and ability to go out there and get the job done -- just seems like something any good working Border Collie would have, not like something that would differentiate among good working Border Collies.


I think it's a great topic, because the distance a dog has to work off from the stock -- whichever word you assign to it -- seems to be one of the most misunderstood words or concepts. You hear 10 people use the word "power", and there are 8 or 9 different meanings among them.

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I believe that presence and power are two different things. I had a dog with great presence that was weak as water.


A post in the new Shepard's Group by Wendy Roller gave what I thought was a very good analogy of presence and power.

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Guest PrairieFire

"Sheep are more influenced at a distance by a mostly black dog than a mostly white dog."


Not that I've noticed...a good dog won't influence sheep at a distance unless it is needed...in which case a good dog will take control of the sheep as it walks out to the post...


I'm beginning to think that the new definition of dog handler should be "one who can look at a tree, immediately turn it into a forest, and then proceed to get lost in it."

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I think a dog that shows alot of presence is a hard to to trial with. Sheep are very afraid and the dog has to work so far off the turns and smoothness of the run are affected. A dog that shows a medium amount of presence and has lots of power is the one I am looking for. A dog like this will step out on the field and sheep will group up and know he is there but not be scared shitless of him.


I have a dog that has lots of power but no presence, she has to be right up the sheeps ass to move them but she will walk up on anything and enforce her authority if she has to. I found it is best to let her trot sheep around,because if you steady her up sheep will start to drift apart.


One thing I believe that people mistake push in a dog for power and there is a big difference. Also there is a difference between a dog that has feel because he sometimes looks weak, a dog with no feel will sometimes look pushy and powerful but in reality just no feel for stock.

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Can anyone point me toward some of the publications where these two qualities are discussed? Books, magazine issues, etc.?


I have heard the word "power" used by many people, in almost as many different contexts. I haven't heard the word "presence" used much. I would like to get a more clear idea of what they mean, and mostly would like to know what the consensus is among the experts as to what they mean, for a project I'm working on.



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I can't believe I'm opening my big fat novice mouth here, but . . .


Power is being discussed like it's a static thing that radiates out from the dog in question. What I've seen is that the good dogs that "have it" also read their sheep and moderate power as needed to get the job done. So, you might have a dog that can move sheep without taking a step from twenty yards away, but he can also slide into a tight space WITHOUT moving the sheep, as needed.


So power to me is the ability to command whether that be the power to move or the power to settle. It's one of the biggest litmus tests I use to judge a dog I like.

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Pairdog wrote:


"Can anyone point me toward some of the publications where these two qualities are discussed? Books, magazine issues, etc.?"


I reference Burns (Burns, M. 1969. The mutual behavior of sheep and sheepdogs in Ghana. Trop. Agric. 46:91-102.) in a summary of published studies on heritability of herding-related traits ( http://www.stilhope.com/heritabilitysummary.htm )



"While evaluating different herding characteristics, Burns made several interesting assumptions regarding these behaviors that are summarized as follows: The trait that most separates Border Collies from other types of herding dogs is the behavior known as "showing eye", which is usually combined with low tail carriage and a crouching, stalking-like posture. These dogs are said to move sheep by the "power of eye". However, dogs with excessive eye often appear weak, lacking power, and are often extreme clappers. They may be reluctant to get up and tend to rush in and grip sheep when made to move in close. The author states that it is generally accepted that dogs with great power tend to be upstanding dogs with moderate eye. Other observations regarding power are that strong dogs can make sheep move simply by walking straight towards them and can stop sheep just by looking at them. A strong dog is also less likely to grip. In addition, a powerful dog can push sheep through openings and obstacles they are reluctant to go through and has the ability to control a single sheep, holding it off from the rest of the flock. "




My personal feelings are that power cannot be judged by the distance a dog works off the stock. Many times a dog that is just terrorizing stock will need to work far off but that is not power in my book. Presence, to me, is the effect a dog has on the stock. A dog could have a terrorizing presence or a calming presence or a no nonsense presence, etc.


I agree with Burns' assessment that power is the ability to make sheep do things they do not want to do. I think a dog can have power and no guts or guts and no power or any combination of these two. I've seen dogs that could move sheep well but didn't hold up in a true challenge situation. I've seen dogs described as weak as water due to their inability to move sheep that wouldn't back down to any challenge.


If there's one thing I've learned in talking with many knowledgeable people over the years about power, it's that everyone has their own definition. I've come to the point that I don't think about it in general terms much anymore. I think getting a job done is a good thing and let it go at that.



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In my humble opinion some of the posts are describing a dog with presence as one who frightens his sheep from the first glance and has to work way back off his sheep.?


I think it may just be semantics BUT.....

I think what they are describing is instead a dog with the wrong attitude towards working and sheep.

I've seen dogs new to working scare the bejesus

out of sheep and it certainly wasn't presence. It is more often that the sheep can read the dogs being out of control.


It could also be an open trial dog that has the wrong attitude and as soon as the sheep read the dog....it's going to be nothing but trouble the rest of the course.

I scribed for Bruce Fogt at a trial once and with his help was able to see how the dogs attitude affected the entire run.....starting at the handler's post.


I've been lucky to see just a few dogs that I felt had real presence. They walked onto the field calmly and sure of their ability to control anything they encounter. The sheep heads come up and they calmly say, " yes sir/madam, what would you like us to do?" Both of the dogs I've seen have never had a situation come up that tested whether they had power or not, but maybe that's proof that they did.

Just another novice opinion


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