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Flanking wide on the fetch

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From time to time it is necessary to tinker with the line of fetch ie when the pull from some side of the field is strong or to make the fetch gates. I have taught my dog to leave his point of balance and flank during his approach to me but he is flanking far too widely. He leaves the POB and does a small outrun again, often ending up behind me and facing the sheep. Course he is off contact and the sheep are out of control.

Does anyone have a solution to encouraging him to flank more closely? One suggestion was to teach him large and small flanks via whistles. Or would a pull-in whistle help? Any other suggestions? Anyone done it before?



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Sue: Denise's suggestion will probably help. For me, calling the dog's name is like duct tape - it will fix a variety of things. It has the advantage of helping the dog think about what is right and wrong, rather than just obeying commands. Of course, a small flank is a good thing to have, too.


But I am confused about your question. Is the dog allowing the sheep to go off line? Then you have to give a flank command to put the sheep back on line? Then the dog blasts out of contact? Is there a huge draw behind you? What happens if, as soon as the dog starts to make the huge orbiting flank, you move to block/correct the dog?


If the dog is not holding the line, then - based upon my years of championship experience (please insert self-deprecating sarcasm here) - I would first work on making the dog hold the line without flanking commands. I would shorten things up a bit and when the sheep go off line I would move to exaggerate the problem (ie., move in the opposite way the sheep are going) while giving a verbal correction. (If the dog tries the big orbit thing, I would move to correct that, too. Maybe that indicates I should shorten the size of the fetch even more.) As soon as the dog takes the hint to hold the line I would hustle back to where I was to take the pressure off.


Of course, as you say, just about any dog will need some tinkering on the fetch. Once I feel like the line is being held relatively well without commands - no matter the draw, I would then experiment with little flank commands and correcting the dog with my voice and body as soon as he/she is *thinking* of flanking out of contact. While I would use a call-in if necessary when a job is to be done or at a trial, I would try *not* to use commands to make the dog right in a training situation.


All this is not really "my" advice, but rather what I would *try* based upon endless clinics and lessons. (Of course, a quick look at the USBCHA standings will show you how far it's gotten me.)


charlie torre


P.S. Oh, another thing I've seen people do when a dog flanks way out of contact is the following. Assuming you have a dog that is pretty sensitive about losing sheep - which, paradoxically, can be at the root of huge, out of contact flanks - you can try running at the sheep with the aim of spooking them to run away in the direction where the dog should have been in the first place. For some dogs, this makes them keep a closer eye on things and become reluctant to lose contact with the sheep so easily. You gotta think fast to get this to work right, though. You may have to shorten things up quite a bit and repeat this over and over until the dog tries to outsmart you by turning in at the right spot.

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Thanks for all that! There is certainly a lot to think about there.

I am not really asking for advice about a big thing..but I have had moments when I needed to touch the sheep and guide them to the centre of the fetch gates etc. I am not yet anything like a reliably good handler and sometimes let my dog get too close to the sheep on the fetch...(could be that my petite size doesn't allow me to even see him behind the sheep!) and they flatten out so I have to tuck them back together before they hit the gates. Or I need to get them online in a drive situation after turning them at the gates. My dog was flanking too widely (always had this tendancy) and not making an impression soon enough to turn the flock.

It was happening more when he flanked to the right than the left and I watched another dog I own, more experienced though not as powerful, do the same manoeuvre. She made smaller circles around the flock and stayed in eye contact with them by turning her head inwards.

So this week I have practiced the pull-ins I had started with dog no.1 and after my trying to put myself where he would understand the concept,(closer to the flock) and then stepping back to remind him what an inside flank was on that side, then working the same at 100 yards, seems to have made the right impression. He will now stay in contact with the sheep and I can stop him anywhere on the circle and expect the sheep to feel him.

Course this also helps with turning around the gates and hitting the line of drive that much more solidly.



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