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Well, I finally got up the nerve to contact someone for herding lessons for Gypsy and I. Our first lesson is tomorrow! The only stock Gypsy has ever seen was an ornery old nanny goat at the barn I used to board at, and she was definitely interested, but intimidated by her. Obviously we're just doing this as a hobby, but I'm excited to see what kind of potential she has. Flyball didn't cut it for her - she had no problem at all learning the steps and putting it all together, but would only run because I asked her and not because she was having fun. I think this will be something she can actually enjoy doing, that we can learn together.

 

So, all those pros out there... What words of wisdom do you have for two newbies like me and Gyp?

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Probably the best advice I have is that if you're unfamiliar with sheep, spend some time handling them WITHOUT your dog. Even better, handle them with an experienced dog (like a retired open dog) for awhile (once you've learned the basics of handling a stockdog, of course). A lot of working stock with a dog is understanding and being able to read, the stock. It also gives you a better appreciation of sheep as sheep, rather than just as stock being worked.

 

Be prepared- stockwork is addictive :rolleyes:

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I agree with Ben. If you want to have success, you need to learn about stock, first and foremost. No matter how good your dog is, you won't reach your full potential unless you can read stock and understand the behavior of prey species. Remember that the dogs were created to help with the efficient and low-stress management of stock. While stock are exposed the stress when we train dogs, as a trainer, you will try to minimize that.

 

Aside from that, put aside any expectations you might have about how Gypsy's first exposure to stock *should* go and instead keep an open mind and look for the good things while recognizing that the bad things are just the holes you'll have to work on. And have fun!

 

J.

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As a fellow "newbie", my best tip is to take a friend with a video camera....you can learn a great deal from watching the video replay -- plus, you can post it here :rolleyes:.

 

Becoming familiar with the sheep is a big step for me as well. The first time I went into the pasture and a sheep lowered her head at me, I was ready to run for the nearest tree (which seemed like it was about a half mile away) because the last critter that looked at me like that was a young Jersey bull and I DID spend some time up a tree...I'm not as nimble as I was in those days.... I had Brodie with me and he lowered his head as well and glared back at her and I thought uh-oh, we're in BIG trouble...but Annie (the sheep) gave way, turned her head and said, "let's go, girls,". Another life-defining moment for Brodie and a WHEW! moment for me .... so yes, learn about how sheep act and react. When they caught sight of Robin a few days later, they just picked up their skirts and departed without any discussion whatsoever. It's as interesting to learn about sheep as it is as learning about dogs.

 

Liz

 

ETA -- as a spinoff from Kristen's post (below), I'm learning about the sheep this summer from the pups breeder, who has a small flock, then we're going back to take lessons in the fall from a stockdog trainer. I'm getting to know Annie quite intimately as it is her wool I washed and am combing and spinning....

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Unless you are lucky enough to find that retired open dog right off the bat (not usually) I suggest that after or before working your dog you ask if there are chores that you can help around the farm with. Most people won't turn down free help and you'll be learning about the sheep without your dog. which is a great help!

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Well, I think we both had fun! I did forget my camera though :D We got there and there were dogs everywhere, about a dozen or so, tied to different trees and kennels. The trainer and her dad work together raising and selling stock dogs. There was 3 sheep grazing in the middle of the yard. I was wondering why they were loose like that, since the road was quite close, when I noticed two black and white bundles of fur crouched in the grass nearby. The trainer came out to greet me and went to get a rope from the barn while I just walked Gypsy nearby the sheep to let her get used to their sight and smell. The trainer was so calm around her dogs and barely spoke above a whisper but they picked up on everything she asked. We did some basic recall and down work on the rope with the sheep standing there, and Gypsy was calm and responsive. Then she got her dogs to move the sheep past us so that Gyp could see them move... THAT sure got her attention! From that point on she was very excited, and had a hard time calming down, which is unlike her. She has a dominant personality, and kept challenging the trainer by not lying down when she asked and turning away and ignoring her. So for most of the lesson we just worked on getting her focused on us and forgetting about the sheep. Once she was calm again, the trainer released her and she took off after the sheep, who bolted.. She ended up chasing them through the garden and around the house, but came back when I called her. It took a while for her to calm down after that, so we did more focus work, heeling, downs etc.

 

In total we spent 2 hours in the yard, and another hour or so just talking afterwards. She gave me some exercises to work on and said to just keep sharpening up Gyp's reaction time to my commands. She said she was really impressed with how much Gypsy knew, and how we worked off each other, since the people she normally gets have no clue and basically just want to exercise their dogs by letting them chase the sheep :D She wasn't even going to charge me for the lesson because she said she felt like she didn't get through to Gypsy enough, but I insisted. She gave me a DVD to watch called "Starting your Border Collie on Cattle, Sheep, and Ducks", which I really look forward to seeing. This trainer lives 2 hours away, so she gave me the name of another one who is only 30 minutes away, and said she wouldn't be offended if I went to her. I think I will probably try a lesson or 2 with the closer trainer, but if I don't get the same feeling from her as the one I had last night, I think the 2 hour drive is more than worth it! I didn't ask about working with the sheep without my dog in case I don't go back there soon, but we'll see what this second trainer is like. I'm used to working with horses and cattle (dairy), so I'm familiar with herd animals and flight zones, but I know I still have a ton to learn.

 

I just can't wait to do it again :rolleyes:

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I'm glad you both enjoyed it! It's a blast, isn't it? I'm not surprised that normally-obedient Gypsy forgot how to lay down around sheep. I think that's pretty normal. Did she get to be in a pen and work the sheep some? Is Trevor going to get a chance, too?

 

Enjoy your future lessons and keep us posted. Don't forget the camera next time!

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I think most dogs leave their brains (or at least leave their ears!) at the gate when you go into the pen or field the first time (or few). Glad you had a good time and welcome to the club!

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Paula, the sheep were just loose in the yard and Gypsy was on the rope (other than when the trainer wanted to see what she would do), since the pen they normally use for this type of thing was flooded. Which is a shame, because after watching the video she gave me, I can see how a pen could really be an advantage for a dog's first time on stock.

 

I honestly don't know if I want to try Trevor on sheep. We're still adjusting to each other and getting over the damage his previous owners did to him.. Every time I want to catch him he completely ignores me until I get close enough, then he turns it into a chase game, and when I finally catch him and praise him, he turns into a cowering puddle of submissive puppy. Whenever we leave the fenced yard he HAS to be on a leash or else he bolts, he's slipped out 3 times and each time led me across several blocks and busy streets.. He needs a better foundation before we progress to something like stockwork. For now, it's just Gypsy's thing. Although I wonder How good of a stock dog Korby would be.. :rolleyes::D

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