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DH and I were talking tonight about the (outside) possiblity of getting our own few sheep in the spring...we've been offered the opportunity for some lambs, which means we'd be starting with babies....so, how does one break a sheep to a dog?

 

The only post I've uncovered suggested that the dog be willing to go nose to nose with a sheep that was challenging the dog's authority....not a problem with my two....they're learning how to do that with Annie and Tinkerbell.

 

But surely, there must be more to it than that???

 

Liz

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In a nutshell, dog breaking sheep involves getting your sheep used to being worked by dogs. This is usually done with trained dogs who will treat the sheep properly. Dog breaking sheep with novice dogs and novice handlers can be much more challenging because you will inadvertently do things that are unfair to the sheep, which will make it more difficult to train them to respect the dog. That is, if you and your dog are often wrong, or let the sheep get away with things they shouldn't, or the like, then you will end up with sheep that are either sour to being worked by dogs or that learn all sorts of bad habits. As far as going nose-to-nose, generally with well broke sheep that shouldn't be a concern since such sheep shouldn't be challenging a dog, and if they are it's likely because they are being harrassed and not because they are just being nasty.

 

Breaking lambs is even more difficult than breaking adult sheep because lambs don't behave like adults--they don't flock as well, they don't have a leader (most flocks or even smaller groups of sheep will have one or two sheep who lead), and they tend to panic much more easily (which can result in injury or death to the lamb). I dog break lambs while they are still with their mamas by working them with fully trained dogs. That way, they have the benefit of the adult sheep, and the security those adults provide, to help them get used to being worked by dogs. And by using trained dogs, I can make sure that the dog is fair in its treatment of the sheep so that the lambs learn that a dog isn't a cause for panic but just something to be respectful of. I can think of nothing worse than novice dogs with novice handlers trying to dog break lambs.

 

J.

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The way I understand it is that dog-broke stock have learned to move in response to the dog. In other words, they have learned that if they move away from the dog's pressure, that that pressure is relieved (to an extent, depending on how much pressure is maintained by the dog in order to continue the desired movement).

 

One way to dog-break cattle in a pen is to sent the dog to one side (the dog and cattle are along the fenceline) and walk the dog up just until the cattle turn and walk away along the fenceline. The dog is laid down at that point. The cattle drift off until they chose to stop. Give them a few moments or minutes to relax, and then send the dog either to the other side or to walk up behind them. As soon as the cattle move off the dog's pressure, lay the dog down (release or reduce the pressure) and allow the cattle to drift.

 

They learn that they can move off the dog (in the desired direction) and that that will reduce or remove the pressure, which is the reward for moving in the direction you want them to move.

 

When one of our cattle or first-calf heifers has a fairly new calf but is now ready to move with that calf (lots of times, you don't even disturb them for the first few days if don't have to), I send Celt and he quietly approaches until he's the right distance from the new mother and I lay him down (or he reads the cow himself and lies down at the right place). She will then want to turn and walk away with her calf because of his presence/pressure, but it will be gentle enough that she can trust to turn and walk away with her baby. If he gets up and walks too close, she'll stop and swing around and be ready to fight the dog but, if he lies down and relieves that pressure again, she'll not feel comfortable in his presence but will again feel comfortable enough to turn away and walk with her baby. The nice thing about doing this when the calves are so young is that they become dog-broke very quickly, quietly, and gently, following their mother's example.

 

Folks who understand this a lot more than I do will chime in, I am sure. I do believe that, with cattle in particular, it's really hard to work them with dogs if they are not dog-broke - they won't respect the dog and won't understand that moving quietly and gently gets the reward of releasing or relieving the pressure. And it may be the same for sheep, depending on the type of sheep as some are heavier and some more flighty naturally, and have to be worked differently according to their own natures.

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Something I was wondering - you who have experience with working stock dogs will be best to answer this...

 

It seems to me that the OP has three dogs, based on the sig. pic. Will all three be working either in combination or separately? And if so I would imagine that you would need a fairish number of sheep worked in rotation to keep them from being stressed and/or getting stroppy about being worked all the time.

 

What say all you stock working people? How many sheep would be needed to provide work for three dogs? Would the size of the area they lived in be a factor? How much training could you do with the "home flock" before the dogs would need to work other sheep to improve their level of ability?

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Ladybug (the one on the left) is 9 years old...she's a rescue, straight from the SPCA about five years ago...the first time we showed her sheep, she hid behind DH. She likes her ball. Brodie is in the center...and Robin on the right. My "boys" -- sixteen months old.. Those are the two that are from herding/trail lines and are very excited about sheep. At the moment they are becoming more closely acquainted with a small flock on the farm where they were bred...learning their manners...to not get excited, lie down when asked, that kind of thing. Two of the sheep in the flock challenge Brodie a bit because he looks like Daisy (his Mom) who is pretty soft with them...she prefers working the goats for some reason. When they see Robin, they pick up their skirts and depart for the hills....I'm thinking this group is what the more expert might call "light" -- I just call them flighty. Our goal with the boys is to get them to not charge in like gang busters and scatter them to kingdom come.

 

Tonight we did okay..almost stuck to the plan...Got the sheep in a nice tight circle (grain helps). There were three people and Daisy, the pups' Mom, who held the sheep on one side...DH had Brodie on a long line and he walked up slowly to about 30 feet,, laid down and held them on the other side with me stationed on the far side to be sure they didn't skedaddle that way... it was a perfect moment in time. Then a cricket sneezed or something, the sheep took off, Brodie lunged, pulling the lead out of DH's hand...and the whole thing feel apart...suddenly Brodie was doing his first outrun and we were all so mesmerized, we let him go and he was right on target, but the sheep split on him so that was not something I'd want to try again for awhile because the sheep aren't cooperating.. Bro did alright though, -- he went after the lone sheep and brought her back to where he thought the group was, but they'd all headed west on him...so the whole thing went to pieces, but he did bring the one sheep back. We won't be trying that again for awhile. Way too early for that! The pressure of having to pay such careful attention is quite brutal.

 

Robin did okay as well. When I brought him into the pasture, he saw the sheep beginning to move away and immediately laid down without even being asked, so they stopped and looked back at him. They respect him quite a bit more than they do Brodie because he looks so different. Something about those wolfish gold eyes... We worked a bit at that...move, lie down, everything quiet...working at keeping both him and the sheep calm... He stayed on the long line and will do so until I can get him in a smaller space. So it was a nice baby-step. My goal is to get the sheep and dogs calm enough so that the dogs can to move quietly around the sheep...and these flighty little gals are a challenge for the dogs impulse control...At least both the boys and are are achieving some comfort level around sheep. The most important thing, I think, is that I am learning about sheep, and about the different styles of the two dogs.

 

I'm sure its all contrary from the usual training progression and I'm probably doing it all wrong from a professional handler's standpoint, but this is what we have to work with for now, and so must make do with what we have and try to not mess them up too much before real training starts...after Nationals...

 

 

Geonni asks good questions...we have about three acres in our back field that is immediately available to us...about fifteen acres if we want to drive three miles twice a day to feed stock (not sure I want to get into that yet)....I was just thinking of easing into this slowly.....very slowly... my thought was to have just a few to get used to sheep husbandry and see if A) I could let anything I'd babied go to the butcher in the fall or :rolleyes: want to winter them over to increase the flock...there's a great deal of browse in the orchard over at the farm and good grass in two small meadows...but a mile or so of fence would have to be built - can't let them in the good hayfields...

 

Working the dogs would be the lesser consideration at this point, but of course, it's the ultimate goal to work toward. 3 - 5 spring lambs would hardly offer much "work". But if they were to become used to the dogs, be bred and then have lambs the following year, then I'd have something to work with... I just like the little critters. If there were a market for wool, it would be simpler....I hate to send things I've known personally to the butcher...and if there's just a few, it's too easy to get attached.

 

I'm finding, at least at the moment, that around 15 minutes is the limit of the boys' endurance and attention span for being on the sheep. They've not had many chances yet and the stress is quite a lot for them. Their tolerance, will of course, grow.

 

Liz

 

 

Something I was wondering - you who have experience with working stock dogs will be best to answer this...

 

It seems to me that the OP has three dogs, based on the sig. pic. Will all three be working either in combination or separately? And if so I would imagine that you would need a fairish number of sheep worked in rotation to keep them from being stressed and/or getting stroppy about being worked all the time.

 

What say all you stock working people? How many sheep would be needed to provide work for three dogs? Would the size of the area they lived in be a factor? How much training could you do with the "home flock" before the dogs would need to work other sheep to improve their level of ability?

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This is great advice...and pretty much the problem....the sheep in question are basically moved out of the barn and held by the dog while the feed troughs are filled, then let back in. The rest of the day, they wander about on pasture but they like being by the barn because they are people oriented. They're quite tame and used to being handled by people, but they and Daisy have an understanding. They do that one thing and she leaves them alone the rest of the time....it's a good working relationship because it is specifically what is needed. What we are asking with the boys is a bit different....move around, be interesting...let us play with you and they're saying forget it...we want to stand right here beside the barn because when we see a dog it means our food troughs are being filled. We're doing the right thing....leave us alone....I think after a few weeks of carrying grain out into the pasture to get them to where we can walk along a fenceline as you suggest, , they'll "get it"...it isn't that they're not used to dogs...they're just ingrained to a routine of what one dog asks them to do.

 

The way I understand it is that dog-broke stock have learned to move in response to the dog. In other words, they have learned that if they move away from the dog's pressure, that that pressure is relieved (to an extent, depending on how much pressure is maintained by the dog in order to continue the desired movement).

 

One way to dog-break cattle in a pen is to sent the dog to one side (the dog and cattle are along the fenceline) and walk the dog up just until the cattle turn and walk away along the fenceline. The dog is laid down at that point. The cattle drift off until they chose to stop. Give them a few moments or minutes to relax, and then send the dog either to the other side or to walk up behind them. As soon as the cattle move off the dog's pressure, lay the dog down (release or reduce the pressure) and allow the cattle to drift.

 

They learn that they can move off the dog (in the desired direction) and that that will reduce or remove the pressure, which is the reward for moving in the direction you want them to move.

 

Folks who understand this a lot more than I do will chime in, I am sure. I do believe that, with cattle in particular, it's really hard to work them with dogs if they are not dog-broke - they won't respect the dog and won't understand that moving quietly and gently gets the reward of releasing or relieving the pressure. And it may be the same for sheep, depending on the type of sheep as some are heavier and some more flighty naturally, and have to be worked differently according to their own natures.

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Yes, if we were to obtain lambs, they would be treated gently and not worked by the dogs.. they're just babies after all. Think of them more as a "Starter Kit." for learning the husbandry, how to take care of them...the time and attention they require... that sort of thing. The "dog breaking" part would come later as they grew (and yes, they'd be by themselves....sold without Mama.) The Annie and Tinkerbell to whom I referred aren't exactly nasty, they were just challenging Brodie to see if he'd back down. Daisy is more aggressive with them and he wasn't, so they tried for an inch...he pushed back but didn't snap at them and they gave ground. A good ending for Brodie. He's about an inch taller tonight. There's something about Robin -- Annie takes one look and says, okay girls, we're going THIS way....

 

We're going to make mistakes....bound too...but we have all of the animals best interest at heart (sheep and dogs) so we'll fumble along as best we can, seeking professional training when we can get it and work toward a good outcome where sheep are happy, dogs are satisfied, and humans are in one piece. (I'm no anxious to join the knee-knocked crowd, having so recently acquired a new, very workable knee...which is why I thought starting with lambs might go some ways toward ensuring well raised sheep. An unattainable Utopia perhaps, but everyone has to have a goal..:rolleyes:.

 

Liz

 

In a nutshell, dog breaking sheep involves getting your sheep used to being worked by dogs. This is usually done with trained dogs who will treat the sheep properly. Dog breaking sheep with novice dogs and novice handlers can be much more challenging because you will inadvertently do things that are unfair to the sheep, which will make it more difficult to train them to respect the dog. That is, if you and your dog are often wrong, or let the sheep get away with things they shouldn't, or the like, then you will end up with sheep that are either sour to being worked by dogs or that learn all sorts of bad habits. As far as going nose-to-nose, generally with well broke sheep that shouldn't be a concern since such sheep shouldn't be challenging a dog, and if they are it's likely because they are being harrassed and not because they are just being nasty.

 

Breaking lambs is even more difficult than breaking adult sheep because lambs don't behave like adults--they don't flock as well, they don't have a leader (most flocks or even smaller groups of sheep will have one or two sheep who lead), and they tend to panic much more easily (which can result in injury or death to the lamb). I dog break lambs while they are still with their mamas by working them with fully trained dogs. That way, they have the benefit of the adult sheep, and the security those adults provide, to help them get used to being worked by dogs. And by using trained dogs, I can make sure that the dog is fair in its treatment of the sheep so that the lambs learn that a dog isn't a cause for panic but just something to be respectful of. I can think of nothing worse than novice dogs with novice handlers trying to dog break lambs.

 

J.

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I guess my first and foremost suggestion would be to find a mentor or instructor who could help you along, if you want to learn what to do and how to do it right (and by "right", I don't mean simply looking at trialing as a goal but at good stockwork/dogwork as a goal). Take it from someone who has often taken "the long way around" and found that there is a very good reason for doing things knowledgeably and with good guidance, and not just "by gosh and by golly" as I have often done.

 

Best wishes!

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Great advice! There's so many parts to learning stockwork....playing around with this small flock is just an ice cube on the ice berg. We're fortunate to have a wonderful instructor in the area and we're looking forward to learning about dogs and sheep in the fall. These little visits (ETA - back to the breeder's farm) are just to keep the boys acquainted with what sheep look like and how to be quiet around them....and for me, who has never really been around them, to get used to the little woolies.

 

 

I guess my first and foremost suggestion would be to find a mentor or instructor who could help you along, if you want to learn what to do and how to do it right (and by "right", I don't mean simply looking at trialing as a goal but at good stockwork/dogwork as a goal). Take it from someone who has often taken "the long way around" and found that there is a very good reason for doing things knowledgeably and with good guidance, and not just "by gosh and by golly" as I have often done.

 

Best wishes!

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Geonni,

Personally if I were just dog training and had one, maybe two, dogs to train, I would keep at least 10 sheep. This allows you to leave some unworked at all times and so slow the progression to becoming sour from overwork (especially if that work is by novice dogs and novice handlers). That number also gives you a real flock dynamic if you work them as an entire group. I have ~50 sheep, but there is a core group of around 10 that are my main training sheep, including three puppy sheep who are ideal for starting pups and who generally get a break the rest of the time because being puppy sheep isn't exactly fun for them. Even with 10 sheep, you'd want to regularly bring in fresher sheep to keep the whole flock fresh (not sour).

 

Liz,

A few things:

1. The way a dog looks usually isn't the reason that stock react to that dog in a particular way. Sheep, especially, are prey animals and as such their survival depends on being able to read the intent of the predator (in this case, the dog). I'm sure you've watched nature shows where prey animals and predators mingle at watering holes. This happens because the gazelle recognizes that the lion is *not* hunting. They read *intent.* The two dogs I have who unsettle the sheep the most are both small, one is dark and one is red, and both move very quickly. I would attribute their effect on sheep not to their looks but rather to the fact that their speed is unsettling, and especially with the dark dog a quality about the dog that says something akin to "loose cannon" to the sheep.

 

2. Kneeknockers are so-called because they stick close to the human. They are good for starting dogs because they go to the human for protection, which allows the human to control the situation better and help the dog to get things right. While some kneeknockers will knock into you, in general they are less likely to do damage to you than, say, a group of wild lambs who are in a state of panic over the presence of a dog. There are a lot of excellent handlers and trainers in PA, some of whom are on this forum. Even if you really want some spring lambs, it would make sense to find one of these handlers and buy a couple of well-broke adult sheep to help the lambs learn the ropes and help you by helping the lambs to learn the ropes. If you want to PM me with your location, I can give you contact information for folks near you who would have such sheep and who also could provide you with instruction, and perhaps even use their trained dogs to help dog-break your lambs. The whole foundation beneath training dogs to work stock is to make it easy for the dog to do the right thing and difficult to do the wrong thing, and you start by having the appropriate stock for starting a dog.

 

3. Remember: The dog makes the sheep. Dogs who are out of control or too pushy or who work poorly will result in sheep that are difficult to control, run wildly, might slam into fences and other obstacles and kill or badly injure themselves, and in general are difficult to deal with. A good dog will read the sheep and work to settle them. If the sheep feel they can trust the dog, they will generally settle and work well. This is why I say it's not a good idea to try to dog-break lambs with novice dogs--there are too many things you can't control.

 

4. You say the pressure of having to pay careful attention is brutal, and it is. That's why you need to stack the deck in your favor, so there are fewer things you have to pay such close attention to. I would recommend starting by going out to the farm and learning to move the sheep yourself. Doing so will help you learn to read stock and gain a better understanding of where the dog needs to be to help control them. Sheep will always be able to outrun the human, even in small spaces. That's why dogs are handy. The scenario you described is not at all surprising. With Brodie putting pressure on the sheep from one side, the sheep were bound to bolt in the opposite direction and human presence in that direction wasn't going to be a deterrent. When the sheep bolted, whoever was working him should have immediately gone to help him get it right (that is, gather the sheep back together). It was good that he brought the single back (instead of taking it down, which could have been the alternative), but you have to consider what he's learning in such a situation. His instinct told him to get that sheep, but he was never able to successfully gather the flock (because of the circumstances) and so he didn't learn much from that situation except that he can't control the sheep. If you use your bucket of grain to get the sheep used to coming to *you* then eventually the sheep will see your presence as something good and be more willing to come to you and you might have a fighting chance of getting the dog out and around them and gathering. (See point #2)

 

5. Trying to start/train a dog with a "cast of thousands" seems to me to be a recipe for chaos. It's chaotic enough starting a youngster without introducing extra people and dogs into the mix. The exception is if you have an experienced handler and a trained dog out there to hold the sheep in place for you while you send your dog. But even then, if the dog is perceived by the sheep as a real threat or it doesn't kick out properly around them, then the sheep are likely to run over the set out person and his/her dog in an attempt to escape.

 

6. My recommendation is to find someone with dog-broke sheep and experience training dogs to a higher degree that what the dam of your pups does and get a good start on them between now and when you get your own sheep next spring. Spend time at the farm where you got your dogs learning how to properly care for sheep and just observing sheep behavior outside the presence of a dog. The more you learn about sheep, the better prepared you will be to raise them and eventually work them.

 

J.

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let us play with you

 

I hope this was just an unfortunate choice of words. Please remember that the whole point of a working dog is the low-stress, efficient control of livestock. It's serious business and not play, especially as far as the livestock are concerned.

 

Oh, and on re-reading one of your posts, I see that you mention having obtained a trainer and it sounds like you plan to start in the fall. You might want to consider that any bad habits that are created *before* you start formal training will be more difficult to break, and it's best not to allow them to occur in the first place. Brodie and Robin won't forget what sheep look like, nor will their instinct to work disappear, if they don't see sheep for a couple of months until you start formal training. Your time might be better spent between now and then learning about sheep yourself (at the farm) than trying to expose the dogs to sheep and situations that are not appropriate for them.

 

Also, breaking cattle and breaking sheep *is* different, IME. When breaking cattle, I have always stayed on the same side of the stock as my dog to start, so that I am in a position to help the dog do its job should the stock challenge the dog, something cattle are much more likely to do than sheep. Only once the cattle are willingly moving off the dog do I move to gathering. With sheep, I generally start by trying to get the dog to go around (gather) stock to me. Gathering is the natural instinct, but with adult cattle there's too much risk of an unanswered challenge to the dog, which is why the method for breaking them is slightly different. JMO.

 

J.

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Julie, all good points and well taken.

 

Play as in "Do something other than your normal routine".... knee knocked as in "Don't knock into my knee - it was very expensive and somewhat painful to acquire! ." My definations are a bit different than the BC norm...:rolleyes:

 

Brodie very much resembles his mother, who regularly interacts with the flock - both in looks and movement and he's a faster dog. From a distance its hard to tell the two apart...so perhaps they think they "know" Brodie...Robin is heavier boned, moves differently, acts differently. They've not seen him run - he's not been off the long line around them but they just look at him and act completely differently. His intent, deep in his heart, might be to go at them, but so far he's not revealed it.

 

 

No cast of thousands....six sheep, three people, two dogs...(one trained). Your suggestion of working around with the sheep myself is a good one, and one we discussed on the way home...I've been around large animals all my life (mostly horses) but the sheep are quite different. They need to become more familar with me as a source of good stuff like grain and I need to learn a great deal more about how to read them, which will also prepare me for formal lessons in the fall.

 

I know the dogs won't forget what sheep look like, and it's for darned sure they'll keep the instinct. But it's not easy raising a dog with high drive away from stock because their excitement level pegs out the meter when they do see them. They also need to learn that every time they see a sheep doesn't mean they're going to "work". I want them calm, quiet and focused when they go into a lesson, not acting stupid bcause they haven't seen a sheep for months and months and then we have to spend most of the time getting them calmed down, which is why every now and again, we do a walk about....just so they remember the manners they learned last winter. Then, we spent a good deal of time walking them about the barn, basically just teaching them that sheep are people too and when it came time for their introduction last spring, they went into the ring with a handler and got right down to business. They did good. Made us all proud.

 

I was very pleased yesterday when Robin walked into the field, saw the sheep begin to go and laid down immediately without even being prompted. The sheep stopped and looked back at him, waiting for some direction. It was a perfect moment. We walk up a bit, the sheep move...if they start trotting, we lie down. We're not out to learn anything but, let's keep quiet and pay attention. Can't have the sheep running about...gets the dogs too excited and its not good for the sheep Brodie's unplanned out run....not good because as you said, he didn't learn a thing..but no sheep were harmed because he's not going to tear into them. He's a young dog, but he knows better than to do that because we've worked at his "sheep manners". He brought back the wayward sheep and just looked around for the rest of them...we caught up his line, told him he was a good dog and that was the end of it. His Mama was on hand to help keep a lid on things. DH was abashed that the long line slipped but his dog came back to him - with a sheep so that accomplished one underlying purpose...building his interest because he's the one working to pay for all of this... What I want to accomplish with these little visits is mannerly dogs around the sheep...... we're not out there every day doing something stupid. This was our first visit since May and we'll be lucky if we get over there four or five times in the next two months.

 

And yes, I am very much looking forward to formal lessons - and maybe the lambs in the spring....it's a big committment with a great many elements (some of which you mentioned) to mull over

Liz

 

 

Liz,

A few things:

1. The way a dog looks usually isn't the reason that stock react to that dog in a particular way. Sheep, especially, are prey animals and as such their survival depends on being able to read the intent of the predator (in this case, the dog). I'm sure you've watched nature shows where prey animals and predators mingle at watering holes. This happens because the gazelle recognizes that the lion is *not* hunting. They read *intent.* The two dogs I have who unsettle the sheep the most are both small, one is dark and one is red, and both move very quickly. I would attribute their effect on sheep not to their looks but rather to the fact that their speed is unsettling, and especially with the dark dog a quality about the dog that says something akin to "loose cannon" to the sheep.

 

2. Kneeknockers are so-called because they stick close to the human. They are good for starting dogs because they go to the human for protection, which allows the human to control the situation better and help the dog to get things right. While some kneeknockers will knock into you, in general they are less likely to do damage to you than, say, a group of wild lambs who are in a state of panic over the presence of a dog. There are a lot of excellent handlers and trainers in PA, some of whom are on this forum. Even if you really want some spring lambs, it would make sense to find one of these handlers and buy a couple of well-broke adult sheep to help the lambs learn the ropes and help you by helping the lambs to learn the ropes. If you want to PM me with your location, I can give you contact information for folks near you who would have such sheep and who also could provide you with instruction, and perhaps even use their trained dogs to help dog-break your lambs. The whole foundation beneath training dogs to work stock is to make it easy for the dog to do the right thing and difficult to do the wrong thing, and you start by having the appropriate stock for starting a dog.

 

3. Remember: The dog makes the sheep. Dogs who are out of control or too pushy or who work poorly will result in sheep that are difficult to control, run wildly, might slam into fences and other obstacles and kill or badly injure themselves, and in general are difficult to deal with. A good dog will read the sheep and work to settle them. If the sheep feel they can trust the dog, they will generally settle and work well. This is why I say it's not a good idea to try to dog-break lambs with novice dogs--there are too many things you can't control.

 

4. You say the pressure of having to pay careful attention is brutal, and it is. That's why you need to stack the deck in your favor, so there are fewer things you have to pay such close attention to. I would recommend starting by going out to the farm and learning to move the sheep yourself. Doing so will help you learn to read stock and gain a better understanding of where the dog needs to be to help control them. Sheep will always be able to outrun the human, even in small spaces. That's why dogs are handy. The scenario you described is not at all surprising. With Brodie putting pressure on the sheep from one side, the sheep were bound to bolt in the opposite direction and human presence in that direction wasn't going to be a deterrent. When the sheep bolted, whoever was working him should have immediately gone to help him get it right (that is, gather the sheep back together). It was good that he brought the single back (instead of taking it down, which could have been the alternative), but you have to consider what he's learning in such a situation. His instinct told him to get that sheep, but he was never able to successfully gather the flock (because of the circumstances) and so he didn't learn much from that situation except that he can't control the sheep. If you use your bucket of grain to get the sheep used to coming to *you* then eventually the sheep will see your presence as something good and be more willing to come to you and you might have a fighting chance of getting the dog out and around them and gathering. (See point #2)

 

5. Trying to start/train a dog with a "cast of thousands" seems to me to be a recipe for chaos. It's chaotic enough starting a youngster without introducing extra people and dogs into the mix. The exception is if you have an experienced handler and a trained dog out there to hold the sheep in place for you while you send your dog. But even then, if the dog is perceived by the sheep as a real threat or it doesn't kick out properly around them, then the sheep are likely to run over the set out person and his/her dog in an attempt to escape.

 

6. My recommendation is to find someone with dog-broke sheep and experience training dogs to a higher degree that what the dam of your pups does and get a good start on them between now and when you get your own sheep next spring. Spend time at the farm where you got your dogs learning how to properly care for sheep and just observing sheep behavior outside the presence of a dog. The more you learn about sheep, the better prepared you will be to raise them and eventually work them.

 

J.

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Just my two cents, but you're making a whole lot of assumptions about "why" the sheep are doing what they're doing. Based on your good, detailed descriptions, and my own experience, I wouldn't necessarily agree that your assumptions are correct.

 

For instance: it's unlikely the sheep are hanging out in the barn because they're "people oriented," for instance. Given access, most sheep generally hang out in and around a barn (or run-in) in very hot/cold weather, when they're not actively grazing. They appreciate the value of shelter. And the proximity of high-value fodder, if that's where their hay/grain comes from.

 

The sheep are probably not reacting to your younger dog based on his resemblance to his mother. (At least, not after the first couple of minutes.) Sheep are very good at recognizing and evaluating individual animals, including humans and dogs, and they modify their behavior accordingly. What does the young dog do (behavior) that is similar to what the older dog does, which produces similar responses from the sheep?

 

You'll need to observe your stock (and your dogs) with as few pre-conceptions as possible in order to keep them safely and train your dogs (and yourselves) productively. Try not to project "why," and instead see "what."

 

Liz S in South Central PA

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Just my two cents, but you're making a whole lot of assumptions about "why" the sheep are doing what they're doing. Based on your good, detailed descriptions, and my own experience, I wouldn't necessarily agree that your assumptions are correct.

^^Exactly. That's why I gave the example of my two dogs who look nothing alike but who both tend to unsettle sheep. In fact one of them looks a heck of a lot like her mother, but the sheep react to her in a completely different way than they react to her mom.

 

Liz,

FWIW, and apparently that's not much, when you have as many people and dogs out there as you do sheep, that's a cast of thousands. You're all putting pressure on the sheep in your own way and so that are absolutely not going to react the way they would if it was just one human and one dog working them. Having that many people and dogs just adds to the confusion and I don't see how you can get anything productive out of it.

 

I've said on this forum before that I don't like the idea of walking a dog out to sheep and then having it lie down. That may come back to bite you in the a$$ when your dog wants to lie at your feet and not get up and go get the sheep. But it's your dog and your plan, so go for it. No trainer expects perfectly calm dogs when they start them on sheep. Your goal of having them well-behaved in close proximity to sheep before they ever start training is a misguided one, which is often made by novice handlers. If your trainer is worth his/her salt, s/he won't have to spend a lot of time calming the dogs down *before* they work because s/he will just let the dogs work, period.

 

And if you want to use normal stockdog terms but give them your own definitions, then it would be helpful if you explained that up front so that folks aren't interpreting your words in the normal way if that's not the way you mean them.

 

Okay, I've said my piece and I don't really see the point in continuing to offer advice. It's clear to me that you've made your mind about what you're doing, why things are happening the way they are, and what you plan to do about it. Good luck to you.

 

J.

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Okay, I've said my piece and I don't really see the point in continuing to offer advice. It's clear to me that you've made your mind about what you're doing, why things are happening the way they are, and what you plan to do about it. Good luck to you.

 

J.

I recognize many, many things that I thought were "good" or "progress" or "just what I wanted to see" in my earlier days with dogs on stock, and I progressed to learn they weren't. I still see things that I think are "good" but they oftentimes are counterproductive, and so learning about working dogs on stock is an ongoing experience.

 

If I were you, Liz, I'd take Julie's advice - and I'd also find a good trainer to work with myself and my dogs from the start. Mistakes made at the beginning have a tendancy to become part of the foundation and, when they are counterproductive to the training and to progress in the long run, it's like building a barn on a shaky foundation. It's not going to give you a good result and you will regret it later, if you progress to learn what is good work and what it not good work.

 

Best wishes.

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Thanks Julie, ..I'm not fighting your advice....just explaining what I did with the pups and why. It seems perfectly reasonable to have a dog that is fairly calm and more likely to pay attention when you're paying hard earned $$$ for lessons and not to mention wasting a very good trainer's time.

 

I am not an inflexible person...what I do today with the dogs may not be what I will do tomorrow based on study, new experience and guidance...but it does seem to me that while you do offer good advice (and I don't quibble with that), that to basically say, "Take it or leave it," isn't all that productive in terms of dialogue or education. I thanked you for each piece of advice you offered and explained why I did what I did with the dogs.....that doesn't mean I'm kicking sand in your face or that I won't follow some piece of what you've offered in the future...

 

Liz

 

 

FWIW, and apparently that's not much, when you have as many people and dogs out there as you do sheep, that's a cast of thousands. You're all putting pressure on the sheep in your own way and so that are absolutely not going to react the way they would if it was just one human and one dog working them.

 

I've said on this forum before that I don't like the idea of walking a dog out to sheep and then having it lie down. That may come back to bite you in the a$ when your dog wants to lie at your feet and not get up and go get the sheep. But it's your dog and your plan, so go for it. No trainer expects perfectly calm dogs when they start them on sheep. Your goal of having them well-behaved in close proximity to sheep before they ever start training is a misguided one.

 

Okay, I've said my piece and I don't really see the point in continuing to offer advice. It's clear to me that you've made your mind about what you're doing, why things are happening the way they are, and what you plan to do about it. Good luck to you.

 

J.

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Sue, I do have a good trainer lined up...we'll start in early October...

 

Liz

 

I recognize many, many things that I thought were "good" or "progress" or "just what I wanted to see" in my earlier days with dogs on stock, and I progressed to learn they weren't. I still see things that I think are "good" but they oftentimes are counterproductive, and so learning about working dogs on stock is an ongoing experience.

 

If I were you, Liz, I'd take Julie's advice - and I'd also find a good trainer to work with myself and my dogs from the start. Mistakes made at the beginning have a tendancy to become part of the foundation and, when they are counterproductive to the training and to progress in the long run, it's like building a barn on a shaky foundation. It's not going to give you a good result and you will regret it later, if you progress to learn what is good work and what it not good work.

 

Best wishes.

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Brodie's movements and actions are so close to his mother that it is very difficult to tell the two of them from a distance. When you see them move in tandem, it's like watching a dog and a shadow...quite fascinating really... he does have a stronger "eye" than she does...

 

An interesting challenge....I've always been a "Why" person....going to "what" = observation mode will be extremely helpful.

 

Liz

 

Just my two cents, but you're making a whole lot of assumptions about "why" the sheep are doing what they're doing. Based on your good, detailed descriptions, and my own experience, I wouldn't necessarily agree that your assumptions are correct.

 

For instance: it's unlikely the sheep are hanging out in the barn because they're "people oriented," for instance. Given access, most sheep generally hang out in and around a barn (or run-in) in very hot/cold weather, when they're not actively grazing. They appreciate the value of shelter. And the proximity of high-value fodder, if that's where their hay/grain comes from.

 

The sheep are probably not reacting to your younger dog based on his resemblance to his mother. (At least, not after the first couple of minutes.) Sheep are very good at recognizing and evaluating individual animals, including humans and dogs, and they modify their behavior accordingly. What does the young dog do (behavior) that is similar to what the older dog does, which produces similar responses from the sheep?

 

You'll need to observe your stock (and your dogs) with as few pre-conceptions as possible in order to keep them safely and train your dogs (and yourselves) productively. Try not to project "why," and instead see "what."

 

Liz S in South Central PA

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Liz,

As an open handler and a trainer I can tell you that I would rather take on a dog who's a blank slate than one that someone has tried to "prepare" for the work when the person doing the preparing isn't well-versed in the work or even in the stock to begin with. The dogs someone has put poor training on or much more difficult to deal with than the ones that have no training. It's your trainer's job to train or help you train the dog. You won't make their job any easier or save yourself money if you are doing the wrong things beforehand.

 

As for listening and being open-minded, already on this thread two of us--people who are experienced with sheep and working dogs--have told you that it's unlikely that the sheep see a red dog with gold eyes and somehow think he's more dangerous than the black and white dog. I even gave you a real life example of predators and prey interacting with no fear on the prey's part, and how it has nothing to do with what the predator looks like physically and everything to do with the predator's demeanor. And yet you still seem to want to argue that the sheep treat Brodie differently because he looks like mom and Robin does not. Can you see how those types of responses from you might make it seem that you aren't interested in hearing advice? You admit to having no experience with sheep, but when people who do have experience with sheep contradict your assumptions, you continue to argue for your own viewpoint. By then it seems rather pointless to continue to try to help. Seriously.

 

You say you have a good trainer lined up. Surely that person would be willing to give you advice via e-mail or phone regarding what you're doing (and what to do) now with the dogs. Since you plan to pay that person your hard-earned money for their advice and training, perhaps they would be the best choice for asking the sorts of questions you've asked here, since presumably you think their expertise is worth paying for. I have often found that when you pay for something, you respect it more....

 

J.

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Julie, someone asked in what way I thought Brodie resembled his mother...I replied....he works like her. I described Robin as having "wolfish gold eyes" which I meant to infer that the sheep would think he was more predatory in nature (demeanor) way back in one of my original posts....though he has not threatened the sheep by lunging at them, his very quietness (demeanor) might be unsettling to them because his actions are more deliberate and "stalking" in nature (demeanor). Hence, the sheep keep more distance from him than they do Brodie. I do understand predator prey relationships in regard to stock dog training.

 

My original question was a simple one about dog broke sheep...I think that's been answered.

 

Liz

 

 

Liz,

As an open handler and a trainer I can tell you that I would rather take on a dog who's a blank slate than one that someone has tried to "prepare" for the work when the person doing the preparing isn't well-versed in the work or even in the stock to begin with. The dogs someone has put poor training on or much more difficult to deal with than the ones that have no training. It's your trainer's job to train or help you train the dog. You won't make their job any easier or save yourself money if you are doing the wrong things beforehand.

 

As for listening and being open-minded, already on this thread two of us--people who are experienced with sheep and working dogs--have told you that it's unlikely that the sheep see a red dog with gold eyes and somehow think he's more dangerous than the black and white dog. I even gave you a real life example of predators and prey interacting with no fear on the prey's part, and how it has nothing to do with what the predator looks like physically and everything to do with the predator's demeanor. And yet you still seem to want to argue that the sheep treat Brodie differently because he looks like mom and Robin does not. Can you see how those types of responses from you might make it seem that you aren't interested in hearing advice? You admit to having no experience with sheep, but when people who do have experience with sheep contradict your assumptions, you continue to argue for your own viewpoint. By then it seems rather pointless to continue to try to help. Seriously.

 

You say you have a good trainer lined up. Surely that person would be willing to give you advice via e-mail or phone regarding what you're doing (and what to do) now with the dogs. Since you plan to pay that person your hard-earned money for their advice and training, perhaps they would be the best choice for asking the sorts of questions you've asked here, since presumably you think their expertise is worth paying for. I have often found that when you pay for something, you respect it more....

 

J.

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f I were you, Liz, I'd take Julie's advice - and I'd also find a good trainer to work with myself and my dogs from the start. Mistakes made at the beginning have a tendancy to become part of the foundation and, when they are counterproductive to the training and to progress in the long run, it's like building a barn on a shaky foundation. It's not going to give you a good result and you will regret it later, if you progress to learn what is good work and what it not good work

 

I loudly second or 3rd the idea of mistakes made at the beginning tend to become part of the foundation and you will find yourself always straying back to fixing things that were "messed" up in their start.

 

And I think Julie's advice is spot on. She's not saying it's a take it or leave it thing. The way I see it, she's saying if you aren't going to take it then she's not going to offer. It takes an extreme amount of time and effort to write all she does. If someone doesn't want to take it, then why should she waste her time.

 

 

My personal example...

Dew is Mick's half sis. No they don't look exactly alike but from afar you could get their body language confused with each other.

My sheep used to want to stomp Dew, and she does look like Mick enough. But are very calm and quiet around Mick. The causal observer could not tell them apart but the sheep sure can. Really when they go in while I feed you can not tell them apart with their body language. Again, the sheep can tell from a mile away.

As Dew gains confidence the sheep are relaxing around her, but it's taken a long time for the sheep to trust her. These are not good sheep for starting dogs. Never will they be considered dog broke. They have their training value but not for green dogs, or green people for that matter.

 

I do understand your idea about having the dogs be "around" sheep so they are not so gung-ho when they do get to work but, it really doesn't matter, if I have to take a few minutes getting a dog to calm down before going to work, no biggie. It would seem like torture to me if I was always walking my dogs in or around sheep and not working them. No matter that Dew sees sheep each and every day, when we go to formal work, she’s ecstatic!

 

I like to bring my puppies down to the sheep for chores before they turn on, seems to help them realize that there are jobs to do with sheep and they are not just play toys. but the minute they turn on, they are put up, that means not around sheep at all if I can help it. Unless we are going to start training or just to see where the dog is at, like is it ready to start formal work.

 

JMHO

and for what it's worth...Thanks Julie, your continued advise to all that have stock dog questions is greatly appreciated by the thousands that do read it, plus you are usually spot on with what you write!

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I described Robin as having "wolfish gold eyes" which I meant to infer that the sheep would think he was more predatory in nature (demeanor) way back in one of my original posts....

 

Liz, I don't mean to pick on you, but this is exactly what Julie is talking about--his "wolfish gold eyes" are a physical, appearance-related attribute, which are not necessarily influencing his demeanor. Your inference that the sheep think your dog's eyes mean he is more predatory in nature is another part of this appearance-related assumption you keep making that those with more sheep experience are telling you is not likely to be true.

 

though he has not threatened the sheep by lunging at them, his very quietness (demeanor) might be unsettling to them because his actions are more deliberate and "stalking" in nature (demeanor). Hence, the sheep keep more distance from him than they do Brodie.

 

You hadn't much talked about your dog's behavior before, and your use of the word "might" shows you are now trying to understand what you are observing with more of an open mind (excellent!); however, it's another example of your interpreting the sheep's and your dog's relationship without having the experience or expertise to accurately assign motivations. For now, if you are going to continue bringing your dogs around sheep before someone qualified can guide you, it may be most helpful to just watch and file away what you see.

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Laurae, in my spare time I work at being a world famous novelist..."wolfish gold eyes" = predator :rolleyes:. (ETA I also meant that Robin doesn't have that intense sheepdog focusd eye like Brodie does. His "eye" is entirely different...I can only describe it as "wolfish." ) ..When I watch how Robin behaves around the sheep, I am reminded of those nature programs where wolves are working the edge of a herd of elk or deer...slow, easy movements, looking for the weak one to pick off... Brodie is your straight forward sheepdog out to do an honest day's work, like his Mum and the sheep know it. I have the feeling they think RObin is looking for lunch.

 

 

 

I realize there's some communication gaps here, and please forgive them..I'm working on a pretty steep learning curve here, as are many other "newbies" and to get slapped down for incorrectly applying a word or termonlogy is kind of hurtful and unproductive. I reposted the "wolfish gold eyes" descriptor to show Julie that I only once referred to any physical charactristic Robin had and that, as I said above, was to show his predatory nature.

 

 

Thanks for your advice, and I really mean that. I am not stubborn or closed minded. I take in all advice and there is indeed much to be learned from simply watching the dog's reactions to the sheep and vice versa. And I spend a good part of every day trying to puzzle out my dog's behavior. :D>

 

Liz

 

Liz, I don't mean to pick on you, but this is exactly what Julie is talking about--his "wolfish gold eyes" are a physical, appearance-related attribute, which are not necessarily influencing his demeanor. Your inference that the sheep think your dog's eyes mean he is more predatory in nature is another part of this appearance-related assumption you keep making that those with more sheep experience are telling you is not likely to be true.

 

 

 

You hadn't much talked about your dog's behavior before, and your use of the word "might" shows you are now trying to understand what you are observing with more of an open mind (excellent!); however, it's another example of your interpreting the sheep's and your dog's relationship without having the experience or expertise to accurately assign motivations. For now, if you are going to continue bringing your dogs around sheep before someone qualified can guide you, it may be most helpful to just watch and file away what you see.

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Hmm. I am not "world famous," but I am a long-experienced editor, with relevant stock and stockdog experience, and "wolfish gold eyes" = descriptor. Of what is open to debate. You may be using that term to mean predator, but you are describing the appearance of your dog's eyes. And then interpreting that description.

 

Laurae, in my spare time I work at being a world famous novelist..."wolfish gold eyes" = predator
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