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eye and flying in, gripping


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I have a "eye-grip" problem with my young bitch (2 y), started working

(more than once a week) about 6 month ago. The problem manifest as

follows: the sheep are standing still,(maybe one is facing her), she

stops and starts staring and building up tension. Any

command given in this situation will cause her to fly in (grip

sometimes) and regather the sheep to balance them to me.


I have practiced keeping everything in motion, making it easy for her

to follow her natural moves (no problems then). IF she got stuck i

would call her off the sheep (break her trance) and enlarge her

distance from the sheep and proceed with a flank or walk-on

command. Mostly this avoids the problem to occur, (although she

sometimes flight right into her sheep when i walk to her (from 12

o'clock) to call her off the sheep), but it does not seem to prevent

the problem from happening in the first place.


I now want her to walk-on to or flank on sheep that are standing

still for instance at the top of her outrun or any other place where

the sheep decide to stop.


I hope my description is clear enough, and i appreciate any





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One of my older dogs is like this, and the only thing that worked well for her was to teach her a get back and then flank her to release the pressure. I don't think you should call her off, I did that too much when this dog was young, and I think it makes them more sticky- they know you are going to call them off so they get more intense on what they are doing- if that makes any sense. But teaching a good get back helped my dog alot- you have to keep on it all the time, any time you let it slip they (the eye-sticky dogs) will take advantage of it. The ideal thing is to find that distance where she gets challenged and keep her from getting there. Also, if you have a particular sheep that keeps challenging her, then sort that one out for awhile while you work on her get back/flanking solution.

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Of course it is hard to say what is REALLY going on without having a look at the situations that develop. An expert (which I certainly am not) would be able to "read" your dog and give recommendations based upon what he/she thinks is going on in your dog's mind. With that disclaimer...


I have a dog that has some of what you are describing. It is getting bad just now as she has started to develop a rather hard eye in certain situations. I've seen others at clinics and so forth that have at least some of what you describe. Smokjbc has given you one of the ways to deal with this. Some other things I've seen done to help with this problem are the following. I am sure there are other things, too. And I am sure that some of this is not what your dog needs.


* Get to a fence and have the dog fetch the sheep to you at the fence. Make the dog walk right up to those sheep, squeezing them against the fence - and you perhaps. (If some bolt, you are there to make sure the dog bows out properly to cover). The dog's eye will certainly tend to lock up and tension will certainly build. Keep encouraging the dog in. After a bit of that, get the dog to flank around and move them off the fence. I guess this de-sensitizes the dog to the eye/tension situation and the proximity to the sheep with you in position to correct the dog for wrong behavior. It also helps the dog see how to release this tension and still get control of the sheep.


* When driving or fetching, flank the dog back and forth over and over again. Little flanks only, with well-timed corrections the instant the dog hesitates to take the flank. Increase the distance so that the eye/tension thing wants to kick in. Here you are trying to "break down" that "hard eye", which is not really helping the dog move/control the stock but just serving to build tension. You are also getting the dog to keep you and your wishes in the picture even as the eye/tension is trying to take over your dog's mind. This one really helped my dog. Driving at 200 yards or more, or with delicate lifts at 300-400 yards, I would often lose precise control over her and/or she would start to lock up with a charge into the sheep a real possibility. A few of those little flanking drills and she was a much better, much more relaxed dog in those situations.


* When you work your dog up close and the pressure is high, do you find that the dog sometimes needs two (or more) commands to get up and go, or to flank off of a walk-up?? Does the dog fail to stop on a flank where you want her to just when the pressure/tension is building? Does the dog stick a bit before giving into your wishes? A lot of this may be a manifestation of the eye/tension problem. You may think the dog doesn't understand you, or that the dog just needs a little encouragement. This may be true. But, given your problems, it is also possible that the eye/tension is already taking over. Most problems show up in a myriad of little things long before the more dramatic manifestations. If you can't beat it in the small things, forget beating it at 400 yards on a slow, delicate lift. Start insisting on 100% compliance with your wishes up close. The dog will start to relinquish some responsibility to you; this will reduce the tension considerably and slow down the intrusion of the unproductive eye. The relaxed dog will notice that things are going much better with the sheep, and this will reinforce itself.


Nice theories, anyway. These are just things I've seen being used here and there. Some of these were shown to me very recently by one of the local pros, and seem to be helping a lot. I hope I can keep the progress positive. My descriptions and interpretations could be embarrassingly wrong, so don't take them as anything but food for thought.


charlie torre

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When the dog sticks, go to her and restart her from your side. Don't call her back to you. You keep yourself moving, keep the sheep moving, and her habit of sticking will slowly diminish. Right now she's diving in and gripping because she's gotten herself into a situation that she doesn't know how to get out of any other way -- this is a symptom of stickiness, not a problem in and of itself. Work on the stickiness and the rest will come right.


At least that's my guess.

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Thanks for your replies and suggestions, gives me certainly something to think about.

Below a short report about what we did (very recently) to work on this problem.


We worked the sheep today and in (the neighborhood of) a corner (most of my fences are water). I did not yet ask her to pack the sheep in the corner ( i could see the tension going up already by approaching the corner) but kept her in motion and peeling the sheep from the fence (near the corner). This seems to relax her a little. I also don't make a big fuss about her flying in/gripping, a soft ah ah gets her out. After a fly-in i put her in (approximately) the same situation again (maybe a little easier for her), ask her again to flank or walk -up and she is very willing to take it!


Another thing i did that seem to give some results is: i walk to her in cases where she sticks (then she wants to move to reestablish balance, but i keep her lying down or standing), and instead of calling her to me (a little off the sheep followed directly with a flanking command as i did before) i ask her to walk up steady with me right by her side or a little behind her, and i quickly pick up the line, just in case she takes off.

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I have a small pen (10 X 5 m). When i ask her to come into the pen she will do so without any hesitation and fly right into the sheep (packed in a corner), and lie down at the opposite site (sheep are with me now or at the other site of the pen).


If i prevent her from flying in, she will lie down, she is very tense and will not respond to a flanking command (glued to the sheep and determined to keep them in the corner). I practiced some close work (she on a long line). I literally have to pull her around the sheep, she will grip (but not hard) when she needs to come close between the sheep and the fence.


We also have a small shed that can hold just all my sheep (20). It is very hard (impossible if you do not want to hurt the sheep, which i do not want) to get them out.

She will go in and get them all out (but wool is flying in the air). I do not let her do this anymore because i am afraid she will learn bad habits (that is needs to grip to move sheep out of close areas).


We are still working hard on these problems and i appreciated suggestions and comments.

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