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Secret's first time on sheep


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This past weekend we went to a "herding fun day" hosted by the rescue where I adopted Secret. It was for those of us who wanted to see if our rescue dogs have any natural herding talent -- especially considering that we don't know the background on the majority of them.

 

Here's the video:

 

 

Secret just turned a year old this week, so she is still young. She was dumped at a shelter in Kentucky with her mom & two siblings; we know nothing about who the dad might be. Her brother showed quite a bit of natural talent when he was introduced to sheep a couple of months ago. Mom & sister have yet to be put on stock.

 

Strike 1 -- Secret was totally ooged out by going into the ring with the trainer. While waiting for our turn she was having a grand time watching the sheep run around the pen and strained with excitement at the end of her leash. Once she left me to go with the trainer, she pretty much had a meltdown.

 

Strike 2 -- She was scared of everything at the beginning. The cupola spinning on the barn, the noise that the gate panels made when the sheep bumped into them, etc. She also didn't like dragging the long line, but much improved with the shorter one.

 

Strike 3 -- She's a barker. As in, a LOT of barking. This understandably ticked off the sheep and caused her to get charged a couple of times, which didn't help her confidence.

 

Positive -- Her confidence improved a lot by the end and things definitely got better when we switched to some "easier" sheep. The first set was pretty bully to her.

 

I'm wondering if there is any point to trying this again. It was suggested that I try taking her to a trainer with a round pen, as she really struggled with penning the sheep in the corners of this one. This trainer thought that a little more age will help her -- Secret is a VERY soft dog for the most part and this is something that has been getting better as she's gotten older.

 

I don't see us as ever participating in competitive herding events. Ultimately, I wanted to try putting her on stock to see if it would bring out any drive in her. It's been too stinking hot here to do anything since this weekend (heck, it was too hot to play with sheep, but we did it anyhow) -- but this experience did seem to hype her up to chasing birds more... lol

 

Anyhow, after watching the video, do you think I should try again with her, following the advice to find someone with a round pen?

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I am so not qualified to give advice, but here goes anyway. I didn't see anything in the video that would make me think you shouldn't try her again. She was definitely interested and to me, looked like a lot of dogs their first time on sheep. Some uncertainty, some barking and some chasing. I think a round pen and appropriate sheep for a green dog are needed, but yeah, I'd definitely try her again if she were mine.

 

ETA: If you do decide to try her on sheep again, be sure to find a good trainer. Maybe someone here can make a recommendation.

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I can't watch the video (no problem, just not the right place for me to watch now) but remember that she is quite young. Many dogs don't show much at her age while others are very precocious at a much younger age.

 

I second Paula as I would suggest that finding a capable, competent, experienced trainer is the single most important thing you can do. That person could try Secret, work with Secret and yourself, and help you both get a good start and firm foundation (should you both be able and willing to progress).

 

Best wishes!

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Thanks for your reply! I actually have a trainer in mind already in the Portage, WI area (John Wentz). He was actually my first choice to take her, but then this fun day was organized by the rescue and I decided to try her out. I believe John has a round pen.

 

A friend of mine has been in contact with him and I think the tentative plan is to drive down there (only about an hour and a half) once the weather cools a bit. It's been miserable lately and I don't think that helps much.

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I think going to an experienced trainer would be a good start. A round pen isn't absolutely necessary because there are space limitations that can cause different problems there. She looks like a dog who could have used encouragement and help moving the sheep. If you want more detailed thoughts on what was going on there, I'd be happy to provide them. Were the sheep well dog broke?

 

J.

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I didn't see anything that would say never go back. There were so many new sights and sounds that she looked a bit overwhelmed.

 

You might try getting her out to places that make simular noises and have simular settings (gates being bumped and things like that) just so that she isn't so concerned with the newness of everything.

 

John Wentz is a really nice guy and trains lots of different dogs, I think he'd be a good place to start.

 

BTW I loved your coming out music while she was in the car. She's darling.

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I take lessons from John and would love to meet you and your friend there if you would like. :rolleyes: Just to meet people from the boards. Plus, it is both helpful and fun to spend time watching other people work their dogs, too.

 

Devon is just over a year old, too and I really just started training him over the last month or so.

 

I really enjoy taking lessons from John and as you probably know, he has a round pen, medium field, and a large field available for training.

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Vicki, when do you tend to go to John's? Considering that I just picked up a part-time/weekend job at the local Humane Society, it is now looking like weekend lessons won't be an option, so we'll probably have to head down on a weeknight some time.

 

Unfortunately, I can tell you guys nothing about the place where we went for this "fun day." I know that she gives lessons and has quite a few sheep. I don't know anything about sheep, so I couldn't tell you if they are "well dog broke," but they work with their own dogs daily. It was a super hot/humid day and I think some of the sheep were getting cranky with the inexperienced dogs chasing them around. Secret was the third (?) dog to work the first set of sheep in the video and they were switched out after her turn. She was the first dog to "work" the second set in the video, so they didn't start to get pissy with her until she started barking at them. lol

 

My main reason for wanting to try her in a round pen is because the corners gave us SUCH problems. She seemed to think that's where the sheep belonged and once they were motionless in the corners, she had no interest in them. I'd be curious to see what happened with no place for them to huddle like that. She is very set off by movement and as of yet has pretty much no control when she sets off on a run. How does one start to instill that (control) without turning the dog off, especially one as sensitive as her? Corrections shut her down.

 

This is why we need a good trainer. :rolleyes:

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You might try getting her out to places that make simular noises and have simular settings (gates being bumped and things like that) just so that she isn't so concerned with the newness of everything.

 

Secret has been socialized within an inch of her life at agility trials and the like. She has become so much more confident when out in public in general (frequent trips to Petco, the vet office, etc.). She's doing much better these days with new people -- Frankly, I was surprised that she went with the trainer period and was fine with everyone petting her this weekend.

 

The noise sensitivities started at the 4th of July. Before that she reacted to nothing, but now she goes into tail-tuck mode any time something startles her. Sigh.

 

So how does one acclimate & socialize a dog to farm sights & sounds when one doesn't have access to a farm? :rolleyes:

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Well I'd say she might be developing thunder phobia or fireworks phobia, that can set in around the age of 2 or younger. Most of my dogs didn't develope it till they were almost 2. Dew developed it way eariler but I think she "caught" it from the other dogs, she has way more sound phobias than the rest. But give her something to do, like working sheep or chickens and only the worst noises will bother her. So maybe as Secrect gets turned on the stock the nosies will become less of a bother.

 

Best way I can think to desensitize a dog to things like gates is to have her around them doing something that keeps her interested more than the noises freak her out.

 

I would try and take her to new places so she's becoming used to "new" sounds. I know it's not speciific but the new is the part I would be working on.

 

Good luck and most of all make it fun for both of you!

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Vicki, when do you tend to go to John's? Considering that I just picked up a part-time/weekend job at the local Humane Society, it is now looking like weekend lessons won't be an option, so we'll probably have to head down on a weeknight some time.

 

This is why we need a good trainer. :rolleyes:

 

I do usually go early in the mornings on the weekend but have made the trip out on a Friday night before. Right now, in the summer, mornings are best for all involved. :D

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The sheep that I used for this fun day are definitely used to dogs. I used some of our older ewes without any lambs because these dogs had not seen sheep before. These ewes are used to being worked by dogs and are used to being around people. I certainly could have put some hog panels in the corners to get rid of them. But I find with these types of dogs that even when you're in a "round pen" will hold the sheep right along the side of the pen in a spot that they like to do that. I would certainly try her at John's place as he might have some knee knocker sheep that might make it easier to get her around the sheep.

 

Now realize that any of the dogs that had trouble with me being out there, I did have the owners go out with them and they all did better then. And like someone else said, just one or two exposures doesn't really tell you what the dog can do or will do on sheep.

 

Kathy

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But I find with these types of dogs that even when you're in a "round pen" will hold the sheep right along the side of the pen in a spot that they like to do that. I would certainly try her at John's place as he might have some knee knocker sheep that might make it easier to get her around the sheep.

This is exactly what I was thinking. If the dog is inclined to hold the sheep in the corner, it will likely also hold them along the fence in a round pen or any other place. That's where the trainer comes in to help the dog figure out how to get them out of a corner or off the fence. At any rate one exposure won't tell you a whole lot one way or the other.

 

J.

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Okay, what are "knee knocker" sheep? Doesn't sound pleasant, but this will help us? lol

 

Personally, I thought just watching all of the dogs (experienced & newbies alike) was just fascinating. Even if my own dog isn't an instant whiz at it, I think it would be fun to continue with just to watch dogs that actually know what they are doing. :rolleyes:

 

Some sort of switch has gone off in her brain, she's running after the sandpipers like crazy this week. I wish there were training opportunities more nearby. Kathy's place is a full two hour drive and John's is only a little better. It's hard to commit to a weekly lesson with that kind of driving -- but I suppose several of you are used to it?

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Knee knockers are sheep that stick to the human like glue. :rolleyes: It makes it easier for the newbie dog to circle the sheep and hold them to the handler. When I mentioned appropriate sheep earlier, that's along the lines of what I meant. Or at least sheep who wouldn't stand down a brand new dog that's not confident enough to handle it.

 

ETA: About the two hour drive...yeah, that's a lot for weekly. Maybe you could do every other week or so? I'd love to go every week, but I usually only get to our lessons twice a month, maybe three if I'm lucky. The dogs still make progress, maybe not as fast as going weekly, but progress.

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Dear wouldbe sheepdoggers,

John Wentz is excellent.When I want to drive to a clinic/coach I'll often drive down on Friday evening, work the dog, stay over, get another shot in the morning before it gets hot and home. A year old dog doesn't need more training than that anyway and you could probably skip a few weeks.

 

Avoid unqualified trainers like plague, don't let your young dog work unsupervised by a qualified trainer. Good luck.

 

Donald McCaig

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I try to train 2 times a month with my dogs and the drive to John's is about 2 hours each way for me. For a new young dog, some times less is more in the beginning - meaning that once a month or so is enough to keep them interested and still make progress. From there is depends on your goals in training. (Note: I am still a newbie in the stock work world. :rolleyes: )

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