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"Turning on" to sheep: how many times should I try?


Christina
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I have a four to five-year-old shelter dog (Pilot) that I previously thought was part Aussie and part Border Collie, but an unreliable DNA test (I won it in a raffle) confirms that he might only be a Border Collie!

 

Pilot and I were doing agility until about a week ago, when finances forced me to quit for a few months. When things are better, I'm considering going back into agility, but it's not my favorite thing in the world so I'm not entirely convinced it's a good idea.

 

What I really want to do is work stock. There's a problem with this though: My pup hasn't shown the slightest bit of interest in sheep in two instinct tests. To be fair, he was very confused about where he was both times and wanted nothing more than to escape.

 

So here's my question: How many tries will a good instructor give your dog before they deem it a lost cause? I know two chances isn't nearly enough for a dog that probably grew up without ever even seeing sheep.

 

And where do I find such an instructor!? Based on advice I recieved here before, I contacted Carol Campion to inquire about lessons. We traded several emails. She seemed willing to take me on for lessons. When it comes time to set up an appointment, she tells me that she doesn't work with Aussie mixes and referred me to another trainer. An AKC trainer. I took a lesson with her and was not impressed.

 

Any other recommendations for a trainer? Is it worth it to pursue training with Pilot or does two instinct tests equal a lost cause?

 

Thank you =]

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No, two instinct tests don't necessarily define the dog's possible interest. See if you can find a trainer that will just let him "watch" from outside the pen as other dogs are trained...

Some trainers have organized days when they train, and that way he could get used to all that's going on and start to focus more on another dog and some moving sheep with out any pressure on him.

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I am far from expert, a beginner as well, but I have also seen success in simply letting a dog "watch" others work.

 

the wonderful instructor who did Kate's instinct test also explained to me how IN TUNE border collies are with their handlers. Kate was unsure until the instructor had me walk confidently behind the sheep and Kate followed and then the light switch came on in her little head. :)

 

Dont give up quite yet..Id find a good trainer who can help and go at Pilot's speed. :)

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Can you describe what was going on when Pilot did not show interest? How big of an area were you in? Were the sheep moving much, or just hanging out?

 

When I started Odin he didn't seem interested either for a couple of minutes. Then I moved the sheep and that really caught his attention. In either test did the instructor try something like that? Also, it helped when *I* did it and not the instructor because I am his person and I think it was more inviting to him to see that I wanted him to get interested in these beasts. :lol:

 

I agree 2 times may not be at all indicative of later, especially depending on the conditions. But ISTM (more experienced members can set me straight if I'm wrong) that relatively soon you want to see at least some level of interest from an adult dog, especially one that's never been actively discouraged from being around livestock.

 

ETF spelling errors

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"Can you describe what was going on when Pilot did not show interest? How big of an area were you in? Were the sheep moving much, or just hanging out?"

 

The first time Pilot was tested on sheep, we were in Michigan (so add the stress of travel- I live in Connecticut). I had owned Pilot for about seven months at the time, so he was still getting used to living with me as well. He was tested in a round pen (standard size, I can get the details on exactly how big it was). He was fearful of the sheep at first, stayed away from them when they moved and sat right next to me. When they started moving a little more, he would bark and lunge at them. After lunging, he reverted back to sitting next to me.

 

The second time he was tested, he was a lot less afraid and more confused. It was in Connecticut in a significantly smaller round pen with the AKC instructor. He watched the sheep move around and refused to leave the gate- spent the entire time basically telling me he wanted to go out and do something else because this was making him nervous. These sheep moved less than the first sheep did- they stood very still opposite my dog.

 

It is worth noting that he escaped from the crate once in Michigan and ran onto a much larger field while another BC was working. He immediately began "helping" the BC herd the sheep (though I have since questioned whether he was herding the other BC or the sheep, since he will herd my female BC).

 

My herding friend says his reaction in the round pen vs. the field may have a lot to do with flight zone of the sheep.

 

I don't know anything about his history other than he was picked up as a stray and was reported running loose for two months. I don't remember moving around the round pen either time, though I'm sure one of the instructors had me do that. He is definitly a dog that will only work for his mom- he wouldn't even go IN the pen without me.

 

Coyote, kjthomason: Letting him watch is a good idea. Maybe I'll do that. Do you think it would be more beneficial for him to watch a dog who knows what it's doing, or should I bring him along for lessons with my female BC (who has some nice instinct but very little stock experience)?

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Not sure if this is helpful but I rescued a young Koolie. He was afraid and confused by my sheep so I took him to watch while I worked with my working bred BC.

 

It probably took about 5 or 6 times when he suddenly switched on. All his instincts came to the surface and he is a joy. The sheep respect him and it is all there for me to work with

 

My older showbred BC is interested when the sheep move and has an inkling of what to do and it looke mildly promising, but unlike with my Koolie the sheep take no notice of her of challenge her which she is unable to deal with and cowers and has gone backwards, so I dont bother with her.

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All I know is, During the instinct test, we had ALL levels of dogs..beginner to completly advanced (they rotated the sheep)..and Kate, even though her first exposure she was initialy abit unsure, after her time in the roundpen was extremly eager to get back in there with the sheep and watched intently the other dogs work.

 

I imagine it has to do more with energy and confidence then it does training (right now at least, regarding the other dog)

 

my humble opinion.

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I'm not super into rattling the sheep to get a dog going, or in fact riling up the dog a la having him watch a more exciting session - but I know it works fine for lots and lots of dogs - it's just my opinion. ;)

 

My reason is that my feeling is that these dogs that seem "afraid" of the sheep (assuming they actually have all the pieces needed to work), are feeling too much to process and just don't know what to do with it. So I want to simplify things, make it easier for the dog to think through it.

 

These "stuck" moments will happen with almost any young dog when doing normal work - the pressure pops up from nowhere and the dog goes, "Whoa! What do I do with that!"

 

It's not practical for me to start pushing my ram around, or my ewes with lambs, to get my youngster "unstuck." I'll whack that big boy if he's getting ready to bully my pup, but while I do it I talk very calmly to Sam and don't look at him or ask him to do anything. Then I try to simplify it. Frankly I still suck at this. Thankfully Sam is veryveryveryveryvery forgiving and adaptable and did I mention forgiving? so I have some room to bumble through a game plan together. We're trying.

 

So it's not just at the beginning that I have to have a "turn on" plan. With my other dog I have to be ready to "turn off" and "turn on" just as quick because he doesn't get "stuck" - he flies in when he's not sure what to do. He tries very hard but he doesn't quite give me as much time to think - but again, thankfully, when I do figure it out he is pleased as punch. :)

 

On the other end of life, physical impairments start to hang up an older dog. Suddenly a job that was no problem before - they'll stop and act uninterested, or even scared.

 

I have to figure out how to make it easier for those dogs too. That's really rewarding. Gus, who is stone deaf, especially gets all prancy when we work out something tricky together.

 

I'm a Pollyanna who likes to look at "bad" things and assume it's really the flip side of something "good." Really, it's all just "there" isn't it? :)

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

If a Border Collie is five months old or older and when you put him in a small ring with sheep and agitate the sheep and emit shrill cries he pretends he doesn't SEE them:

 

First: tie the dog to the outside of the ring and LEAVE HIM BY HIMSELF while other dogs work. If he gets cranked, try him again. If not, put him away for that day.Let him think about it. Repeat the next day. It is not uncommon for a dog to take three or four days to start.

 

Second: put him in with an experienced dog and crank both dogs until the novice starts. This will work within two minutes or not at all.

 

Third: step outside the small ring into a couple acre field, put a long line on the novice, turn him loose and with your experienced dog bring the sheep past him. (The small ring is a pressure cooker).

 

At the very first, tailup chasing, barking, playing are okay. You can quickly transform these into working .

 

If the dog SEES the sheep but clings to you or runs to safety that's a different, perhaps insoluble problem.

 

Donald McCaig

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What is a "purpose bred" dog? I have not heard that term before.

 

mn

 

I think it means the result of a planned breeding. I first heard the term used when I was describing my (presumed) BC x working aussie, who has plenty of instinct (though not much bidability) on stock, as a mutt. An open handler told me that tho she was clearly a mix, she was not necessarily the result of a random breeding but may have been purpose bred for stockwork.

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

If a Border Collie is five months old or older and when you put him in a small ring with sheep and agitate the sheep and emit shrill cries he pretends he doesn't SEE them:

 

First: tie the dog to the outside of the ring and LEAVE HIM BY HIMSELF while other dogs work. If he gets cranked, try him again. If not, put him away for that day.Let him think about it. Repeat the next day. It is not uncommon for a dog to take three or four days to start.

 

Second: put him in with an experienced dog and crank both dogs until the novice starts. This will work within two minutes or not at all.

 

Third: step outside the small ring into a couple acre field, put a long line on the novice, turn him loose and with your experienced dog bring the sheep past him. (The small ring is a pressure cooker).

 

At the very first, tailup chasing, barking, playing are okay. You can quickly transform these into working .

 

If the dog SEES the sheep but clings to you or runs to safety that's a different, perhaps insoluble problem.

 

Donald McCaig

 

Donald, I would be curious, if it doesnt take away from the thread, what you would do with a dog who clings to the handler? As I said some posts above, my Kate did that the first time on sheep and the instructor had me walk up behind the sheep and move them..Kate Eveutallly followed, and got "braver" as she went on...The instructor said this was not terriably uncommon with BC's and that the handler needs to be confident transmit that confidence to the dog..

 

thoughts?

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdoggers,

 

 

Ms. CoyoteCreek wondered: "what you would do with a dog who clings to the handler? As I said some posts above, my Kate did that the first time on sheep and the instructor had me walk up behind the sheep and move them..Kate Eveutallly followed, and got "braver" as she went on...The instructor said this was not terriably uncommon with BC's and that the handler needs to be confident transmit that confidence to the dog."

thoughts?"

 

This simple question isn't. Usually, when Kate clings to your legs her first or second acquaintance with sheep, it means that Kate hasn't turned on (SEEN SHEEP).. Ignoring the dog, Kate's handler should walk briskly to sheep and move them while emitting shrill exciting cries. What's important isn't what you think of the work or what the dog thinks of you but what Kate's genetics urge her to do - which has, in those first moments - zip to do with you. Get Kate chasing!

 

Then, re-enter the picture and get Kate working.

 

Many beginners think that their relationship with the dog/their attitude has something important to do with awakening the dog's instinct. They call to the dog, they urge it to do SOMETHING with the sheep (whatever SOMETHING may be). Nope. Doesn't work. The SHEEP urge the dog to do something with the SHEEP. They move around like something edible/fascinating/fun/chaseable - as a non dog I can't be more specific.

 

When I said that dogs that don't leave their handler's feet are a problem I didn't mean the commonplace of nervous Kate, the first/second/third time she goes to sheep. I meant the dog who doesn't leave its handler's feet the twentieth time it SEES sheep. That's a problem which, in the two instances I've encountered it, I was unable to solve.

 

Donald McCaig

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Donald, thank you so much for taking the time to explain..I am like a sponge, I want to learn! :)

 

So basicaly, you are stirring up the sheep, to illicite the drive within the dog (which is based off of a primal predator drive)...

 

Sarah

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