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Bounce vs the goats


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I posted above on the general about my plans to correct the mistakes I've made with Bounce. I spent the morning on the Littlehats site. Lots of great stuff there.

My son and I hauled the goats to the barn foundation. I bribed the hogs into their igloo with stale baked goods and my son held their door closed. I set Bounce up and as expected the red collared goat came right to me. Bounce just returned to my side and stared at me. Blue collared goat is the stubborn one. I put the goat between me and the wall and urged Bounce to push it along. He'd get it going a few feet and then race to its head and try to grab. We did succeed in moving around the wall and I ended it there. Bounce did show some "eye" but mostly he kept looking at me.

I put Bounce away and got Tex (you knew I wouldn't be able to resist). There was a huge change in the goats body language. They don't like Tex at all. I walked Tex around so he could figure out the boundaries and obstacles. He knew there were goats and hogs in that barn. He started slinking around and his tail went right down. He found the goats in the corner and went at them hard. Red goat ran like hell and cleared the wall. Blue goat tried to run around Tex and he was working like a cowpony trying to turn her. Both goats were bawling. Red goat came back in and Tex ran them around til I pulled him off. Tex didn't hit a single obstacle and if he lost them, He'd stop and listen and go at them again.

I now have one confused Border Collie and one overjoyed Border Collie mix.

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First, I have totally been in your position. Have dogs, have stock, why isn't this working quite right?


For about two years I had an "outrun dog" - Ben would gather multiple fields without a command other than "Find the sheep." However, put him in a situation where he had to make contact with the sheep at hand, and he blew up - and the sheep along with him!


I also had a "close work dog" - Trim loved to work fences, corners, small pens, and could hold stock to me literally all day as needed. She had a ton of balance and was the first dog I managed to teach to drive (somewhat). But her version of an outrun was "lollipop" shaped - straight up the middle until right at the flight zone, then around the back. Hey, at least she DID go around . . .


Needless to say, I had little help at that stage of my sheepdoggin' experience to show me how to improve the weaknesses of each of these dogs - which is what advanced training is about.


So, the question is, have you caught the bug enough to forge two fairly balanced working dogs out of the two you've got? If so, it may be time to look for help AND, yes, get "sheep for training". In this case, what you are looking for is a better way to improve your livestock management skills and I don't think there's a thing wrong with using sheep for that.


You start with sheep because for many reasons they are easier for the dog to manage. It's like learning to drive on your mom's Oldmobile rather than a Mazarati racecar. It simplifies things considerably. It's not that they won't challenge your dog, it's that, IF they do, they will do it in a way that the dog is more likely to know instinctively how to counteract.


Goats aren't just mean and stubborn, they are weird. I remember a time I was helping a friend get her goats out of a wooded pasture. Luckily it wasn't the first experience I'd had with goats, so I was not surprised when they scattered to the far corners of the property when they saw the dog, instead of gathering together. I ended up bring them up to be loaded one at a time. I've noticed this happens a lot with goats that aren't used to dogs or are used to taking advantage of dogs - you end up simply working them as singles. That might be my inexperience.


Anyway, I got sidetracked. Bounce is coming around to the head, which is correct as raw instinct goes, but he has to learn how to hold them to you, ie, where you fit into the equation. Tex kinda needs help in this area too. I imagine while he's working you'll have to maintain some verbal contact to tell him where you are.


Your best bet really is to either find access to dog broke sheep or get some for yourself. This is a great example of the difference between getting a few sheep to improve your handling skills (thereby improving the way you handle the sheep themselves, even) and getting them so your dog can "have fun". For one thing, there will certainly be times that neither, you, the dog, nor the sheep will be having "fun" (or maybe only the sheep are having fun :rolleyes: ).

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