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calm walking behind the stock


topnotchdog
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Thanks to someone who let me borrow it, I am reading Anna Guthrie's book Working with a Stockdog. Terrific, very helpful book with such great illustrations to boot.

 

On p. 29 she talks about the dog-stock relationship and how if the dog is not comfortable with the pressure from the sheep, this can contribute to him taking hold of the sheep for no apparent reason. (Even if, as she describes, you've told him a 'gazillion' times not to.) One way she suggests partnering with the dog to help him with this is 'miles and miles' of calm walking behind the stock.

 

On one hand this makes a lot of sense to me. Seems it could really help a dog learn that it feels ok to be behind the sheep, help him relax and learn to feel pressure without overreacting. A few questions spring to mind.

 

Could it frustrate or confuse the dog to be kept back behind the stock like that? Other threads here seem to suggest that could be counter productive (if it is even a related issue--as I recall these were comments about videos of starting a dog by keeping him off the sheep and behind them, which could be a different issue entirely).

 

Even if it does frustrate the dog, is it generally the case with a dog who ends up benefiting from the walking behind, that he just gets over some initial frustration which gives way to relaxation as he accumulates said mileage?

 

Finally, is this approach also generally recommended for a dog who does the winging and wanging she describes? Different problem, but seems like it could stem from the same source as the gripping.

 

I am trying to understand this stuff in a general way, so any thoughts are appreciated and you can't pitch your response too low. :) Or maybe the answers are in an upcoming chapter and I just haven't gotten there yet.

 

Thanks,

 

B.

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I have a dog who has had years of being uncomfortable behind his stock, and always wanting to race around and head the stock. And it's been a shame because he's a good dog with many nice attributes, who can really read stock.

 

In the last year or two, in addition to my learning to moderate my handling (being calmer, quieter, and letting him work instead of always trying to "tell" him what to do), I have done a lot of walking along behind with him, varying my position from being near him, to behind him, to off to the side.

 

We've done this when either my husband has been at the head of the cow herd (not sheep, we have cattle) and/or when the cattle/heifers/weanlings have been moving to supplemental feeding or new pasture (so they've been, generally, cooperative about going in the direction we've wanted). Combined with my doing my part of the job better, I think the walking has helped Celt become more at ease with being behind, either bringing the stock to me or driving them away.

 

Sometimes, it's just "putting the mileage" on a dog that can help him/her to learn to relax, feel the stock, and be able to think rather than just to react.

 

JMO, and thanks for your compliments on the book - I am sure Anna will be pleased! I think it's an excellent book and one with a very different approach from the many books that are aimed at teaching you how to train a dog - rather, it's teaching a person how to work with a dog.

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Thanks for that, Sue. Very interesting. Any thoughts on the winging and wanging and whether that comes from a similar source & so walking behind may be a remedy? And what about the frustration? I was picturing the walking behind being done on leash with a dog who bites out of discomfort from pressure from the stock. But maybe I am concocting the wrong image in my head.

 

Barbara

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I'm really glad you posted this, as it makes me realize that even though I knew what I meant, it apparently didn't come across clearly (gee, I always tell my freshman comp students the same thing!) :blink: .

 

No, not on a leash! I now realize what video you are referring to, and that was simply an exercise in frustration for the dog. What I meant is, for the beginning dog, the dog is fetching (or wearing, as some call it) the stock to you...you are walking backwards, with the dog just bringing the stock to you. If the dog has a natural feel for the stock, you just let the dog find the "sweet spot"--the place where the dog is influencing the stock, but not pushing too hard on them, and y'all just wander about, with occasional curves or turns, so that the dog has to reposition to always be in the "balance" position. If the dog does not have a good feel for the stock on its own, and is constantly trying to rush in and grab, then I think you need to help the dog to find that sweet spot--use a lie down if you have to, or a "take time" or "steady," so that you have to kind of artificially get the dog in the right place, so that s/he can feel what it's like to be there, and also to realize the sky's not falling. The idea is that after some time of you helping the dog to find that right place, s/he will begin to get more comfortable in that place, and begin to find it on his/her own.

 

A recent example--a student brought a young "sports bred" dog here for lessons. The dog was extremely uncomfortable whenever she got anywhere close to the sheep (even the "school sheep," who are as unthreatening as sheep can ever be). So when the dog would get behind the sheep (to bring them to the handler), she would either wing and wang (which can be caused by several things), or dive in for a bite. The handler worked with her for several months, just blocking the dog with her body or crook and correcting her when she would dive in. Little by little, over time, the dog got to where she could walk reasonably calmly behind the sheep (bringing them to the handler) with fewer and fewer diving episodes.

 

This also can work with a dog who is learning to drive, but is just too pushy on the stock; a young dog I trained for cattle work was like this--she had had some prior training, and had been encouraged to bite first and ask questions later all.the.time. Completely unnecessary. So we drove all over the place, and I would have to give her little corrections when I would see her going in for a heel bite when it wasn't needed. It took many months and many miles of doing this, but she finally got the idea. She still had TONS of bite when needed, and when I asked for it, but not the "gratuitous" biting she had been exhibiting before. She now lives on a cattle ranch, working 2,500 pairs and 1,000 goats.

 

Some folks are big on using a "long line" pretty much all the time. If that works for them, fine. But it's not my thing at all. I would much rather the dog just get in there and learn how to face the music, so to speak, that to be hanging onto the dog by a line all the time. But that's just me.

 

BTW, Sue did the illustrations, and Stoga (AKA Tip's Mum) from the boards here put the diagrams together. Glad you're enjoying it!

A

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Okay, and I was thinking you were talking largely about a dog that was uncomfy driving behind, and looked at it from Celt's point of view, where I have found walking near him has helped him calm down and learn that he wasn't going to lose his stock if he wasn't either always at the head or bringing them to me, and helped me by allowing me to be right there to prevent a problem rather than having to fix one.

 

As for the fetch/wearing, I think I could have done much better with him when he was young by giving him a lot more mileage doing this, with me walking ahead. He's still pushy, which I really think is a reflection of anxiety on his part, but improving and learning to listen to me and trust me more.

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I'm really glad you posted this, as it makes me realize that even though I knew what I meant, it apparently didn't come across clearly (gee, I always tell my freshman comp students the same thing!) :blink: .

 

Not at all, I am sure it just has to do with me trying to learn from multiple sources at once, which is usually a good thing, but may cause me the occasional brain cramp. :)

 

No, not on a leash! I now realize what video you are referring to, and that was simply an exercise in frustration for the dog. What I meant is, for the beginning dog, the dog is fetching (or wearing, as some call it) the stock to you...you are walking backwards, with the dog just bringing the stock to you. If the dog has a natural feel for the stock, you just let the dog find the "sweet spot"--the place where the dog is influencing the stock, but not pushing too hard on them, and y'all just wander about, with occasional curves or turns, so that the dog has to reposition to always be in the "balance" position. If the dog does not have a good feel for the stock on its own, and is constantly trying to rush in and grab, then I think you need to help the dog to find that sweet spot--use a lie down if you have to, or a "take time" or "steady," so that you have to kind of artificially get the dog in the right place, so that s/he can feel what it's like to be there, and also to realize the sky's not falling. The idea is that after some time of you helping the dog to find that right place, s/he will begin to get more comfortable in that place, and begin to find it on his/her own.

 

Gotcha, thank you!

 

A recent example--a student brought a young "sports bred" dog here for lessons. The dog was extremely uncomfortable whenever she got anywhere close to the sheep (even the "school sheep," who are as unthreatening as sheep can ever be). So when the dog would get behind the sheep (to bring them to the handler), she would either wing and wang (which can be caused by several things), or dive in for a bite. The handler worked with her for several months, just blocking the dog with her body or crook and correcting her when she would dive in. Little by little, over time, the dog got to where she could walk reasonably calmly behind the sheep (bringing them to the handler) with fewer and fewer diving episodes.

 

This also can work with a dog who is learning to drive, but is just too pushy on the stock; a young dog I trained for cattle work was like this--she had had some prior training, and had been encouraged to bite first and ask questions later all.the.time. Completely unnecessary. So we drove all over the place, and I would have to give her little corrections when I would see her going in for a heel bite when it wasn't needed. It took many months and many miles of doing this, but she finally got the idea. She still had TONS of bite when needed, and when I asked for it, but not the "gratuitous" biting she had been exhibiting before. She now lives on a cattle ranch, working 2,500 pairs and 1,000 goats.

 

Thank you for these examples, I can see them in my mind's eye. It also gives me a feel for the bigger picture & what you mean by miles and miles---sometimes many months and sticking it out until they get it. It also clarifies for me the other gist of that section, which emphasized not assuming the dog is possessed :lol: and trying to understand things from the dog's point of view and work from there, but that doesn't mean it's not a bit of a struggle with some dogs, that there can be the "face the music" aspect that you mention below.

 

 

Some folks are big on using a "long line" pretty much all the time. If that works for them, fine. But it's not my thing at all. I would much rather the dog just get in there and learn how to face the music, so to speak, that to be hanging onto the dog by a line all the time. But that's just me.

 

 

So even for the pushy dog you mention, who was biting first and asking questions later, it was not necessary to keep her on a long line. I see what you're saying. I think I might be getting stuck in part b/c of my other dog training, in which I normally work to prevent the dog from rehearsing undesirable behavior (i.e. practice makes perfect, so I am used to thinking up ways to prevent practice of the undesirable stuff, all the while I am encouraging practice of what I do want). But this is not like other dog training. I do appreciate the help sorting out what must seem obvious. Fortunately I have excellent on-the-ground help as well. Apparently it takes a village to raise a newbie.

 

BTW, Sue did the illustrations, and Stoga (AKA Tip's Mum) from the boards here put the diagrams together. Glad you're enjoying it!

A

 

It really is so approachable and clear, and it has a touch of humor which really appeals to me. Thanks Sue and Stoga! The speech bubbles aren't only funny, I have read them and suddenly thought, "Oh, right!" Too bad those don't float over the dog's and sheep's heads in real life...

 

B.

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OK - I can't resist jumping in. :rolleyes: One other piece of advice the author gave me when we first started Cal (well, actually, she'd scream it at me) is when you're doing the walking about, you really have to move. "Walk like you're doing a backwards Groucho Marx" (see, I was listening!). Make the dog constantly balance and adjust as you change directions. The bubble above the dog in the diagram would say, "Got 'em covered, Master/Mistress!" while the bubble above the sheep might be, "Well, that wolf is worrisome enough to make us want to stay close to the food lady, but not so close or pushy that we'll bowl her over, causing her to curse profusely."

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OK - I can't resist jumping in. :rolleyes: One other piece of advice the author gave me when we first started Cal (well, actually, she'd scream it at me) is when you're doing the walking about, you really have to move. "Walk like you're doing a backwards Groucho Marx" (see, I was listening!). Make the dog constantly balance and adjust as you change directions. The bubble above the dog in the diagram would say, "Got 'em covered, Master/Mistress!" while the bubble above the sheep might be, "Well, that wolf is worrisome enough to make us want to stay close to the food lady, but not so close or pushy that we'll bowl her over, causing her to curse profusely."

 

Donna, you crack me up! :lol:

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:lol: ...and when I was fist learning, my instructor would shout, "My dead grandmother can walk faster than that!!"

A

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:lol: ...and when I was fist learning, my instructor would shout, "My dead grandmother can walk faster than that!!"

A

 

HA HA! We call it the Chia Pet....as in "Walk any slower & we're gonna sprinkle some seeds, douse you with water & watch you grow!! Ch-ch-ch-chia!"

 

Okay we spend way too much time cracking ourselves up & not nearly enough time working- obviously ;)

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Interesting indeed. Am currently starting my girl on driving and also thought that this was about walking behind as in following.

We are about to log a ton of miles and I am looking forward how it will fall into place.

On another note, I have seen a longline used to build frustration in a dog that was a bit add and not so very committed. But again, a bit off topic since that was from behind.

 

Having said this, the miscommunication is funny. My former boss wrote a book on horse training in which he mentioned that "wet saddle blankets" are the very best way to get a horse broke. Of course talking about spending time in the saddle. So he got a letter from a reader praising his book and thanking him with the comment that those "wet saddle blankets" sure worked wonders but that they sure where heavy to place on the horse after being soaked in water..... :D<_<

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  • 4 weeks later...

First of all, Anna, congratulations on your book. I have put it on my Christmas list. For over a month now all I have doing with my pushy bitch is walking her behind her stock. It would be impossible to take the push out of her. She just turned 6 yrs. of age and she is just starting to walk. LOL I didn't have enough tools in my toolbox to be able to get her to walk before this. Now, I know that walking sounds easy, but when you have a dog that pushes and shoves it's dang tiring. At first, she thought I'd gone nuts and kept looking at me. Are you sure you want this? She tried walking as fast as she could, she tried a bouncy sort of walk, etc. By the 3rd time or so, she didn't bother looking at me. Instead, she finally decided to try to rate herself. Yea! And, when she got too close, if she couldn't slow herself down, she laid down. By jove, we finally are getting there. At our last trial on a large mountainous terrain with delightful sheep she walked her sheep taking nice little quarter flanks. I could have cried. She still takes the reins away from me on tough sheep such as range ewes. We are a work in progress. I highly recommend, walking, walking, walking.

Now for my 2nd female who is coming 3 yrs. of age and is softer with more finesse than her mother, we are walking, walking, walking, as in also. We are walking to feel comfortable behind her sheep driving. I give her fast and slow whistles and don't get on her case anywhere near the likes of her pushy mother. I don't want to take the push out of the soft dog, but I want her comfortable driving. Anyway, it's keeping me in good shape, too. Merry Christmas and Walk-On. :0)

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