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A Couple Issues


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Hi - I've had some issues come up with my soon-to-be two yr/old bc. I've been training with her for about a year as much as I can so I'm not sure if lack of frequency is our main problem. Also, it may help you to know she is a very "amp-y" dog and sometimes it takes a lot for me just to get in her head.

 

Anyway, the first issue is sticking at the top of the outrun. She actually didn't start this until I ran her at our first trial back in Oct. It's like the stock starred at her and she froze. I was not able to get her out of it until I made the trip up the field, but lately in training, she now does this. If I catch her starting to slow around 1 or 2 o'clock, I can give her the flank command and that seems to help. But if she comes in at 12 o'clock, she typically creeps really really slow. In this instance, her lifts are actually somewhat nice. I suppose I'd prefer something in the middle.

 

The second issue we're having is her diving in when I ask her let go of the draw. On the fetch, I can get her to release fairly well, but she always seems to come back in around 3 or 9 o'clock. When driving, if the draw is strong enough, let's say to the left, and I ask for an inside right flank, she typically crashes in about 6 o'clock.

 

What I've done so far is flanking her over and over again, around and around the sheep. Not sure if this is helping though.

 

I know some of this may be because she's afraid of losing the sheep, and I know she has a lot of eye. Just wanted to see if anyone had any ideas or if I should attribute most of this to her being a young dog... persistence will prevail?

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I'll try to address the second issue first, and please bear in mind that it may take trying several "solutions" to find the one that works in your case. Also know that what you're asking your dog to do is fairly difficult, that is to hold one side that has pressure then flank around to the other side without slicing. If I were watching a dog of mine take a flank like you described I would set the scene up again and try stopping the dog before the flank and allow the sheep to walk on a bit to increase the distance between the dog and the sheep. By doing this you increase the chances for a good flank. And if this only worked marginally or not at all I would again stop the dog, call the dog off the sheep by at least 10-15 yds, down it again, and have it just lie there and look at the sheep while you slowly count to 20. Then give it the softest flank command that you can (do you also need to soften your whistling in general? Hard whistles sometimes equal harsh responses.) while it's looking at the sheep, not you, and see if it doesn't do a half-decent flank. If it still doesn't give some distance to the sheep I would increase the distance that I'm calling the dog off and the time I'm making it wait (next time count to 40, next time to 60 etc).

 

At a trial you may notice some handlers working their dogs with continuous commands and flanking their dogs from one side to the other without a 'stop' command in between. They do this because they know their dogs. Sometimes, though, they'll slip in a 'stop' command, and this may be because the dog is getting a little spongy and they want to check how the dog is responding. Another reason is because of the difficulty of what they're about to ask the dog to do. Distance between the dog and the sheep can many times be your friend, and if you don't have distance in some situations you have to create it. Time can also be your friend. A working dog wants to work... period. When you step in and take the sheep away the dog will (given enough time) try to figure out why you're not allowing it to work. Time and distance can both be your friends and it doesn't involve shouting or threatening the dog. In fact when your standing there counting it doesn't look like you're training the dog at all, but you are. You say that your dog is "amp-y" anyway, so trying to instill a sense of patience wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for her. I frequently use time and distance to correct flanks and pace, and it can work well. Simply put, the dog works the way we want, and the reward for doing it properly is being allowed more work. I don't think flanking the dog repeatedly and/or in circles (schooling) is going to help. The problem needs to be addressed directly and while it is happening.

 

Sticking at the top is a tougher problem because it may only happen when the dog is far away. Does she stick only when the sheep are far away and only when they are looking at her, or does it happen unpredictably ? Are the sheep in question being held with food ?

 

Ray

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Ray thanks for your response. I like the idea of waiting and I will definitely try this at our next session. I am in the habit of lying her down before giving flank commands. I know asking her to give this to me is asking a lot, and is definitely compounded by the age/type of dog she is. Maybe we both need to learn some patience?

 

As for the top, distance is definitely an issue. The closer I am, the less she does it. Also, I've noticed it more at places that have a heavier draw and lighter sheep. I think she is definitely 'feeling' it.

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A very good handler/trainer once told me that "just because a dog can do a 400 yd outrun doesn't necessarily mean they can do a 400 yd fetch". You might try working inside her 'envelope' a little more often and pushing out the edges of the envelope more gradually. Work mostly so she mostly knows success. An idea to try that I just thought of when you test to see where the edge of the envelope might be would be to send her on a long-ish outrun but walk/jog up the centerline so the fetch isn't so long and you're closer to the top when she gets there. You can use your imagination with ideas like this, make it fun. Patience is a good thing :) Good luck.

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