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A newbie with what might be a silly question


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Thirteen months ago I got my first BC. He was about 10 months old, he came from a country kill shelter through a rescue to me, and he is a lot of dog. I got him to do agility, which I have done for years with Shelties. After a couple of months, I wondered if he would have any interest in stock-work, so I took him to a local shepherd who offers training. To say that my dog has interest is like saying that the sun is kinda warm. So now I am trying -- in my middle age! -- to learn enough to work him on sheep too.

 

Here's my question: I live in a residential area of Chicago (lots of space, my yard is 1/3 of an acre and there are plenty of parks around also) and I have always walked my dogs every day, often more than once a day. Walking Rowley is not particularly relaxing, and it just dawned on me recently that when we set out for a stroll, he's in work mode. His tail is tucked, as it is when he is in the sheep pen; and he is intent on everything around him. He's not interested in meeting people, other dogs, or a leisurely sniff-walk. And he forges like a cart-horse.

 

I should note that when playing with his soccer ball, and also in agility, he is very relaxed, tail is waving gaily, and he's quite biddable. But in the sheep pen and on walks, he's a black and white laser beam.

 

So my question is: what can I do with him on walks that will make use of his mode/mind-set, and will make the walk pleasant for me as well? It seems like a great training opportunity. Right now I'm working on getting a stand that doesn't include the sneaky advancement of one paw and then another, and also being able to walk up on him and go in front of him, which he seems to think is outside the natural order of things.

 

Thanks for suggestions. Here's Rowley, he came from Midwest Border Collie Rescue.

 

In the first photo, he is looking at his soccer ball, in the second he is on a walk but watching a squirrel and not at all interested in the friend who is taking the photo. This dog is all business.

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You should see the dog she was going to get, before someone wise steered her in the direction of Rowley. Much better choice ;-)

 

Dexter likes to make walking a serious event, so I clicker trained a "side" command and he thinks it's a game, but really it just means he walks with his head at my knee.

 

RDM

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Hi, Connie! *waves* :D

 

Rowley sounds a lot like Will, minus the good sheep stuff. :lol:. I have no advice, but I like RDM's idea. We need to try something! Looking forward to any more suggestions.

 

Oh, and damn, Rowley has gotten gorgeous! But we know I love a smooth, prick eared tri, too.

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I know exactly what you mean. I see the other dogs in the neighbor ambling along with their owners, as if they enjoy just going for a leisurely stroll. But I have never found walks with my border collies relaxing either--ambling is not really their style, so they've always gotten their exercise through fetch in my yard. But as I'd like to be able to walk them, we are working hard on loose-leash walking skills--which also isn't all that relaxing, since walk time is basically training time--but at least my arms are getting pulled out of their sockets and they have something to DO while walking (focusing on me).

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It's true, I was considering a couple of other BCs (from the same rescue) -- but when I consulted RDM, she went all Simon Cowell on them and told me I should go look at Rowdy (as the rescue had named him-- I changed it to Rowley). I said 'what, the blurry picture of the dog who looks like he has no neck, ears the size of radar dishes, legs like a table, and those bird-of-prey eyes?!' and so now we are living happily ever after. Rowley and I, that is, not me and RDM. :D And now I think he is the most gorgeous dog.

 

I did hit on the clicker idea, actually, and I'm making walks into WORK (which is damn serious stuff!) and he likes that. Me, I have to erase 20+ years of thinking that walks are relaxing and don't require my full attention.

 

Ninso, yes, walks are not Rowley's primary form of exercise -- another change in routine for me there. He gets his workouts with his soccer ball, which is in the yard or the park adjoining my house. He never lets the ball bounce more than once, and his leaps are pretty breath-taking.

 

Hi Paula! And Julie!

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Here's my question: I live in a residential area of Chicago (lots of space, my yard is 1/3 of an acre and there are plenty of parks around also) and I have always walked my dogs every day, often more than once a day. Walking Rowley is not particularly relaxing, and it just dawned on me recently that when we set out for a stroll, he's in work mode. His tail is tucked, as it is when he is in the sheep pen; and he is intent on everything around him. He's not interested in meeting people, other dogs, or a leisurely sniff-walk. And he forges like a cart-horse.

 

 

I should note that when playing with his soccer ball, and also in agility, he is very relaxed, tail is waving gaily, and he's quite biddable. But in the sheep pen and on walks, he's a black and white laser beam.

 

So my question is: what can I do with him on walks that will make use of his mode/mind-set, and will make the walk pleasant for me as well? It seems like a great training opportunity. Right now I'm working on getting a stand that doesn't include the sneaky advancement of one paw and then another, and also being able to walk up on him and go in front of him, which he seems to think is outside the natural order of things.

 

Thanks for suggestions. Here's Rowley, he came from Midwest Border Collie Rescue.

 

In the first photo, he is looking at his soccer ball, in the second he is on a walk but watching a squirrel and not at all interested in the friend who is taking the photo. This dog is all business.

 

Cerb is all business when he knows we're on our way to the park for chuckit. If we turn the other way the tail and head come up. He was always a happy-go-lucky pup and we played with him a LOT when he was young. I've heard from multiple sources that sometimes Border Collies can be all work, all the time.

With Cerb, walks are often accompanied by a treat bag. I work on his switching sides ("heel" and "close"), his stop & sits, as well as "pay attention to me" where I treat him when he looks up at me. I don't want him to always be looking at me....just when I want his attention. There are a lot of stuff from agility, like back crosses, etc, that you could also practice.

 

ETA: I loves me some smoothies.

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I personally find walking with all four of my dogs(3 border collies) to be one of the most relaxing things to do..something about a pack of calm well balanced dogs is very soothing(although none of them have leashes on)...they all know what's expected...and what is and isn't acceptable. I personally find something about a long walk with the pack VERY theraputic for them also...they are all very relaxed...

 

I know it sounds to simple...but I never let them reach that state of mind where they are all strung out and ready to go....they learn this from pups in my house..we won't leave the front door step until you relax..we won't go forward if you're going to pull...you won't get the reward of being off leash if your going to not listen....

 

I normally wouldn't encourage someone to walk there dog after playing ball/soccer as I feel playing those games takes there mind to that state of craziness..almost encouraging that frame of mind...but in your case I might suggest trying to wear him out a bit before you try and walk him...get him good and tired and then snap a leash on him(I find prong collars to be absoultely great for teaching a newbie dog to not pull and to help see you as an authoritive figure, plus it doesn't require alot of skill as it is a self correcting training tool)..and just walk..

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I am no expert: I've had 4 dogs in my life and twa BCs. My first BC pulls on the leash. After that i swore in the Scarlet O'Hara dramatic over-the top fashin that I shall never have a dog that pulls. The next two dogs don't.

 

With the BC I assumed that they are Dogs that Overcome. They work under attack from mean rams and ewes and Overcome. They work in heat and freezing cold and Overcome. They work injured and exhausted and OVERCOME. The only thing that can stop then from doing anything is their Human.

 

So starting with that I taught my dog to walk with me, not on the leash. The main work was to explain that I wanted the dog here and not there. Because we set these rule from the beginning it was easy. With an older dog it will be more difficult. I had this very strong impression the BCs pull on the leash because they want to Overcome this Leash Thing. So the main "leash-work" we did off-leash completely. Later, when we used leash a slight correction on the leash then indeed functioned like a signal from me, and not something to fight with.

 

I tried a lot of positive work with my first BC, but one day I realized that she was causing herself an awful lot of pain, by forging, yo-yoing, etc. Now with her we have a compromise (because on the farm he is never on the leash) that we have a longer leash and then she does not pull so much.

 

Also my Bernese does not pull and was taught the same way as the second BC. But she was very easy. They are very laid back.

 

maja

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I had this very strong impression the BCs pull on the leash because they want to Overcome this Leash Thing.

 

I think I agree with you.

 

I'm far from the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and for the past year I have been operating under the idea that pulling-on-leash was something that I could train 'out' of Rowley. It's not like I haven't had pulling dogs before, with some of my Shelties. It wasn't until very recently that I had this epiphany, which is that Rowley views walks as a form of Work, and Work is sacred to him, and calls for his full attention and concentration, and yes -- as you said -- it includes things to be Overcome.

 

BTW, we had months of struggles in beginning herding because he wanted nothing to do with me, he wanted me to drop him off at the sheep pen and come back for him in an hour. 'Work with the human? No, come on, that will only slow me down!' For quite a while I think he felt I was trying to keep him OFF the sheep, not facilitate his access to them conditional upon his actions. (He threw a lot of tantrums. I got frustrated and almost quit the whole thing a couple of times.)

 

I think he's kind of that way on walks. The pulling alone makes me not like the walks, and this dog will pull into a pinch collar. The no-pull harness I got for him is a joke. The 'be a tree' strategy is nothing more than stop-and-go walking.

 

Yesterday in my first attempt to acknowledge Walking as Working, I took him out and didn't put his leash on him (but I carried it with me), and I took the clicker, and I put him on command so that I was telling him to stand, to walk, to lie down -- we only went up the block and back, but he was *way* more 'with me' than he typically is on the leash. I will probably put a 30' long line on him so that he can have distance from me when I say so, but is not off-leash entirely, and so that the leash functions more as a safety net than as a control mechanism, if that makes sense? I'm not comfortable with a dog off-leash even in my quiet neighborhood, people drive like complete idiots and it's just too risky.

 

Thanks very much for all the input/comments. I am hopeful that I'm on the right track now, and Rowley is also maturing a bit -- I decided his birthday is April 1, so he will be 2 tomorrow -- and we have a good relationship established. He was a bit of a wild child when he first came to me, and that's putting it mildly. :P

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I also find walking with my pack a very relaxing experience. I only leash two of the dogs and the rest are loose. Of the two leashed dogs, one is an overly friendly Frenchie (he thinks he's a border collie though)and the other is one of my rescues, he is a double merle with only partial sight in one eye and hearing in only one ear so it's for his own safety. The others just naturally want to be with me. They seem to think that it is their "job" to stay with mom. I frequently take them on hiking trails and walk to open fields in order to give them all time to play offleash together; but they always calm right back down into walk mode when we get going again. We do spend some off leash time training, I call them to come and once they touch my hand they are released typically into an all out sprint which they love. They always come back again and again for this sprint. Chuck it is a fun game for them also. I do have to say that when people drive by I wonder how they don't kill themselves! They usually slam on their brakes and crane their necks around to watch the dogs running together. To me it's a beautiful and natural sight for a group of dogs to run together :)

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hi! *waves*

 

Soda will pull in a gentle leader, she will pull in a prong and i never even bothered with a harness. I used a clicker to teach her the idea that she should be walking by my side. (The other two can manage to figure out to be on a loose leash in front and not pull. Soda is either pulling or at my side. There doesn't seem to be a 3rd of option for her...) I can't carry a clicker and treats while walking all three dogs and just click Soda so I use my leg and will block her from pulling, or I'll keep the end of the leash in her way so that she won't pull. It's still not like super happy relaxing walk, but then her job is to quit being a butthole and pulling my arm off and rather to pay attention to me for me to release her to sniff, pee, play frisbee, whatever.

 

ETA: Also, if I can have her off leash, I always do. She's so much easier to deal with off leash.

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I had the same issues with one of my BCs. though she has a strong work ethic, the pulling and tucked tail were more about not liking the leash. we got her when she was a year and a half and I am not sure how much experience she had with leash walking before that. I really wanted her to be able to walk calmly whether on leash or not, especially when we are about to work stock. it has taken a while but she is finally getting the hang of it. I started by just rewarding her for being at my side while on leash. Then we tried to take a few steps while I talked to her and kept her attention, then rewarded her if she was successful. I bought an easy walk harness for longer walks to keep her from pulling until we had worked through the loose leash walking. Another thing we did to make the walks fun, was we went to a local park that has a pond with geese and I let her practice walk ups on the geese and rewarded the nice. Walk up. This made the walk feel a little more like work, but we had to reward the "that'll do" at the end.

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I had the same issues with one of my BCs. though she has a strong work ethic, the pulling and tucked tail were more about not liking the leash. we got her when she was a year and a half and I am not sure how much experience she had with leash walking before that.

 

It's interesting that you say that. I am paying more attention now, so I notice that when my dog is walking but not on leash, he IS more relaxed and his tail is not tightly tucked. So the leash may be the cause of some of his behavior, not so much the 'walks are work' as I had surmised. I never stopped to think, when I got him, what his previous leash experience was; I'll never know. He never objected to the leash, either on collar or harness, but I'm finding that he -- and maybe BCs in general -- are like that: he will cope with things he doesn't like where another dog would shut down or vocalize or act out.

 

I am letting him walk up on squirrels on our walks, and then calling him off since I'm not letting him chase any small animals; he seems happy with just the walk up and never goes for them when I say 'that'll do.' I'm going to phase in the long line today. Living in the city, even a quiet part of the city, I'm not going to be comfortable with him entirely off leash very often. It's not him I don't trust, it's the idiots in the cars.

 

This dog is teaching me a lot. :D

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I will probably put a 30' long line on him so that he can have distance from me when I say so, but is not off-leash entirely, and so that the leash functions more as a safety net than as a control mechanism, if that makes sense? I'm not comfortable with a dog off-leash even in my quiet neighborhood, people drive like complete idiots and it's just too risky.

 

Hi! I love Chicago! I grew up there on the northwest side. :)

 

Anyway, I just wanted to say to be careful if you are planning to use a line as long as 30' in a city neighborhood. If you're worried about cars it would be better to have a shorter one I think, maybe 16 ft.

 

Have fun!

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Hi Connie! *waves madly* I'd be inclined to think that there's a good chance that maybe he hasn't been leashed much, if ever? My dogs are rarely ever on leashes, except in the early moments of training on stock (ie until I can call them off). I've noticed that they tend to have the same attitude when I put on their leash to go for a general walk as they did when I'd take them to sheep, because that's pretty much their only frame of reference. Even though now they'll agree to not act like idiots they still don't ever just... randomly stroll. On the other hand I don't walk them much in the neighborhood (read that as in almost never) so again they're only rarely on leash anyway.

 

I was raising a puppy for someone else and made it a point early on to have her on leash for purposes other than stockwork, and to insist that she walk nicely. I don't know if it has transferred over, but it's pretty pleasant to walk her on leash in general.

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What I know about Rowley: he landed in the intake pen of an unstaffed shelter in a very small town in western Illinois in October 2009. He was maybe 7-8 months old. A volunteer there puts all the animals she can on PetFinder and hopes that they catch the eye of adoptors or rescues before the 7 days go by and the animals are euthanized. MWBCR took Rowley from that shelter and he was in foster for 3 months before I got him. (I believe he was adopted out once but came back almost immediately because he made the adoptor nervous with his behavior around the resident cats. Rowley screams like a banshee when he sees a cat. I don't have cats, so we work on that but it's not an urgent problem.) I got him in January 2010. I think you're right, Laura (hi! -- and hi, Paige!) that he wasn't leash-trained as a puppy ... I never really noticed it because he's SO smart and so willing to adapt.

 

We also use a long line when training in sheep-herding, but his leash behavior pre-dated his first meeting of sheep with me. He's getting close to where the long line will go away in the stock work, but he was a bundle of OMGOMGOMG when he started and did not show much self-control around the sheep. And of course I was totally new and probably didn't allay his anxiety one bit there. He's done a lovely job of progressing in that, and in general is maturing -- his foster family and the rescue emphasized to me that he was "all puppy" as they put it, what I think they meant was that he spazzed out quite a bit. I actually think that's his way of expressing anxiety and/or frustration that he senses a situation is out of his control. He's a control freak! LOL!

 

So I would like him to learn too that when we're out on walks, he doesn't have to control everything he sees. He should let me tell him what needs his attention. (This means I have to pay attention to everything, which is a change for me from my Sheltie-walking.) I know that relaxation will never be his default mode in those situations, but he can learn to accept direction from his person. And teaching him to walk by me seems like an excellent tool to reinforce that. Slowly but surely ...

 

Jedismom, thanks for the note about the training line. I live on the far southwest side of Chicago, but there's more traffic everywhere than there was ten years ago, that's for sure.

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Now that I live out in the country with good fences (and only train for sheep work any more) I've become a total slob about training my dogs to be civilized on-leash. But when I lived in the suburbs and trained in crowded group settings and competed in multiple types of events, I did much better.

 

The best results I ever got for good leash-walking (and in fact, highly competitive heeling) came from giving some power over the exercise to the dog. First, I made sure the dog understood exactly where the "sweet" spot at my side was (through luring, praise, treats, and an occasional "uh-oh"). Then I began *trying to get away.* Every time the dog hit the right place, multiple rewards: the obvious one (food/toy/praise -- whatever worked best); plus the reward of winning the game; plus, with many dogs, the additional sense of controlling the motion. The more I spun, backed, wove, changed pace, the more precise the dog would become, simply because it had to be to win the game. (If you keep turning left into a forging dog, the dog discovers its own reasons not to forge, as opposed to some arbitrary decree from the other half of the team.)

 

I wound up with several dogs who would seek and hit the perfect heel position (and maintain it despite my best efforts to dislodge them) on their own. I wasn't necessarily looking for competition heeling but when I wanted it I could get it pretty quick. It works fine for less precise leash work. Though if you have a very very serious working dog, they'll probably always be very serious about it. :-)

 

I think the non-concrete "winning reward" works particularly well with the herding breeds, who are bred to be motion control freaks anyway.

 

I don't personally particularly care for the full-fledged "heeling with attention" style -- but when a dog is watching you very closely *for its own purposes* you may see that style develop all on its own.

 

Recreational walks shouldn't be that intense, they're supposed to be relaxing... but it can be fun to throw some "heel tag/keepaway" in now and then.

 

Just my two unconventional cents.

 

Good luck! Rowley is a heck of a nice looking dawg.

 

The Liz S in Raw Muddy South Central Pennsylvania

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(If you keep turning left into a forging dog, the dog discovers its own reasons not to forge, as opposed to some arbitrary decree from the other half of the team.)

 

 

This is the technique I have been encouraged to use so far: to turn into Rowley and simply not allow him to take the space that's ahead of us. It works pretty well, but he has not yet gotten to where he accepts 'that's the way it is' -- he continues to look for opportunities to charge ahead of me. I know I have to be absolutely consistent, and that's where he wins very often: I let myself get lazy or frustrated or distracted. I am thinking that this dog is a mental workout for me *all the time*!

 

Thanks for helpful suggestions!

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