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squaring of flanks when driving

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Zac, name of dog, has nice square flanks when fetching.

However, when driving he will not square on flanks.

I have used the following methods (they work when I am close). As soon as he gets a distance from me he cuts in sharply and will not square when asked to flank.


I have used the following to get him to square. (they are successful when I am close)

1. Stand close behind and give flanking command.

2. Stand off to side call his name and then give him flanking command.

3. Stand off to the side and in front of him and make him go around me when flanking.

The moment he is at a distance nothing seems to work when trying to have him square the flanks. Any suggestions.



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This may sound unconventional but practically speaking it is not. Everyone likes to speak of "lovely square flanks". Not me. Talk to me of "brilliant way with sheep."


There you are, duking it out with Zac over something that may not make so much difference. Square flanks are definitely a convenience, but if over done on the wide side, far worse than running tight.


If a dog has a good way with his sheep, who cares how square his flanks are? He can run snug and keep his sheep settled and comfortable, and moving along in a controlled, positive way. So your getting in spat with your dog may not be necessary. The style is academic. The outcome of the job is tantamount. Sometimes, for instance, the uninitiated hand will observe that a dog has ignored a stop command insofar as it did not lie down when told. But if the dog honoured the job by shifting down a gear, or stopped on his feet, and the sheep pulled up a bit, then the hand is sweating the small stuff. Asking the dog to lie down worked, even though the dog did not really lie down. Similarly, if you ask the dog to go left or right, and he keeps the sheep under good control, even if his flanks were not square, then he honoured the job, maybe not in the exact style you wanted him to do but he did it. If the dog is rushing the sheep, a training opportunity is generated--give him hell for the commotion. But if his tight flank caused no trouble, then what can be the harm of it?


Think about it. Your dog is working along doing his best and sheep are copacetic. He does a tight flank which you despised because it did not look "square". You would have a difficult time explaining to your dog what he had done wrong. If the flank really was too tight, the sheep would have shown both of you by bolting. Then you get a chance to tell him he was jerk to get the sheep bolting. Your dog can see that he has been a dunce and can try to do better next time. But demanding a wide flank out of context makes the trainer look silly, not the dog. And your dog's confidence in your decision making ability might be diminished, at the very time you are trying to inspire their confidence.


If you really want to get flanks squared up get some barbs, Hebredeans, or some racey Scotties that have rarely seen a dog. If Zac doesn't square up them, they could go out of the park. Conversely, if you insist on training on very doggy sheep, their unresponsiveness will make very square flanks extra meaningless. Chaos with any sheep, doggy, wild, is wrong. So if your young dog learns not to cause chaos, that should improve his performance on any sheep.


Dogs have aspirations too. If the dog does something in an entirely unacceptable way, then an intervention is demanded. But as a trainer, seeing events flexibly can bring the optimal outcomes. It lets your dog contribute to the job in a way that satisfies him and avoids adversarial patterns in training.

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