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School Sheep...


sixx
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Yesterday was Cedar's 3rd time herding. I can't believe the difference from the 1st and 2nd time! She is a little older this time, and had month(s) intervals. We decided she was ready for us to use a flag. She was incredible and responded immediately each time the flag was up and change directions. I am so proud of her, she really has grown! She was more aware of herself and the sheep.

 

In the beginning, she was intimidated by the sheep. Yesterday she gripped a few times on some challenging sheep, to put them back in their place. It was like a 180 from her first time.

 

There may be no definite answer, and I will probably answer my own question in this thought process, but how long does it usually take to train a puppy to move up in training to a more open field (rather than the round pen) and start moving the sheep where you want them to go? I'm guessing it depends on the dog and the trainer. I was just curious to see how long a good dog takes to advance. I would love to know from an open trialing person, what expectations do you have for a pup? Or do you not put expectations on one? Or any advice would be much appreciated, or hints or tips. ;)

 

I really haven't got past the whole school sheep thing. It's complicated enough trying to manage my dog, while dodging the sheep that run through me, or have to be stuck on me like glue. Cedar's style so far is somewhat thoughtful, but she does have some run in's where the sheep charges away at full speed... usually running straight at me. This seems so dangerous (and I laugh while I type, because yes.. I am a little intimidated by the sheep running at me). Has anyone gone through this "fear" and gotten over it?

 

I would love to be able to have Seek as my agility pup and Cedar as my sheep dog. Seek is unfortunately and ironically, allergic to sheep, which is a bummer because she is so thoughtful and loves it! Being a novice trainer and not knowing much about what to look for exactly, from my point of view, I do see great potential in Cedar to be an amazing dog with maturity and training.

 

I wish I had video to share, but the camera was dead. :( Next time.

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How old is Cedar, now?

 

I'm only in Pro-Novice, but for my own part, I don't like a round corral and I get outside as quickly as possible. (This is upon starting my pups at 10-12 months.)

 

I feel a round pen is simply too confining and builds too much excitement for a young dog. Plus I feel very limited in what I can do, in that small space. So, as soon as a pup shows me that it can go around the sheep in a nice shape, without a lot of diving in or gripping, and I can influence it to stop, then I move outside to a larger space. This is of course with quiet, steady sheep.

 

The rest ... simply depends on the individual pup and your training skills. Get him moving sensibly and nicely, set up his stops so they make sense to him, be careful of your timing and positioning, and let the dog tell you when he's ready for new additions to his lessons.

 

I'll step back and let the actual Open handlers reply, now. :)

 

~ Gloria

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Gloria,

 

Cedar is going to be a year old this month. I started her off around 6 months of age. I too feel very limited in a round pen. When Seek was ready for a larger area, it was such a relief. Thanks for the advice!

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As you guessed, it depends on the dog, and the sheep. Right now I don't have a round pen, nor do I have puppy sheep, so starting the puppy is going to be trickier than it was at my old place and will probably require use of an older, well trained dog to help contain the action. Generally, though, I will stay in the round pen as long as it takes to get a feel for the pup and to make sure I can stop/catch the pup in a larger area. (This can be especially important if the terrain of the larger area could allow sheep or dog to hurt themselves.) Thus a more thoughtful, careful pup would move out of the round pen sooner than a more aggressive, hard-headed pup. I used to have some intermediate-sized paddocks behind my barn, larger than the round pen, but not so huge that I couldn't easily run a youngster down if things were going badly, and I would move to that slightly larger space pretty quickly.

 

Anyway, if the sheep aren't inclined to run for the hills and Cedar is listening and doesn't seem inclined to chase, then there's no real need to stay in the round pen. That said, I make a point of working youngsters in small areas, too, because they need to learn to work in tight spaces as well as out in the open.

 

I should also add that when to move out will also depend on when *you* feel capable of managing a newbie dog in a larger area.

 

J.

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Oh Gloria...You know alot!!!

 

 

 

I have had the best luck with my pups in the open fields with ten or 20 quiet sheep and an old dog to keep then where I want them. Then I lose the old dog asap.

 

 

 

I have not had as much luck with the arena.

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"Cedar's style so far is somewhat thoughtful, but she does have some run in's where the sheep charges away at full speed... usually running straight at me. This seems so dangerous (and I laugh while I type, because yes.. I am a little intimidated by the sheep running at me). Has anyone gone through this "fear" and gotten over it?"

 

Oh How I know how you feel :P My Elsie has run sheep over me on a couple occations :o And I know how you feel about watching the dog, watching the stock and watching myself :blink: I can usually hold it together for a few minutes pretty good, but as soon as things speed up I loose my head :rolleyes:

All I can say, you and me just have to hang tough :)

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You'll find the real sheep (vs. kneeknockers) are less likely to run you over. (Though when I'm trailing the flock through the woods I swear Twist and Pip think it's fun to try to run me over with the entire flock.) The down side is that real sheep may give a newbie dog a lot fewer chances to get it right, and of course that makes things more difficult for the nebwbie handler as well. As in everything, there's a trade off. I like puppy sheep for starting pups for all of about two minutes (not really, but you know what I mean). By the time I want to being doing a little driving the puppy sheep definitely have to go.

 

J.

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Thanks for all the great replies!

 

Julie - Cedar will only chase if one gets out of the flock. Would this be consider chasing? If so, how do you correct, or does it naturally go away once she matures and gets more training? I want to make all associations positive at this point and not tell her "no" for any reason.

 

I can't wait to get to the real sheep! :lol:

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I'm a rank beginner, stumbling around -- these are my experiences so far. We take lessons in a haphazard fashion (when a trainer is available), the dogs are two years old (neutered males).

 

Julie pointed out two very important things -- keeping a (flat) lead on the dog so you can catch him/her up. And being able to get close enough to the dog to catch the lead. My dogs come to me but they're still young - and they need reminding now and again "that will do" so I use a six foot lead - just in case I need to catch them and so that we can walk away with dignity.

 

Being in the larger field is very interesting. The round pen at the trainer's was good groundwork but was awful for me working Robin because he orbits so fast around me he is a red blur. I immediately got dizzy with him. I learned more with Brodie -- he has a different style of moving plus a different coat color and pattern. Brodie broke up the fence, Robin blended in with it.

 

At home, in the field, I immediately had more than an even chance to stop Robin's action because I could maneuver the sheep to switch his direction and then get him to lie down, which he does quite readily in the field when the pressure is "right".

 

 

My paddock is about an acre and split into two sections - roughly 600 feet by 300 feet. I use the half away from the barn for training, so we're working in an area that's a little over 300 by 150 - it triangles at the end so it's not quite a rectangle. There is a fence separating the two areas with a gateway at each end - but no gates as yet!

 

Robin is also more thoughtful in the field because he is reacting to the pressure of the sheep -- he knows they might thinking about hightailing it to the barn so he's mindful of that escape route - he's trying to get me to notice that he's being a good dog and diligently gaurding that escape route, even though I want him on the other side of the sheep and he's fighting his own logic because I'm putting pressure on him when I move the sheep around so he thinks he should be there as well and he's very conflicted. He'll learn.

 

(He's also quite fond of putting them through the one gate then hustling around the other side of the fence to lie down at the opposite gate (about 300 feet) to prevent them from escaping back to the barn now that he's put them in the far paddock. He thinks he's quite a smart boy when he does this. I however am now thinking that I have in effect trained him into some kind of wacky opposing cross drive - Let's NOT let them through the panel and see how many points the judge lets us have! But then, on my farm, it's a very necessary thing he does, until we get gates.

 

Moving into a larger area also creates opportunities for chaos. I've set up training situations that Robin and Brodie weren't ready for; the sheep have taken off and the dog has ignored my commands and given chase to lunge at my sheep but thankfully not gripped and my sheep weren't harmed and that is a very bad habit to let them start. Plus, I've had to correct the dog for something I basically allowed them to do. Bad parenting. I need to be aware of just how much I am testing their ability to stay calm and focused when I am working without a trainer. I have to ask myself before I set up an exercise, is it fair what I am asking them to do? Are they ready for it? The answer is always...slow down. Take it easy with them. Be fair. I teach. I push my human students to do their best. I have learned to not push my dogs. I let them take their time at their lessons. They will let me know when they are ready for the next step.

 

In the larger field, I'm finding it useful to put out traffic cones to serve as markers while wearing. Everyone has to have a goal in life :) and these are easy to move. ( We've gotten very good at wearing away from the barn -- now we're working on moving a quarter turn and wearing to the south. Everyone is confused -dogs, sheep, me...and my cousin -- who enjoys watching "sheepvision" while mowing his lawn. Now he has to crank his neck in another direction!

 

Yes, working in a field is interesting - for everyone. Even the neighbors. :).

 

Liz

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Liz,

 

Even though you call yourself a rank beginner, you have given me valuable information. It's good to hear complications as well as successes. What a funny boy that Robin :lol: He sounds very charming in his attempts to do the right thing. I am excited to see what kind of quirks Cedar comes up with. She is pretty silly a lot of the time.

 

Sixx

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Yes, I was talking about the stick that has a rectangle or triangle "flag" on the end. We call it the flag at the farm I have lessons at.

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