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Lass is a litter mate to my pup Fly. They are 10 months.


Lass left at 8 weeks to go to a trialling home. 6 weeks ago, the man that took her rang to say that she didn't really suit him & was a bit soft for his liking, so she came back. She stayed with my friend who bred her for a week & has been here with me for the last 5 weeks.


She knew very little when she came back, didn't even seem to know her name. She's a happy enough pup, but a touch nervy compared to my pup. When she first got here, she would bolt when I called her to crate her or put her in the run. She's over that now & is going into both pretty happily.


She's been on sheep 3 times since coming back.


1st time: her first week back. she was keen for a few minutes and then went into panic and jumped the fence to get out.

2nd time: her third week back, here is a quick clip

About 1 minute after this clip, I stopped her & called her and again she bolted

3rd time was a few days ago. I was very very soft & encouraging when I called her. She blew me off a couple of times, but it was to work again, not bolt. I managed to get 2 or 3 good recalls on her with some balancing in between and we left it at that.


Any ideas on where I go from here? I don't really want her to practise blowing a recall off...but it kind of seems a better option to escaping... The minute I put any pressure on her she's gone, but how can I make her do things without applying any pressure?


Obviously shes been allowed to practice some bad habits and I want to try & get her through them.


Thanks for any insight :)

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Why do you need the rake??? What will happen if you just use voice and body pressure? Why the block and face off with the dog?


I have a dog now running in Open (and winning the big trials) and plenty capable of handling training pressure and sheep pressure (i.e. lambing and undogged range ewes) that would have totally FREAKed if I had a rake, or flag, or other loud scary tool when I started him. I raise him from a pup, he had no reason to worry but he worried anyway....just born that way.


If she's bolting or soft then I wouldn't make too big a deal about recall....don't make a big deal about it by insisting too often. I'd focus on building keen-ness and enjoyment and trust. You might consider letting her drag a very light long line (parachute chord) and when it is time to call off then call her happily and reel her in (keeping it happy but insistent...she must come, can't bolt and it's all happy but she has to come).


How does she recall off stock? If she is not good recalling off stock then I'd work on the recall off stock first where the pressure isn't confused with stock training.

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Thanks Elizabeth,


Regarding the rake, you're right. I didnt need it. I guess I took it in because everyone I've worked with gets pups used to it being there early so the dogs don't freak out in case it's needed later on in training.


The first time we worked her, there was no rake & no pressure, she looked great & then panicked for no apparent reason.


Her recall off stock is pretty good now. I will put a light line on her next time & see how that goes. If she hadn't remained happy the last time I probably would have left her for a few months.


I know she would be better off with someone with more experience, but I'd like to have a go at working her & hopefully we'll both improve in the process :)

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If she were my pup, I probably wouldn't do anything with her on sheep for a while. She's pretty young, she has a confidence issue which is showing up on sheep, and practising the bolting as a response to her anxiety might make it worse. She doesn't really need to be training now, plenty of time later.


One of my current trial dogs actually came to me because he was doing a similar thing- he started nicely, balanced well, but when the handler put any pressure on him (and sometimes not in response to any apparent pressure) he would do a bunk. The weekend I picked him up, he was being shown to prospective buyers and bolted out of the round yard and hid under the ute. He was 9 months old.


I took him to rehome as a pet, spent a few months bonding with him and decided to keep him. We didn't restart on sheep for quite a while, and even then he would get quite anxious if I put any pressure on (didn't quit with me, but would get stressed, zoomy and couldn't listen). He did best being allowed to work in a low pressure environment- out of the round yard and in a bigger paddock, no rakes or sticks and with me trying not to "dog perve" or face up to him. I couldn't pin him down with commands for quite a while, but he's got much better and I can now growl at him and insist on winning any arguments, and he won't stress.


With young dogs who lack confidence, I like to put them in a low-handler-input environment, like holding up in a force or the last few minutes of getting a mob into the yards, with an experienced older dog who doesn't need any instruction, and just let them enjoy working without any handler pressure. Lass doesn't look like she would do much wrong, so she'd be fine. You can build relationship away from sheep, and then put it together with her enthusiasm for work later.


I don't think she's getting to the head in that video, and I don't know whether that's because she's naturally short heading, or because of the round yard environment and having the sheep go round and round you, or because she's a bit anxious and holding back (or some of all of the above). If it's environmental/stress related, I think that not being able to get to the head can be dissatisfying/stressful for some dogs, and that be making her more likely to quit.


For recalls, I'd work on them heaps off sheep, and if you're going to work her on sheep you could just use a long line if you need to, or just block her with body position until she calls off, without making a big deal about it. I'd kind of expect a 9mo pup to be a bit cheeky and reluctant to call off sheep. I do use a different recall from my general obedience one though, so it's just a sheep-specific issue.


That's my pretty novice opinion, for what it's worth.

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Dear Wouldbe Sheepdogger,


I don't see worrisome problems with this 9/10 month old dog. He's just a baby for Crissakes!


I'd hate to train on these sheep: they are too canny. Have you access to undogged sheep? These sheep are swirling around your ankles and the dog can't run fast enough to get to their heads - he's on the outside of the turn. The pup doesn't like the rake. Because a rake/stick/broom/rattle paddle doesn't mean anything to humans, novices often underestimate how strongly these whooshing, blurry threatening devices effect the dog.




Donald McCaig

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I doubt there are many youngsters who were harmed by being put up for a few months. During that time you can work on the youngster learning to really trust you. That in itself will go a long way toward improving things once you go back to sheep.


I also don't get the reasoning about using any weapon (rake, flag, stick, stock whip, etc.) early because you *might* need it later on. The appropriate time to use a rake or any other weapon is when you determine that the dog actually *needs* it.


ETA: I went back and watched the video. It reminds me very much of the videos you posted earlier with your other dog, which I did not comment on, but my thoughts here apply to those videos as well. There's not a lot of utility in endless circling. Once the dog starts going around, you should be backing up so that the sheep can move toward you and the dog has a chance to turn in on balance and bring/follow the sheep to you. It may just be a couple of steps before you turn and let the dog flank again, but if you consider that your ultimate goal is for the dog to go out and bring the sheep back to you, then it makes sense to work now with that goal in mind. With endless circling you risk teaching a dog to mindlessly orbit, and you'll all get dizzy. Also, if you stay behind the movement of the dog, you are in effect causing her to speed up and perhaps pull in closer to the sheep (which in turn might make you feel like you need the rake to push her back out), so also consider where you are in relation to the dog (this ties in with the circling thing too--as Donald? noted the dog never really gets a chance to get to balance and feel what it's like to be in the right place to control the sheep). Last, and there's no sound, so I don't know if you're doing this, but it is okay to talk to her. Give her some quiet encouragement when she's doing things right. If you let her turn in and bring the sheep a few steps, ask her to stop, and then immediately start moving again once you get even a pause, you'll be teaching her that stopping doesn't always mean having to leave the sheep and that in turn should mean that over time you'll have to use less pressure to stop her, and the effect of that may mean that she won't quit/take off on you when she's feeling too much pressure at the end of a work session. And if you must carry the rake, you can use it to stop the sheep from running past you when you start backing up so the pup can bring sheep to you.


All that said, I still think there's nothing wrong with putting her up and letting her mature and settle a bit more.


P.S. I have a 7.5-month-old. I occasionally take her into the round pen to see where she is. She'll circle both ways and move off my body pressure. She'll turn in and bring the sheep to me (at a very rapid rate). But she's a baby, so I'm putting her up for a few months, because really although some youngsters can take a lot of training pressure at a young age (I had one of those), others can't (I've had those too). I think your youngster is telling you she can't take the training pressure now, even if you don't think you're putting much training pressure on her. Listen to her. My youngster would love to go to sheep every chance I'd give her, but really what can I do with her? I don't want to put a lot of pressure on, and if I keep taking her to sheep I risk letting her develop bad habits that I will need to try to undo later when she can take training pressure. That's sort of setting her up to fail.



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Good advice from Julie, as usual. I was just wondering about the "She stayed with my friend who bred her for a week & has been here with me for the last 5 weeks."? Did you breed her? Or is that a typo? Surely you are not breeding a 10 mos old unproven bitch?

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Thank you for your advice, especially Julie for writing with constructive kindness.


These are the only sheep I have access to right now, I will wait a while with Lass and although she is quite a different type, I will spend some time training my older bitch so that I can be more experienced for the pups.


I dont breed dogs & Lass has certainly not been bred. It is as Oko pointed out.

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Hi Zenotri ~


I'll echo the advice to lay Lass off for a while. She's still very young, and some dogs just take longer to mature. My Gael is a nervous wee gal who took a while to grow up, and there were times I had to be careful what I let her get into.


Plus, it sounds quite possible that the man who had Lass was sometimes unfair and/or impatient with her, and that's why she has that panic reflex. I got my old boy, Jesse, as a rescue at age 2, and though he was brave on sheep from the start, because his previous owner treated him unfairly, he would also bolt under pressure and run out of the training arena or field.


But within a year, Jesse forgot all that and became a confident, solid dog. In all, it never hurts to let a nervy dog take time to grow up and also learn to trust you. It's better to go slow now and wait to have quality time with Lass on sheep, later.


Also, I'll echo that those sheep really won't do a great deal for her. (Julie's advice should be framed!) :) We are not able to see or predict how things add up in their minds, and they can find stress where we may not expect it. So, again, do let Lass rest and help her to become confident and happy with you, in all the other areas of her life.


Last ... please loose the rake. :blink: There is no need, ever, for garden implements on a border collie. A stock stick, possibly a flag and your body pressure and lightness of foot are all you need. A rake is big, cumbersome and imprecise, and way too much pressure for a young dog. I hate seeing those things anywhere but in a garden.


Best of luck, and let us know how Lass does in a couple months! :) I'm sure you'll be glad you let her wait.

Cheers ~



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As Julie said, backing up from the sheep gives the dog a place to 'bring' the sheep. When you back up, don't just stroll along really step out and move! I'm not suggesting that you run by any means, but think of it as exercise for yourself and walk! This helps create even more space which in turn helps the dog have even more success in bringing the sheep *to* you. Judy

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Thanks Gloria & Judy :)


I'm not going to do anything with Lass for a while, just little tricks at home & walks with me & no other dogs. She has had a couple of fear responses to men here at home and it turns out the 2 men she reacted to look just like her old owner. I'm sure he wasn't deliberately cruel, but something must have happened to scare her as she's very friendly & sweet with everyone else.


I did take Fly put in the paddock the other day, and we just did some walkabouts, no rake required :) She did well & worked hard to keep the sheep together and had no problem keeping them to me. The sheep are quite different in the paddock so she really had to put more effort in to hold them to me. She recalled off well and overall, I think she did great.



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WOW!!!!! Ur pup has definitely a few traits that need fixing. Firstly I would be going back to a lead to learn recall and start from a small length to a longer distance once she has full trust that when u call its a good thing not punishment. I can see from the movement of your pup she is scared. If you live in South Australia I would take her to the Working Dog Center and let Ben the dog whisperer re-train your pup and let you see a few more insights also. Just another quick note. The person who you first sold the dog to obviously does not handle pups right.


Good luck and let me know if you go to the working dog center. U wont regret going...

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WOW!!!!! Ur pup has definitely a few traits that need fixing. Firstly I would be going back to a lead to learn recall and start from a small length to a longer distance once she has full trust that when u call its a good thing not punishment. I can see from the movement of your pup she is scared.


Did you even read my post???


Just another quick note. The person who you first sold the dog to obviously does not handle pups right. .


What are you talking about? I didn't breed or sell this pup.. She is a perfectly normal happy pup in every other aspect of her life. She has clearly had a bad start on sheep and this thread was asking for advice to get her over that start. There have been lots of responses that I have appreciated and am taking on board. Yours won't be one of them.

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If you live in South Australia I would take her to the Working Dog Center and let Ben the dog whisperer re-train your pup and let you see a few more insights also.

Ben the dog whisperer? Come on, admit it you are just pulling our leg here...right?


Edit, a quick google session and I learned this center, and the "dog whisperer" actually exist. But man, if this is your way of trying to advertize it, you are sure doing a lousy job...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Zenotri, I watched your vid, and I did read your posts. Seems like you've taken good advice and things are improving. I will add that I try to get pups out of a round pen, or corral as soon as possible. Your pup would have been out on day 1 with me, because she has no intention of making a mess, or injuring sheep. Also, she's slow (cautious) enough to catch, or stop when necessary.


Once outside, I do lots of walking, allowing my pups to wear sheep to me and figure things out on their own. The only command I give initially is a "shush" to encourage them when they are right, and I use body pressure and timing to discourage them when they are wrong. I walk and walk and walk, changing direction often, introducing flank commands pretty much right off without expecting them to know them for as long as it takes a particular dog.


I don't like to use lines on a dog while working, but will if it's necessary with an overzealous dog. Your dog does not need a line. Pups are sometimes inhibited by a line and will run tighter, or at least be distracted, especially dogs like yours that are soft to pressure. Off the line, I see pups open up, become more comfortable, calm down and have more fun. Your dog needs to have fun to become confident.


I've seen (and trained) soft dogs that blossomed with encouragement, good technique and proper timing into confident and useful workers and trial dogs. Your willingness to ask for and learn from good advice makes me think you'll get it right.


Best wishes for you and your dog.

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Thank you so much Amelia for your thoughtful & encouraging reply.


The pups & I have just returned from a very rewarding & enjoyable morning.


Fly was the best she's ever been this morning. She was keener, but also more sensible. She used to have a tendency to kick out & disconnect sometimes on her flanks (probably from me applying too much pressure) but there was none of that today. I only worked her for a few minutes at a time, just walking around, letting her balance. She had that nice happy glazed look in her eyes when we were done. So did I :)


Lass has really come along lately. She has changed from being a dog running around with my dogs to one of my dogs. She trots around with me all day and is one of the first to come when I whistle. We have done quite a few road trips & she settles well wherever we go.

I popped her on sheep this morning for about 3 minutes. What a difference! She was happy, keen and did not show any sign of being worried. When we were done, I called her & walked away & she trotted off with me. I feel like she really trusts me now. I'm still not in any rush with her, but wanted to see if the bond we have developed would help her on sheep and it did.


Was a happy day :). Thanks again everyone for your advice, it seems to be working :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I gave Lass another go on sheep today. We went to a different place, the sheep are also very quiet, but we don't have a heap of options available to us. I felt we did much better today. Lass had so much more confidence & seemed to really enjoy it all. She was doing nice little casts and I mostly just walked around & let her bring the sheep along. She did not think about quitting once and was even stopping naturally. I am trying hard not to apply any pressure and find that the easiest way to catch her is to crouch & call her softly & she is quite obliging.

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  • 1 month later...

A little update on Lass...


I am so happy with her and am really enjoying taking her to sheep. She never thinks about quitting now & has surprised me with her maturity a few times lately. I feel really relaxed with her & she rewards me for that by keeping her head ( in a young dog kind of way :) )

She calls off & stops quite well and is generally pretty obedient.


Last week, I worked her on fresh sheep. Lol, it was a little wild, but she did some really nice and long casts & never lost her sheep. At one point 1 sheep split off & bolted. I wasn't really sure what to do, but she took off after it & to my surprise came back with it in a very steady manner. To say I was pleased is an understatement!


Here are a couple of little clips from today on some quiet training sheep.




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