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Help training with ducks

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So I'm relativelynew to herding; we've been dabbling at it for about a year off and on, but I don’thave my own sheep or easy access to them. (I know, I know, so why herd, right?I adopted a fantastic dog with tons of instinct, and after the initial instincttest I fell in love with it.) We've done some clinics and private lessons, andhad gotten to a point that I'd try my hand at practicing on runner ducks. I cankeep them on my property, and maybe they will help slow Brynn down a little too(a little closer work and more deliberate movements required with ducks, I hadheard).

 

We're doing alright dabbling with the ducks, and have used them to reinforceflanking commands. But, they are partial, naturally, to the corner of the yardwhere their pen is. So, I have two questions:

 

1.) When thinking about balance, if I send her on our short little outruns, sheusually has to "balance" them off to one side (like instead of 6 and12, I'm at 6 and she'll be at 2, to compensate for their tendency to run towardtheir pen). So, I'm just wondering, in a trial, is "balance" requiredto be at 6 and 12, or is she "balanced" because she's where she needsto be to hold the stock to and towards me?

 

2.) How do I keep my dog from turning so completely off (overly squaring?) theducks when circling them? That is, if I move, requiring her to move around theducks to keep balance, she will turn her head way away, but because these guyshave a tendency toward their pen, when she turns off, she loses them a bit. Iguess, I need a mini flank. Is there such a thing? If so, how do you train it?

 

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Hi! In answer to your questions:

 

1. Balance does not have to be directly across from you (i.e., 6 vs. 12). Balance is wherever the dog needs to be to move the stock in a straight line in the direction desired. I just illustrated this the other day with a student and one of my dogs. There was a heavy draw to some trees off to our right, and on the fetch the dog had to come all the way up the side to catch the eye of the lead ewe to keep the sheep moving straight toward us and against the pressure of the draw. In a trial, with the exception of a dog circling *in front of* the stock, the judge shouldn't really notice where the dog is--you're being judged on the lines the sheep take.

 

2. Try calling her name to call her in. Square flanks can be very handy, especially with touchy/twitchy stock, but if you feel like her squareness is causing her to lose them, then give her the flank (or half flank, which would simply be the first part of the flank command) and then call her name to encourage her to bend in toward you. Some people will even train the dog from the start to move toward the handler (not in a hugely obvious way) when the handler calls the dog's name. It's very handy for just the situation you describe, where you want the dog to move in a bit closer to the stock. You can also use a "there" command and bump her around. In other words, instead of letting her kick out and make a big, sweeping flank, give her the flank or half flank, almost immediately say "there" to turn her in, and then you can give another flank (and repeat) so that you're flanking her around in little steps, which won't allow her to cast off quite so much.

 

As someone who has a wide running, very square flanking dog, I can attest to the value of teaching the dog some sort of "call in" command. I usually use the dog's name, but I have also used "here," as in "away here" or "come here," which I usually use in a corner or at a gate, for example, if I want the dog to flank around to me to push the sheep off me. It also has the bonus effect of preventing the dog from flanking out too wide.

 

It might also help if you can move the ducks out of their regular area and work them in more neutral ares (fewer or less strong draws) so that your dog isn't always having to work against a strong draw.

 

J.

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Hi Julie,

 

Good to know we're on the right track with the balance.

 

The half flank command, or the first part of the command or whistle, with her name sounds perfect. I have been doing something similar, so maybe she just needs more repetition to get it. I was a little worried that it wasnt the right thing to call her name, and to effectively call her off the flank command. But, it makes sense that it's just pulling her in.

 

And, heavens YES we need to get off these critters and their, what did you call it, strong draw?. I have no where else for them to go, no neutral ground. We need sheep! sigh.

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I also have runner ducks in the yard for practice! :) Can't have any sheep in town... Although it sure would be nice not to have to cut the grass! :P

 

I have found that I can work in the yard on close quarters work, like walking up into square corners (we run cattle at the in-laws ranch, and need him to be able to move cows out of square corral corners) and moving the ducks out of there. We also work on a little bit of driving with pressure, ie the ducks want to run back and it is a lot of work for him to keep them from turning back around and running to "safety".

 

For long work, we go to the park. Sometimes to the local fair grounds if the park is too crowded. I pack up both dogs and the hubby and we work on outruns and flanks in the bigger area with some driving as well. My heeler and the hubby drive the ducks out a ways and then they hold them out in the general area, then I send Nitro on an outrun and work them back towards me. This solves the problem of them running back to their pen all the time too.

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And, heavens YES we need to get off these critters and their, what did you call it, strong draw?. I have no where else for them to go, no neutral ground.

Kimberly, I don't know how much trouble it will be for you to do this but the next time you come up and you have room in your vehicle, bring your ducks with you. We have a 48" heavy wire crate I can set up in the side yard or under the deck, throw some straw in there and a tarp over the top for a temporary home. Our 'lower 40' isn't fenced in yet but the upper part of our backyard is. I'll crate my dogs so there's no chance of any of them slipping out of the house and you can practice for as long as you want. The only thing I ask is for you to furnish their food.

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I'm not familiar with ducks to much but we have worked them a wee bit.

When I'm working in an area with a strong draw, sometimes I tie another dog out in the area they want to go. It curbs a bit of the draw. Specially if it's a gate or somewhere small they are wanting to get to. In a bigger area it's not as helpful but I've also used a trained dog and moved him around to help keep them from escaping to a draw or a hole in our fencing.

 

Just some ideas.

I love the idea of taking your ducks to somewhere else. So much easier than taking your sheep!

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Kimberly, I don't know how much trouble it will be for you to do this but the next time you come up and you have room in your vehicle, bring your ducks with you. We have a 48" heavy wire crate I can set up in the side yard or under the deck, throw some straw in there and a tarp over the top for a temporary home. Our 'lower 40' isn't fenced in yet but the upper part of our backyard is. I'll crate my dogs so there's no chance of any of them slipping out of the house and you can practice for as long as you want. The only thing I ask is for you to furnish their food.

 

 

Brenda,

 

Thanks! I sure wish I was closer; I'd love to take you up on that offer! But, I just cant imagine riding 4 1/2 hrs with these guys.

 

 

And, speaking of, Bullet87, How do you transport your ducks to the park? We used a travel crate when we bought them, but what a mess!

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Ducks are just plain messy, but I think if you maybe put down a layer of newspaper and then bedded the crate well with pine shavings that maybe it wouldn't be so messy (and the shavings will mask odors too). (I wouldn't use cedar shavings because of some concern that the phenolic compounds that give cedar its characteristic smell can actually cause health--allergy-related--issues, at least in dogs). Oh, and use an enclosed plastic crate rather than wire.

 

J.

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And, speaking of, Bullet87, How do you transport your ducks to the park? We used a travel crate when we bought them, but what a mess!

 

I use my Blue Heelers travel crate strapped into the back of the truck. Its plastic, so I just hose it out when we get home and scrub it with bleach every other time we go. :)

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