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Lacking power

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My dog Gláma is now 2,5 years old. I got her when she was one year old, and starting training her right away. At her previous owner (a farmer) she hadn´t received any training.

She showed good promise pretty soon, she has a good feeling for pressure, very biddable, her outrun is fast and wide. At the moment she knows her flanks, and drives okay (especially taken into account she was trained by this newbie wink.gif )but we are still struggling with pace (when things are moving she likes them to move fast).

She took part in the annual round up of free range sheep last autumn, takes about two months and several trips to the surrounding hills. She did a fine job and saved me a lot of time, energy (and nerves!).

So I am very happy with this dog, on to the problem.
She is lacking in the power department. Understandably in the work during roundup,meeting single wily old ewes protecting their lambs, but I now started training after a winter-stop on a group of seven last years lambs, and a last year ´s whether.

These are non dogged sheep that should be pretty flighty on paper, but the moment one challenges Gláma (and the whether is especially bad I discovered today, so he won´t be in the trainings group anymore), her self confidence seems to crumble, she backs up, fueling the sheep´s courage. And especially if she has to move them against pressure (in this case pull of the stable)chances are pretty good they will march through her.

My policy during roundup was to ride as fast as possible to the rescue, helping her to move stubbern ewes.
Now in training I have tried to let her handle herself, works sometimes, sometimes she looses ( I am not always close enough to "rescue" her).
As she has a tendency to down in such a situation I have started (today actually) to teach her "stand" (tips on how would be welcome, I give her this command as urgent as I can followed by praise if she stands up).
Also I will remove the whether, I practiced a couple of days ago without him) coincidence) and that went fine.
Also I am trying close contact exercises in the stable under pretty high pressure, and I see improvement there (of course there I am near, probably boosting confidence).

What I would like to see is an honest nose grip to make the more difficult sheep see the error of their ways. A friend of mine just tried out his new pup (about seven months old) and that little furball has no trouble hitting a grown ewe on the nose if she disobeys (yes I am a bit jealous).

So my questions are
-Are there other methods, or exercises I can do with her to boost her confidence?
-In the description of what I am doing already do you see things I should do differently or not at all?
-Is it possible to teach such a dog a good grip (preferably nose grip) when she hasn´t shown any tendency to grip effectively. Only grips she has done are flie-by grips of already fleeing sheep in high pressure situations (nothing harsh and very seldom), she knows she is not allowed this.

Thanks in advance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sounds like you are doing fine in the boosting her confidence category. Your hill work might have lead her into situations you could not see, where she got chased off by a ewe who identified her weakness. If you can avoid that for a year, good. You sound honest about her shortcomings which will help. Remember, some dogs might not make it through to a gritty enough dog for the work you are describing. While you should prepare yourself for failure on her part, you can keep trying for a while. Jim Cropper likes to shut them in a stall with truculent ewe and let her learn to defend herself--a do or die sort of thing. I like to have recruits--dogs I know can really help and when my weaker one looks troubled, I bring in the heavy artillery to really let them have it, and for the timid one to see how it is done. That has helped.
The fly bys are cheap shots of sound and fury signifying nothing. You are correct to dislike them, but they show real frustration on her part and wit's end. You can't help but feel sorry for them when they do that.
Make her practise being successful. Hopefully she will learn how it feels and expand it. If after she was three or four, and had made no particular headway, I would think of moving her on to one who she will disappoint less.

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Thank you very much for your reply, I would like to make a side note in regard to this remark:

Remember, some dogs might not make it through to a gritty enough dog for the work you are describing. While you should prepare yourself for failure on her part, you can keep trying for a while.

I blame myself for shining a bit of a harsh and on-sided spotlight on the aspects of Gláma´s work I think are lacking at the moment.


I might have inadvertently given the impression I think she is a pretty worthless dog because of it. This could not be further from the truth!

She has taken full part in last year´s fall round up and did a fine job.


Luckily not all Icelandic sheep are ornery fighters, lots of them, especially the younger ones are (very) flighty, with little flocking instinct. This is an area where Gláma really shines, she runs fast, far and wide, and her motto is "No Sheep Shall Escape". She saved both me and the horses a lot of energy, time and stress.


So moving her off to one "she will disappoint less" is not in the picture ;)/>/>

Off course you made that remark under the condition she would not make any headway next year, which I think is highly unlikely, but even if that would be the case, she is useful enough right now .

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Amanda, you say that you often have a more experienced dog provide backup for the young dog. What would you do if the young dog backs off and stops working them every time a more experienced dog starts to move the stock?

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