Diana A Posted August 19, 2013 Report Share Posted August 19, 2013 Watching runs at a trial this weekend reminded me of a topic that I've been wondering about for some time - regarding how a border collie finds sheep. Back when I was just starting this with my first novice dog, I was in awe of the open dogs, thinking they just had some magical ability to always know where the sheep were. The more trials I watch, the more I realize that is not always the case. This weekend I watched many dogs (including quite a few open dogs) having trouble finding the sheep (and I have seen the same at pretty much every trial I've been to). Some crossed over, some ran too big, some started to come in too soon, some started narrow (and came close to crossing) then kicked out once they spotted the sheep, some seemed to think they saw sheep in another direction and ended up with lopsided odd-shaped outruns, a few locked onto the exhaust sheep (or, not this trial, but others, they lock onto sheep in the set out area). And this was a relatively simple, flat field. I've been at trials where the dogs had to cross a creek or go through an opening in a fence or through brush or a gully to reach the sheep - some dogs did it no problem, others were redirected all over and never did find them. Given what we know about dog eyesight and that fact that *I* can often barely see the open sheep at some trials, I doubt the dogs are actually seeing them from the post, especially if the sheep are set before you get there. So are some dogs just better at finding sheep than others (inborn trait)? Do they learn strategies for finding the sheep as they gain experience? Is there a way to train better sheep finding skills? Does the handler somehow convey this information to the dog? Is it pretty typical to use redirects to help the dog find the sheep (knowing you'll be losing points for it) and unrealistic to just expect the dog to figure it out every time on their own? I always walk my dog in directly towards where the sheep are so she at least knows the direction, but it doesn't always help, especially if there are objects out on the field that could be mistaken for sheep (such as one trial where there's a road behind the trial field, the moving cars in the background fool many of the dogs). And I've heard about how if you set the dog up farther from you they know the sheep are farther out. But I see handlers do this and the dogs still have trouble, and I've seen dogs with consistently quite good outruns whose handlers don't appear to do this. My dog is in pronovice/open ranch and this is one thing (among others) we need to improve before I'd think of moving her up so I'm curious how I would go about improving her sheep finding skills. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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