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Hello! I haven't posted very often here but enjoy reading the boards regularly and have only recently starting trialing my young dog for the first time. He is 4 years old and we have run in 3 trials at the Pro-Novice level. At each trial he tends to start on his outrun very cautious and unsure when he leaves my feet and then slowly picks up speed however he never reaches his full potential at trials. I don't have this issue when we are training at our normal location and the other various fields I train in regularly. So I have been pondering on what may be causing this. I discussed this with my trainer/mentor and we both agreed that he probably just needs more experience on the trial field. Also at our most recent trial he did not spot the sheep until after I sent him and once he spotted the sheep he did increase his speed. So I was also thinking of setting up some blind out runs to help his confidence when he initially leaves my feet. Any suggestions for other exercises that might help this or if anyone else has experienced something similar with a green dog feel free to discuss whether or not the dog improved over time or not. I am concerned that when we do eventually move to open his slower pace on the outrun will kill our limited time on the field and we will never have enough time to finish a course. Thanks ahead of time for any suggestions!

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Hmm, of course it's hard or impossible to replicate trial situations, so you're right, time and miles may help. But perhaps you can try making the outrun itself a little more exciting. Can you set up situations where the sheep are escaping and the dog has to go like heck to catch them? I don't mean an outrun where the sheep leave before he has a chance to get there, but closer at hand escapes, where the sheep have a heavy draw they like to run towards and where a lackadaisical outrun won't quite catch it. You can start out with shorter distances to make sure he feels secure about catching his sheep and then try it from further away.

Not sure that would help or not, but using escaping sheep to fire up a slow dog is something I've heard of. Best of luck!

~ Gloria

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My experience is that a dog will really run on an outrun when they're confident. Can you continue to take your dog to unfamiliar places until it's not a big deal ?

 

I'm not a big fan of hiding sheep so the outrun is blind for the dog. I think the time would be better spent teaching re-directs which would be more useful in more situations. Blind outruns can have a negative effect on the dog's confidence especially if it doesn't find the sheep.

 

I find escaping sheep to work well for a dog that tends to slow way down as it nears the TOP of the outrun but not the whole thing (keeping in mind that they still need to be deep enough).

 

Ray

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Mostly I agree with Ray. Teach a redirect. Howsomever - when my Luke wouldn't OR for sheep he couldn't see, Bobby Daziel suggested that I have a spotter take sheep Luke had seen nearly out of sight, then subsequently out of sight. Make a gradual change from visible to invisible. It worked.

 

Your dog has to learn that when you send him there are sheep out there. Always. Never send an uncertain dog out unless you're 100% certain there are sheep in the field. If he misses them, walk out and make sure he finds them.

 

Donald McCaig

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To me, this sounds like a situation of an unconfident dog. There's no harm in shushing a dog. With my Twist, who was a slow outrunner as a youngster, I never gave her a directional command when she left my feet at the post; instead I just set her to the side I wanted her to go and shushed her. If you need a command to send your dog, you can shush after; you may just lose a point or two if the judge hears you (would point it like any other extra command on the outrun).

 

So I would shorten the outrun and do some flanking exercises as well, all the while encouraging a little speed with just a shushing (shhhhhhhh!) noise so he begins to understand that shhhhhhh! means speed up.

 

I agree with both Ray and Donald that hiding the sheep isn't the answer at this point. For a dog who is already a little reluctant/slow to go out, you want to make things easier, not harder. At some point, when your dog is more confident, then you can practice blind outruns, but for now I'd shorten things up a bit and encourage speed. (The other side to this, though, is that you don't want to shush/command so much that you slow your dog down even more--too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect that you're hoping for).

 

I also agree with taking your dog as many places as possible. The more mileage he gets, the more "ho-hum" the whole trial experience will become and he'll be less likely to work differently at trials than he does at home.

 

FWIW, Twist's lack of great speed (it's all relative) never affected her open runs. What was more of a problem for us timewise was the fact that she was a very wide runner. If you didn't know any better you'd think I had trained her to run a fence, but that's not the case, and when I started her I was a novice so I wasn't quick to pick up on the potential future issue that the wideness might cause. As a result, I started too late trying to reduce the wideness and I never was able to change that in her (though I was prepared with her son, and so when he suddenly started kicking out square from my feet about the time he turned 3, I did something about it).

 

Anyway, there were times when we'd end up a little short on time, but that didn't stop us from being successful trialing in open. I remember when I went to Sturgis in 2005 and saw the field (huge, no fences) my first thought was, "Oh no, she's going to run to the back of beyond and I'll never see her again." But instead she did a normal outrun, so there you go. On most occasions, because she was an equally good outrunner to either side, I'd just choose to send her to the narrower side (unless there was a compelling reason--that is, the way the sheep were behaving at the top--to send her to the wider side). So although it's not quite the same (wide vs. slow), I just wanted to note that it didn't stop us for competing successfully in open, qualifying for and running in the finals, etc. She was never my fastest dog, but she was good in so many other ways (e.g., excellent shedding dog, so if we had limited time in the shedding ring I could generally count on her to help me get the shed quickly) that she made up for that one issue.

 

So, to reiterate, the two main things I did with her was simply shush her when she left my feet, to encourage her to go faster, and dragged her everywhere to trial and work (for example, I bought time on the practice field at the 2002 finals in TN, when she was just a year old, just to gain experience for her.)

 

J.

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So Julie, what did you do to tighten the outrun have her walk up a bit then send or what- I got one like that

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T,

I did try that. I'd set her facing straight up the field, walk her up few steps and then send, but she still would kick out square, no matter what I tried. I finally decided that I was just going to have to live with it, because it's who she is and I wasn't really having great luck "fixing" it. (On the other hand, she's the dog I can always send to sweep a field, even after dark, or go after sheep in the woods that I can't see, and she will NOT miss anything, so there's an upside to the wideness, FWIW.) But yes, walking up a few steps and sending, never sending her from the side, etc., were all things I did.

 

One of the exercises I did at home were to flank her around a group of sheep and then just call her in (using her name, generally)--her reward for turning in was to come straight through the group (she loved shedding). She would happily do that, but on an outrun, I never could get her to come in tighter (unless she chose to, like at Sturgis).

 

For her son (and daughter, though Phoebe never started that square take off like Twist did and Pip started to do), I started him off in training learning to come toward me/the sheep to his name, so that the end result is that no matter what task (flanking, outrun, driving), calling his name pulls him in (that is, it doesn't pull him toward me--unless I happen to be opposite him as he goes around sheep, but rather pulls his trajectory back toward the sheep. For driving, this just involved walking with him and calling his name/patting my leg if he started to drift around. This also enabled me to set him up for inside flanks, since I could call his name, step to the side behind him and give the flank--calling his name would pull him in toward the sheep so that he was shifting his direction toward their opposite side, and then when I gave the flank, he was already bending in that direction (I hope that makes sense). <--This solves the whole "that'll do, here" thing that some folks will do to try to get an inside flank.

 

For his outruns, one day about the time he turned three, he suddenly kicked really square when he left my feet. I called his name until he turned back in a bit, then stopped him and sent him from where he stopped (at which point he would have been facing straight up the field rather than angled out), calling his name if he started off square. It didn't take him long to get the idea that I didn't want him kicking really wide at the bottom of his outrun. That said, I'm not the world's greatest trainer by any means, and I think in general, Pip was not as strongly "committed" to that square start like his mom was. I don't think I ever (almost never) saw Twist slice a flank. Pip will. So whatever genetics they share, whatever controls that need to go square/wide was probably not as strong in him to start as it was in Twist. Plus of course I was more experienced with training dogs by the time I started Pip.

 

J.

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Thank you for all the advice. We are definitely going to be working in some new fields throughout the Spring and going to several trials so hopefully getting him out more will help his confidence. He actually takes redirects really well on his outrun; during our most recent trial when he hadn't seen his sheep and started to come in early I blew a redirect and he kicked out and picked up his speed to almost normal which was nice to see. I do "shhh" him on his outruns to get him to speed up; and maybe like you said Julie I use it too much when we are practicing and have slowed him down unintentionally. He can tend to run a little too wide as well when we are training; I haven't had this issue at trials yet but I have been practicing calling him in on his outruns or re sending him if he starts out too wide. I was also thinking another reason I only see this behavior at trials is he is sensing my nervousness. I don't get extremely nervous or worked up before trial but I can feel an increase in my heart rate when we walk up to the post and maybe he is picking up on that?

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Tilly's Handler,

Partly, but as I noted, the related dogs aren't exactly alike, so what works for one isn't always what works for another. For example, Phoebe, Pip's sister/Twist's daughter, is extremely pushy/forward, which is nothing like either of the other two (as I noted, Twist was fairly slow, relatively speaking, and deliberate when driving, and Pip is pushier, but not nearly to the extreme his sister is). I remember running her in an open ranch class one time. Six or seven minutes were allowed for the course; we did it in three (and either won or were second, because our lines were straight and we penned, even if it all was at warp 9). So training her required a different approach and a lot more application of brakes than for the other two, for example.

 

I have another close relative (her mother is the the result of breeding Twist's mom to the son of Twist's sire), and while she has many of the traits or her relatives, she also tends toward clappiness. She is probably the best cattle working dog of all of them, can move anything, but like Twist tends to get wide under pressure. So they all have similarities, the greatest being that they are all very natural outrunners, read sheep well, and generally require little direction from me (except Phoebe, who has to be micromanaged if I don't want her just taking the bit in her teeth and doing her own thing). But they also all have very distinct differences.

 

So although I would use the same basic training approach for any of them, I also needed to tailor my training to consider those uniquenesses. Another example: Twist, when dealing with an overprotective mama or belligerent ram, will hit once on the nose and then stop and take the pressure off (even if it's just turning her head slightly) and give the sheep in question time to think and then do the right thing. Pip, on the other hand, tends to hit and then keep the pressure on, generally resulting in sheep that are more inclined to fight. Some of this is his sire coming out in him, but clearly in such situations I would have to make him stop and give the sheep time to think and move off whereas his mom would just do that naturally. Pip is also more of a hothead (again, the sire shining through) and if he gets pissed off will "punish" the stock. Twist is much more patient and methodical. You get the idea....

 

I will say that dogs from this line suit me and my training style. I was just saying to Robin tonight that if I got another puppy anytime in the future, I'd probably go back to the folks who bred Twist's sire. I have trained dogs completely unrelated to Twist, et al., but I have found that they don't suit me as well, which is not a training issue, but rather a working issue. (I don't want to use the word "style" here because I don't want it misconstrued, but, for example, I had a very nice young male who only wanted to please. He'd do anything I asked, but he really wanted me to ask and give direction. He was also quite loose eyed. I trained him up just fine, but for work on the farm, his way of working just didn't really suit my needs. I did use the same basic training approach with him, again tailored to account for his idiosyncracies, even though his way of working was completely different.) So it may well be that it's a little of training to a working style and a bit of choosing a working style that suits me and my training style/working needs. (In truth, I want them all to be Twist, :lol: )

 

J.

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alund

 

One thing you can do to build confidence on the outrun is to set the sheep for a short outrun. The next outrun….you back up (don't push the sheep further out) so the sheep are in the same place and you are 20-30 yds farther back. You lengthen the outrun by moving your start point backward so the sheep are always exactly the same place….and the dog has confidence that he know exactly where to find them.

 

When you are working on confidence and enthusiasm building in the outrun you may need to consider allowing less perfection at the top or on the fetch. Perhaps set a goal of enthusiasm/confidence/speed building for now…..and less insistence on perfect tops or perfect stops at the top. When you've regained some enthusiasm/confidence/speed, then slowly reintroduce need for nicer tops, stops and pace on the lift/fetch.

 

Just curious……have you been working on your dog's tops, stop at the top, pace on the fetch??? How is your dog's feel at the top….lots of feel for the top/balance? Good pace? Or do you need to handle the top/insist on pace???

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I have been working on getting flanks to correct the lines on fetches. He has really nice pace and can be a little pushy some times but usually with a steady whistle he settles in. He is not a dog that I have to hold back if that makes sense; he usually paces himself and lifts nice enough that I usually don't stop him. Because the sheep were so heavy at the last trial I actually purposely didn't stop him on the lift and kind of let him figure it out on his own. If there is one thing he lacks its confidence and that probably isn't helped by having me as a trainer/handler. I am going to try for awhile to just let him go and to stop micro managing every little thing; I will probably have to put tape over my mouth though haha!

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Ok....If your dog is pretty natural about pace and lifts then there is likely little harm in allowing him to be a bit messier for now. I'm not talking about allowing him to crash and burn and make a muck of things...but significant reduce the pressure he might feel about the top so that you can focus on his speed/enthusiasm/confidence getting to the top.

 

Again...as I suggested I would shorten the outrun and then backup as you create distance. This way he always knows where his sheep are and how he needs to approach them (removing any complexity from the approach). As others have suggested....shushing him to create excitement and speed. If you haven't shushed him

Before then you might need to teach the shush around the clock or mini outruns.

 

Is he slow leaving your feet or does he slow later in the outrun (approaching the top) or is he equally slow all the way out?

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Sorry I missed your reply. He is slow and hesitant leaving my feet and gradually picks up pace and then slows himself down at the top. We worked yesterday in a huge field that had rolling hills and set up some tricky outruns; he did beautiful work. He was confident leaving my feet and found his sheep every time without my help; because there were several hills I could not actually see him once he was behind his sheep so I left him alone and he did lift really nice. The handler that was holding the sheep for me told me that the first time he was lifting he stopped himself and seemed to be waiting for me to tell him what to do but when I didn't help him he figured it out and brought the sheep down the field. I think we just need more trial experience because in non-trial work he doesn't show any confidence issues and I think getting him to more fields on different sheep will also help. Thank you everyone for you replies! These boards are always helpful.

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Sounds purely like lack of confidence due to lack of experience.Something teach all my dogs is the command "look",not head spinning but looking carefully in the direction I am facing.you canusually tell by the expression of the dogs face/head that it has seen the stock,set him alight.Starting at hand and building up to large distances.Usually after a few trials they know exactly what's up.

If you are training at say 200yds and trialling at 800 to 1000yds then it is going to be a big leap for the dog,he may not be looking far enough,he may need a redirect to widen,or a run on whistle to encourage.

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