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Open level dog moving unbroke sheep


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On Wednesday I had the chance to have a big hat come to my farm from Grass Creek to work my sheep.

They wanted to practice driving and I wanted to see what my sheep would do with an experienced dog.

Until now the only times have been pup gets lose or neighbors dog trying to move them and being chased back to us.

I called the sheep down to a large open hay field and he asked how many he could work I said all them if you want.

So away went the dog with in a couple of minutes they were moving around the field in an orderly fashion.

It was unbelievable for sheep that had been attacked all summer by coyotes and never moved with a dog. It was exactly what I had pictured a flock moving with a dog should be.

He was explaining whistle types and theory

He was attempting to show me if the whistle he gave was quicker the dog would speed up slower dog slowed down.

He gave the whistle to speed up dog didn’t change speed he did again no change.

He gave the dog a hard down which he said he used as his correction then gave command again.

As soon as the dog attempted to speed sheep up ewes began to spin and face him.

One ewe which is the daughter of my most protective ewe. Actual made contact with dog her lamb which is about 4 months old joined in and went after the dog as well he backed off and everybody was driving around the field as per instruction as soon as there was an attempt to move them quicker ewes took exception.

I truly believe the dog sensed that the speed he was moving them at was the right speed and that is why he was ignoring speed up command.

This experience left with a few questions

 

  1. Is it the confidence of the dog that allows the sheep to trust him/her enough to move them instead of head long flight which is what I get when they see my pup.

  1. Is it common for experienced dogs to be able to read sheep and know what there comfort/flight zone or bubble is

  1. Did the sheep handle better because it was a large group with dog or would a smaller group move just as well

 

 

 

Dan & Tilly

 

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Dear Mr. Dan,

Sheep are very good at reading dogs. Sheep that made errors calculating predator threat fell out of the gene pool. Experienced sheepdogs are better than all but a handful of humans reading sheep. It is easier for a dog to move more sheep until they are too many - upwards of a hundred depending on terrain. The three sheep commonly seen at eastern trials are the smallest group that will flock and the most difficult for the dog.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Donald

 

Thank You for your reply

I found the chance of watching my sheep here worked by a high caliber dog amazing.

Just as an added piece of information there were 215 sheep and 4 goats in total

100 ewes 115 lambs 1 billy goat 3 nannies

He said the dog had never worked a large group before and he found it interesting

The one thing the handler was concerned about was I have bells on 2 sheep and he thought the dog might be thrown off but it made no difference

 

Dan & Tilly

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Sharing my thoughts based on your questions

 

1.Is it the confidence of the dog that allows the sheep to trust him/her enough to move them instead of head long flight which is what I get when they see my pup.

 

confidence, consistency and predictability all factor in as to if the sheep trust the dog. A pup can be brimming with confidence but if the pup is excited, a bit out of control, unpredictable and not giving the sheep a clear firm message the sheep will tend to be very nervous, they may either take flight or even fight.

 

 

1.Is it common for experienced dogs to be able to read sheep and know what there comfort/flight zone or bubble is

 

Yes, not only experienced but you also hope to see that ability in a young inexperienced dog instinctually, though the less experience the more likely the pup will make mistakes so maintaining that balance is also learned via success or not learned via constant failures

 

 

1.Did the sheep handle better because it was a large group with dog or would a smaller group move just as well

 

Many times a large group will handle better then a few sheep. but it also depends on the intentions of the dog working them, when only a few sheep are out in the field they are more vulnerable and tend to become more easily nervous and skittish, it changes the flight zones and the zones change quicker creating more excitement.

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For years we had a rescued greyhound racer, Jasper. Our sheep would come over to check out Jasper instead of running to the other side of the field. Why?

 

Fox can walk right through a flock of sheep with lambs and they won't pay any attention to the fox. Why?

 

LGDs can walk among sheep without disturbing them. Why?

 

Sheep can read the intentions of dogs (and potential preditors).

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^^Yep. The best example I have is at a farm where I used to work my dogs. Someone was trying to move the sheep from a field through a gate into a much smaller area. The sheep stalled out at the gate and refused to move, no matter what the handler did with the dog.

 

That dog was getting tired and the sheep were still standing at the gate. A second dog moved them right on through without a hitch.

 

I think the real difference between the dogs was confidence and intent. The sheep understood that the second dog was confident and *would* grip if needed, unlike the first dog. Thus they bunched up in the gate for the first dog but moved on through for the second one.

 

J.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Jared Diamond (I think) has an interesting description of predator/prey calculus. Nature films often show us prey animals grazing peacefully near predators until - of a sudden they flee.

 

The predator can't afford too many calorie burning false attacks. If he misses too often, he starves.

 

The prey can't afford too many false flights. They must spend most most of their time eating. Unnecessary flight spooks.

 

We see a variation of this calculation with sheepdogs and sheep - but it's complicated. Inexperienced dogs will shift sheep experienced dogs have trouble with (their unpredictability gives them power). Dogs that act funny (deaf? three legged?) may have extra power. Confidence is the only factor training can increase (or in novice hands diminish) but I've seen confident dogs with less power over sheep than less confident ones (though the unconfidents soon learned their power in the same way the horned ewes learn theirs.

 

Donald McCaig

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I think the real difference between the dogs was confidence and intent. The sheep understood that the second dog was confident and *would* grip if needed, unlike the first dog. Thus they bunched up in the gate for the first dog but moved on through for the second one.

 

J.

Indeed. I have my pretty experienced 4 year old Gláma, who has always lacked confidence, and my Max who has just turned one year old, just started.

 

The difference in how my training sheep react to those dogs is amazing. In this by now rather dogged group there are individuals that still pose a problem for Gláma, challenging her, refusing to move.

 

Those same sassy sheep would not dream of trying this with Max. And this was not something they had to learn, they immediately respected Max from the get go.

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The other thing about driving the sheep was watching the dog setup at different angles to move the sheep in a straight line.

How he setup behind the flock changed as the different ewes switched there location in the flock

He seemed to be calculating the spot to apply pressure at all times.

I know for a fact it was not the handler keeping the sheep going straight it was the dog

There is something so interesting about watching the dog.

I had been reading a lot about sheepdogs their handlers ect

It seems to me working at a distance it is really the dog that makes the difference

Up close it is the handlers ablity to read the sheep which really comes in to play

such as when shedding or penning

 

 

Dan & Tilly

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I can go anywhere around the cattle with Celt the Diplomat, and they know precisely when he is working and precisely when he is "off-duty" and respond accordingly. With Dan the Dental Diplomat (who is not very diplomatic at all, if you get my drift), they are always suspicious. The cattle next door, who have never been worked by either of my dogs, are the same.

 

They read the dogs (and other predators) just the same as the dogs (and other predators) read them.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Also IMO, with an experienced dog, the training method has to be considered. Was the dog taught what driving means i.e holding sheep on a line by balancing them, considering where the 'pressure' is to hold them on that line and adjusting accordingly, nudging sheep to get them moving and then letting them move as opposed to banging into their bubble and continuing to push.

 

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