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Haha I'm not too far off from that point already, to be honest. Looking into the prices of smallholdings in the UK, scoping out what breeds of sheep fare best in the regions I'm hoping to land in... :D Definitely a slippery slope!

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I am new to BCs and herding. Can someone please explain to me what the term "sticky" means when referring to herding dogs? I've seen it mentioned a few times but do not have a clue what it means!!!

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I am new to BCs and herding. Can someone please explain to me what the term "sticky" means when referring to herding dogs? I've seen it mentioned a few times but do not have a clue what it means!!!

When people talk about the amount of eye, it relates to the intensity of the stare that the dog uses to control his stock just by looking at them (and the amount of eye will often also dictate how much his head and front legs drop into that distinctive hunting crouch that can look so stylish).

 

However every herding dog has his own individual style and the amount of eye will vary between dogs.

 

"Loose-eyed" dogs have less eye, tend to work with a more upright head and flank more easily. (I've heard it said that some dogs from Wales tend to be looser eyed because the shepherds prefer them to work large flocks).

 

In contrast, a "sticky-eyed" dog has too much eye. In this case, instead of flanking around behind the stock to the natural balance point, the dog tends to 'stick' and pull up early as he approaches his sheep. Once a dog like this has stuck, it can appear that both the dog and the sheep become so hypnotised with each other that they are both frozen to the spot and neither are able move. This type of dog needs to be kept moving before his eye makes him stick.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Today was our second "official" training outing since we picked up sheepdog stuff again after our absence. We've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work on this flock twice "on our own", with permission from the owner. But that's been flanking exercises and simply getting Lady used to working again. I noticed her energy starts to flag a bit too early for practical use on a farm, so we have started a cardio and conditioning regime as well! Lucky us that the weather should turn cool as we did, so no stifling heat during exercise for us. :)

 

Right so, today was a marvellous day, and probably one I will remember for a very long time. One of the great things about our current training area and monitor is how relaxed and in favour of a natural approach everything is. Lady and I spent our first two goes of the day in near silence. I tossed the stick away and let her find balance based on where I was going, like the good old days when we were just beginning. But I noticed a change. Where before she cut in on the flanks, dropped her head excessively to sniff, got sluggish a couple minutes in, those problems seemed to melt away today. I am pretty lenient on her when she does do the odd burst of speed now and again, as I am trying to coax her to pick up the pace a bit on her flanks. I reckon it'll come with time, and more conditioning.

 

But then! Oh what an opportunity. We had a small pen set up in the middle of our already narrow pasture, for the wee puppies to circle with their novice handlers. Once they had gone, and we let the sheep out for the slightly more advanced dogs to have their turn, my monitor turned to me and said, "Right, can you pop them back in the pen? We'll need them there for the puppies later." And I was like, uhh... come again? You want me to pen these? We ain't seen sheep in a year and now it's like, penning?

 

"Yep, so if you could kindly do that..."

 

Well... ok! I never balk at a challenge! Lady is so calm, so obedient that training her is really all about letting her be more dog, less handler. But penning, that's something that I thought would require surgical precision - I've seen enough sheepdog trials on telly and in person to know that this ain't easy stuff. But whatever, let's do it. So... we did!

 

 

Now, I obviously had *zero* clue what I was doing so I politely allowed three opportunists to literally walk past me. I was trying to mimic, in my head anyway, what I'd seen in those countless trials. Hold one of the gates, coax the dog to a decent angle, encourage the woolly ones in. Right?! Now, Lady did stick slightly here - the sheep, put in a tight spot, did turn their heads and entice my dog into hovering in place. But a quick wave of the stick and she got on her merry way. Obviously she knew what she was doing a lot more than I did... but we did it! After a year of not working, zilch... we penned them! I couldn't believe it. I was overjoyed.

 

The day continued on a high note with our work in the afternoon. Lady was taking flanks with a lot more speed, I sent her on a cruelly far outrun (she nearly got lost, as a second packet of sheep were wandering just over the crest of the hill) but she MacGyvered her way into fetching them to me. Then! More dramatic music...

 

"Let's give her some fun. Shuffle these sheep so they're a bit spread out, more in a line than in a tight group."

 

I didn't know what my monitor was up to... until he turned to me and said, "Okay, since Lady listens to your every word, let's take advantage of it. Make a space in this loosely packed group, and call her to you. This is the shed."

 

What?! Shedding? Ok, here goes!

 

First try, she looks briefly at me and then watches the sheep from one packet drift on to the other. She's confused, and tries to head the lot. We do some flanking, rewarding her for being responsive and trying. Bless her! Then, an opportunity - seven ewes have drifted slightly away from the others. Time to shed them! I jostle up a bit more room, call Lady to me, and she darts in and turns on to the seven on her own. One tries to rejoin the others, Lady takes a quick flank to head it off and then, out of nowhere, calmly drives them away from me.

 

Now my friends, I really wish I could have convinced my husband to record this as he did the penning, because I think it was the most special moment of my life. I cannot express adequately the joy I felt in seeing my dog, the one I'd officially given up on, work so fluidly and naturally. I got a bit teary eyed, my voice trembled a touch when I told her That will do for today. A very emotional day! Huge successes. I will have to keep Lady from getting big-headed. :)

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Hi all, bit of a weird day today. November marked the beginning of hunting season in earnest in the area where Lady and I go to train. I would like to know if training in a locale with a lot of hunting going on nearby can affect a dog's abilty to concentrate on sheep? As some of you might have read, things went swimmingly the last time we worked a week ago. But today, as soon as we stepped out of the car - where Lady had been blissfully napping for 40 minutes - I knew something was amiss. She was furtively darting around, almost as if she were tracking a scent. She refused to come near me, shied from eye contact, and appeared to be about as familiar with working sheep as an extraterrestrial.

 

I knew that one way or another this would serve as a lesson to us both, so I coaxed her into doing some outruns and fetching the sheep to me. She was giving off a strong vibe of distraction and almost fear? So we stopped. We took a walkies, she seemed fine enough - wrestling her brother and sniffing cow pats. Then we returned to the field, and something that has literally never happened before - she REFUSED to move after reaching the balance point. I mean I literally walked up to her, extended my arm in a sweeping motion to show her what flank I wanted, and she just sort of stared off into the distance.

 

Now, I can think of two things here. One, something quite strong smelling - there's a lot of wild boar and fox in the area, and they are popular hunting quarry - set her off at the start. Two, something's physically wrong with her and I can't tell what it is. I noticed she is licking herself downstairs a bit more than usual, and there was a bit of the odour of expressed anal glands yesterday evening. But she has no fever, she is not drinking excessively, and she is more than happy to eat. She has no sore spots nor is she limping. Her last season ended at the start of October.

 

What could have triggered this incredibly odd reaction in her? I have never seen Lady like this. It was really like she was seeing a ghost and it was disturbing her from working. She also BOLTED at one point back to my husband, off the sheep! And they were not a hardheaded lot either, on the contrary, quite light and very responsive to her movements.

 

At the end of the session, however, Lady had significantly calmed down and was doing beautifully wide outruns, lifts, fetches and a really nice long drive with me about 2 metres behind her coaxing her along. But I would definitely say for the first half, she was in another dimension.

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No gun shots, and Lady has been proofed around those since the age of 2 months (with CDs, then our puppy classes were held adjacent to a firing range). It was something we couldn't see/hear for ourselves, very eerie.

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Well if there is nothing physically wrong with her and she is not in season, then it could be any number of things that is unselttling her including smell, noise or something in the sky.

 

For example, I had a dog who was terrified of hot air balloons. if she saw one in the sky, even at a distance, then she hated to move towards it.. I understood why (long story) and did not force the issue. Instead I either tried to 'hide' the balloon by working down a hillside. If I had to drive sheep towards the balloon, then we sort of 'tacked' like a boat sailing into the wind.

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Yes I have heard of dogs not being too keen on hot air balloons! Luckily where I live it's so flat and boring that we have them whizzing about all the time, so they're quite used to it. I was wondering if she may also be sore, but not to the point of being sensitive to the touch or limping? We started conditioning about two weeks ago and have worked our way up to pretty long workouts in that time... perhaps I pushed her too fast physically? Her gait is not stiff nor does her flexibility seem to be hindered, though.

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..but if she was sore, wouldn't you expect her to have been troubled though out the whole session rather than just the first half?

 

You may not be able to find the reason straight away. Assuming it happens again, it may take time and several sessions to work out whether there is a common feature causing the problem.

 

Personally, I would take heart that she significantly improved and settled back to her old self in the second half of your session .

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Yeah that is a very fair point. I'm worried she was feeling a bit stiff or something at the start, and then by working with me she managed to get on with things. But I don't want her to risk injury! I think I'll dial the exercise down a bit in order to try and rule it out. I do hope it's not the hunting season that's made her a bit "off", because I don't see it ending any time soon with the wonderful autumnal weather we're still enjoying!

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Update!

 

We went to the vet today as Lady started whining occasionally throughout yesterday evening. She was starting to dig a LOT more, and shoving her entire body into tiny spaces between furniture. We talked to the emergency vet service, but after going through a basic checklist were told to come in the next day.

 

Well, we went in today, and so we found out why Lady had been so off. She is going through a false pregnancy! This doesn't only manifest in swollen teats, nursing teddies, and making nests - apparently it can be a lot more subtle than that. We were relieved to hear she was not in any way injured, or ill. We received medication to give her to help ride this wave of hormones out, and get her back to "normal". :)

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  • 1 month later...

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you've all been well. Lady and I have continued our training, and our flock was recently switched out with Blackface yearlings. These sheep are light as a feather comparatively, and it's actually been wonderful to work on them for the purposes of building Lady's confidence. She sees that each step can have an impact, so she is really raring to go every time we drive up to the field. She's never really been the type to be totally engrossed in watching the sheep when not working, but now she trembles and whines a bit when she's tied up on the fence during other dogs' turns. I'm happy she's so keen to work.

 

Things she's improved on: speed, learning her sides, maintaining a straighter line on the drive. I've not used the long line on her for the latter bit but I think I will this week. I hesitated using it before as she was already prone to flagging in energy when working heavy sheep, and I didn't want the weight of the line to slow her down further. But I've solved that in two ways, A) finding a word that really gets her going ("Getcha!") and B) using these super-light sheep instead.

 

Here's a short video of our most recent training day. At one point Lady causes them to run for a bit, and grows a bit deaf to my command, so I just egged her on to head them off and bring them back to me. I think I have to be flexible to the situation to prevent knocking her confidence too much. There's times and places where I do lie her down, or use a growly voice to really impress upon her that she needs to listen, but I try to get a feel for when it would only make her frustrated and confused.

 

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