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Three-year-old still won't lie down

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I've trained a few dogs and trialed a bit but I have NEVER had a dog so hard to train as this one. I read a perfect description of him in a training book, as an overly pressure sensitive dog. It said this dog is usually better on one side, difficult to stop and once stopped often won't stay stopped, over- reacts to every movement of the sheep and/or handler and is super keen to work. That's my boy.

My frustration today is the lie down. He DOES know the command. He's perfect if we're away from sheep, but tries to ignore it once he's on sheep. He takes at least 5 steps in unless he's behind a flock where I can't see him. Then he doesn't stop at all. I've tried running at him, throwing things, shake cans, slapping the ground with a whip with a plastic bag tied to it - all work somewhat for a while. But never without them.

He's not a hardhead. He loves training and wants to please but this is just one of our problems with sheep. Others are slicing in, fetching too fast and causing a split, not covering the flock, over flanking, and not finding balance.

Oh, and if I call him off, he stops immediately and comes happily to me.

The book also said this was the hardest type of dog to train. No kiddin'.


Any other suggestions on lie down? I don't care if he stands but he doesn't stop. He keeps on comming.

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Your signature reads "Bchaos". Try and take that out of there, maybe that will help :).

The flag on the whip idea has some merit. You say it works with them for a while, but never without them. Maybe you haven't carried it long enough. He is clever and knows when you don't have it. Maybe you have to carry it all the time, until he develops some habits more befitting a thoughtful Border Collie. Maybe you abandoned the tool too soon. Bring it back.

For dogs that are sent over the top by a demand to lie down, it can be more helpful to split the difference and accept a gear down, so long as the easing off the sheep is achieved. Sometimes handlers from obedience backgrounds cannot tolerate the half baked lie down. "Lie down or die." But having the compromise of the job going well can make a dog feel good about the part he means to contribute to the job. So that he is not always locking horns with you, in a scrap over what amounts to details. Battles have be chosen. Your dog does not like lying down. He sounds as though he has become an anarchist of sorts, locked in a rebellion against your will. He will have to start thinking about himself as a helper and how he fits into any job, as a capable assistant--not how he can bring the whole thing to its knees.

So bring out the stick and flag. Be an enforcer with limits. Let him continue with a gear down, even if he doesn't actually stop. Put the sheep in and out of places, so that you work with him on specific goals. "Oh I see! We are putting them in this paddock." Please him with little bits of work and accept the small successes yourself. Avoid chaos. Even though it is on your signature. Try that for a few weeks and report back

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Ha ha. The chaos is much better these days.

I actually did start using the flag (whip+bag) again. It originally was suggested to me as a tool to keep him back off the sheep. All it did there was make him dive in faster and reve him up. (I was told that was my fault. No explanation of what I was doing wrong but it brought me to tears.)

Last week I started going out with my arsenal of tools - training stick, throw thingies and flag. He still takes three commands to actually lie down. Yes, I have been expecting a lie down, or at least a stop when I say lie down. When I watch videos though, he doesn't look all that bad. Maybe I am expecting too much from him. But watching other dogs that plop right down with one whistle just makes me envious.

I did back off for a while since it seemed that we weren't making any headway. Sometimes he surprises me and does it at a distance. (I do have to use him to move sheep when we are house sitting.) I guess, all and all he is getting better. I just never had a dog take this long to get the basics down. Two years and little to show for it. My former dogs were trial-ready at this age. He can't even do a decent outrun.

He does learn routines quickly and loves to have real work to do. He does get the sheep in the pen but it ain't pretty. I generally have to send him back to pick up the ones he scattered. He runs at top speed and goes a bit crazy. I have to stand at the gate to keep the ones already in the pen from leaving.

I don't really think he's a hard head or stubborn. He's looking at me as if looking for direction. It's more like he just can't stop himself.

I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks.

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You say your dog is not a hard head or stubborn but I have to disagree. he should be easier to train than he is. The things you are describing are instincts run wild. All dogs, whether pet like or not at home let go with a new inner self when they are set loose on sheep. Sometimes all their instincts sync up with a handler swiftly, and they are a cinch to train. Sometimes they are self indulgent and the kindest companion becomes a maniac in the presence of livestock, and this one will be hard to train.

Be a severe critic of your home dog in a very realistic way. That will help you grow as a handler and understand the sort of dog you want down the road. Surely that is on everyone's agenda when they start handling sheepdogs. Good clinic advice can help you learn those assessments of your own dog. "Is he betraying a trust. Is he inept."

For instance, I know I do not want to do combat with a canine first thing every morning. That has no place in my personal style. I only keep dogs that want to be trained. You can spot such dogs through being a careful student of trials at an open level (novice is not helpful here). It is a breed trait. Difficult to run or train siblings and parents should set off flashing red lights in your mind. Good trainable dogs beget good trainable dogs: conversely, nut cases bring you nut cases. Look elsewhere for you new home dog. When you are a new handler, ease of training has to feature into the sort of pup you acquire. Even the pros will be frustrated with a mad man.

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